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January 18, 2004 9:54 AM   Subscribe

500+ The U.S. military death toll in Iraq surpassed 500 this weekend, roughly matching the number of U.S. military personnel who died in the first four years of the U.S. military engagement in Vietnam.
posted by the fire you left me (50 comments total)

 
Thanks for the comparison - it makes it easy to see just how spectacular the military accomplishment in Iraq has been. The U.S. has overthrown a regime and conquered a country - and for the same number of dead with which it accomplished virtually nothing in Vietnam. So we can be assured that the spectre of far higher casualties is not a likely one.
posted by Dasein at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2004


spectacular is not the word most of us would use to describe it. Unncessary deaths or a shameful waste of human lives might more accurately describe it. Especially since it's leading to a more fundamentalist regime in Iraq, with sharia and all, when it wasn't before.
posted by amberglow at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2004


The U.S. has overthrown a regime and conquered a country

cool! which one?
posted by mcsweetie at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2004


double post ?
posted by matteo at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2004


Thanks for the comparison - it makes it easy to see just how spectacular the military accomplishment in Iraq has been. The U.S. has overthrown a regime and conquered a country - and for the same number of dead with which it accomplished virtually nothing in Vietnam. So we can be assured that the spectre of far higher casualties is not a likely one.

Ignoring the initial belief that this is one of the most disgusting attempts to spin 500 deaths I've ever read in my life, I suppose it's pointless to you to point out that among those 500, more have died after we "conquered" the country than before.

Exactly how many people have to get in the ground after the "overthrow" is complete to meet your standard of "far higher," Dasein?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2004


spectacular

showmanship.

Cut and paste if link fails:

http://www.apechild.com/gallery/videos/apache.wmv
posted by Busithoth at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2004


damn! two broken links?

anyway, the second link is a spectacle, anyway.

I don't think comparisons to Viet Nam are merited.
It's oversimplifying and demands too many "when you consider..." to follow the logic through.

on preview: what matteo said.
posted by Busithoth at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2004


So Dasien, you're happy our soldiers are dead?

What are you? Anti-American?
posted by eyeballkid at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2004


By that logic, we had practically no casualties in the first 11 years of our "engagement" with Iraq. Or hell, include the persian gulf war - 900 casualties in the first 13 years. How many were dead in Vietnam by 1969?
posted by techgnollogic at 11:11 AM on January 18, 2004


Well, let's not forget the zero casualties to date in our undying war against the Centauran Hegemony.

Hold the line my fellow patriots! None shall pass!
posted by aramaic at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2004


Well, let's not forget the zero casualties to date in our undying war against the Centauran Hegemony.

Hold the line my fellow patriots! None shall pass!


Had my own eternal war cause, but on preview Aramaic's was more relevant.
posted by Busithoth at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2004


Busithoth's link above should maybe have had a "may be disturbing to some cuz it shows people being blown to bits" disclaimer.
posted by wsg at 11:22 AM on January 18, 2004


Peace is dangerous now, get used to it.
posted by Hildago at 11:32 AM on January 18, 2004


Metafilter: where bodycount means something.

when it wasn't before.

what was it before.
posted by clavdivs at 11:35 AM on January 18, 2004


Dasein has a point. You can't judge a war simply by the number of dead. The balancing factors are the neccessity of the cause and the viability of other means to pursue it.

By my standards, Gulf War II isn't good: I don't believe unilateral invasion was neccessary and I think there were still other means available. But it still may end up being better than Vietnam in terms of what's accomplished. Or it may be that over the next 2-10 years it will be apparent that this was the biggest foreign policy and moral mistake since Vietnam.
posted by weston at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2004


Peace is dangerous now, get used to it.

Which tasted better, Hildago, hook, line or sinker?
posted by squirrel at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2004


Peace sells, but who's buying?

*bangs head*
posted by homunculus at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2004


the first four years of the U.S. military engagement in Vietnam.

What Vietnam "engagement" are you talking about?
posted by hama7 at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2004


Thanks for the comparison - it makes it easy to see just how spectacular the military accomplishment in Iraq has been.

