Massacre — and Gays in the Dutch Military

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 19, 2010

So now we know “why Srebrenica fell”: It was party due to the fact that gays could be openly gays, which internally weakened the Dutch Army, which as a consequence was no longer able to protect the local population.

I’m not going to write a real post about this. Erik Voeten at “The Monkey Cage”: has basically said all there is to say. “Go read and comment there”:



noen 03.19.10 at 10:27 pm

Actually, Sheehan is pretty insistent in the video that it was the socialization or liberalization of the Dutch military that led to their failure in Srebrenica. Chairman Levin agrees with him on that part but rejects Sheehan’s insinuation that the gays are responsible. I think the General is trying to walk back from that later in the video. I think the General confuses unit cohesion and morale with peace keeping duties vs trad. aggressive stance. He sort of conflates the two and mixes them up a bit.

As a result the general is asked if gays affect unit cohesion but then he immediately starts talking about how the Dutch felt little threat from Germany or the former USSR and saw their military role as that of peace keepers, not fighters and the disastrous consequences of that decision. Presumably, one would think, you could have both gays and lesbians in the military and be prepared to fight or defend yourself in an act of aggression.


Antti Nannimus 03.19.10 at 11:37 pm


Well, it’s a good thing to know we’ve got some new shit to blame on the gays. For a while it was looking like they were almost getting to be respectable and acceptable. Nobody wants that. As everyone knows, those tulip-sucking, dike-plugging, wind-mill loving, deviants are the REAL problem whenever there’s a genocide committed.

Have a nice day,


mcd 03.20.10 at 12:36 am

It’s a twofer- blaming gays and liberalism.

I blame the baleful influence of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-5”.


PHB 03.20.10 at 12:42 am

What a complete and utter fool.

The Dutch forces numbered 400 and carried light arms. The Serb forces numbered several thousand with heavy artillery, tanks etc.

The declaration of Srebrenica as a ‘safe zone’ was never accompanied by a pledge to deploy ground forces to protect it. The declaration was based on a threat to destroy the Serbian army using NATO air superiority if the Serb forces attacked.

There never was an expectation that the UNPROFOR forces would be anything other than a trigger force. The claims made by the General are dishonest and dishonorable.

I guess it is possible that this fool is the best advocate the bigots could find. But given his history it looks more likely that the GOP side decided that it would be most convenient for their side if the cause was lost.


Daniel 03.20.10 at 4:21 am

>>The Dutch forces numbered 400 and carried light arms. The Serb forces numbered several thousand with heavy artillery, tanks etc.

400 lightly armed troops can do a lot of defending. A determined resistance would have compelled NATO to act more forcefully and promptly. The Dutch military’s performance was disgraceful. They are a joke.


Metatone 03.20.10 at 10:51 am

I’m not sure where Daniel has served in conflict, but the history of resistance in the 400 vs several thousand range, where the several thousand and better armed has no obvious successful parallel.

Small forces have held out for a while when they believed help was coming – although they have typically done so holding a tiny perimeter – the majority of the population of Srebrenica would have been left outside that perimeter.

Daniel makes the statement that Dutch resistance (which means Dutch deaths) would have compelled NATO to act – but that seems to be just his belief – I can find no evidence to support it.

What we know is that the Dutch troops were hampered by bizarre rules of engagement and they called for air support and UN HQ denied the request until it was far too late. The UN had also failed to break the Serb blockade of the area over a period of months, leaving the Dutch forces dangerously low on ammunition.

Given the above it seems to me that a big leap to blame the forces on the ground. They have been given every signal that high command was not going to rescue them if they fought – so why lay down your life if it is not going to make a difference?


hidflect 03.20.10 at 11:26 am

I wrote this at Now Public:

Tricky to offer my opinion without creating misunderstanding… here goes.

I lived in The Netherlands (NL) for 5 years and I’ve had occasion to see Dutch soldiers now and then and to put it kindly; NL doesn’t have a “rah-rah” militaristic tradition at all and it shows. Specifically, outside their barracks, they dress slovenly, even look physically unfit and don’t have any sort of military “bearing” (or manner unlike US soldiers I’ve seen). Culturally the Dutch are (admirably) very strongly “make love not war” type, easy-going pacifists.

Sorry to put down their army but it’s nothing to do with gays and much more to do with a national cultural attitude that applies across the whole spectrum of their troops. I can see how a warmonger-type from the US would feel the Dutch look like “pansies” but he’s mistaken. The NL pretty much has an army because they have to and I suspect tough military discipline and “esprit de corps” is not hammered home. Most Dutch people I know would think there’s something wrong with you if you are in any way a military nut. They often equate militarism with Nazism due to WWII.

As such, the backlash for Sheehan’s comments will be very, very dire. He looks to Dutch people like a war-lover type attacking NL like a foaming dog. They’ll remember this for years and years. If you upset a dutchman, prepare to be snubbed (politely) for eternity.


Conor 03.20.10 at 12:25 pm

Nick Cohen’s next column


skidmarx 03.20.10 at 3:43 pm

Though the Germans can be slow on the uptake.


Matt McIrvin 03.20.10 at 3:50 pm

Don’t the Israelis let gays openly serve in the military?


PHB 03.20.10 at 7:41 pm


The issue was that the rules of engagement did not entitle them to respond. They did not have either the men or the ammunition to mount a sustained defense. HQ denied requests for air cover.

It is very clear that the reason they did not fire was that their superiors did not intend them to fire.


sean matthews 03.20.10 at 8:10 pm

Well that explains why Philip of Macedon and Leonidas of Sparta never amounted to anything on the field, I suppose.


Ernst 03.21.10 at 1:31 am

Hidflect, I have to disagree without judgment for or against the current dutch military and it’s complete history with Afganistan as a case in point. The dutch troops there have performed strongly and earned international praise for their deployment under challenging circumstances. As a fighting force there they are usually ranked amongst the highest in that field of operations.

I guess you are projecting your own ideas about the dutch cultural psyche onto a situation where no real combat was assumed going in more then the facts as we can see them now. I have no real insight about how much Srebrenica changed the dutch military performance but your analysis doesn’t seem to hold up nowadays at least. Not to mention that Dutch history is filled with military actions. Also of note is the historically higher then average share of dutch citizens in mercenaries roles.

It seems to me that Srebrenica was more on the tail end of an pacifist aberration during the later part of the cold war where any war would mark the end of the Netherlands.


hix 03.21.10 at 11:43 am

“They often equate militarism with Nazism due to WWII.”

You think militarism is good in some other circumstances? Militarism, or high social status for soldiers for “taff guy” soldiers in general always leads to dead people, most of the time to dictatorships.

“even look physically unfit and don’t have any sort of military “bearing” (or manner unlike US soldiers I’ve seen). ”

Thats how its supposed to be.


No defense needed 03.22.10 at 2:37 pm

The Dutch military performed as their democratically elected government wanted them to perform in Srebrenica at the time. Hindsight is beautiful.

It was still a better showing than the Belgian Army in Rwanda, who gave their weapons to the enemy before being tortured and slaughtered.

Had the 400 dutch gone the way of the Belgians, NATO would have responded disproportionately against serbs within Bosnia and Serbia … lots more people would have died and I dare say it would have been the german army leading the italians into belegrade again to resolve it.


Map Maker 03.23.10 at 11:12 am

Well, the only countries I’ve seen in Europe that have a cultural attitude that supports the military and the role it is supposed to play in the nation is Finland, Poland, and the Baltics. Switzerland is may be close, thought then sans armee are definitely larger these days.

Finland and Poland are still distrustful of European resolve to defend them … rightfully so.

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