I’ve been watching Börgen on LinkTV. In Season 2, Episode 1, Prime Minister Nyborg changes the position of her party, The Moderates, on Afghanistan from expedited withdrawal of Danish troops to escalation with a 5-6 year timetable.
PM Nyborg adopts humanitarian intervention as a policy, calling her party’s anti-war positions obsolete. Four encounters change PM Nyborg’s opinion. An Afghani female physician praises the international occupation for restoring to her her right to drive and for the increase in girls’ participation in education. The second is a letter from a dead Danish soldier in which he writes that, upon learning that an additional 89,000 Afghan children survive annually since the collapse of the Taliban government, he now sees a purpose to his involvement in the war. The third is the recommendation from a Danish commander in theater for escalation. The fourth is her political opponent, the head of the Liberal Party, Hesselboe, telling her that an escalation is needed and that his party won’t support maintenance of the status quo.
I have always been opposed to the idea of humanitarian intervention. I think it rather obvious now that the Afghanistan surge has failed to meet its original objectives. But I do think it is important to think about this claim that 89,000 more children annually are surviving.
The AP report cited Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, who in turn bases his claim on a “survey by the US John Hopkins University showing the annual under-five mortality rate had dropped from 257 per 1,000 live births in 2001 to about 191 in 2006.”
My PubMed search on the terms “Afghanistan child mortality” yielded 101 results as of the time of my writing. I could not find the study which would support Hamid Karzai’s 2007 claim.
In 2012, the Afghanistan Mortality Survey reported great improvements in public health, although Johns Hopkins University researcher David Peters questions the results. PubMed lists many articles he has authored in which the term “Afghanistan” appears.
Are the gains in public health real? If so, are they attributable to NATO’s military occupation and the Afghan government? Or are they attributable to economic gains from poppy cultivation? Or are they attributable to focused NGO intervention? Are those gains sustainable? Could a negotiated settlement with the Taliban result in a government which would sustain these gains, whatever their reasons?
Finally, why is the Green Party in Börgen so ineffectual?
Updated 2014-Apr-16: I reviewed an episode in Season 3 entitled “The Right Shade of Brown” in which Nyborg’s new party The New Democrats are awfully paternalistic to their little brown brothers.