And look at the spectacular results:

It now seems almost certain that the US will have to leave long before Iraqis can develop a lasting constitution and basis for a rule of law based on a new criminal code and the ability to enforce it. Whatever Iraqi government emerges before the US leaves, is almost certain to be inherently unstable. It will not have solved the religious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq --which are growing as the conflicts and power struggles between Sunni and Shi’ite become more serious. Iraq’s population is Arab 75-80%, Kurdish 15-20%, Turkmen, Assyrian, or other 5%. It is 97% Muslim (Shi'a 60-65%, Sunni 32-37%), Christian or other (3%).

Stable political parties will not have emerged. Leaders will be inexperienced and largely untested, particularly in reaching effective compromises and dealing with a post-aid economy. Whatever resolution is reached in the near term regarding the role of Islam in Iraq’s government will at best be unstable.

There are no rules to history, but few nations with anything like the problems Iraq now faces have experience less than a decade of political instability, and many have gone through strongman phases and coups. Moreover, it seems very unlikely that current Iraqi ”leaders” who lack strong followings and personal charisma will survive US departure.

It seems equally likely that the US aid program will have helped Iraq deal with its short term crises, but that the US will never be able to develop and began to implement any comprehensive plan to convert Iraq into a modern free market economy, modernize Iraq’s industries and agricultural sector, or shape the future of Iraq’s petroleum development and industry.

The fact that the US has not yet been able to issue key prime contracts for much of its aid effort, has no clear technical basis for modernizing Iraq’s oil fields, and now seems likely to have to give up efforts to privatize Iraq’s state industries and switch from national food rationing to a market-driven agricultural sector, indicate that the US may well leave an Iraq unready to manage its economy and attract foreign investment on competitive terms.

It is unclear how much Secretary Baker will be able to accomplish in terms of debt and reparations relief for a total ranging from $100 to $300 billion. Moreover, the Bush Administration may have created an aid funding and management nightmare by trying to go from “zero” to $18.7 billion in a single year, but promising not to seek additional funds in FY2005.

This is not an optimistic picture for the near and mid-term, and it will interact with Iraq’s political problems. To put it in perspective, the US government estimates that Iraq earned only $12.3 billion in oil export revenues in 2002, with exports more than twice those it will have in 2003, and oil revenues accounted for 95% of all exports. Its GDP in 2002 was $15.6 billion in purchasing power parity terms. This is around one-third of Iraq’s GDP in 1989 (after eight wars of the Iran-Iraq War). And Iraq’s population is now some 40% higher with current unemployment levels of 50-60%.

The most likely post-exit case will also be one in which Iraq does not have a secure regional environment. The US efforts to create meaningful Iraqi military forces have been faltering at best, and seem to have been quietly scaled back after more than a third of the men in the first battalion left. Iraq may be able to cobble tighter some kind of force out of the remnants of its army and air force equipment, but it will be a token force at most and it will have no navy.

Whatever the US may want, it also seems increasingly unlikely that any Iraqi government that achieves full sovereignty will want, or be able to maintain, a significant US or coalition presence once it has full control. The US and Britain are already seen as occupiers by most of the Iraq people.

Turkey cannot and will not ignore the threat posed by its own Kurds and the role Iraqi Kurds will play in the future. Syria has its own interests as an Arab and Ba’ath power; it may be relatively covert but it will not be passive. Even if Iran wants to stand aside, it will be drawn into any Shi’ite versus Sunni tensions, as the Sunni Arab states will be drawn in on the other side. Jordon will have to live with the backlash of US withdrawal from Iraq and the lack of future subsidies, and Saudi Arabia will face problems with smuggling and drugs. (The numbers of Iraqi’s now trying to enter Saudi Arabia for such purposes is about 10-20 times the number of Arabs trying to infiltrate across the Saudi border into Iraq.)

One minor irony: Iraq is almost certain to reemerge as anti-Israel at the political level. Post Saddam media have been at least as hostile to Israel as Saddam era media, an d Iraq will have to reassert its Arab and Islamic identity. The results will be less threatening to Israel in terms of cash flow and Iraqi military capability, but Iraq also will be free of sanctions and more capable of cooperation with other states.


Anthony Cordesman
Developments in Iraq at the End of 2003
posted by y2karl at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2004


The American counterinsurgency war in the Philippines, which began in 1899, cost more than 4,000 American lives and left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead. The British forced the relocation of nearly half a million peasants in Malaya in the 1950's. The French in Algeria. The British in Northern Ireland. The Turks and the Kurds. The Israelis in Palestinian lands. The Americans in Vietnam. The dour lessons of the past are very much on the minds of Nagl and other American officers trying to implement a workable strategy in Iraq, but they are playing catch-up. In the 1990's, and in fact until 9/11, counterinsurgency was a musty corner of the American military. The Pentagon referred to it as ''military operations other than war'' or ''low-intensity conflict.'' As the Iraq situation shows all too grimly, however, counterinsurgency is war, and there is nothing low-intensity about it.

