In the project titled “Asymmetric warfare”, Dutch military operations during the decolonisation war take central focus. The concept of asymmetry is multi-faceted. From a technological point of view, there was significant inequality between the Dutch and Indonesian armed forces. After all, the Dutch forces relied on more advanced and superior weaponry. The concept of asymmetry also ties in with the type of war that took place, often also referred to as irregular warfare. In this type of warfare, an irregular force – typically operating in small units – challenges a regular army by use of predominantly unconventional combat methods. The lack of a front line and the constantly-moving, small-scale actions carried out by the Indonesian adversary, who predominantly employed a hit-and-run tactic, meant the conflict was highly complex. The Dutch troops were ill prepared for this type of conflict but had to adapt.

It has generally been recognised that extreme violence was used by Dutch military forces. In what way, in which situations and why these extreme means were used by Dutch personnel, and how this violence was dealt with, is less well known. Therefore, this project will take a closer look at three aspects of Dutch military operations, namely (1) the Dutch intelligence services at the time, (2) the use of heavy weapons, also referred to as “technical violence”, and (3) the military-judicial system. An inquiry into these three topics gives us a clearer insight into the spiral of violence that characterised the decolonisation conflict. Particular attention will be given to the interaction with the Indonesian armed forces and the combat methods employed by this party.

This project is carried out by: Remy Limpach, Esther Zwinkels, Azarja Harmanny and Tico Onderwater.