Thursday, March 23, 2006

Military deaths 

Powerline reveals a startling statistic:

[M]ore active duty service members (2,392) died in 1980, Jimmy Carter's last year in office, than in either 2003 or 2004, when the Iraq war was being fought (1,410 and 1,887, respectively). No military actions were conducted during 1980 other than the failed effort to rescue the hostages in Iran, in which eight servicemen lost their lives. Keep that in mind next time you hear Carter pontificating about the "carnage" in Iraq.

In my original post, I did not get into the back and forth over these statistics that is happening around the blogosphere, but it is quite interesting. As often is the case, Belmont Club cuts right to the chase with an excellent summary and analysis of the issue at hand.


By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu Mar 23, 12:40:00 PM:

Screwy Hoolie uncovers a startling statistic!

Total 1980 Military deaths: 2,391

Of those 1980 military deaths
Accidents: 1,577
Illness: 401
Homocide: 161
Self-Inflicted: 236
Pending/Undetermined: 15
Hostile: 1

Keep that in mind next time you hear anyone compare deaths due to unnecessary war to an accident prone military. Maybe if we reclassified the Iraq War as an accident these numbers would be more analagous?  

By Blogger Sluggo, at Thu Mar 23, 12:56:00 PM:

Well, the 2003 and 2004 figures include Accidents, Illness, Homocide, etc. So if all those plus Carnage are still less than 1980, at the very least you have to revise your notions of the 'incompetence' of the war's prosecution.

Or not.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Thu Mar 23, 07:39:00 PM:

The initial blitzkrieg was exceptional. It was an exemplary use of preponderant force. And realistically, US war deaths have been lower than pretty much every other foreign engagment. We're all thankful for that.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Mar 23, 08:43:00 PM:

The US military had about 50% more people in 1980, with about 2,050,000 active duty personnel compared to 1.4 million or so today.

I imagine also that like all other "industries," the military has become significantly safer in its daily practices since 1980. We simply pay a lot more attention to that sort of thing today than back then.

That having been said, the military has learned how to keep casualties to very low levels. This isn't entirely good -- "some argue" (we now have to put straw man constructions in scare quotes) that its obsession with force protection has compromised the mission in Iraq. However, casualty rates are so low -- even taking into account the serious wounds -- by historical standards that they should not really be a consideration in the debate over the war. Yes (lip service alert), every lost life is tragic, but that is no more true today than it was in 1944 or 1967, yet there are so many fewer lives lost today one is forced to wonder whether the casualty levels can be reduced any further in a hot war.

Obviously, the "waste" of war looms larger if one believes that the ends of the war are not worthy. If one believes that the objective of the war is worthy, though, then it is hard to argue convincingly that today's very low levels of American casualties are a reason not to fight the worthy war.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Fri Mar 24, 11:21:00 AM:

Straw man constructions belong in quotations. While we're pointing out logical fallacies, that last line "begs the question" in the rhetorical sense.

Even begging the question though, I think there is room to argue. First, American casualties (loss of a combat ready troop to injury) are much higher than American deaths. Moreover the cost of war is not merely paid by Americans. There have been an awful lot of dead Iraqis, (and a few more from our 50-odd country "alliance"). One can argue we have "worthy" goals, yet oppose the method if one believes the goals could have been obtained by means with lower casualties: diplomacy, bribery, assassination, inspections, ...etc. (this depends highly on which justification of the war one believes is worthy). One can also argue that "worthy" is insufficient justification. There is an opportuity cost here, and the war must be compared to other "worthy" expenditures, do casualties sustained in Iraq prohibt us from invading Korea or Iran?. Finally, if our objectives are not achieved then it was a waste, regardless of whether the casualty list is a long one or a short one.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Mar 24, 07:07:00 PM:

blah blah casualties, blah blah counterpoint, blah blah word definitions, gold strike!

"Finally, if our objectives are not achieved then it was a waste, regardless of whether the casualty list is a long one or a short one."

A fundamental so simply put that I'm lost in admiration.

Aside, since the topic of worthiness came up, I'm amazed at people who (in real life situations) will argue that the war was 'not worth the dead American troops' with me and other servicemembers, who by and large do. How can someone try to sell the idea that the poor maltreated cannon fodder troops should be brought home for good and screw Iraq when the troops themselves don't want that? (that is, without completing the mission)

It's a wonderful example of how logic just... ceases if it contradicts one's convictions.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Sat Mar 25, 03:55:00 PM:

"It's a wonderful example of how logic just... ceases if it contradicts one's convictions."

Yeah, that nearly defines the blogosphere (though blah blah blah comes close too). Although I don't like the adminstration, I tossed them a bone in my first comment because I felt they'd logically earned it. I argue with Tiger out of habit.  

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