Nagl is a gifted officer with the common sense not to confuse hopes with facts. He says he believes he is winning his war, and his grasp of the present, as well as of the past and the future, is as sharp as anyone's. He knows, though, that the war will be messy and slow, as T.E. Lawrence warned, and he knows enough about wars to realize that the outcome is not assured. That is the nature of guerrilla wars, especially -- they are chaotic and confused and only fools predict their results.

Yet if predicting the future is a hopeless endeavor, learning from the past is not. The counterinsurgency books that Nagl studied do impart an important lesson. The goal the United States hopes to reach in Iraq -- a successful counterinsurgency that does not drag on for years and does not involve a large amount of killing -- has never been achieved by any army.



This is going to be a long hard slog, and it's really tough to argue otherwise. Of course we could just yank our military out of Iraq, but me thinks that Iraq would turn into a rich man's Afghanistan.
posted by jbou at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2004


Wow, that's the only hama7 counterlink I've ever seen that's done it's job properly. A helluva lot of people died in Vietnam in comparison. Point ceeded. Now back to the bigger picture...what are they going to do about Iraq?
posted by Jimbob at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2004


No no no no, y2karl! Spectacular results? Corporate profits!

Duh!

I can hardly wait for my share to come tricklin' down on me!
So far the only thing that has is this nasty red stuff...
posted by eener at 1:52 PM on January 18, 2004


Great link, jbou. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 2:23 PM on January 18, 2004


jbou, that oughta be a FFP... easily the most interesting thing I've read about the efforts and day-to-day lives of our troops, as well as our prospects for getting the job done that we ostensibly set out to do.
posted by weston at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2004


jbou's point is a great one.

Meanwhile, I'm sad about this post - I was going to post a detail of the overall US casualty level in Iraq. Now, I can't do it. It would be absurd.

From the invasion to the present, the "evacuation count" - of military personnel evacuated from Iraq and sent stateside for medical treatment for all causes - illness, accidents of all sorts, especially traffic accidents, "friendly fire", "hostile fire", and so on is over 22,000 and counting. About 3500 of those are hostile-fire wounded. Now in a relatively small percentage of the over 18,000 "non-combat" evacuations, a few individuals will show up more than once in that count for the fact of being evacuated for stateside medical treatment more than once.

That number - 18,000+ - does not include British or other coalition forces' casualties, nor does it include casualties from the Afghanistan theater.

For this, I'm indebted to Brad Delong :

"A Full Division's Worth of Casualties

David Hackworth says that we have taken a full division's worth of casualties in Iraq so far:


: ...Even I -- and I deal with that beleaguered land seven days a week -- was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me a copy of a Nov. 30 dispatch showing that since George W. Bush unleashed the dogs of war, our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq -- about the number of warriors in a line tank division.

We have the equivalent of five combat divisions plus support for a total of about 135,000 troops deployed in the Iraqi theater of operations, which means we've lost the equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total number of Joes and Jills available to the theater commander to fight or support the occupation effort have been evacuated back to the USA!

Lt. Col. Scott D. Ross of the U.S. military's Transportation Command told me that as of Dec. 23, his outfit had evacuated 3,255 battle-injured casualties and 18,717 non-battle injuries. Of the battle casualties, 473 died and 3,255 were wounded by hostile fire. Following are the major categories of the non-battle evacuations:


* Orthopedic surgery -- 3,907
* General surgery -- 1,995
* Internal medicine -- 1,291
* Psychiatric -- 1,167
* Neurology -- 1,002
* Gynecological -- 491




Sources say that most of the gynecological evacuations are pregnancy-related, although the exact figure can't be confirmed -- Pentagon pregnancy counts are kept closer to the vest than the number of nuke warheads in the U.S. arsenal. Ross cautioned that his total of 21,972 evacuees could be higher than other reports because "in some cases, the same service member may be counted more than once."

The Pentagon has never won prizes for the accuracy of its reporting, but I think it's safe to say that so far somewhere between 14,000 and 22,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been medically evacuated from Iraq to the USA...

