Jan R. Schoeman
On 18 January 1951 the Dutch prime minister, Willem Drees, gave the following statement in the House of Commons (Tweede Kamer): "In the Netherlands the armed forces are no independent power, that is allowed to act as a pressure group. The decisions are taken by the government and the parliament."2 These words are an adequate description of the relation between the armed forces and politics ever since the Netherlands became a constitutional democracy after the Napoleonic era, but at the time they meant the escalation of a conflict between the Dutch government and the top of the Royal Netherlands Army, especially the chief of the general staff, General H. J. Kruls.
This conflict had its origins basically in the early 1950s, when Kruls tried to influence the political debate about the strength of the army and the way it should be equipped. The general wanted to enlarge and reinforce the army more quickly than did the politicians, because he perceived the Soviet military threat to Western Europe as much more serious than the Dutch political elite did. The conflict was reinforced because Kruls proved stubborn and self-willed, not afraid to express private opinions that often differed sharply from the official point of view on the question of the number of troops that the Netherlands should put at the disposal of NATO. Due to economic and financial reasons, the government decided that that number should be limited to three army divisions; but on different occasions, both in public and during NATO meetings, Kruls spoke about four, five, and even six divisions.
When NATO commander-in-chief General Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 1951 expressed severe criticism of how the buildup of the Dutch armed forces took place and about the integration of these forces into the military structure of NATO, Kruls publicly agreed with him.3 By doing so he embarrassed the