Making the World a Better Place

At the TEDxAmsterdam conference General Peter van Uhm, Chief of the Netherlands Defense Staff, eloquently explains why he chose the gun, instead of the pen or the brush, to make the world a better place.

It should be noted that in 2008 the General lost his son, First Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm, in Afghanistan.

[ Many thanks to Steffen for emailing in the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • ChielScape

    This made me a little proud to be Dutch.

  • Lance

    Prove how good a C-7A2 is and how it can also protect the people in the world.

  • NikonMikon

    I am so glad this man spoke at a TED event.

    • Anton

      State Monopoly on Violence is something different.

  • AntiCitizenOne

    This sounds more like an ad for gun control itself – “state monopoly on firearms?” at around 10:00?

    • ProCitizenTwo

      The statement is a State Monopoly on Violence. It says nothing about the ownership of firearms or other weapons or tools by the people living in those States. The State Monopoly on Violence is a theory of legitimate use of force, which he explains quite clearly if you watch the video again.

      • noob

        An interesting aside – prior to the world wars, armies in the united states *were* disbanded between conflicts. Large, expensive professional armies were considered too costly in times of peace and civilian marksmanship was the way that a country maintained basic competence before mass conscription at the beginning of a conflict.

        of course, as wars are more complex now in all dimensions I’m not sure how everyone would feel about a civilian marksmanship program in ICBMs… something that could be implemented in the guise of a civilian space program like the X prize – but which the civilian spacers are obviously shy against.

        Well the point is, in an ideal world the means of violence belongs to the people – at least in the USA that’s the way the constitution wills it. The permission to use violence in this ideal world is handed out by the state- be it a hunting licence, self defence, a letter of marque and reprisal or recruitment to an armed force for the prosecution of a war against a legitimate enemy. Unauthorised use of violence is punished as murder (on the small scale) or terrorism (in the large) by the state.

        As the man said, penalties for using violence for evil in an extralegal or unsanctioned way reduces the attractiveness of violence as an option for various social groups. Imagine if Microsoft didn’t like Google Android and just decided to pop a cap in a bitch instead of patent trolling and legal harassment. In Somalia that’s what it’s like, only they don’t have big software companies because the only big business is being a militia warlord.

        Note that I don’t include a licence to safe target practice in this ideal world I describe – It’s not violence because nobody gets hurt.

    • W

      if you think this is a statement favoring gun control, you are entirely missing the point. in a ideal society, citizens do not need to utilize guns to protect themselves because the checks and balances of the state (which is the people) allow deterrence to be committed by the state (its a rather naive idea but a novel one albeit).

      noob, spot on. it is because of our checks and balances and constitution that prevent the united states from regressing into a failed state.

      “We all dream of a world of sunshine, happiness, and peace.
      The problem is…while half of the people think it sounds like a wonderful place to live, the other half think it sounds like a wonderful place to pillage.”

      • AntiCitizenOne

        I stand corrected then. Thank you for clarifying.

  • Gareth

    Very inspiring speech, from very respectable people. Thanks a lot for sharing Steve.

  • Whatever

    He’s making more of an argument for civilized secular democracy and human rights than for gun rights.

    For every example of firearms being a force for peace there’s an example of firearms being a force for violence. Firearms are just tools. Just like clubs and knives don’t automatically defend peace, firearms being easily available doesn’t automatically make for a peaceful society.

    Funny how he’s talking about working to make a just society in Afghanistan when most of the NATO forces are just going through the motions in Afghanistan, keeping their token forces out of harm’s way.

    • Anton

      That has to do with what the people of the country want. Most countries don’t want their forces to be in some backward country and get shot at by ingrates. At the moment, a lo of people are against the use of force in Afghanistan, and the Dutch mission there right now is not one of direct violence but of training people. They are not allowed to shoot at the enemy. Also important information when you watch this clip.

  • Whatever

    If his father had a state of the art rifle (for that time) and had successfully shot a few Germans, what does he think would have happened? Would the Germans have dropped their weapons and run home to Germany or would they have leveled his village with overwhelming firepower? He probably wouldn’t be here today lamenting his father’s inadequate rifle if his father had been better armed.

    • Anton

      That is besides the point. The point is that he couldn’t do what he felt was his duty.

    • noob

      If the netherlands as a whole had a well equipped and well trained army with sufficient firepower to defend their territory, they may have been able to contribute to wearing down the german forces to the point that the rest of the war as we know it could not be prosecuted.

      • SJC

        As a Dutchman with interest in WWII, I must disagree. Even with better equipment the Dutch would have been overrun in the end by what I’ve heard described as a ‘gray tidal wave’ of Nazi soldiers. The Nazi’s also bombed the completely defenseless city of Rotterdam, and threatened to keep doing so until the Dutch surrendered. Their Air Force was vastly superior to the Dutch one, and our AA wasn’t by far adequate enough to repel their bombers. No disrespect for my brave countrymen, but while they could handle a German armored vehicle or two at the same time, if the Germans had charged with upwards of ten armored vehicles / tanks at the same time our boys would’ve been overwhelmed. They put up a heroic fight, and their sacrifice bought time for the Queen, her family and their staff to flee to England.

