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Impearls: What a Quagmire!

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Earthdate 2004-03-12

What a Quagmire!

The anti-liberation left continues to talk out its Vietnam War redux fantasies, insisting against all evidence and reason that the current situation in Iraq is a “quagmire” like Vietnam.  Early on after the coalition's conquest of Iraq, it was arguable perhaps that even if coalition casualties at that time were relatively low, by Vietnam War and most other historic standards, the Iraqi “resistance” (as the fascist-loving left insists on calling it) hadn't yet gotten going good — rather like early days in the Vietnam War — and just you wait!

Eleven months after the collapse of the Baathist regime, that case is getting very much harder to make.  According to reports, the Saddamite remnants were pretty much wiped out last December — including the capture of Saddam Hussein himself — and the opposition currently in Iraq appears to be mainly foreign Jihadists acting with little support and refuge among the Iraqi people.  The new Iraqi police and army continue to ramp up in numbers and experience, while massacres of Shi'ites successfully perpetrated by the terrorists were accomplished by a few suicide bombers walking through the midst of a vast throng, together with an accomplice who threw grenades out a hotel window — i.e., not terribly demanding as an organizational job.  This “success” shows the weakness in the terrorist opposition rather than its strength.  As Iraqi forces grow, eventually the infiltrators will be cut off.  Iraq could even construct something like the Israeli “fence” along its frontiers if need be to supervise its trans-border traffic, but I think the situation will come under control short of that.

A good measure of just how much the current situation in Iraq actually resembles the Vietnam War “quagmire” may be constructed by simply considering the question of how long it would take at (e.g.) last month's (February's) coalition casualty rate to produce the U.S. death toll in Vietnam.

Any objection that February's casualties were “unnaturally” low merely emphasizes the fact that the rate has been declining dramatically and nearly uniformly since the high of last November (2003-11).  See the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count site for details on how the trend has progressed.  So far, this month is doing slightly better than the last, while last month (February) the coalition suffered — from both action and mischance — a total of 23 fatalities.

Each of these deaths is a tragedy for the person concerned and their families as well as nation, but compare with Vietnam:  from the moment American troops increased into the tens of thousands in what was then South Vietnam and were authorized by President Kennedy to shoot back when fired upon (i.e., by the end of 1962), up to the time that Congress forbade further U.S. military activity in Indochina (August of 1973), is an interval — including the final August — of 10 years, 8 months (i.e., 128 months, or 3,896 days).  During this lengthy period, the U.S. lost more than 47,000 killed in action and nearly 11,000 as a result of other causes, in toto some 58,000 fatalities.  That is nearly 15 American fatal casualties per day, day after day throughout the more than decade-long war.

Taking last month's total of 23 casualties, and using the actual number of days in February (29), so nobody can object that it was a short month, gives an average of 0.793 fatalities per day during February.  The number of days necessary to reach a Vietnam War toll at that rate would then be 58,000 ÷ 0.793, or 73,130 days.  Dividing further by 365.249 days per year, we find that the interval required to reach a Vietnam War-sized death toll in Iraq is thus over two hundred (200.22) years!

In my view, any “quicksand” that takes more than two centuries to sink into — an interval nearly as long as the whole time the United States of America has existed — ought better be called terra firma.

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