Sunday, September 19, 2004

Iraq War Casualties

As a student of military history it has bothered me in the extreme about how the Iraq War and post-war period have been portrayed in the media, especially the numbers of troops killed. By historical standards the numbers of troops lost in this war has been almost absurdly low, and any attempt to portray the numbers as anything other than this, no matter by whom, is irresponsible and ignorant in the extreme.

Take for instance that in the Battle of the Bulge, approximately a several month engagement, over 10,000 Americans were killed. In a year and a half of conquering a country and then running it while it contains some extremely hostile elements has cost slightly over 1,000.

Perhaps relating this to something else will help illustrate my point. Using the approximation of 420,000 total deaths of US troops in World War 2 it would take an ongoing Iraq occupation for 630 years to equal the total of three years of World War 2 fighting.

Hurricane Ivan, which I will say has damaged America for about a week, has been blamed for 25 deaths in the United States. If a Hurricane Ivan hit the United States every week for a year and a half the deaths caused would total 1,950, easily out-pacing the deaths caused by this "deadly insurgency" in Iraq.

By any and every standard ever applied to casualties in war, except for recently, this war would be considered an overwhelming success. The way we are currently reacting to these minimal casualties isn't a good sign if we're ever to attack bigger threats, with better militaries than Iraq, i.e. North Korea, Iran, China, Syria.

The political cost of any number of casualties beyond a couple thousand may be seen as too great for the risk to be taken by current or future Presidents. I hope to be wrong, but unless the media stops dwelling on these numbers I fear that I am not.


Apollo said...

I agree that the liberal media will do everything to make iraq sound as bad as possible, but the problem with comparing it with the Battle of the Bulge or all of WWII is that those were wars of attrition(at least thats how the US mostly fought it, the germans used maneuver warfare).WWII was industrialized warfare, of course the body counts will be different.

The insurgents are fourth generation soldiers, the body counts will be lower becuase they fight differently, this is not massed troops vs. massed troops, this is a highly decentralized war.

Alexander said...

First of all, thanks for the comment. I just recently added the feature to get some feedback on the posts since I've been getting many hits.

As to the comment itself. Of course the Battle of the Bulge was a war between two industrailized forces, that was sort of the point. How are we to successfully combat more advanced countries and be able to move past casualty figures that will be much higher when the slow rate of deaths in Iraq is commented on and bemoaned as much as it is now? While the "insurgents" in Iraq aren't a centralized force in the sense that they cannot assemble as a modern army to fight the USA, but they still have automatic weapons and grenades, the two staples of urban warfare. Of course these weapons only work in the current context because the current fighting policies restrict overwhelming responses. This was most clearly seen in the "Battle" of Fallujah where the generals promised to take the city and kill or capture those responsible for the brutal murder of American contractors. Instead the army backed off, fighting only peripherally and allowing the "insurgents" to remain intact. I think the real story involved in the casualty numbers is that most are caused by self-imposed liberal policies designed to protect mosques and civilians as opposed to killing terrorists and protecting troops and those tasked to rebuild the country.

Apollo said...

Well, I think you are wrong. Just ask yuorself, do you think anybody is ever going to fight the United States in a conventional way anymore? If you were the head of the an industrialized nation would you command your military to fight the US in a conventinal sence or like the "insurgents" in iraq(they might not be trained for that but thats what I would do).Thats like expecting the enemy to fight in line and column after the invention of the machinegun. I think this is just another generational shift in warfare to the fourth generation. Our military is still mostly a second generation military(attrition,top down command and control,WWI type) it hasnt even transformed itself to the third generation (maneuver warfare,decentralized,high tempo).

We can beat the government but can we beat the population?

I think it may be the end of the WW II type battles. Even if we had a war with China(china has said that they are preparing to fight a "dirty war" against the U.S.) or N.Korea do you think they would fight against us like the insurgents are doing now OR like the iraqis in the first Gulf War? The soldiers in Kosovo learned NOT to fight head on Up against us, thats why NATO hit nothing during that war.

I think our military is headed for big problems unless we learn to change our military, its still mostly based on top down command and control and it depends ton technology too much which means our soldiers are not as proficient at the tactical level as they could be, thats why they did badly in operation Anaconda in afghanistan,the military kept trying to fight Al Qaida with conventional troops, but it did better when it fought them with special forces(maneuver forces).

And about Fallujah, at first they were trying the policy of "de-escalation" which is what most military theorists say is the right thing to do,i dont know if thats good or bad in the long run I still havent figured out what the right thing to do in a situation like that is, but they say desacalation works becuase since guerrilla groups depend on the support of the population then you should try a softhand approach instead of coming in with a sledgehammer to get support of the population, but i dont know if thats good in the long run.....They say just going in there with guns a blazing will make us loose in the moral level, it will be a tactical victory but a strategic defeat.

By the way,great site.