USS Clueless - The acts of friends

Stardate 20031023.0120

(On Screen): Real friends don't spend all their time telling you what good friends they are. Real friends don't need to. You can tell who your friends really are by what they do, not by what they say.

The AP provides a list of nations who currently have military people in Iraq to help us, and I must confess that it surprised me. I was surprised by how long the list was, and some specific nations surprised me.

Remember the way that European unanimity apparently shattered in February, when a lot of leaders there got fed up with how Chirac was presuming to speak on behalf of all of Europe collectively, and ended up publicly denouncing him for it? First there was the "Gang of 8" letter, and then a bunch of east-European candidate nations (who became known as the "Vilnius Group") publicly seconded the Gang of 8, leaving Chirac livid because an overwhelming majority of the governments of Europe publicly supported the US, directly contradicting the Official European Position as Chirac has been preaching it. (And in his fury he then committed a monumental gaffe.)

A lot of those nations, both Gang-of-8 and Vilnius-group, are in Iraq, helping us: Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain have boots on the ground. I was particularly surprised by how large the Netherlands contingent was (and I offer my thanks).

Of course, the UK has the second biggest presence after our own. Australia's not listed, but they were there for the invasion. But I'm surprised and pleased to see that New Zealand's there. (Maybe there's hope for the anglosphere yet. Hello, Ottawa? Care to get back into the game and make it five of five?)

Also Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua (!) are in, collectively providing some 1140 troops who are operating with the Spanish.

You also got Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Macedonia, Ukraine.

The largest contingents come from Italy (3000), Poland (2400), Ukraine (1640), Spain (1300) and the Netherlands (1106). All told it's more than 15,000 troops, in addition to those sent by the US and UK.

Notice who's conspicuous by their absence? We're not having any close encounters of the weaselly kind in Iraq, and I suspect it's because we didn't invite them. (They've been making huffy announcements about how they wouldn't go even if we asked them.)

Actually, the number of nations who are participating, and the total number of troops involved, is surprisingly large. Considering all the rhetoric about unilateralism and lack of support by the world, you sure wouldn't have expected such a list. Why hasn't this gotten more publicity?

I think it's because real friends don't look for headlines, and that those who write the headlines don't want to talk about it. For instance, they don't want to talk about the fact that we got 13 out of 25 current or prospective members of the EU (representing 57% of the total population), despite such notable holdouts as Luxembourg, Malta, and Cyprus. Or that we got 10 out of 18 NATO members. (With Luxembourg holding out again; what's with those guys, anyway?)

If I didn't know better, it would almost look... multilateral. Like friends and allies or something. Like support.

Naah. Can't be.

Update 20031023: Porphyrogenitus comments.

Update: TMLutas comments.

Update 20031024: Bruce Rolston comments on Canada's contribution.

In the mean time, it seems as if the AP's list was pretty incomplete. For one thing, several people wrote to say that Australia still has boots on the ground in Iraq. (I can't say I'm surprised to learn this. I suspected that was true, which is why I wrote that "Australia's not listed" rather than "There are no Australians".)

Mike wrote to say that there are also troops from Mongolia in Iraq. The last time there were Mongolian military forces in Iraq was in the 12th Century, when they conquered the area. This is also the first foreign deployment of Mongolian troops since independence in 1921.

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004