24 October 2006

Casualties are irrelevant

The recent increase in violence in Iraq has been accompanied by more insistence that we need to leave Iraq. Just Sunday Senator Barak Obama told Tim Russert that we need a “phased withdrawal” from Iraq because, among other reasons, we can’t “arbitrate a civil war.” (Read the transcript here.)

Phased withdrawal? Can he really believe no one will understand that this is just a euphemism for ‘redeploy’? Actually, he can’t use ‘redeploy’ because we figured out that it was just a euphemism for ‘run away’. I mean, retreat.

Arbitrate a civil war? That’s not a problem. In arbitration the arbitrator is neutral with respect to the parties to the dispute. We are not neutral; we have chosen sides. Even if we were to credit this ‘civil war’ business, one of the sides has chosen to employ terrorism as their weapon of choice. We have allied with the other side, the side that wants to achieve a stable society the old fashioned way—to work for it.

Phased withdrawal. Arbitrate a civil war. Democrats aren’t even trying anymore.

But what really gets me is the left’s persistence in claiming that the number of casualties in Iraq has anything to do with any reason for running away, I mean redeploying—phased withdrawing, actually. They don’t care about the number of casualties. They were opposed to our going into Iraq before there was a single casualty; and they have been relentless in trying to find, or create from whole cloth, any justification for leaving; and just about anything will do. Every problem, every set-back, the slightest infraction on the part of the lowliest soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, every enemy attack has been reason, not for trying harder (as it would have been at, say, Iwo Jima or Normandy) but for admitting defeat, cutting and running, redeploying, phased withdrawing. Whatever.

Much of the problem has been due to the medias’ ineptitude in reporting things military. They just have no idea how to appraise a situation from a military perspective. This goes back a long way. Take for example, the Tet Offensive, famous in U. S. military history for being the first battle we lost by defeating the enemy. What can you say about a battle in which the enemy achieves none, noneNONE!!!—of his objectives, but the winning side ends up redeploying? Not much, I supppose, except, “Thank you, left-leaning media and John Effing Kerry.”

But you can get a sense of the medias’ empty headedness in assessing things militarily just from the reaction of one journalist to General Westmoreland’s press conference after the Tet failure (that is, again, for those not paying close attention, the enemy’s failure—not ours). During the Offensive the U. S. Embassy was attacked. But—and this is very important—the embassy was never taken, not even close.

The attack on the embassy was especially significant in the public's perception (a perception which was based on the media’s selective coverage) of the U.S. military's control over the situation. At 2:45 AM on 31 January 1968 19 Viet Cong commandos attacked the embassy. Although the VC attack on Saigon was over an hour old, the guards at the embassy hadn’t been informed, and hadn’t been reinforced. The Viet Cong blew a hole in the embassy compound's wall, killed several MPs and entered the grounds. The few remaining American guards withdrew into the embassy building and locked the doors. Eventually (and skipping over some important details) American reinforcements arrived, and in the morning, six hours after the attack began, MPs retook the embassy compound, killing all of the remaining Viet Cong.

After the attack—and given its importance as an attack on American soil (i.e., the Embassy)—the media converged on the scene as soon as they could scramble out of wherever they were hiding while the fighting was going on. With the bodies of dead Viet Cong still scattered about the rubble of the embassy, General Westmoreland held a press conference inside the compound. He assured the press that the enemy had never entered "the embassy itself," and spoke of the allies returning to the offensive. The above-mentioned reporter—a Washington Post reporter—later said, "The reporters could hardly believe their ears. Westmoreland was standing in the ruins and saying that everything was great.”

Now, I wasn’t there to hear Westmoreland’s press conference (I was only three years old, and was only beginning to speak English—if you could call it speaking. But I digress.), but I doubt he said, “Everything is great.” That’s the self-styled prophetic press for you—always ‘interpreting’ the oracular pronouncements of the gods for we, the stupid masses who, without their gracious ministrations on our behalf, would surely be lost.

But even if the General did say that everything was great surely he meant great from a military standpoint. Again, the enemy achieved none of their objectives and suffered tremendous casualties, like 80-90 percent (including dead, wounded, or captured) of the 85,000 plus of their attacking force, compared with 42 percent casualties (dead, wounded or missing) of our 50,000 plus defending force.

When your enemy outnumbers you and attacks you and in so doing (1) suffers much more in caualties than you do and (2) fails to achieve so much as one of his objectives (i.e., ‘purposes for the attack’, for those of you who don’t understand military terminolgy), then, from a military perspective—the perspective you would expect a general to give—things really and truly are great.

And that’s why the number of casualties is irrelevant. You have to know what casualties really signify militarily before you can assess their relevance to anything—even phased running away.


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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