The perspective of history

Kerry has called Iraq a failure that could lead to “war without end.” Oh, and we also failed to guard 380 tons of explosives.

Journalist Seymour Hersh says plainly that the Iraq war is not winnable and will, “go down as one of the classic sort of failures in history.”

"No amount of body bags is going to dissuade [Bush]," said Hersh, despite the fact that Hersh's sources say the war in Iraq is "not winnable. It's over." As for Kerry's war plans, Hersh said he wished he could tell him to stop talking as if the senator's plan for Iraq could somehow still eke out a victory there. "This is a disaster that's been going on. It's a civil war, the insurgency. There is no 'win' anymore in this war," he argued. "As somebody said, 'We're playing chess, they're playing Go.'"

Numerous voices, ranging from left to downright anti-american, (ie Michael Moore) are calling this war a defeat. During the invasion the pessimists and defeatists, like Scott Ritter, were calling it like they saw it too, as this March 26th, 2003 news story can attest:

The United States does not have the military means to take over Baghdad and will lose the war against Iraq, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter said.

"The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated. It is a war we can not win," he told private radio TSF in an interview broadcast here on Tuesday evening.

"We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad and for this reason I believe the defeat of the United States in this war is inevitable," he said.

War 'already lost'

"Every time we confront Iraqi troops we may win some tactical battles, as we did for ten years in Vietnam, but we will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost," Ritter added.

Stiffening Iraqi resistance as US-led forces close in on Baghdad have prompted questions about the strategy to use precision air power and a smaller, fast moving ground force to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Some military analysts have said there are not enough allied troops in Iraq to take control of Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein's elite troops are said to be concentrated, and that the planning of the war was overly optimistic.

What exactly are we talking about here? A military disaster or a political disaster? Because I think the left has the two completely mixed up. Militarily Iraq cannot be defined as a failure in any sense of the term. We have not been defeated in any battle, we have not failed in any objective, battle, or even small scale skirmish with any enemy combatants. The invasion of Iraq was one of the swiftest and surest victories in the history of warfare. There is no popular rising insurgency spiraling out of control there. In fact the insurgents do not have inexhaustible resources or support from which draw forever. The occupation has been tougher and more difficult than the invasion but by no means a failure or even on the verge of failure from what I can see.

The casualties incurred in Iraq are not high by historical standards. Any military deployment carries with it the risk of death, if not from enemy fire then from accidents and illness, even when measured against the normal death rate in the US, 854.5 deaths per 100,000 population, the casualties in Iraq are only slightly higher.

Strictly for comparison purposes, I divided the total combat deaths of each of these American wars by the length of combat in years to get an annual death toll for each to compare to our occupation of Iraq. (In the case of wars lasting less than a year it becomes an extension of how many might have died in a years time of such fighting.)

4,435 combat deaths in the Revolutionary War or 665 a year.
2,260 combat deaths in the War of 1812 or 904 a year.
1,733 combat deaths in the Mexican War or 1,039 a year.
184,594 combat deaths in the Civil War: Combined or 46,148 a year.
385 combat deaths in the Spanish-American War or 1,155 a year.
53,513 combat deaths in the World War I or 33,797 a year.
292,131 combat deaths in the World War II or 79,672 a year.
33,651 combat deaths in the Korean War or 10,913 a year.
47,369 combat deaths in the Vietnam War or 6,315 a year.
148 combat deaths in the Gulf War or 1776 a year.

From March 2003 to October 2004 total US combat deaths numbers 955. Total casualties including non-hostile causes of death are 1,109.

If you think that Iraq will go down as one of the classic military failures of history, think again.

The Greek defeat of the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis, 371 smaller Greek ships to 1,207 Persian trireme warships, was a military failure for Xerxes. With perhaps 100,000 Persian sailors killed.

Varro's defeat at the hands of Hannibal at Cannae was a Roman military failure. 50,000 out of 80,000 Romans soldiers slaughtered in one day.

Napoleon's invasion of Russia, subsequent retreat and loss of 450,000 soldiers was certainly a military failure.

Hitler's invasion of Russia was also a military failure. "3.6 million German and 12 million Soviet battle deaths, plus another 15-18 million civilians perished in massacres, diseases, and starvation."

The lesson here? Don't invade Russia.

Germany's invasion of France was a French military failure. 400,000 French killed/wounded, 27,000 Germans killed/wounded.

Saddam Hussein's defeat at the hands of the George Bush was an Iraqi dictator's military failure-- twice.

What opponents of this war and this President are trying to do is rewrite history before it has been written. Like Neville Chamberlain, who proclaimed peace in our time on the eve of World War Two, those who are currently proclaiming defeat in our time are equally wrong. History will will be the judge long after you and I are no longer around to argue about it.

Posted by Eric Simonson at October 28, 2004 1:34 AM