View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
The Army is claiming over 500 Iraqi soldiers killed in the last 2 days of fighting in the south. This apparently does not include those killed by Marines. We're reporting a total of 12 killed - 1 Army and 11 Marines, 9 of whom were killed under a white flag - and 7 captured. I know we don't want to get into a body-count kind of war, but it underscores what Victor Davis Hanson calls the lethality of our armed forces.

There's one disturbing Vietnam parallel, and I'm not claiming this is Vietnan. We win the honest military engagements, but we're not able to bring them to open battle very often. Of course, the perpendiculars far outnumber the parallels, so I won't even bother to enumerate them.

While we're on the subject of casualties, CNN ran one of the most vacuous pieces of statistical analysis by Bill Schenider. He noted that the casualty rate in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were almost identical, between 1 in 15 to 1 in 13. The Gulf War, with a casualty rate of 1 in 1500 was an anomaly. He then did a casualty calculation, saying that at 1 in 15, that converts to 17000 US casualties.

Well, first of all, the four wars mentioned were all protracted conflicts, whereas we're expecting this war to be much shorter. If you calculate the casualty rate over an average month of any of those wars, it would be much, much lower. Except in Vietnam. guys were in "for the duration," and if you went down to your local recruiting office on December 8th, you were much more likely to get killed than if you shipped out July 1945. In World War I, the overall casualty rates were horrendous; we benefitted by being the West's reserve force, and only fighting for the last 18 months, when both sides had been exhausted. In Korea, we faced China, who could and did just throw human waves at us. Remember Pork Chop Hill?

I do see some diplomatic parallels with WWI, where Japan, like Turkey now, kept doing less and raising its price. While this may strain relations, even seriously, Turkey has no regional ambitions, and in fact, is bidding to join an organization calculated to stifle national ambition. We're their main patron in that effort.

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