Machine translations by Deepl

The Button Monster - A matter of national security: bureaucracy

By our guest columnist. 

The Netherlands is a country with windmills, polders, dykes, social services, good roads, highly qualified healthcare, democracy, a multi-party system and it has room for about 16.6 million people. We have relatively few inmates (1:1000 population), this compares with America where the incarceration rate is about 1:100 population. To keep things liveable, we in the Netherlands have laws and rules that must be followed. If you make a mistake and you are caught, you will be punished. Quite normal. This ensures that we live pleasantly side by side and that thanks to the Trias Politica principle.

Yet this does not appear to be enough. The fear is well within. After all, we must arm ourselves against terrorism, we are told. So we appropriate foreign terrorism. As a global player and ally, the Netherlands is keen to participate. Because of the threat of terrorism, diligent officials are extremely busy with, among other things, setting up national security. It is a truly bureaucratic affair. Digital surveillance is tightened: cameras everywhere and our comings and goings are recorded, by public transport or by car and, if you are unlucky, your phone calls are tapped as well. All this information is stored in databases.

But even that is not enough! The Netherlands is getting too big and population numbers are difficult to manage. Administrative measures like laws and regulations need to be faster and more efficient, so we just reverse the burden of proof. Saves a lot of time and money for the Government. The very rich citizens (about 130,000 in 2010) with the best contacts can possibly take legal action, provided they have a long breath. Low- and middle-income citizens have little leeway. In the latter case, mass demonstrations are a way out; after all, we live in a democracy.

All this digital work and new measures do pay off. The Netherlands has locked its backdoor with this. After all, it now knows a lot about its residents, their doings, preferences and aversions. A (false) security has been created by the bureaucracy. But what on earth does that have to do with terrorism and alliance? It pinches. What the Government overlooks is that it has left the front door wide open. Whereas the goings-on and ups and downs of many citizens are known to our Government, we know little to nothing about foreign citizens, governments and heads of state with their intimate political agendas. Yet, as a country, we are extremely trustworthy where our friends beyond our borders are concerned, after all, we minimise our military. However, the question arises: how can we actually be a good ally with a minimal army? Is the bureaucracy described above really a solution? A tiny army does not appear to be a problem for the Netherlands because, after all, we are neutral and so an army is not really necessary. Besides, it costs a lot of money and cuts have to be made. We would rather put the available money into screening Dutch citizens. This situation has happened before. For example, in the 1940s. The Netherlands was also neutral then. However, the bitter reality is that the Netherlands was annexed and deportations went smoothly, thanks to the Government's punctual administration.

A similar problem is currently playing out on another front, namely in the EU. EU countries are ostensibly in the same boat together. Yet there is/are always one, or several, loudest screamer(s), and sometimes there is a country that has the most money at the time and therefore ends up winning. The question we will have to ask ourselves every time is which side of the rope our Dutch frontrunners are on: the shortest end or the longest end.

Alliance without or with a very small army is a pipe dream, as is full administration of all citizens. This amounts to file contamination. After all, we are looking for rascals and terrorists. Rascals are not rascals until they have been tried and a criminal record drawn up. The rest is nonsense.