        But even better equipment would not have allowed the Dutch to change the tide of the war by a large degree.

  • Simon_the_Brit


    I think that the Brit Forces (NATO) in Afghan are more than a token force and they do put themselves in “harms way”.

    Have a nice day (as you colonials say) 😉

  • Very inspiring speech, but it is not about civilian gun rights, not intended to be.

    It is more about the role of a modern army in a democratic state.

  • Alex-mac

    Found it funny that in the comments of this post
    They bring up Netherlands performance in WWII.

  • Alex-mac

    Netherlands pulled out of Afghanistan on 1st of August 2010, there was also a defense budget increase for Afghanistan. So this speech is a defense of the military action taken there.

    Epic speech, don’t hear them too often from military leaders. His English is perfect too.

  • Nice speech, but I don’t see how it helps you guys much.

    • Other Steve

      No one feed the troll. I’m not sure how he got here as he usually lives under a bridges at other sites.

      Known Troll. Avoid. Do Not Feed before or after midnight.

  • Walter

    Checks and balances? Constitutional government? An independent judiciary? Democratic values? M16 variant? The liberation of the Netherlands? Ok, that was mostly Canada. Your welcome.


    • Vincent

      Do you honestly believe that the US is responsible of all of those? Ever heard about ancient Greece? About the French revolution? The only thing you’re responsible for is the M16 variant and our liberation during WWII (not entirely though, as you pointed out too).

      • Dirites

        The design of the AR-10/M16 etc was a Dutch invention and sold to Eugene Stoner.

      • ctr

        I would suggest that the U.S. Constitution (you know the one ratified before the French Revolution ever happened) is a fairly standard “benchmark for republicanism and codified constitutions written thereafter.” It is also pretty obvious that this constitution was heavily influenced by previous codified governments and many philosophies of the enlightenment, but the U.S. has been a pretty good example of how to make it work (so far).

      • Walter

        Well, yes. Ancient Greece was a democracy of the property-owning, male, elite only and just for some of the city-states and was until the Romans conquered them. France devolved into a socialist/totalitarian nightmare then a dictatorship. No dice there. And the comment about the AR10/AR15 is just a falsehood. I guess next you’ll say John Browning was actually born in Belgium and kidnapped by Mormons to Utah? The Constitution was inspired by Enlightenment ideas but only put into practice by the US. Again maybe some shadow of these ideas were thought of previously but the actual practice was all the US. Hey, it’s a work in progress.

      • Vincent

        I know the US had a constitution before the French revolution occurred, I’m not stupid thanks for implying, but the French revolution was when most Europe decided to use a similar system, not because a bunch of ex-Brits used it before. Today it’s hardly setting standards for functioning governmental systems. Ever heard about Scandinavia? Those are examples. Not because they don’t have guns if that’s what you’re thinking I’m saying now, because Finland is as gun-liberal as it gets. Even my little sister’s barbie doll could by something that Obama believes hides under his bed over there.
        And if you thought I said that about the AR, you seriously need to redo the dyslexia test.

    • Nater

      The amount of stupidity here is astounding.

      -The AR-10 was built by Eugene Stoner. He built the first few examples in his garage.

      -Most of the precepts of US governance, both good and bad, are French.

      -The US “democratic” system, as it originally existed, was really only for wealthy, white, educated males (see Electoral College). That doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Greece.

      -The US is not a democracy, or even really a republic, but a polyarchy. The US was the first country to institute such a system. Madison wanted to keep as much of the governance as possible out of the hands of common people.

    • K!P

      If we are digging up history: first navy that recognized the us navy as a legit force, and supplier to the new nation of united states with weapons to fight the brits: you where welcome.

  • tarkan

    Well;this is a progress,they had chosen the champagne at Serebrenica.

  • AntiCitizenOne

    I stand corrected then.

  • farmboy7.62

    Wonderful speech.

  • Matthew Carberry

    The “state monopoly on violence” is designed to counter the blood feud of tribalism. Less succinctly put, the use of force to achieve justice is reserved to the organs of the state and supercedes any assumed right to personal vengeance.

    Properly understood and practiced it doesn’t impact personal ownership of the means of, or use of, force in legitimate self-defense at all; as that action has nothing to do with vengeance or justice.

  • Walter

    It was an excellent speech though.

  • Rolf

    Nice one. Best (indirect) arguments for limiting private gun ownership I’ve seen since “Bowling for Columbine”

  • Canadian_Gun_Owner

    That is a very well thought out speech. And on the matter of national pride: I can see the Diemaco logo/marks on that gun! 😀 Most European countries that use an AR-15 rifle use the (Canadian) Diemaco C8SFW pattern, NOT a US patterned rifle. The British call theirs the L119a1 I believe.