On the other hand, improved body armor, field medical procedures and medevac capabilities are allowing wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. In World War II there were 1.7 wounded for every fatality, and 2.6 in Vietnam; in Iraq the ratio of wounded to killed is 7.6. This means that if our wounded today had the same chances of survival as their fathers did in Vietnam, we would probably now have more than 3,500 deaths in the Iraq war.
Moreover, we fought those wars with much larger militaries than we currently field. The United States had 12 million active-duty personnel at the end of World War II and 3.5 million at the height of the Vietnam War, compared with just 1.4 million today. Adjusted for the size of the armed forces, the average daily number of killed and wounded was 4.8 times as many in World War II than in Iraq, but it was only 0.25 times greater in Vietnam -- or one-fourth more.
Even the total casualty rate understates the intensity of the fighting. The US soldiers in Iraq have much better body armor and so they are taking more hits that do not wound than was the case in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and previous conflicts. So the intensity of combat is obviously much higher for US soldiers in Iraq than was the case in previous conflicts.
That higher intensity of combat is also likely to translate into more cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Those stress syndrome cases do not show up in the official figures for this or any other war.
It used to be that you were dead if you got gut shot, though it nearly always took a while for you to die. What was so bad about getting gut shot wasn't just the excruciating pain — the pain wasn't so intense once shock set in, but knowing that you were indisputably dead — that death was dragging you by the feet through the mud and you were helpless.
But getting gut shot doesn't always mean getting killed anymore. In 1968 I spent three and a half months in military hospitals and I saw lots of guys who'd survived getting gut shot. In Letterman Hospital in San Francisco there was an entire ward filled with young Americans boys who'd been partially disemboweled by bullets or shrapnel and then "surgically repaired." In the worst cases they would be incontinent, impotent and in nearly constant pain, forever unable to work or to live actively, but at least they had lives ahead of them.
The great hope of the Bush Administration to provide an exit strategy from Iraq is the build-up of Iraqi forces to take over more of the fight and to provide police protection to the population. But New York Times reporters Richard A. Oppel Jr. and James Glanz provide a bleak assessment of the Iraqi National Guard (I.N.G.) and police.
In the northern city of Mosul, almost the entire police force and large parts of several Iraqi National Guard battalions deserted during an insurgent uprising this month. Iraqi leaders had to use Guard battalions of Kurdish soldiers to secure the city, kindling ethnic tensions with Arabs.
Even where there have been apparent successes, there are complications. American officials in Mosul, for example, single out the 106th Iraqi National Guard Battalion as performing with professionalism. But in an interview, the battalion commander said half of his troops were Kurdish, not Arab.
He said the Iraqi National Guard, known as the I.N.G., has only a "little bit more training." They also have serious problems of loyalty and competence. Just a few months ago, he believes, the local National Guard force was complicit in the abduction and killing of its own battalion commander west of Falluja.
"That's what you get out of the I.N.G.," Colonel Gubler said. "They gave up their battalion commander, laid their weapons down, and 23 cars and trucks and massive amounts of ammunition went to Falluja. It's just pitiful."
Note that the Kurds are the only ethnic group in Iraq that can be depended upon to fight hard alongside US forces.
Read the full article. They report on police and I.N.G. soldiers who do not tell their own families what their real job is out of fear that the information will leak out and insurgents will kill them or their families or both.
In attacks that have ranged from execution-style slayings to armed raids on police stations, insurgents have made Iraq's fledgling security forces leading targets. Scores have died in the bloodshed, sapping morale in some cities in the restive regions north and west of Baghdad. In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, almost the entire 5,000-man police force deserted when insurgents staged an uprising this month.
In the attack in Samarra on Sunday night, gunmen stormed the police station, looted the armory, seized police cars and then fled after facing no resistance, the Associated Press reported. U.S. troops went to the police station Monday morning and arrested two dozen people, the news agency said, quoting police there.
Note though, that the insurgents do not have a problem recruiting enough people to go into fights at high risk of getting injured or killed.
Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the New York Times story.
Update: Retired Lt. General Hal Moore (who Mel Gibson played in the movie adaptation of the biographical Vietnam Ia Drang battle book Moore co-authored: We Were Soldiers Once And Young) says we have no exit strategy for Iraq.
"We had no exit strategy from Vietnam," said Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, 82, a retired Army commander who lives in Auburn. "And sadly, we had no exit strategy when we went into Iraq."
Moore's 450-member 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, outnumbered five-to-one, suffered heavy casualties but won the first major battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese regulars at Ia Drang in November 1965.
The Panglossian hawks can't dismiss Moore as being a leftist pussy. From the article above Moore comes across as still very much a warrior and a Christian religious conservative who opposes pornography and other signs of moral decline. Yet Moore clearly sees the problem with the US position in Iraq.
Self-styled "War Nerd" Gary Brecher (which is very likely a pseudonym) says unless we do something clever in Iraq like create an independent Kurdistan our involvement is going to become too expensive.
We need to come up with some kind of counterweight that will keep the Shiites off balance. One simple way is creating an independent Kurdistan. That would keep the Iranians busy for the next hundred years or so, because Kurdistan would cover a lot of Western Iran as well as Northern Iraq. No way Iran would let the Kurds get away with taking that territory, and it would be our turn to sit back and enjoy the game while the Kurds and the Iranians bashed each other. The trouble is, Kurdistan also covers most of Eastern Turkey, and the Turks will go totally insane if we destabilize their borders. If there's anybody I really do feel sorry for in this mess, it's the Turks. They deserve better. They've been our only real ally, and we reward them by turning their neighborhood into Compton.
The Brits would do it, and not think twice about betraying their allies. They always were smarter and colder than us. But Bush? No way he'll do something as smart and realistic as back the Kurds. The best bet is that it's going to be more of the same for the next four years, a weird soundtrack of car bombs and press conferences. "Kaboom!" "Democracy!" "WhooOOOOM!" "Freedom!" MTV-style videos of some poor sucker getting his throat sawn in half while that skinny PR general in Baghdad talks about elections.
Kurdistan is doable in my view. Also, I agree with Brecher about the problem of not being able to afford the Iraq misadventure in the long run. The retirement of the baby boomers is going to cause a fiscal crisis that will have Congress and future Presidents looking for any discretionary spending item that can be cut. So the Jihadists will ultimately win in Iraq unless we can find a solution before the US fiscal problem escalates into the huge crisis that it will become in the next decade.
Brecher also makes the excellent point that it is a mistake to create a situation where the events unfold in a way that makes Muslims think they are defeating the West. This only emboldens them to cause trouble. Bin Laden said he saw the US withdrawals from Beirut and Mogadishu as signs of American weakness and decadence and this emboldened him to launch terrorist attacks against the US. This is one really big reason why it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Either we should have gone in with Powell Doctrine overwhelming force (and Powell abandoned his own doctrine!) or we should not have gone in at all. The insurgency controls towns and cities in Iraq today because the US does not have enough forces to conquer and control Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, Yusufiyah, Latifiyah and other locations all at once. The need to do so was foreseeable in advance and some analysts and military officers did say the US forces available to occupy Iraq were too small to do the job. The serving officers who said so were silenced by the Bush Administration and the rest were ignored.
“Many of my generation, the career captains, majors and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand or support. If we could make good on that promise to ourselves, to the civilian leadership, and to the country, then the sacrifices of Vietnam would not have been in vain.”
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 November 30 02:18 AM Mideast Iraq|