Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lest we forget, or why you don't understand Europe

About 100 years ago, the First World War Great War began in Europe. I have written on this topic before (see The European experiment in context and Remembrance Day in the eurozone). European countries suffered devastating losses of young men in this "war to end all wars". In all, Wikipedia reports that military and civilian casualties totaled over 37 million dead and wounded.

The United States was not involved in the First World War in the same manner as the European powers. So let me give my American friends some context. In a single battle for the Verdun fortress, which spanned several years, the casualties of both sides approached a million men. Compare and contrast those figures to American casualties in Vietnam and Korea.

Here in Canada, the loss of life was equally appalling (via Globe and Mail):
Canada’s commitment to the First World War was staggering when viewed from the 21st century: from a nation of eight million, more than 600,000 Canadians were mobilized in the war effort.

By the end of the war, more than a third were killed or wounded. Upwards of 66,000 died and more than 172,000 were injured.
Today, if you were to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, you will see the names of the 56K US service members who lost their lives in that conflict. If the same proportion of war dead to population for Canada in the First World War were to be applied to the US losses in the Vietnam War, the equivalent figure would be roughly 2.5 million dead, or 45 times the actual count.

So is it any wonder that after the carnage of the First World War and the Second World War, the countries of Europe came together and said, "Enough!"

Thus, the EEC and later the EU was born. Today, that project has largely succeeded. We have seen no major European conflict since 1945, the end of the Second World War. The formation of the European Union has kept the peace. The political elite of Europe, despite all the bickering, are still committed to that bigger than life myth of the formation of the EU.

For overseas analysts who look at Europe and only focus on the cost of bailing out Greece, Portugal, etc. Don`t ever forget the political glue that holds Europe together.

Lest we forget.

1 comment:

Algyros said...

A profound essay. Thanks for helping us remember.