The scary thing is the 18,000 "non-battle injuries" evacuated out of the theater of operations in seven months. 18000/135000 * 12/7 = .228, which means that in a year 23% of this bunch of guys and gals in their twenties and thirties are having non-war related medical misadventures serious enough to require treatment back in Germany or the USA. That's an unbelievably large accident/disease rate, and makes me very worried about what might really be going on. "
posted by troutfishing at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2004


What Vietnam "engagement" are you talking about?

The one starting in 1961, one presumes, when the 'military advisors' in South Vietnam began being transformed into a de facto army on the orders of JFK..

That said, treating the years between 1961 and 1965 as analogous to the first year of US engagement on the ground in Iraq is silly.

But citing a link that takes the year of the Tonkin Gulf resolution as the start of 'engagement' is also silly.
posted by riviera at 4:00 PM on January 18, 2004


A better comparison would be the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Last time I looked I found a number around 10 casualties per day but i have no idea how the casualties were distributed or how many were fatalities.
posted by srboisvert at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2004


Sources say that most of the gynecological evacuations are pregnancy-related

Jeez, can't some ladies ever keep their legs closed?
posted by HTuttle at 7:18 PM on January 18, 2004



So comparisons against the Vietnam War are officially not allowed!

Correct?


Be carefull what you wish for, people.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2004


Sources say that most of the gynecological evacuations are pregnancy-related

Jeez, can't some ladies ever keep their legs closed?


You left off the and, Jeez, can't some guys keep their dicks in their pants and wear wear jimmy hats when they can't? part, didn't you?
posted by y2karl at 8:13 PM on January 18, 2004


Well hell....the U.S. dead just constitutes background "muzak", anyway.

~wink~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:32 PM on January 18, 2004


Soviet losses in Afghanistan, 1979-1989.

Vietnam is definitely the wrong analogy. We didn't invade Vietnam; we didn't occupy Vietnam in any legal sense, ever. (In the moral sense, arguably.) We came -- for better or worse -- as welcome guests of the legitimate government of South Vietnam, and fought alongside the ARVN throughout the war. Vietnam was a combination of two wars, one territorial with conventional arms against a well-equipped land army, and one guerrilla, against an increasingly popular insurgent movement amply supplied by hostile superpowers. Vietnam had its share of cringeworthy sidebars, but the point where it became an enormous (in the sense of horribly evil) moral mistake was sometime around the point when we pretty much deliberately replaced the government with a military dictatorship.

Afghanistan is a much better comparison for a variety of reasons, but still isn't perfect. The Soviet invasion has to be understood as one in support of a coup to keep a client state a client, rather than a hostile invasion, despite the hale efforts of Jimmy Carter to portray it in the worst light. Afghanistan had been a well-leashed pet of Moscow for several years already, beginning as a Socialist ally under Daoud (who had overthrown his cousin, the King) and then run by a succession of presumably Redder chieftains. So Afghanistan is roughly Vietnam from the assassination of Diem onward. (But is either Iraq? Frankly, the hostile Axis powers of WWII really do seem better political comparisons.)

Since the invasion was Christmas Day 1979, the 1980 figures represent roughly the first year. The guerrilla movement backed by the US (funnelling mainly Chinese arms bought with mainly Saudi money through Pakistan, who somewhat closely managed the mujahedin) is comparable to the one the Soviets ginned up for us in Vietnam, but there was no comparable land war to deal with. The insurgency went for the jugular, with Soviet civilian advisors in Herat allegedly beheaded and up on pikes, bringing a stinging Russian response in a rain of bombs. The success of the resistance, with whole Afghan army units -- beardless and "modernized" on the Soviet model -- led directly to the coups and the invasion. The key comparison is not really in the political realm, though, but in the tactical, if we want to compare casualties. Digital improvements have made things slicker, but the counterinsurgency dependency on the helicopter and the guerrillas' ready access to RPGs and SAMs will make it seem all to familiar to students of the earlier conflict. The Russians, too, put people on the ground building roads and schools, and largely believed they were bringing a better way of life to the country (in their case, "international socialism", but everyone's entitled to a few mistakes). They couldn't get past the questions of atheist Communism and devout Islam, among other things -- an early atrocity was linked to a riot against a government edict ensuring literacy for women. (I don't know that it makes a difference that Christianity is an Abrahamic religion, in the instant case. So far I'm hearing more "better way of life, without the Americans" than I am "infidels out".) Another way to vet this comparison is by numbers of the "occupied"; Iraq has 2/3 the area of Afghanistan, and we have half again as many troops fielded, so on a per-square-km basis we have twice the troops they did; but the population then was smaller so on a per-occupied-person basis the troop levels are about the same.

