Thursday, February 13, 2003
Jonah Goldberg gets flack from Continentals for calling the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." I can't wait to see what term of art he (or Matt Groening) comes up with for the Belgians:
Chief Cpl. Rudy Christians, an impeccably coiffed military hairdresser, has been cutting soldiers' hair for 24 years, and he loves his work.
It's a full-time job, guaranteed until retirement, and until then, the 47-year-old has enough free time to pursue an amateur singing career featuring Elvis and Tom Jones numbers. When the military does send him on an occasional field exercise, he is amazed by the fellow soldiers lumbering around him. "All the people are so old," he says. . . .
Belgium . . . employs hundreds of military barbers, musicians and other personnel who aren't likely to be called into battle. Yet Belgium doesn't have the money to replace aging helicopters or conduct regular combat-training exercises. . . .
One reason Europe has so many soldiers is its strong military labor unions. Unheard of in the U.S. and Britain, these unions trace their history to the end of the 19th century, when disgruntled Dutch soldiers, unhappy about living conditions, banded together into a group called Ons Belang (Our Interests). Similar groups soon sprang up around Western Europe. In the 1970s, European military unions gained sweeping collective-bargaining rights, though they stay out of war-planning and deployment issues.
In Belgium, military unions are as powerful as anywhere on the Continent. On King Albert's birthday last June, a holiday for the Belgian military, unions deployed thousands of soldiers to Brussels to demand a raise in vacation pay. Soldiers chanted, drank beer and banged their aluminum mess bowls. "Show me the money," one officer shouted to a passing police van. The protest grew so rowdy that police cooled demonstrators off with a water cannon. But it was a success: An emergency session of the Belgian cabinet agreed to give soldiers -- already eligible for six weeks' annual vacation -- a raise in holiday benefits valued at about $500 each.
The quotes are from a Wall Street Journal article today (link will only work for subscribers, unfortunately).
The very *idea* of a country that depends for its defense on unionized hairdressers refusing to *plan* for the defense of its ally, Turkey (not that the hairdressers would actually be expected to *contribute* to that defense, mind you) is almost as humorous as the idea of a country that raped and pillaged the Congo in one of the most brutal chapters of European colonialism, and a country that collaborated fawningly with the Nazi occupier during World War II (a greater percentage of Belgian Jews were murdered by the Nazis than that of any other western European country except for the Netherlands - twice the percentage of French Jews) preparing to indict the Prime Minister of the democratic Jewish state for war crimes (alleged crimes that were fully investigated by Israeli authorities twenty years ago). And it's really funny when they turn out to be the same country.