Thursday, March 18, 2010

Europe Pulls Its Weight In Afghanistan

There always has been a element of Europe bashing in American society whether it's the perception that Europeans think they are superior to us despite gobbling up our culture in prodigious quantities and visiting us in huge numbers, or that they aren't pulling their weight when it comes to the War on Terror and its wicked stepson, the war in Afghanistan.

I have to admit to occasionally succumbing to these views and there's nothing quite as refreshing as some throat-clearing French bashing, but I draw the line at Afghanistan.

This is because on a per capita basis a number of European countries -- as well as Canada -- are more than pulling their weight as the following table based on war deaths shows:

Denmark, 1 per 177,000 (31 deaths)
, 1 per 186,000 (7 deaths)
United Kingdom, 1 per 224,000 (272 deaths)
Canada, 1 per 236,000 (140 deaths)
United States, 1 per 302,000 (1017 deaths)
Latvia, 1 per 733,000 (3 deaths)
Netherlands, 1 per 810,000 (21 deaths)

As Steve Coll notes, the figures might shake out differently if the numbers of wounded were included, but that probably is so much hair splitting. And in the case of little Denmark, its military presence is being match by an extensive aid program that will increase as it draws down the number of troops in the war zone beginning in 2012.

Ulla Tørness, the Danish minister of development, has worked hard to get the different political parties to find common ground on the troops and aid issue, a coming together that seems alien in today's wildly partisan American political climate.

"Our aid focuses on state-building, on fighting corruption and on promoting democracy. Our aid to education shall also secure that disadvantaged Afghan girls get a chance to go to school," she explains.

It all seems so simple and so right. And so Danish.

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