THE NETHERLANDS: Demilitarizing the Army

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Much as the Dutch like the clatter of wooden shoes on cobblestone streets, they have always detested the clicking of military heels. It reminds them of the years of Wehrmacht occupation. They would prefer the army to walk softly, the way resistance fighters did during World War II.

Thus the reform-minded Dutch government recently canceled all military parades planned for the anniversary celebrations of Queen Juliana's 25-year reign next month. Socialist Prime Minister Joop den Uyl found that they would "not fit the mentality of our people." Under prodding from a conscripts' union, to which half of the Dutch army's 60,000 men belong, a number of traditional military disciplines have also been found unacceptable to the Dutch mentality. The union has already won its case against reveille, 10 p.m. roll calls, wearing uniforms at mealtimes, and similar spit-and-polish regulations. It also got the Defense Ministry to allow soldiers to keep their hair long providing they stuffed it into nets during maneuvers. Last week the union won its biggest victory: dropping the requirement to render a formal military salute. Explained the Defense Ministry's State Secretary Joseph Mommersteeg: "We only abolished the obligation, not the military salute as such," which seems a little like emptying a bottle of champagne while trying to preserve the bubbles.