2005 October 30 Sunday
War Costs Falling More Heavily On Older And Married Soldiers

Most Americans do not know anyone who has died in Iraq.

Unlike Vietnam, when young men faced the draft, where every family knew someone who was serving or had dodged the draft -- and unlike the world wars when almost every adult was in some fashion involved in the war effort -- Mr. Bush's open-ended war on international terrorism has scarcely touched most Americans. There are no war-bonds drives, no recruiting posters, no shortages.

Americans are 10 times more likely to know a young adult between 21 and 35 who has been murdered than they are to know someone who has been killed in Iraq.

Accidental drowning kills about as many in the same age group every year as the conflict half a world away.

For Americans, the war in Iraq has now lasted a third as long as the Vietnam War.

That similarly far-away and controversial conflict killed 58,000 Americans -- 19 a day for nearly a decade -- or about 228 for every million Americans. By contrast, only seven U.S. soldiers are killed in the current war in Iraq for every million Americans.

The point about a greater likelihood of knowing someone who was murdered does not apply equally across all sections of society. Since blacks murder and get murdered at several times the rate of whites they are even more likely to know someone who was murdered as compared to someone who died fighting in Iraq. However, among whites the ratio of likelihoods is probably much less than 10 to 1. In some rural white subpopulations from low crime areas (thinking of the northern plains states and New Hampshire) that are near average in IQ I would not be surprised if they were more likely to know people who died in Iraq than who died from murder in the United States.

Young soldiers are much more likely to be married than same age civilians.

Soldiers aged 20 to 24 are twice as likely to be married as their civilian counterparts, said Charlie Moskos, professor emeritus of military sociology at Northwestern University.

"The sadness is the same whether it's a 19-year-old or a 39-year-old dying," he said. A higher percentage of married men are being killed right now than there were in Vietnam, he said, but "if anything, the parents suffer the most in these kinds of wars. The loss of a family member, whether it's a teenage son or a middle-aged husband, is equally traumatic."

The all-volunteer nature of the force also decreases public opposition to the war in Iraq.

"The difference between an all-volunteer force and a draft force is tremendous," said Professor Ernest May, a Vietnam historian at Harvard. Although people understand the tragedy of military deaths in Iraq, he said, they know these are "people who volunteered, who put themselves in harm's way. That in itself means a lower level of public attention."

David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, sees the use of an all-volunteer force and the heightened dependence on National Guard and Reserve units as "an interesting test of whether the all-volunteer force can, in fact, sustain large, drawn-out conflict. While it hasn't fallen apart yet, the feeling is that it was not designed to do that and it's not doing it well and that's why we're using the reserve component in ways they weren't intended to be used."

The casualties in Iraq are older.

On average, casualties in the Iraq war have been about three years older than those killed during the Vietnam War. But that slight change disguises a more fundamental statistical shift: In Vietnam, nearly half the service members killed were 20 or younger. In Iraq, fewer than 1 in 5 of the dead have been that young. There have been commensurate increases in the rates of death in Iraq among U.S. service members in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s.

The war still is not sustainable in the long term. Recruitment is down. So the all-volunteer force is going to be harder to staff. Also, as more die and come back maimed a growing fraction of the population will know someone who died or was injured.

82% of Iraqis want US troops to leave. So the war is even less popular in Iraq than it is in the United States. In spite of staffing up, training, and deployment of Iraqi military units and in spite of development of equipment, tactics, and intelligence aimed at degrading the insurgency the US and British daily death rate has not trended downward. The Panglossian argument for the war becomes steadily less plausible.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 30 11:27 AM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 11:42 AM:

Re-enlistment rates are way up. The vast majority of US troops in Iraq think it is good that they are there. Young men who have never been to Iraq, likely learning about it through MSM, are not as eager to enlist as before.

How do you explain that?

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 11:53 AM:


Some soldiers feel bonds to their fellow soldiers and do not want to leave them to fight along without them.

Some soldiers are responding to better financial incentives to reenlist.

Some soldiers are getting promised non-Iraq postings in exchange for enlistment.

Some soldiers in Iraq are permanently on bases due to their jobs and rarely venture out to risk getting killed.

Some soldiers joined the military to fight. Well, its a war.

Most of the soldiers do not speak Arabic and do not know what the Iraqis really think of them. I've posted on the gap between perceptions of US soldiers and reality before. In a nutshell: The soldiers are deluding themselves.

I'm guessing the US military is feeding the soldiers a fair amount of propaganda.

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 12:23 PM:

"In a nutshell: The soldiers are deluding themselves."

How patronizing...

