New Zealand Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands
Ambassador's Address at Anzac Day Commemoration in The Hague
Address by Ambassador of New Zealand, His Excellency George Troup
Westduin Cemetery, The Hague, The Netherlands, 25 April 2013
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
Major-General Beulen, representing the Chief of Defence
Lieutenant-General Leijtens, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Maréchaussée
Former Minister of Defence Hans Hillen
Deputy Mayor of Den Haag Marjolein de Jong
Father Sjaak de Boer and Rev Andrew Gready
Members of the armed services
Ladies and gentlemen, friends
On behalf of Australian Ambassador Neil Mules and myself, welcome.
Thank you all for joining in our observance, and special thanks to those who have contributed to the flavour of today’s event.
The starting point of the observance of ANZAC Day is well known: the tragic events on the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, beginning on 25 April 1915 when forces from Britain and Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand, and India landed in an attempt to capture the heights overlooking the straits of the Dardanelles or Hellespont, which gave access from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. After several months of heroism and suffering on both sides the allied forces were forced to evacuate, leaving the forces commanded by the young Turkish general Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in control of the peninsula. The episode captured the imagination of the Australian and New Zealand publics then and now; it has been the subject of books and films, and is seen by both countries as a landmark in their development of a sense of nationhood.
The sacrifice of the young men on both sides in 1915 certainly deserves to be remembered. But gathering voluntarily today, here as in so many places around the world including Gallipoli itself, is not just about honouring the dead and the survivors of that battle, none of whom are still alive. Both New Zealand and Australia have chosen to retain ANZAC Day as the focus of their war remembrance – all wars – and indeed an opinion poll published in New Zealand last week suggested that a majority see it as New Zealand’s most meaningful national day. What is it that continues to connect us to ANZAC Day?
For some, the connection is very clear and concrete. Those, including members of the armed services, who have first-hand experience of armed conflict or have lost family members, for example. Or the generous people who give of their time and energy to honour those whose lives were lost nearby, tending their graves and creating memorials. A special welcome to all of you.
For others the link is more indirect, given the changes we have seen over time.
As far as we can tell, the mood of both the soldiers and the public in the countries involved was different 100 years ago. For the young men there was a sense of adventure – danger, certainly, but young men then as now tended to think of themselves as immortal. They did not know what we know now, the horrors yet to come of the two world wars, which in their scale surpassed anything that had gone before. The sense of duty was also strong, of course – fighting for King and country was the phrase of the day (sometimes with God in there as well, on both sides). Certainly there was no shortage of volunteers from Australia and New Zealand to put on uniforms and travel to the far side of the world.
I think the public at that time in our countries saw war as a normal activity that was undertaken from time to time, and part of growing up for young men. Up to then, most wars had been fought to gain control over peoples and resources. Some societies were more militaristic than others, but even in New Zealand the coming conflict was seen by some as a chance for the British Empire to prove its superiority. At the same time, others rationalised the Great War as being necessary “to end war”. I would suggest that none of these perceptions are widely held now in countries such as our own.
In democracies the consent of the public for a country to wage war cannot be taken for granted in the 21st century, and war is certainly not seen as a normal activity. I am profoundly grateful that my generation has thus been spared the ordeals that earlier generations went through, and I earnestly hope that the same will continue to be true for younger people such as the high school students who are here with us today.
Since the end of the Second World War, almost 70 years ago, outright war has been the exception for democracies and for other major countries. But countries such as the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand have frequently been engaged in military action, usually in the form of a military coalition and in many cases under the auspices of the United Nations.
The justification for such military engagements is no longer the benefits of conquest, or the wish to prove the superiority of one society over another. In some cases it has been self-defence, including pre-emptive self-defence to remove the source of a threat. And a new doctrine has emerged in recent years: that of the Responsibility to Protect. This recognises that we are all part of an international community and cannot look the other way when people are being seriously mistreated - wherever it happens. In fact, there has been a growing recognition in the era of globalisation that international security is indivisible. We have seen how groups in one part of the world with a grievance can cause mayhem in seemingly unrelated countries.
Public opinion, especially now that anyone with a phone can be a documentary film-maker, is an extremely important factor in holding governments accountable: whether in preventing or stopping wars (think of the role of American public opinion in the Viet Nam war) or urging humanitarian intervention as with some of the crises of recent years. And the role of the military, when deployed, is more and more in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and nation building.
War between states by definition reflects a failure of diplomacy (the use of armed force against so-called non-state actors is more complicated, as typically there is no entity with which governments can engage in a diplomatic process). The chain of events which led from World War I to World War II provides a classic example of such failure. Professional diplomats are well aware of our responsibilities in this regard.
But governments and those who work on their behalf, including the armed services, have many achievements to their credit. Looking back over a century, we can see that the rule of law has made huge advances in the world. The system of institutions set up at the end of World War II, such as the United Nations, has made a great contribution. International law and order, of course, is a major activity here in The Hague, where the Peace Palace is celebrating its centenary. An example: along with many colleagues I spent much of the past two weeks in an extremely tedious conference of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons. The outcome, at midnight on the final day, was worth the effort: we agreed on a collective statement which further entrenches the unequivocal commitment of the world community to exclude the use of chemical weapons.
Other local examples are the courts: the International Court of Justice, which governments can use to set their disputes on a path to peaceful resolution; and the International Criminal Court and specific tribunals which are working towards ensuring that war crimes and crimes against humanity do not go unpunished. Their work sends a powerful signal to leaders tempted to abuse their power.
Little by little, these institutions are increasing the areas of international interaction that are subject to norms agreed by democratic governments. This has to be a good thing. And it is reflected in the way the military do their job.
I think that anyone familiar with the military in countries such as the Netherlands, New Zealand, or Australia would agree that there is now a great emphasis on ethics in the training and the performance of duties. This covers interactions with subordinates and peers, treatment of enemy combatants, and dealings with local populations. Soldiers are held to high ethical standards, and severely punished if they fall short. The legitimacy of spoils of war is no longer recognised.
We can take for granted that King Willem Alexander will enjoy from next week exactly the same loyalty from the military as does Queen Beatrix – the question does not even arise. The same was true last year with a new minister. And the same would be true in Australia or New Zealand. By historical standards this is quite remarkable.
Much has changed, therefore, in the way we think about armed conflict. Some things endure, however: now, just as 100 years ago, people who risk their lives and bear hardship in order to fulfil their duty deserve deep admiration and gratitude from the rest of the community. As I outlined, they have helped make the world a better place. Bearing witness to the dedication and sacrifice of those who have acted - and continue to act - on our behalf to make the world more secure, while trying for a few minutes to imagine ourselves in their position, is why we are here today. The challenge for governments and individuals as members of the international community is to play our part in upholding the values that they fight for.