The main question I wonder about, and which we're pretty much going to find the answer to, is whether the combined support of the "outs" in the largely failed Arab / Islamic community of states is going to be enough to support a movement long-term the way that the two respective superpowers did in the respective examples we're discussing. It's also a reasonable fear that we're going to reach a point of moral choice similar to that involved in the overthrow of Diem, when the Iraqi government bids us Here's your hat, what's your hurry? (The choice will not be what was thought when we worried about an active nuclear program's remnants, but we won't want a territorial fire sale either.)

Afghanistan's Lessons for Iraq, and the CSM doesn't mean our 2001 intervention. Russian UN rep compares Afghanistan to Iraq occupation, last September, saying casualties are proportionate to their experience. See also, for good measure, Soviet vets give US advice for invading Afghanistan.

Hackworth is a bit of a pest for playing up the non-combat casualty numbers. Historically they've always been high, and if you look back far enough, they were enormous. In any situation you have them. People get in car accidents. People fall off tanks. People eat some bad local food. People run into an unfamiliar bug. (In Cuba, the US suffered twice as much from tropical diseases as from the lackluster Spanish defenders.) When Hackworth makes a comparison to a line tank division, it's clearly irrelevant because we're not fighting a cavalry war in any sense. There are also constant rotations into Iraq, with some pretty big ones imminent as some of the earliest units in theater are finally brought home. Many of these people will recover at home and return to duty as appropriate (though medical discharges will certainly be granted), perhaps even in Iraq, so overall combat readiness won't be permanently affected. Also, it's not at all clear that medical evacuations are statistically comparable; they may well represent policy choices to be cautious. It's not at all clear that troop numbers are directly analogous to success in the counterinsurgency. Nagl and other solons of modern warfare theory clearly believe they can do more with less, because we're being smarter about the whole thing. In any event, Hackworth could definitely make a subtler point or two about this, but chose for the succinct sound bite.
posted by dhartung at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2004


Vietnam is definitely the wrong analogy.

What's your opinion on the parallels to the 1982 Lebanon Invasion analogy, dhartung?
posted by y2karl at 11:28 PM on January 18, 2004


Not to mention Cordesman's observations.
posted by y2karl at 11:36 PM on January 18, 2004


They died to protect you from TERRA! Never forget!

posted by timb at 12:31 AM on January 19, 2004


Thanks for that, dhartung.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:14 AM on January 19, 2004


Dan - I'd have to take issue with your claim that : "Vietnam is definitely the wrong analogy. We didn't invade Vietnam; we didn't occupy Vietnam in any legal sense, ever. (In the moral sense, arguably.) We came -- for better or worse -- as welcome guests of the legitimate government of South Vietnam, and fought alongside the ARVN throughout the war." - This strikes me as a considerable historical revision. First of all, French colonial rule was reimposed on Vietnam at the close of World War Two. Do you classify colonial regimes as legitimate? Then, at the time French troops withdrew after the battle of Dien Bien Phu, "One of the least known facts about the First Indochina War is that by the time it ended, the United States was paying almost 80 percent of French war costs." So the US was bankrolling the French colonial regime even at that early stage. After the externally imposed partition (an extension of colonialism, I'd say) into North and South Vietnam, the American backed government of South Vietnam had questionable legitimacy. To quote the Wikipedia - "South Vietnam's capital was Saigon and it was ruled by an anti-Communist government alleged by many historians to have been nothing more than an American-backed puppet government. "

"Consider the following facts. In 1962 the U.S. Air Force began direct attacks against the rural population of South Vietnam with heavy bombing and defoliation . It was part of a program intended to drive millions of people into detention camps where, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, they would be "protected" from the guerrillas they were supporting--the "Viet Cong," the southern branch of the former anti-French resistance (the Vietminh). This is what our government calls aggression or invasion when conducted by some official enemy. The Saigon government had no legitimacy and little popular support, and its leadership was regularly overthrown in U.S.-backed coups when it was feared they might arrange a settlement with the Viet Cong. Some 70,000 "Viet Cong" had already been killed in the U.S.-directed terror campaign before the outright U.S. invasion took place in 1972.

Like the Soviets in Afghanistan, we tried to establish a government in Saigon to invite us in. We had to overthrow regime after regime in that effort. Finally we simply invaded outright. That is plain, simple aggression."


Somehow, bombing, defoliation, internment camps, and so on - as well as support of colonialism - do not tend to lend legitimacy, in my opinion.

______________________________________________

"Hackworth is a bit of a pest for playing up the non-combat casualty numbers. Historically they've always been high, and if you look back far enough, they were enormous. In any situation you have them. People get in car accidents. People fall off tanks. People eat some bad local food. People run into an unfamiliar bug. " - Yes, and there seem to be an awful lot of casualties incurred in car crashes (related to roadside bombs?), drownings, falls from roofs and ladders, and various freak accidents.

Regardless of the "peskiness" of Hackworth or not, I don't see how current US force levels in Iraq can be sustained with such a high medical casualty rate. Such non-combat casualty rates would seem to demand the reimposition of a draft if US forces stay in Iraq much longer. The US National Guard was not designed to be appropriated as - effectively - a US active duty force, and I think that the current use of guard personnel as active duty soldiers is grotesque, or sadistic. Meanwhile, here is a bit on non-combat casualty rates, but I'd have to dig quite a while, it seems, to determine whether Iraqi Freedom casaulty rates are historically unusual or not.
posted by troutfishing at 7:52 AM on January 19, 2004


This strikes me as a considerable historical revision.
ummm, no.

First of all, French colonial rule was reimposed on Vietnam at the close of World War Two.

The french had Bao Dai rule Vietnam starting in 1932.

In 1940 the Japanese came. (indochina).

Japan's move into southern part of Vietnam in July 1941 sparks an oil boycott by the U.S. and Great Britain. The resulting oil shortage strengthens Japan's desire to risk war against the U.S. and Britain.

BUT France was Vichy by 1940 and the Japanese allowed to the French to continue the administration, they being theoretical axis partners.

It was the french who killed 6000 people when they shelled haipong harbor (1946).
Bao Dai selected Diem, not the U.S. (but I'm sure our ole buddy Dulles had a word in this)

"One of the least known facts about the First Indochina War is that by the time it ended, the United States was paying almost 80 percent of French war
costs


we were paying 50% in 1950. DBP was 1954.

Do you classify colonial regimes as legitimate?

1950
The U.S., recognizing Boa Dai's regime as legitimate, begins to subsidize the French in Vietnam; the Chinese Communists, having won their civil war in 1949, begin to supply weapons to the Viet Minh.


In the "great game", nothing is really legitimate.

Somehow, bombing, defoliation, internment camps, and so on - as well as support of colonialism - do not tend to lend legitimacy, in my opinion.

take that question to the Axis....wait
have you heard the the devils guard?
(former SS partisan hunters who where very successful in fighting the Vietminh, so good in fact that insurgent activity in the sector they where operating in fell to almost nothing. How? willingness to match horrid deed with a horrid deed. For instance the Mihn executed about 10 legionnaires. the next day the brigade had to move north so they went into the mihns hamlets, kidnapped the families of the mihn, tied them on trucks and blared over the loud speaker "Comrade X, we have your mother, please do not fire on the convoy")

Such non-combat casualty rates would seem to demand the reimpositions of a draft if US forces stay in Iraq much longer.

It would seem so. But seeming is not believing (:)
posted by clavdivs at 9:02 AM on January 19, 2004


as a side note. The french in 1945 where not in the position to immediately retain colonial control. The British where near by and what did they do? re-arm japanese troops to keep the new Vietminh in check and patrol the streets.

then the french regained "control"
posted by clavdivs at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2004


Afghan villagers 'killed by US'
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on January 19, 2004


"The french had Bao Dai rule Vietnam starting in 1932." clavdivs, I think you're splitting hairs here, my friend. So Vietnam was a French colony by proxy.

The shame about the conflict was that Ho Chi Minh first approach the US OSS for support, but this was not to be. By way of the Potsdam Agreement, Vietnam was returned to French colonial rule. And so, Vietnam became a "domino", in the minds of US geostrategic analysts obsessed with the Cold War conflict.

Hmmm. The Devil's Guard? Amazing. They must have been retreads from "Operation Paperclip", right? Weirder and weirder. I believe you, I'm just afraid that this will lead to demonic genetically mutated nazi dwarves, or something!


Anyway - All these casualty counts are unsatisfying. I want figures to cover both Iraq and Afghanistan and which include casualties from all the various occupying forces as well as all known civilian casualties (informed estimates as well).
posted by troutfishing at 8:09 PM on January 19, 2004



"The french had Bao Dai rule Vietnam starting in 1932." clavdivs, I think you're splitting hairs here, my friend. So Vietnam was a French colony by proxy.


do not lecture me little one. Vietnam (chochin-china) hwas a french colony since the 1880s. you missed my point, that being the french never really left the colonial business until 1954 in Vietnam, I guess you simply wishred that way.

splitting hairs- JESUS CHRIST.
posted by clavdivs at 7:08 AM on January 21, 2004


Clavdivs - did I ever say that the French left the colonial business? I said - "First of all, French colonial rule was reimposed on Vietnam at the close of World War Two."

You can, of course, argue nominal Vichy French rule during WW2. And you would be both correct and not.

"Ho Chi Minh arrived in Thai Nguyen in 1944, and set up his headquarters in a group of limestone caves secure from French interference. By then, the Viet Minh groups had also established bases in the lowlands of the Red River delta. On March 9, 1945, the Japanese interned the remaining French officials and soldiers and turned the administration over to the Vietnamese, and thus the Viet Minh rapidly achieved a dominant position in the north, avoiding clashes with the Japanese. When the surrender came suddenly, in August 1945, the Viet Minh were taken by surprise, but quickly rallied and seized power, securely in the north and less so in the south where other groups of nationalists were still strong. On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Power seemed to have fallen into his hands like a ripe apple.

The plans of the allies were very different. By agreement, the French were to be restored to the possession of their colonies, [ emphasis mine ] and detachments of British troops began to arrive in Saigon in early September. The north, by virtue of the Potsdam agreement, was to be recovered for France by the Chinese forces, which quickly occupied the country of north and central Vietnam. They were faced by a Viet Minh army swollen with eager if ill trained recruits......" ( From "The World Atlas of Revolutions", "Indo China 1945-75 - A thirty year's war" , by Andrew Wheatcroft, Simon and Schuster, new York, 1983 )

I think Wheatcroft - as a prominent historian - is careful to research his basic facts. Note his use of the word "restored". Compare Wheatcroft's sentence which I italicized with the assertion of mine that you seem to be taking issue with - "First of all, French colonial rule was reimposed on Vietnam at the close of World War Two.".

Would you dispute my claim that my description and Wheatcroft's are - for all practical purposes - identical ?

______________________________________________

In criticizing Dhartung's otherwise (in my opinion) excellent comment, I was making the point - which in retrospect I should had done with terms more explicitly outlined - that the US, as the inheritor of the French colonial mantle ( in the eyes of many Vietnamese if not in American awareness itself ) assumed the mantle of the freshly evicted French colonial rulers. I thought that Dan's comment - while certainly defensible in a technical sense - missed the wider point. And my use of the term "historical revision" was, in retrospect - excessive. [ My apologies, Dan ]

Let me rephrase that - One can argue the technical minutia of legitimacy, but the fact remains that the indigenous political evolution of Vietnam was mostly arrested with the arrival of the French. But - of course - the Vietnamese had been fighting against Chinese occupation for about 500 years prior to the arrival of the French.

This is crucial to recognize, I feel. Vietnam had been fighting for it's independence for centuries prior to the arrival of the idealistic Americans ( who were certainly quick to commence bombing civilians in the service of their ideals ) . The Chinese, the French, the British, the Americans - they all constituted foreign, occupying forces.

Certainly, a case can be made for the legitimacy, narrowly defined, of the government of South Vietnam which invited in American military support in it's war against the north. But in the larger sweep of the centuries-old battle of Vietnam for self determination and - in the context of it's creation by colonial powers - the legitimacy of the government of South Vietnam in 1954 looks shaky regardless of whether or not that legitimacy was recognized by the Americans, the French, or the government of Lichtenstein. The Vietnamese had other ideas concerning legitimacy which - foremost, and far above questions of communist versus capitalist rule - concerned the eviction of foreign occupying powers.

