Thursday, December 30, 2004

Just how bad is the situation faced by troops in Iraq?

I've been wondering... sometimes I get the feeling the Administration is leading us down a path, trying to get us to believe that things in Iraq aren't all that bad. While I haven't seen any direct comparisons between the Iraqi situation and Vietnam or Korea or World War II, Phillip Carter and Owen West note in Slate,
Generational contrasts are implicit today when casualties in Iraq are referred to as light, either on their own or in comparison to Vietnam. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, for example, last July downplayed the intensity of the Iraq war on this basis, arguing that "it would take over 73 years for U.S. forces to incur the level of combat deaths suffered in the Vietnam war."
Ouch. That's a long time. I guess things aren't that bad. Well, unless you're on the receiving end of an improvised explosive device. But then, Carter and West lead on:
But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.
Their analysis paints a fairly bleak picture. Where does this lead us? Let's face the reality of the situation and no longer paint such a rosey picture. Particularly those inside the Beltway.
Critics of the war may use this analysis as one more piece of ammunition to attack the effort; some supporters may continue to refer to casualties as "light," noting that typically tens of thousands of Americans must die in war before domestic support crumbles. Both miss the point. The casualty statistics make clear that our nation is involved in a war whose intensity on the ground matches that of previous American wars. Indeed, the proportional burden on the infantryman is at its highest level since World War I. With next year's budget soon to be drafted, it is time for Washington to finally address their needs accordingly.
Amen.

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