What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What the Dutch are selling

MStFB Update
I made the point on this site earlier, that one of the factors having the most significant impact on the Netherlands' strategy in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, is the threat its military planners have to take into account, that the 'extra' costs of operations there mean a slimming diet for their forces, the scrapping of all sorts of units to get to additional revenue and to free up money. That's why the familiar line, 'as civilian as possible, as military as necessary', was invented before the Dutch mission seriously got underway.
As an influential former major general of the Dutch army, Frank van Kappen, put it:
"We said at the very beginning, 'We'll do it even though it's a tough job. We're not afraid to stick our necks out. But after two years the game is over. The reason is that though we have a good military force, it is small'."
Then, not a full year into the Uruzgan mission and still before last week's 'Six-Day Friday War' (the heavy fighting in Chora district that started on the Muslim day of prayer, about an hour before the Jumu'ah prayer), news came that Dutch forces cannot hope to take expeditionary operations much longer. Equipment wearing down, staff leaving and problems of recruitment because of long assignments in faraway, foreign lands. Then, in the beginning of June, a Dutch defence ministry memo got leaked that said 1) a third of current tank and artillery units, 2) as well as a squadron of F-16s will have to be disposed of to cover costs in Uruzgan. And, as I said, all that was before the munition-eating Chora war.
Well, the Dutch military has been selling out at a considerable tempo recently. Canada, a country which has realised in the wake of its Operation Medusa in 2006 that tanks are not really just remnants of a stupid Cold War past but quite useful tools to back troops in counterinsurgency warfare, has decided to buy from the Netherlands (eventually a hundred) Leopard 2A6 tanks (Canadians are also leasing 20 from Germany, and those are the ones that could immediately go into combat in Afghanistan, given their being equipped with air conditioning and an electric turret drive system that allow for operations in the summer heat of the Kandahar desert). The price tag for the Dutch tanks eventually turned out to be $1.3 billion (this being a comprehensive deal involving additional services to go along with the hardware transfer). Meanwhile 'surplus' Dutch F-16s were sold off to Chile (eighteen of them; the last six have just departed for South America recently), and six more to Jordan. (Now the Dutch have only 105 F-16s from an original fleet of 137.) I found no figure for those deals, but let's suppose a $5 million per plane price tag for these used aircraft.
And news also came that the Netherlands are dropping the idea of buying 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, to save €70 million for other purposes. Though the defence portfolio is held onto by the Christian Union party, scrapping the latter deal has been lobbied for particularly by the Dutch Labour (also a member of the current Dutch governing coalition), given that these Tomahawks would have put the Netherlands in a position where it probably would have been expected to join first strike fire with the U.S. and Great Britain on any (Middle Eastern?) target you might name.
Add to this the potential revenue from selling 28 additional Leopard tanks, which was hinted at in the already cited Dutch defence ministry memo. For a projection, let's cut back the relatively good Canadian deal to a-billion-for-a-hundred, and then we get $280 million. So, with the Leopards sold to Canada, the Leopards to be sold later, the F-16s sold to Chile and Jordan, and the money saved from the Tomahawk deal, you get, as a result, a potential 'plus' of $1.7 billion plus €70 million. That's certainly enough to cover the costs of the Uruzgan mission till mid-2008, with the latter currently running at about €500 million, says this source (there'd even be some money left, it seems, which can easily be spent, given that there might even be spending cuts for Dutch defence, as well as because some of the above revenue will come in only over the span of several years probably).

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