Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Costs of War

Jacques Distler, who runs a very high-quality science blog, has responded to my Juan Cole post with a link to a site that has some statistics on Iraq War casualties, with the comment that, though he hasn't run the numbers, the trend line looks to be pretty bad. I think we can all agree that no deaths are to be taken lightly, and any look at the numbers has to acknowledge the horrible nature of war. What stands out to me, though, is that the number of U.S. casualties has been decreasing steadily since the elections at the end of January.

Now, I'm not such a U.S. chauvinist that I think that's the whole picture. I realize our coalition partners and, most especially, the Iraqi police and civilian populations, are taking casualties. In the case of the Iraqis, some of these attacks have been monstrously high in fatalities, indeed (and I confess that I have yet to run the numbers, either). However, it's worth noting that the deaths would have stopped long ago if the insurgents would quit attacking.

Clearly, the imperialist adventure excuse has long since passed its expiration date, and I don't think anyone still believes the insurgents are local 'minutemen' fighting against oppression. The only conceivable reason for terrorists to continue to kill such high numbers of people is fear - fear of what a thriving Iraqi democracy will do to the sources of their funding and protection. This isn't just a hardcore Bush supporter talking here (although I am); the entire world is abuzz with talk of an 'Arab Spring', and the NY Times reports today on growing signs that ordinary Iraqis are losing their fear of the insurgents and striking back.

We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each person, Iraqi, American, Australian, British, or otherwise, who has died in this horrible war. We can only hope and pray the insurgents will either be killed, surrender, or lay down their arms so that no more of them have to die needlessly. I realize that Mr. Distler and I are on opposite sides of the political fence, and I doubt he will support many of my conclusions, but I thank him for the link and the dialogue. What would be most interesting (perhaps some day soon if time permits) would be to try to split out the fatalities by 'cause' - i.e., how many killed by coalition troops vs. how many killed by the insurgents. It's a nasty business, war - I wish we weren't in this one, but I think the benefits to our security and the prospects of peace in the region will make the costs worthwhile, though I have no doubt many wives and mothers of deceased servicemen will have a hard time ever seeing it that way.

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