The New York Times editors on Europe's free-riding militaries The Libyan people can take credit for much of the battle that brought an end to the Qaddafi regime, but NATO air power played an undeniably important role. Britain and France should feel good about their contribution, writes The New York Times editorial board. Still, "this was NATO's first attempt at sustained combat operations with the United States playing a support role. Europe's military capabilities fell far short of what was needed, even for such a limited fight." President Obama insisted on NATO involvement, as he should have. But "shortfalls of specialized aircraft, bombs and targeting specialists plagued NATO operations. The effects would have been even more damaging if Washington had not stepped in to help plug some of these critical gaps." Most European militaries have failed to keep up with technological advances, training their armies to defend peaceful borders, and leaving themselves unable to lend a hand in engagements from Afghanistan to Libya. "For decades, European nations have counted on a free-spending Pentagon to provide the needed capabilities they failed to provide themselves. The Pentagon is now under intense and legitimate pressure to meet America's security needs more economically. It can no longer afford to provide affluent allies with a free ride."
Michael Gerson on family planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Walking through a village in the Democratic Republica of the Congo, a visitor will notice many children but a lack of middle aged women. "In this part of Congo, the complications of childbirth are as dangerous as the militias in the countryside," writes Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. "Women sometimes deliver in the fields while working. Medical help can be a few days' journey away. Each birth raises the odds of a hemorrhage, infection or rupture." Gerson describes one group of about 6,000 women who have joined together to help one another. Each contributes about 20 cents a week to a common fund that pays for a woman's transportation to medical facilities. They also advise family planning, a phrase, Gerson admits, which evokes America's culture wars. But "close up, in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life," Gerson argues. "When births are spaced more than 24 months apart, both mothers and children are dramatically more likely to survive... When contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent." This does not imply support for abortion. Even the stringent Catholic Church sees use of preventative measures as morally different from abortion, and American evangelical Protestants overwhelmingly approve of hormonal and barrier birth control methods. Yet the family planning efforts in Africa have become controversial. "Some liberal advocates of family planning believe that it is inseparable from abortion rights--while some conservative opponents of family planning believe exactly the same thing, leading them to distrust the entire enterprise." But women in the DRC have enough problems without taking on America's debates.