Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What’s a million or two among friends?

Looking back from the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War (OIF) and the 6 ½ year anniversary of the Afghan War (OEF), some numbers from immediate and past history help define our current position.
210 Days Gulf War – Shield & Storm
584 Days WW I (US)
1,098 Days Korean War
1,364 Days WW II (US)
1,597 Days WW I (All)
1,832 Days in Iraq
1,898 WIA OEF
2,192 Days WW II (All)
2,361 Days in Afghanistan
3,927 Days in Vietnam
4,000 KIA OIF
5,070 Tons opium – Taliban 2000
9,040 Tons opium – US/NATO 2007
12,100 Afghanis Killed
29,320 WIA OIF
32,100 Afghanis wounded
89,760 Minimum Iraqis Killed
1,191,216 Worst Case Iraqis Killed
1,630,000 Bbl/day Iraqi oil output 2007
2,107,000 Afghan refugees
2,500,000 Bbl/day Iraqi oil output 2002
3,500,000 Iraqi refugees
$90.3B Cost Gulf War
$139.8B Cost OEF (to date)
$226.2B Cost WW I
$398.7B Cost Korean War
$505.3B Cost OIF (to date)
$557.3B Cost Vietnam War
$805.1B Estimated cost GWOT thru FY 2008
$1.49T Projected full cost OIF military ops only
$3.437T Cost WW II
NOTE: All costs US DOD only in 2008 dollars
Only the Vietnam War was longer than the current GWOT.
Only WW II cost more - we had 12 times as many under arms.
Physical casualties are down compared to other wars, but psychological casualties may be up.
Oil production in Iraq is down, and opium production in Afghanistan is up.
So why are these numbers important? Maybe just because we tend to forget the past when we concentrate on the present, and we then tend to ignore the present if we have no sound basis for comparison.
With the real numbers we can make some good comparisons. We can decide in the gross if things are going well in the fine; we can also decide if those who are managing this conflict are any good in comparison to those who handled the previous conflicts.
For example, we can ask why does it take longer to subdue a country of 27.5 million people in a land (Iraq) about twice the size of Idaho, with only about 40,000 part time, under-trained, and under-equipped soldiers opposing us? We can see that it took us only 75% of that time to subdue three major axis powers with millions of soldiers and the best and most modern equipment and training of its time, in a multi-theater conflict across the face of the globe.
Why will this war cost us at least a third of what WW II cost for military operations?
Why are more civilians killed in our Theaters of Operations than opposing fighters?
What have we done to the structure of these countries to make the bad stuff (opium) do better, and the good stuff (oil) do worse?
The figures don’t give the answers but at least they give us part of the framework for the questions – these and many more.
In the last issue I railed against the statistical approach to current wars and argued for the people approach. These numbers are facts not statistics. Let’s couch our answers in people terms. It is the only way to make even a little sense out of all of this.
“To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?”
W. H. Auden
"Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier”

Sandy Cook

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