Making Pacifism Count

Making Pacifism Count

One of the irksome things in the rhetoric of the anti-war movement is the constant references to the total of our armed forces killed in Iraq. Each thousand is paraded out as a milestone, as if the total number, now slightly more than 3,100 since March 2003, is the best evidence of whether or not the war is a bad mistake. I suppose we are to assume that America’s most successful wars were those in which no soldiers were killed? Whenever I hear the “death toll” offered as an argument that the war is tragically misguided, I always want to ask: compared with what?

The natural answer for liberals is that the death toll is tragically too high compared to what it would be in heaven–or, as many of them don’t believe in heaven–compared with the Utopia for which they are struggling: the one where no unwanted children result from sex, no race jokes are told even in private, and no one owns a gun. When you’re using heaven/Utopia as a guide, you can always justify the “one death is too many” measure.

Of course, one soldier’s death is too many, if it’s a wasted death. Which is why we hate to see the Democratic Party working so hard to waste the deaths of our fallen heroes in Iraq. But be that side of the issue ever so determined, as wars fought in our national interest go, the death toll in Iraq has not been particularly high.

By way of comparison, the current number of US military deaths after 47 months is slightly less than the 3,155 Union dead killed at Gettysburg in three days of fighting. On D-Day in 1944, 2,500 US soldiers died in a single day. 6,800 US servicemen died, twice the Iraq toll, on Iwo Jima in the space of five weeks in 1945. The death toll of servicemen after nineteen months of America fighting in World War I was 116,000, or 6,105 per month. The American toll after four years of World War II was 600,000 dead.

That last number is significant. You will notice that the Iraq war is being condemned by the Left because it has “lasted longer than the Second World War,” as if there is a built-in term to war decisions, like a mortgage or a basketball game. Why not compare it to Vietnam, as the Left otherwise never wearies of doing, where we had a nine-year term? Is that because it would take us another 14 years to reach that death toll?

But if we are required to abide by the arbitrary time limit to reach victory established in World War II, (and don’t forget the “United Nations” were actually helping us with that one!), then why not be required to expend military lives at the same rate–which would be 200 times higher than it has been in the Iraq war? Or, if we can’t expend lives that fast, then why not keep fighting in Iraq for another 800 years, or nearly long enough to outlast Senator Byrd’s final term in the Senate?

What is missing in the liberal line is what is always missing: perspective. We are talking about a mass of otherwise intelligent folks who lie awake nights worrying about an ice floe cracking up in 2100, while dismissing Iran’s looming nuclear capability as a trick of the Bush administration; or who despise a years-long economic expansion as the worst calamity since the Hoover administration.

Alicia Colon at the New York Sun has provided some welcome perspective on the combat toll of the Iraq war, (“Heroes And Cowards“).

“The total military dead in the Iraq war between 2003 and this month stands at about 3,133. This is tragic, as are all deaths due to war, and we are facing a cowardly enemy unlike any other in our past that hides behind innocent citizens. Each death is blazoned in the headlines of newspapers and Internet sites. What is never compared is the number of military deaths during the Clinton administration: 1,245 in 1993; 1,109 in 1994; 1,055 in 1995; 1,008 in 1996. That’s 4,417 deaths in peacetime but, of course, who’s counting?”

Read the rest of this article here.

If you doubt it, you can compare her numbers to the DoD’s own tables.

Of course every life is sacred, but in a world where the US is hated by so many as it is today, (and before we ever went into Iraq), and for so many different reasons, there is no way we are going to have a 0-casualty military. Nor will we ever know how many killings by IEDs and car bombs were directly motivated by a desire to push the American political will to the breaking point.

As he watched Europe’s pactifists in the 1930s appeasing their nations into another world war, G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“We do not hold, no sane man has ever held, that war is a good thing. It is better that men should agree than that they should disagree; it is better that they disagree peacefully than that they should fight. Thus far we go with the most ardent, unconditional pacifist. The horrors and abominations of war are not likely to be invoked. But we hold that occasion may arise when it is better for a man to fight than to surrender. War is, in the main, a dirty, mean, inglorious business, but it is not the direst calamity that can befall a people. There is one worse state, at least: the state of slavery.

“While the possibility of slavery remains, while it merges daily into imminent probability, it is more important to teach men the value of manhood than to preach the softer virtues of peace.”