Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Body Count in the Next World Order

Much has been made of the American casualty count in our war in Iraq. U.S. forces have suffered more than 2,300 deaths and over 17,000 wounded. Some refer to these figures as the "horrible human price" of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Others sneer at these numbers, and consider them a trifling compared to the casualty counts of earlier U.S. wars.

To a large extent, the debate over war casualties is moot. Body count is seldom an accurate measure of success in war, nor is a low own force casualty rate a reason to support one. You can have no casualties and still lose a war; you can have millions of casualties and still win. Likewise, some wars justify millions of casualties and some wars don't justify a single one.

There's a tendency for many military thinkers to compare World War II to all the wars that followed it. In most cases, such analogies are flawed.

America did not join the allied side to "liberate the freedom loving peoples" of Germany and Japan from their oppressive political leadership. Either actively or through passive acquiescence, the German and Japanese populations supported their totalitarian governments. We were not merely fighting Hitler and Tojo. We were at war with their entire nations, nations that were better prepared for war than we were at the outset of hostilities. While in retrospect we view attacks on civilian populations like the air raids on Dresden, Nagasaki and Hiroshima with mixed moral judgments, we need to modulate those judgments by considering the context in which we took those actions. Never before had an alliance of nations engaged another one in a truly global war with a stated objective of unconditional surrender of the enemy. Such a war has not occurred since, and hopefully never will.

Some estimates peg the total deaths incurred during that war at over 62 million. The total property loss is likely incalculable, as is any attempt to determine whether the results of World War II justified its cost. It did, after all, lead to a half-century of Cold War between the victors with the U.S. led western coalition on one side and the Soviet bloc on the other.

But at least we can say of World War II that it began with formal declarations of war and ended when formal documents of surrender were signed by recognized authorities of the vanquished belligerents.

The "third world" proxy wars that the Cold War spawned were undeclared and produced indecisive results at best. Hostilities in the Korean Conflict ended in a tie with the signing of a cease-fire agreement. North Korea still gives us security fits. Our Vietnam terminated in a scramble to catch the last plane out of Saigon and a bitterly divided United States.

Examine later U.S. military incursions in Grenada, Lebanon, Somalia, the Arabian Gulf, and elsewhere, and you won't find a single decisive "victory" or achievement of long-term American political goals in the bunch.

Many might argue that America's persistent pursuit of arms superiority and willingness to apply it in key hot spots was the "constant pressure" that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

But what good did that really do? From all indications, the Soviet's demise only served to let the cats out of the corral, and America has shifted from a generational war against the Evil Empire to another one against the Axis of Evil, the evil doers, the evil ones, the forces of evil, those who would perpetrate evil, evil geniuses and all the other minions of Doctor Evil.

How many casualties does America need to sustain to counter all that evil?

The answer is very, very few. Despite what the Rovewellian mind control machine would have us believe, terrorism is not a military problem, it's a law enforcement and diplomatic issue.

Al Qaeda doesn't have an army, or a navy, or an air force, or a state department. Nobody's facing an April 15th deadline to file tax returns with the Islamo-fascist Revenue Service. Nobody elected Osama bin Laden to power, and his strategies weren't crafted by a think tank called the "Project for the New Islamic Century." Radical militant groups are sustaining far greater casualties that U.S. forces and whatever remains of our "coalition of the paid off" are, and yet who has a recruiting problem and who doesn't?

Who's doing something right in the Global War on Terror, and who isn't?

Can more Americans killed or injured in a misdirected military effort turn the tide?

I seriously doubt it.

I also seriously doubt whether more terrorists killed or injured or captured can make much of a difference either.

But guess what? I've spoken with more than one influential retired senior military officer who thinks war serves the purpose of keeping the world's population in check. Seriously.

I've asked these characters if they think maybe proliferating modern birth control methods throughout the third world might not serve the purpose of keeping the global population in check as well, but they shake their heads no.

That would be encouraging immoral behavior among primitive peoples, they say.

And besides, if we controlled population through modern birth control rather than war, what would happen their high dollar retirement jobs in the military industrial complex? What, they're going to make the same kind of money they're making now lobbying for the condom industry?

#

The Next World Order Series:

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

16 comments:

  1. "And besides, if we controlled population through modern birth control rather than war, what would happen their high dollar retirement jobs in the military industrial complex? What, they're going to make the same kind of money they're making now lobbying for the condom industry?"

    Priceless!

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  2. War as a replacement for birth control. "Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud...!"

    About the "pursuit of arms superiority" and the Soviet Union's collapse -- that arms-race "constant pressure" was only one factor.

