Monday, June 18, 2007

Discussion in class

As part of my education, I had to host a discussion about an issue. So I chose the Dutch presence in Afghanistan. A current issue with an impact not often considered by society compared to what happens inside the border. We all had to discuss two different statements, so I came up with those.

"We must help the people of Afghanistan build a better future"

As expected, everyone agreed that was ideal but there was a great dose of realism. About half of the participants explained that we can only help out in a few places with limited effect. People argued that Africa did not get the same attention while it needs help just as much. It was argued that other countries contribute towards a stable Africa than Europe or the Netherlands, though I believe some of the countries are more a part of the problem than part of a solution.
There was also support for the ideal that Dutch are more respectful and know how to solve problems with their army, rather than simply enforcing the peace and letting all ills fester, such as poverty and racial hatreds. And that if they had send Turkish troops to Uruzgan, they would have simply destroyed the poppy harvest instead of promoting an alternative.
Despire this "pat yourself on the back" attitude, people also warned that the tolerance of Dutch, our best laid plans and our good intentions don't survive on a battlefield. No plan ever did survive first contact.
Meanwhile some still said that the deaths suffered (which are nil compared to those suffered by the US in Iraq or the Taliban on the other side) aren't worth it. After all, the moment foreign troops leave Afghanistan, the Taliban might just crop up again. And if they are eradicated, there is always another loon who will continue their work, even if Afghans prosper and feel unwilling to support such ideals. Personally I do feel that when you enlist in the army, you are making the choice to risk your life for a payment. And those around you should lament that choice, not the line of work itself. A counterargument to that was that people tend to think too lightly about military service if they are promised adventure, truck driving and honourable bringing peace. I personally believe that in a pacifist country like this, a lot of people see the army as something aggressive and a waste of money for a people that don't seek out conflict. Maybe the recruitment methods of the Royal Army are more effective at changes young people's view of it.

"The Netherlands are being used to pick up America's trash."

Quite a strong sentiment. There was a unnanimous agreement we should not do anything just because Bush said it. The teacher reminded people that America helped liberate Europe and that this explains how previous generations felt like they owed the US. From there comes its reputation as a "righteous" and "free" country. But that in WWII it was Japan, Italy and Germany themselves who had provoked the war, unlike Iraq or Vietnam. Bush is generally considered self-centered, his administration abusing that good reputation in hopes of getting away with inexcuseable faults and crimes, and the neo-cons as "self-righteous".
This was by the way the point at which the two Russian students and one Serbian one entered with glee. They both had very little good to say about America and Bush. And although Russia had Afghanistan, Serbia had Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia and America had Vietnam, of those three America is so far the only one that did not learn anything from their experience and the only one to repeat their mistake in the 21st century.

I can go on and on about what I agree with and which ones are good points. But I only have to draw my conclusions, my opinion was not necessary for the discussion. So I am putting it up here so others can draw their own conclusions. A classroom survey of how Dutch view peace missions and "standing by our allies".

No comments: