Where Have All The Dead Americans Gone?
U.S. forces suffered 107 casualties (dead and wounded) for the month of December in Iraq. Twelve months previously (December, 2006), there were 817. In between there was a bloody campaign, called "the surge," which caused most of the 6,801 casualties American troops suffered that year. In 2006 there were 7,221 casualties.
The U.S. always put a premium on keeping American casualties down. This led to tactics, equipment and weapons designed to get the job done, with the fewest American dead and wounded. As a result, the casualty rate in Iraq was less than half what it was in Vietnam. There was also an emphasis on keeping civilian casualties down. It was difficult for most Americans to realize this, given the media's fixation on real or imagined atrocities. In Iraq, over 90 percent of civilian casualties were inflicted by other Iraqis. The military encouraged the media to not cover the many procedures ("rules of engagement" or ROE) U.S. troops follow to avoid civilian losses. This was because the enemy would exploit those ROEs as much as possible.
In hindsight, U.S. troops will get credit for keeping their own casualties down to historically low levels (compared to any other 20th century conflict). Professional soldiers have already recognized this feat, and are studying American techniques intensively. Less well appreciated are the efforts the Americans made to keep civilian losses down. But foreign military experts are coming to appreciate that this aspect of the war paid long term benefits. Iraqis saw, day by day, the efforts by American troops to avoid hurting civilians. Initially, Iraqis saw that as an American weakness, but in the long run they recognized it as a sensibility rarely seen in the Middle East. This will have long term consequences for relations between the United States and Iraq.
All this, of course, means very little to the utopian peacebots of the antiwar movement who don't live in the real world anyway; as well as to the more adolescent and simplistic of the candidates running for President these days.
Bill Whittle has a thought-provoking analysis (in two parts) of "Forty Second Boyd" and how the U.S. Military has been transformed against fierce resistence on many levels to be more adaptable and effective in 21st century battlefields.
And, when the history books look back on this era, people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld---as well as General Petraeus-- will earn their share of the credit for the transformation. Whittle makes one excellent point at the end of this long, but rewarding article:
And as for the Surge, I am struck by one thought, and that is this: It seems clear now that we needed more troops in theater from Day One. But I think the spectacular success of the Surge is due less to the number of boots on the ground than it is to something far more important.
Looking back on the rise of the insurgency, it seems as if the average Iraqi did not know what to make of America. I suspect that many would have been far more supportive a long time ago, if it were not for the image of a helicopter atop a building in 1975 and a line of desperate people running for their lives. To work with Americans may have been what many wanted to do much, much sooner.
When Michael Moore makes a hugely successful film praising Saddam’s paradise and calling these people who bomb women and children in marketplaces “freedom fighters,” and when an election turns and places into Congressional power a political party dedicated to reproducing that helicopter tableau as soon as possible... what would you do? Because if you guess wrong and the Americans leave, you will be taken out into the street in front of your family and have your head sawed off.
I think the Surge has had spectacular success not because of the additional troops so much as for the fact that when the media and the Democrats demanded we cut and run… we did not cut and run. We doubled down. When the calls for defeat and dishonor were at their loudest – sad to say a not unwarranted street rep we had made for ourselves – somehow, somehow we simply just hung on and gave them not a retreat but a charge.
Jesus Christ, but that must have gotten someone’s attention. Yes, the Surge is working. But I believe it is not a surge of boots that is doing the work so much as it is a surge of hope.
Ah yes. Let us call what Whittle is describing the real world version of the so-called "audacity of hope", a phrase which has been regularly overused by the usual leftist utopian hucksters to appeal to the fantasies and everyday delusions of the masses.
For hope to be meaningful, it must be reality-based (yet another term rather inappropriately appropriated by the delusional denizens of the left). "Reclaiming the American Dream" (the subtitle of Obama's book) is more than just mouthing the socialist platitudes and promising eternal peace and plenty. It means going back to promoting the fundamental values--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--which make those hopes possible, and which formed the basis for creating this wonderful country to begin with.
It means facing the real world and dealing with the threats that exist, not ignoring them and pandering to human proclivity for psychological denial of reality. It means facing the real enemies of life and freedom; not giving those enemies a free pass and pretending that imperfection in the forces of good is the only "evil" that matters (psychological displacement). It means more than the empty promises of politicians.
In short, sometimes it means choosing to do what is hard and sticking to it because it is right.
Or, another way of understanding the real audacity of hope is the conversation between Frodo and Sam at Osgiliath in "The Two Towers":
I can't do this Sam.";
"I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.";
"What are we holding on to Sam?";
"That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."
The courageous men and women of our military services know what is worth fighting for; Forty Second Boyd knew what was worth fighting for; and, my audacious hope is that the American people will once again remember what is worth fighting for; and break out of the self-induced mental fog many have slipped into to avoid an unpleasant and frightening reality bearing down on them.
Because, it really matters.