The stark calculus of war

Last night, I got into a discussion with a liberal talk-show host about the war in Iraq. That conversation provided enough grist for several postings, but I’m going to focus on one point he made — and one a lot of opponents of the war have been making this weekend, as we note the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

The big theme yesterday was “over 100,000 Iraqis and 1,500 Americans killed.” Slate magazine already did such a thorough debunking of that first number here that anything else I could add would be utterly redundant. Instead, I’m going to look at that second number.

Before I begin, however, I’m going to say something that is obvious to regular Wizbang readers, but might head off the cherry-picking of this piece by critics. A single death of an American is a tragedy, and over 1500 is a tragedy writ large. Every single death is a terrible price to pay, and I grieve with and honor the families of those whose loved ones have paid that price.

But let’s step back for a moment and look at the big picture. Over 1500 Americans killed in two years. Let’s call it 1536 for convenience, for a bit of mathematical simplicity.

Breaking that number down, it works out just a fraction over 2.1 per day, or 64 deaths each month. How does that compare to previous conflicts the United States has been involved in?

Thanks to the work of Al Nofi of the United States Civil War Center, posted here, we see the cost of each of the major wars in United States history. The lowest deaths per month average was during the Revolutionary War, where we lost 55 per month. The highest was in the Korean War, when soldiers died at the rate of 6,639 per month. (Correction: World War II had the 6,639 figure. Thanks to reader Mr. Hawaii for pointing that out. And I agree — charts with lines, especially really, really wide ones that go off my monitor, are better.) And during the Civil War, when every soldier killed was an American, the combined Union and Confederate losses were 3,846 per month.

The Iraq war is a very close second in the lowest. And the average of all 13 conflicts (the 12 cited by Nofi and the Iraq war) is 1,470 per month.

Yes, the war in Iraq is brutal. And yes, every death is a tragedy. But we must not let that detract from the inescapable fact that it is a war we are winning, and winning decisively. The tactics of our enemies are the tactics of desperation, much like the kamikaze pilots of World War II Japan. And wars are most often the bloodiest and most horrifying nearest the end.

We are in the endgame of the war in Iraq, and we must not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


In praise of civilian casualties, Part II
Clear and Convincing Evidence


  1. Kadnine March 20, 2005
  2. Julie March 20, 2005
  3. Tom H March 20, 2005
  4. Julie March 20, 2005
  5. Just Me March 20, 2005
  6. Mr. Hawaii March 20, 2005
  7. Faith+1 March 20, 2005
  8. JJ March 20, 2005
  9. Richard Aubrey March 20, 2005
  10. Henry March 20, 2005
  11. Chris Cardiff March 20, 2005
  12. Just Me March 20, 2005
  13. Alan E Brain March 20, 2005
  14. Henry March 20, 2005
  15. Ira Cushing March 21, 2005
  16. Kin March 21, 2005
  17. Jabba the Tutt March 21, 2005