Perhaps the best 1st person source of information on how the actual fight is going, and they are collectively labeled as deluded.

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 12:40 PM:


Self delusion is a widespread practice in the human race. If talking about the human race realistically is patronizing then I'm patronizing. But it beats talking about a mythical human race that does not exist in reality.

Again, I've pointed you to a poll that shows the vast majority of the Iraqis want the soldiers gone. I've pointed you to an episode where the soldiers were deluding themselves because they were unable to speak Arabic to find out what the locals really though of them. That episode has been repeated many thousands of times, each time the soldiers were clueless.

The best 1st person sources are Iraqis living in their own society and speaking to each other in their native languages. American soldiers faced with language and cultural barriers isolated on bases and rarely interacting with Iraqis are not good sources of information. American soldiers in groups with guns are not going to get honest answers from those few Iraqis they do communicate with.

gcochran said at October 30, 2005 1:13 PM:

The scuttlebutt is that Sistani had decided that it's just about time for us to go, and plans a peaceful campaign to get us to leave. If he does this, he will succeed: if Shi'ites block the road, we're not going to run over them and fight 80% of the Iraqis instead of 20%. If true, this decison msut be based on a calculation that Shi'ites are now up to defending themselves from the Sunnis: probably true, since they only have to hold their own neighborhoods to get most of what they want (i.e. oil money). Of course this calculation assumes non-intervention by the rest of the Sunni world..

How does this outcome benefit the US? Well, at least we'd out of there: trhat saves us 60-75 billion a year. It stops American casualties. It embarrases the fools who cooked this demented scheme up. It increases Iranian influence, but why does that hurt us? They still have to sell oil or starve - look at the numbers.

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 1:22 PM:

If the US is asked to leave by a government (which is not interested in suicide) that can defend itself, and we leave peacefully, then the Iraq war will be nothing short of a huge success.

"The best 1st person sources are Iraqis living in their own society and speaking to each other in their native languages."

Those engaged in the fighting, not interested in spreading lies, are good sources. The average Iraqi national guardsman is such a source. The average Iraqi is not. Of course they want the fighting to stop. The question is how best to achieve that aim. Victory.

We can't help but to kill foreign Jihadists in Iraq. They won't stand down. But the Sunnis will. Once Iraq is fighting

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 1:23 PM:

comment cut off...

Once Iraq is fighting less than 1%, vs. a minority of the 20% Sunni population, they can do it alone.

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 1:47 PM:


That's the spirit. You just have to stretch a little further: If Sistani asks us to leave then we should leave. Never mind he's not in the government. We can declare victory. The strategy was a great success. We can leave with our heads held high. Glorious. Thousand points of light. Democracy.

If the average Iraqi national guardsman heeds Sistani's call and joins in to support the US withdrawal then, hey, the guardsmen know the score. We can leave because they say so. Excellent. Works for me.

We've already succeeded. The Bush Administration strategy is such a raging success and those Iraqi military units are so lethal and nimble we could leave right now. But we'll wait till the next election and leave right after it. Gives us time to pack.

gcochran said at October 30, 2005 1:54 PM:

Give me the 200 billion dollars back, resurrect and heal the ded and wounded soldiers and I'll call it a wash. I have nothing in particular against Iraqis, sicne I don't know any personally, but the notion that the purpose of the US army is to randomly rearrange foreign polities in ways that don't do this country a lick of good is evil and insane. Proponets should be shot out of railguns.

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 1:54 PM:

"The Bush Administration strategy is such a raging success..."

sarcasm noted, I don't think I've had the opportunity to ask my two favourite questions on this blog:
Why have there been no large terrorists attacks in the US since 9/11?
How do you win against super-empowered small groups like Al Queda?

Perhaps I'll throw in a third for fun:
Alternative Universe: US doesn't invade Iraq and the old sanctions are lifted. How long before Iraq becomes a nuclear power, if ever?

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 1:57 PM:

"proponets should be shot out of railguns."

I'm affraid I'd need a bit more iron in my blood to be shot out of a railgun. Perhaps you meant shot _with_ a railgun? But I appreciate the imagery...

gcochran said at October 30, 2005 2:37 PM:

I mean shot out. Could be done with a metal plate under you. Calls for arch supports. Anyhow, why ask the obvious? Al Qaeda was not a part of a huge, organzied anti-American movement: it was small, fringe, weak, and then smashed. The attack, at least the high damage, was a fluke: a similar attempt would fail 99 times out of a hundred. Islamic terrorism is probably the fifteenth biggest strategic threat facing the United States. I will at least give this Administration credit for realizing that. If they thought it was, they wouldn't do any of the things they do. They wouldn't have appointed a mamzer like Kerik to head Homeland Security.

