Your editor has just returned from another month in Iraq--my fourth extended tour in the last two and a half years. During November and December I joined numberous American combat operations, including the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, walked miles of streets and roads, entered scores of homes, listened to hundreds of Iraqis, observed voting at a dozen different polling sites, and endured my third roadside ambush. With this latest firsthand experience, here are answers to some common queries about how the war is faring.
Has the Iraq war been too costly?
Well, nearly every war is riddled with disapointment and pain, Iraq certainly included. But judged fairly, Iraq has been much less costly and debacle-ridden than the Civil War, World War II, Korea, and the Cold War--each considered in retrospect to have been noble successes.
President Lincoln had to try five different commanders before settling on Ulysses Grant, and even Grant stumbled many times on the way to victory. The Union Army suffered 390,000 dead in four years, with fully 29 percent of the men who served being killed or wounded in what some critics claimed was "an unnecessary war."
World War II was a serial bloodbath. Battles like Iwo Jima, Anzio, Ardennes, and Okinawa each killed, in a matter of days and weeks, several times the number of soldiers we have lost in Iraq. Intelligence was wrong. Planning failed. Brutal collateral damage was done to civilian non-combatants. Soldiers were killed by friendly fire. POWs were sometimes executed. Military and civilian leaders miscalculated repeatedly. During WWII, 7 percent of our G.I.s were killed or wounded.
Korea was first lost before it could be re-taken, at great cost, and thanks to political interference the war ended in a fruitless stalemate. Fully 8 percent of the American soldiers who fought on the Korean peninsula were killed or wounded.
The Cold War spawned by President Roosevelt's expedient alliance with Stalin and other communists brought totalitarian bleakness and death to millions, endless proxy wars that consumed hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American and allied lives, and a near-nuclear exchange during President Kennedy's watch.
Yet ugly as they were, each of the wars above eventually made the world a less bloodly place by removing tyrants and transforming cultures. Those same goals drive our war against Middle Eastern extremism that is now centered in Iraq.
In Iraq, 4 percent of our soldiers have been killed or wounded. Those losses are lower than we suffered in nine previous wars. The Civil War, Mexican War, War of Independence, Korean War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Philippine War were all half-again or more as costly as Iraq has been.
[I, Allegra, find this interesting. This guy is very credible, and he's saying that this is costing less than any of the other wars. We are learning about the Mexican War right now in history, and it is not mentioned as being costly. The Mexican War had plenty of protesters, and the Iraqi War will too.]