That is what I should have written. I can refine it some more, also, if you wish.
posted by troutfishing at 9:02 AM on January 21, 2004


please do. The chinese retained Vietnam for about a 1000 years. Of course your refering in your 500 years, the breif reclamation of vietnam by china. China, destroyed almost all of vietnams' culture because they did not want them to know their past. (oh, the last country to invade vietnam was china, 1979)
posted by clavdivs at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2004


When talking about casualties in Iraq and Vietnam, one might also remember that protection for U.S. troops in Iraq is far better than it was in Vietnam. A lot of the combat injuries in Iraq would actually be deaths if it were not for the superior Interceptor vests and better armored vehicles we now field, and we probably would have more injuries and deaths overall (because we have no idea how many times such armor has saved American troops from any injury at all).

Still, I don't think that comparing body counts between the two conflicts is very instructive or helpful. I also think it is a mistake to try and make anti-war arguments based on a comparison between Vietnam and Iraq in tactical warfighting terms. The similarities that are damning are the short-sighted civilian politics and overall strategic and geopolitical thinking of the endeavor.
posted by moonbiter at 10:18 AM on January 21, 2004


i think that was what most agree MB but it is the perception of the american people and thier willingness to support a war that is the real issue here. For instance, by all rights, the U.S. was winning the war in vietnam by 1967. Giap and Co. knew the only way to shake the american publics acceptance of the war was to stike hard and fast and perhaps fan (loose but acceptable term) the anti-war crowd at home. Hence Tet, 1968. The military aspect was a complete U.S. victory for the U.S. but the body count was high and americans became more and more unsupportive of the war from that point on. Also, the military was hampered in vietnam. For example, non invasion of north vietnam, not bombing the North. These restrictions aided to the quagmire, perhaps created it. One does not see such restictions in this iraq war.
posted by clavdivs at 12:01 PM on January 21, 2004


U.S. victory for the U.S.
RIGHT CLAVS.
sorry about the typos even above the alotted 3 or 4 i am given grace with.
posted by clavdivs at 12:19 PM on January 21, 2004


G-d Bless America! Which Middle Ages would we be in without it?
posted by ParisParamus at 1:10 PM on January 21, 2004


ParisParamus - That's a fantastic bumper sticker. I would put one of those on my car : "America! Which Middle Ages would we be in without it?" - So, are we Goths or Visigoths?
posted by troutfishing at 8:46 PM on January 24, 2004


One does not see such restictions in this iraq war.

Fighting a helpless, mostly destroyed conventional army which is not  a Cold War nuclear superpower patron's brave, disciplined and motivated dog in the fight makes a difference, Gen. Gun Nut von Clausewitz...

And from the extent to which the army practices force protection in Iraq, the image of Somalia--not Viet Nam--is the war that haunts the US military: they fear heavy casualties. We lost over 50,000 in Viet Nam--if the Bush administration loses even 1500 in Iraq, they are very burnt toast indeed.

Vietnam in Retrospect: Could We Have Won?

The key to US defeat was a profound underestimation of enemy tenacity and fighting power, an underestimation born of a happy ignorance of Vietnamese history, a failure to appreciate the fundamental civil dimensions of the war, and a preoccupation with the measurable indices of military power and attendant disdain for the ultimately decisive intangibles.

In 1965, Maxwell Taylor confessed that "the ability of the Viet Cong continuously to rebuild their units and make good their losses is one of the mysteries of this guerrilla war. We still find no plausible explanation of the continued strength of the Viet Cong."

Four years later, Vo Nguyen Giap commented that the "United States has a strategy based on arithmetic. They question the computers, add and subtract, extract square roots, and then go into action. But arithmetical strategy doesn't work here. If it did, they'd have already exterminated us."

The United States could not have prevented the forcible reunification of Vietnam under communist auspices at a morally, materially, and strategically acceptable price.


Record wrote in The Wrong War: Why We Lost In Viet Nam that the war was unwinnable, for the simple reason that winning it was less important to Washington than it was to Hanoi--who, with 1 million dead and 300,000 missing out of a population base of twenty million, suffered 36 times more casualties, proportionately, than those suffered by Union troops in the struggle to defeat the Confederacy in the American Civil War. We lacked the motivation that they didn't.
posted by y2karl at 9:49 PM on January 24, 2004


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