The people are choosing an independent course on nuclear weapons for their country, and there doesn't seem to be much that Dutch political leadership, allied leadership, or American leadership can do about it. It became serious in 1977 when a million-and-a-half people in the Netherlands signed a petition stating that they wanted no neutron bombs on their soil.
Now a significant majority of the Dutch people do not want American Pershing and cruise missiles in their country. Polls consistently show 70 percent of the Dutch people opposed to any such deployment. The missiles would be deployed in the Netherlands as part of the total theater nuclear forces (TNF) which the NATO countries will deploy if they can reach a decision at the time of their own deadline of December 1981.
The Dutch groups opposing deployment and supporting denuclearization of the Netherlands plan massive pressure campaigns and demonstrations this fall to try to assure that no compromises are struck by the new governing coalition to escape a "no deployment" decision in December. They appear to have the popular clout to guarantee a "no deployment" decision.
The Dutch groups opposing TNF and the neutron bomb insist that they support continued Dutch participation in NATO. They want results in arms control, and they want to see signs of reciprocal moves by the Soviet Union and East European countries before they go too far unilaterally. But, as the Interchurch Peace Council motto, "Remove nuclear weapons from the world and begin with the Netherlands," suggests, they are committed to starting a denuclearization process in the Netherlands and they hope that it will jolt the current world arms situation off the race track.
There has been a tendency in both Europe and the United States to portray the Dutch as pacifists and neutralists bent on causing an alliance crisis. If that means that a Dutch decision of "no deployment" will be seen as a test of NATO solidarity then additional problems may arise.
However, a modest understanding of the Dutch position and fresh allied might lead to some policy options worth consideration:
* As long as the US sees weakness and peril in the diversity and leadership initiatives of its West European allies it loses all chance of turning those factors into strengths. A unified NATO position should not necessarily imply homogeneity. As allied nations were often brag to one another about the strength, diversity, and durability of our Western democracies so why can't we translate that into an effective array of policies?
* Detente is not a dirty word to Europeans, it is not dead. it is alive, well, and functioning as a military, political, economic, social, and personal routine of interchange between East and West in Europe. It means trade, of course, but it also means family reunifications, professional and cultural exchanges, and expanding communication at all levels of daily life. The Dutch and other West Eueopeans believe in detente as a two-way street and an important moderating peaceful influence on the East. They expect detente will continue to be a policy and a daily routine for them. The US can acknowledge that and can begin a self-reeducation process on detence since its allies see it as their long-term security guarantee. As long as it works for its allies the US should try to move away from belligerence toward the word and concept toward an understanding and supportive posture.
* Consultation with US allies must, whenever possible, be part of an allied decisionmaking process. It must be substantive, thorough, and involve as much listening and adjusting of policies as explaining predetermined policies. The neutron bomb has been an inflammatory issue in West Europe, and now the neutron bomb production decision has been made with no prior consultation with US allies , despite commitments by the secretary of defense to do so.
* The Dutch and other NATO allies will be looking very carefully at how seriously the US moves toward and engages in arms control negotiations. If the US is planning to proceed on arms control only as far as it thinks it has to in order to satisfy the Germans and the Dutch it will become evident. And, if the arms control possibility is lost that means that all three conditionalities of TNF -- a SALT II framework, unanimity, and a parallel track of arms control negotiations -- will have been lost by the time NATO reviews its decision in December.
* Before the deadline of December forces a Dutch decision not to deploy TNF and before that inevitability creates further problems in Belgium or a defeat for West German Chancellor Schmidt the US should seriously consider initiating a move in NATO to remove the December deadline. This does not mean postponement but rather taking a decisive step now to review modernization requirements for NATO and to begin arms control talks.
The Dutch debate on the neutron bomb and on the theater nuclear forces issue is certainly a plea to the US to move decisively and progressively on arms control adn disarmament, while at the same time working hard to strengthen the political cohesion of the alliance. The Soviets may find less comfort in stronger NATO political cohesion without TNF than in a NATO with TNF but torn by a divisive December decision. The US could strengthen the political cohesion of the alliance by serious and substantive arms control activity, indications to the Dutch that it can work with their position on nuclear arms as a thoughtful and potentially positive contribution to the alliance, a recommitment to the SALT process, a new and supportive attitude toward detente, consultations and European input during the decision-planning stages, and strengthened economic cooperation on common problems.