    The most important factor, according to one of my history professors (World History since 1945), was Soviet bloc economic failure, in both their foreign and domestic situations.

    But that doesn't make nearly as sexy a soundbite as "Reagan spent the Soviets into defeat!"

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  3. Thanks, Bob.

    Jeff,

    Most folks I know consider the arms/economic pressure part and parcel of the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great part about population control. this country never ceases to amaze me by showing what kind of jackasses are out there, and in mass quantities!

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  5. Everytime I hear that kind of talk I feel ill.

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  6. "Al Qaeda doesn't have an army, or a navy, or an air force, or a state department. Nobody's facing an April 15th deadline to file tax returns with the Islamo-fascist Revenue Service. Nobody elected Osama bin Laden to power, and his strategies weren't crafted by a think tank called the "Project for the New Islamic Century." Radical militant groups are sustaining far greater casualties that U.S. forces and whatever remains of our "coalition of the paid off" are, and yet who has a recruiting problem and who doesn't?"


    One of the most salient, unheard points about this war to date! (it still sucks that it's true)

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  7. “That would be encouraging immoral behavior among primitive peoples...”

    My head reels.

    These “influential retired senior military officers” seriously believe that killing and maiming innocent people is somehow more “moral” than having birth control freely available? Gruesome death is preferable to sex between consenting adults???

    We are obviously in FAR worse shape than I thought, if these are the people in charge of military “planning.”

    PS: I thank you for a great blog, from your very interesting perspective!

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  8. Nice job on the blog, skipper - consider yourself blogrolled and I'll give a heads up to my readers.

    Wish I had the time to write more, but I'm currently being tormented by metacentric heights and free communication effects, and on my way to yet another ship job.

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  9. Kathleen,

    Yeah, it gets pretty sick.


    Yankee,

    Carry on, sailor, and let us know how things are going with your naval career.

    For what it's worth, for all my criticism of the administration, DOD, and the Pentagon, there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, more important to America's security than the vitality of its naval forces.

    CTFO!

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  10. Barndog6:44 AM

    Cmdr - I may not have jack shit for a spine and hips left (and the bastards want to replace both of my hips now) - but you can count on this jarhead to carry your ass anywhere.

    Unfortunately, this thinking is a product of piss poor leadership right from the top down. As the old saying goes - shit rolls downhill. And, apparently it has completely covered everything in it's path.

    If you ever wondered why we've begun this unbridled religious war with Islam - here's your clue front and center.

    Semper Fidelis

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  11. William Bollinger8:18 AM

    Hey Jeff, seen this yet?

    http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011

    I understand that it's started an academic shitstorm. Righties are in full attack mode, but I barely found it on Google news.

    Care to weigh in?

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  12. Ariadne,

    This hearkens back to an earlier installment. The best trained and equipped force isn't trained or equipped to fight the "enemy" it's fighting now.

    Barndog,

    Yeah, the religious war aspect isn't all that far beneath the surface.

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  13. William,

    Interesting paper.

    Bauer, Armey, Bolton, Bennett, Will, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Libby, Wolfowitz, Krauthammer, AEI, Brookings, Heritage, PNAC.

    There's not much arguing that Iraq invasion was motivated in part by protecting Israel. Israel and oil were pretty much the one-two punch.

    I'm not sure what I think about some of the earlier arguments in the piece. Should we let Arab opinion affect our policy on Israel? I tend to think not.

    And yet, it's all part and parcel.

    I'm all for protecting Israel. I just don't think we need to start wars to do it.

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  14. William Bollinger12:08 PM

    The question is, how do you define "protecting"? Do we just promise to help kick the asses of any foreign invaders? I'm OK with that. Foreign aid? They're not exactly hurting to the point of needing as much as we currently send. Help them drive off or kill the indigenous population to aid in their expansion? That's beyond protecting. Destroy our economy, become a pariah state, and open ourselves up as a bigger target, just so they can continue to violate the principles we claim to stand for? Well, you get the picture. bush has the effect of making me lean farther left all the time.

    Of course, I have issues with any country that has launched a sneak attack against my Navy. That shades my opinion a bit with Israel. We’ve been waiting a long time for a real apology, and some kind of compensation from our “good friend and ally”.

    Do you care to join me in trying to get a carrier named “Liberty”?

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  15. Very serious estimates give 655,000 irakis death (mainly non- military). Who can cry over 3,000 soldiers?
    [url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/10/AR2006101001442.html[/url]

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  16. My philosophy is that both are worth crying over.

    But I take your point. That's a heck of a way to "liberate" over half a million people.

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