Saturday, October 17, 2009

More Troops - More Deaths

Americans seem believe war is like video war games; you play for awhile, lots of characters fall down or are blown up, and then you turn off the game and everyone magically comes back to life. But war is not like a video game. Real people die and never come back to life.

Obama is debating whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan. What's not said often enough is that if more are sent, more will die. How many American deaths is an Afghanistan "liberated" from the Taliban worth?

Don't get me wrong. I believe that if the Afghanistan war is really in America's best interests to win, then more troops may be necessary. But, we must not be naive about casualites. There will be many of them, and there will also be more Afghan civilian casualties.

While listening to Diane Rehm on NPR this week, I heard an "expert" say that we had killed many Al Queda leaders with Predator air strikes. Diane immediately said, "But there also were civilian casualties!" That was a naive comment, but a telling one. Many Americans just don't understand that war is a messy business.

So, if we increase troops we must also willingly accept more of our soldiers being killed and wounded. We must also accept the idea that Afghan civilians will be in the way and be killed. Our soldiers must not be asked to fight with hands tied behind their back, risking even more danger than they should.

Will the American public support our really "going to war" in Afghanistan? I don't know.


thimscool said...

Yep. Well said.

But while you criticize the American people for being naive about casualties, let's not forget the negligence of the major media and the outright deception of the pentagon and the administration for whitewashing war and encouraging the view that you describe. They learned their lesson from Vietnam.

If people have a genuine grip on how terrible war is, then they would never approve this nonsense. The fact that there may be a few people in Afghanistan that want us dead is no justification for this war; there are people everywhere that want us dead, including in a suburban house near you.

Ron Davison said...

When you choose war, you choose civilian casualties.
As I've mentioned before, it makes little sense to me that we don't do more to prioritize based on opportunity cost. Why analyze Afghanistan in a vacuum? What else could we do with that much money and that number of people? What is the marginal return?

thimscool said...

Uh, let me get my calculator...

Hmmm, it looks like there will be a marginal return of several hundred thousand committed enemies and several million sympathizers for each year we continue this goat rodeo.

Give or take a few dollars and liters of blood spent...

Well worth it if you've got stock in General Dynamics. Booyah!

thimscool said...

It's an investment in the future of our strongest industry, the one where we have a clear advantage over everyone else in terms of R&D, investment per capita, the best PR machine that Hollywood and NYC can muster, and a whole army of slick lobbyists that take turns getting elected.

America is wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It really makes it.

Hungry Freaks, Daddy.

Dave K said...

Reminded me of an article by Richard Dawkins about collateral damage.,180,Collateral-Damage-Part-2,Richard-Dawkins

As for me, I am hoping for more and more people uncomfortable with the idea of civilian casualties - and with military casualties, for that matter!

And I am all for asking soldiers to fight with more restrictions. :)

Lifehiker said...

Me, too. It's unfortunate that all armies can't agree to use paintball ammunition and submit to the rules of paintball. Then the killed could go home.

Anonymous said...

One thing that has made war easier for Americans is that we don't have "citizen soldiers" anymore. We have a "military class" now that does all the fighting for us, so our comfortable middle-class existence is never disturbed.