The military approach is counterproductive ‘A new Cold War seems to have broken out’

15 May 2017

The military approach is counterproductive ‘A new Cold War seems to have broken out’

SP Member of Parliament Sadet Karabulut, foreign affairs spokeswoman for the party, is calling on people from across the continent to join her at the demonstration in Brussels on the 24th and 25th of May against the aggressive bombing policies of Donald Trump and NATO. “Sometime you get the impression that NATO won’t let any chance go to pour more oil on the flames,” she says.

You’re the new SP spokeswoman for foreign affairs. Are you happy with what must be a demanding task?

I see it as an honour that I can speak on behalf of the SP on the subjects of war and peace and of international solidarity. Of course I’ll be doing my best, along with the foreign policy team, to fill the massive shoes that Harry van Bommel left behind when he stood down.

You could be thrown immediately into what seems to be an explosive international situation.

You can say that again. International relations stand on a knife edge. Capital is destroying millions of people’s lives and the extreme right is gaining ground. We want another world and have every right to speak out.

How do you see the role of the US president, Donald Trump, in relation to this?

Trump presented himself during the election campaign as the anti-interventionist candidate. That was one aspect of his campaign that wasn’t depressing. But persistent criticism that Russia’s President Putin could have helped ‘The Donald’ to win the election, combined with a rapid decline in confidence in his leadership to an historic low, converted him in rapid tempo into the war president. In reality on every front there are more interventions, not fewer, and more shows of military might.

There was the recent cruise missile attack on a Syrian airforce base, though no serious evidence has yet been presented that the Assad regime was responsible for the poison gas attack for which it was supposed to be in retaliation. From absolutely nowhere, the US dropped the biggest ever conventional bomb on Afghanistan. In addition to these acts, Trump is seeking a confrontation with North Korea. And there are also examples of American attacks on Syria and Iraq which killed hundreds of civilians, and the secret war using drones in a country such as Yemen has been greatly stepped up.

The Americans are currently even considering further increasing their already extensive military aid to Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that that country is committing one horrible war crime after another in neighbouring Yemen where a cruel war has been raging for two years. The result has been more misery in the countries where American bombs are creating so many innocent victims, but also higher approval ratings for the president and, let’s not forget, yet more income for arms producers.

He was critical of NATO, but seems now to have completely turned around. What will be the consequences of this?

Its results, as with the likelihood that it will be maintained, are hard to guess. If the new US president can be said to have a great deal of anything, it’s certainly unpredictability. In a manner of speaking, tomorrow he could just as easily be critical of NATO again. It seems indeed as if the most powerful man on the planet reacts for the most part – for which read ‘tweets’ – to the latest news; often, moreover, to news originating with TV channels or websites which aren’t exactly noted for their objectivity.

He has called NATO outmoded.

Many of Trump’s criticisms of NATO concern alleged overdue payments from European countries. So German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently received a ‘bill’ for €345bn. It’s been calculated that for the Netherlands the sum would amount to €63bn. As may be clear, no such sum will ever be handed over! Trump also criticised the alliance because of its inadequate combating of terrorism. That’s bizarre, because if President Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism’, unleashed across the world in 2001 made one thing clear, it’s that bombs can do nothing against terrorism. Worse still, the sad reality is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have led to more insecurity, more instability and much more terrorism, including in the west. The military approach has been counterproductive.

So the SP doesn’t share Trump’s critique of NATO?

We’re certainly very critical of NATO. Its current development towards a globally operating alliance which acts as an offensive and aggressive force must be reversed. That’s why we are opposed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and why we were against NATO intervention in Libya. We also have major concerns over NATO’s position in the rapidly intensifying conflict with Russia, which looks like the outbreak of a new Cold War. Sometime you get the impression that NATO won’t let any chance go to pour more oil on the flames, for instance by deploying soldiers in eastern Europe, on the border with Russia.

The SP wants NATO to abandon its nuclear doctrine and American weapons to be removed from Dutch soil. The fact that Dutch pilots are still today doing training exercises in the dropping of these bombs is completely crazy.

What pieces of advice would you give to those negotiating the Netherlands’ new governing coalition on the country’s foreign policy?

Too many to list. In general it strikes me that in foreign policy far too much is done to attack the symptoms. The fundamental causes of many humanitarian crises and conflicts in the world, for example extreme inequality and poverty, unfair trade and climate change, are often left out of the picture. That’s got to change.

Aside from that, it’s of the greatest importance that the Netherlands doesn’t automatically follow the US, as it did recently over the ill-considered attack on Syria. The first few months of Trump’s presidency gives every reason for this. It would be good if the Netherlands became much more critical of the ‘War on Terrorism’ , which is dragging on to the point in fact of becoming permanent, and if we didn’t go along with the new Cold War logic.

This interview first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the SP monthly Tribune, with text by Jip van Dort and Diederik Olders.

Foto: Nynke Vissia
The peace wall, made by young people during last summer’s #NietInMijnNaam-Festival (“Not in My Name Festival”).

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