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 2:46 PM:

Al Queda has been smashed? Why would 9/11 be a fluke?

Marvin said at October 30, 2005 3:29 PM:

Ivan, this issue is a bit of an obsession with some people here. They committed themselves to a certain POV and a certain outcome, so the Procrustean Bed is liberally applied. Just sit back and enjoy the burlesque.

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 3:44 PM:


I'm not committed to a certain POV. I'm ready to declare the Bush strategy a glorious success. Never mind the casualty rate is as high as ever. I'm too focused on facts. I've got to see the big picture. We've succeeded. The Iraqis can ask us to leave and we can withdraw with honor and praise ourselves for our victory. We made sure Saddam would never build WMD. We created a liberal democracy. We've brought peace to a war-torn and oppressed population.

I absolutely insist that Bush and the neocons have succeeded. That is my new POV starting today. We can withdraw because the Iraqis are ready to put down the insurgency.

I will not take any argument seriously if people claim the insurgency is mostly a reaction to the US troop presence. When we leave and the Iraqi government troops put down the insurgency (and they are ready to do so of course) then that'll be sign of their martial prowess and the accumulation of training. I look forward to applauding the Iraqi military when it finishes stomping down the insurgency. We've already destroyed most of the insurgency and therefore the Iraqis will be able to defeat the remainder very quickly.

We should withdraw as quickly as possible in order to give the Iraqi military the pride of defeating the insurgency. It'll help build Iraqi national unity. Our timely withdrawal should be seen as a wise neocon democratic nation-building tool.

Also, Saddam had WMD that he hid in the desert. We just can't find the WMD. But the new democratic government won't restart any WMD program. So the hidden equipment including the Niger yellowcake poses no threat.

Marvin said at October 30, 2005 4:20 PM:

Well said. Every word is certainly as true as anything you've ever said about Iraq. Well said, indeed.

Here is a fascinating article regarding the entire regional basis for the islamist/arab supremacist movement. A lot more depth than the soundbite mentality generally applied to Iraq by the MSM, but a few might be interested.

gcochran said at October 30, 2005 4:27 PM:

You judge a theory by how well its predictions turn out. Judging by that standard, my theory of Iraq works better than any other. Right, Randall?

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 4:49 PM:


You've predicted more accurately than anyone in the Washington punditariat. Though maybe I am doing discredit to some obscure pundits who called it all correctly.

Yes, I agree. Theories should be judged by their predictive value. On that score you get an A and the neocons get D's and E's.

Bulldog said at October 31, 2005 4:44 AM:

I have to admit my predictions are horrible. I predicted over 10,000 US casualties in the initial storming of Baghdad alone with tens of thousands of deaths a year from occupation. I predicted half a million civilian casualties and outright civil war with entire cities massacred in revenge killing. I predicted the Iraqis would never get a constitution or any kind of election whatsoever. I predicted Bush would be impeached in 2004 out of failure in Iraq. I predicted the entire arab world would go to war against the US and terrorist attacks with thousands of casualties would be daily occurrences in cities of america and europe due to Bush's disastrous war. Hell, I could be right if you tweak the numbers a little. If my self esteem demanded it damned sure I'd be right. Politics and religion, for suckers.

gcochran said at October 31, 2005 7:34 AM:

My predictions, on the other hand, came within 20% of the exact KIA in the invasion phase. No fudging necessary.

Engineer-Poet said at October 31, 2005 9:54 AM:
the hidden equipment including the Niger yellowcake poses no threat.
Unless someone decides that they're worth more to some terrorist group or Iran than to the US or Europe.
Randall Parker said at October 31, 2005 10:00 AM:


I was sarcastically joking. I do not think there is a big cache of uranium buried out in the Iraqi desert.

My whole attitude toward Iraq this point is that we will most likely withdraw under the guise of a bunch of bogus rationalizations for how we really won and did wonderful and how we met the objectives stated by the Bush Administration. So I'm spewing forth rationalizations. Peace with honor. Declare victory and leave.

I fully expect the war hawks to take up these rationalizations and for many of them to believe the rationalizations when the withdrawal comes.

Bill Buckley said at April 8, 2006 3:50 PM:

Wow "Re-enlistment rates are way up. The vast majority of US troops in Iraq think it is good that they are there."

I'd love to hear a source for this.

Otherwise it is like so much "The war will pay for itself. Insurgency is in the last thoes...."

Interesting fiction, but not terribly interesting.


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