Field visit to Dutch army batallion

June 17, 2013

Brendan CanalBy Brendan Kamper, 4 June 2013

During our class on International Security, we visited Ermelo, a Dutch military base located in the province of Gelderland. We had the privilege to share opinions and learn the first-hand experiences of Battalion Commander Jaco Brosky in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Despite the severity of the situations that occurred in Bosnia and continue today in Afghanistan, Commander Brosky spoke very frankly about each case. After outlining both successes and failures in these examples, he insisted that a “comprehensive approach” to tackling these problems is a requisite of the global community. The overarching concept that Commander Brosky was pushing is the need to coordinate and facilitate cooperation between civil and military branches of government.

As students of International Relations, hearing the perspectives of military officers was eye-opening and refreshing. In the classroom we often delve into scenarios of the past and the lessons learned from them, but infrequently see the viewpoints of members outside our field of study. This excursion gave us the chance to see that people in the military are not hard-headed and trigger-happy individuals, but rather people that are looking for a solution just as much as we are.

As Commander Brosky mentioned, the military is not all about filling the bad guys with lead. Indeed, the intricacies of a military endeavor are convoluted to say the least. A few of the many tasks they are given include juggling the baffling numbers of NGOs, increasing the infrastructure of the countries in question, and distinguishing between civilian and target populations. The media often paints the military as a “shoot first, ask questions later” type of institution, but this is not so everywhere in the world. A captain who serves under Commander Brosky mentioned that the armed forces of different countries each have their own approaches. Indeed, some of them do shoot first and ask questions later, but others, like the Dutch military, are calling for greater cooperation between the diplomats and the generals.

The more you study International Relations, the more cynical you tend to become about the world system that prevails today; at least this has been my experience. However, rather than nurture this cynicism into pessimism, it is important to maintain a hopeful outlook on the world. The teachings and perspectives of our professor, the ex-diplomat, Marije Balt, coupled with the uniting opinions of Commander Brosky, has added a breath of fresh air towards this outlook that is sometimes difficult to maintain.

Rather than being taught in a stringent and dry academic approach, learning from someone who has worked in our field of study has been like looking through a hole in the fence of my future. Seeing the cooperation between the military and civil arms of the government has given new dimensions to what an ordinary International Relations class would look like. It also inspired new thoughts and ideas for how to conduct ourselves when we are the ones at the future negotiation tables.


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