TCS Daily


The Human Calculus of National Security

By Philip R. O'Connor - November 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Following the Democratic mid-term triumph, California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer told National Public Radio that the recent average daily loss of three military people in Iraq necessitated disengagement as soon as possible. Sen. Boxer has posed a fundamental question: What price in American lives are we prepared to pay for our national security policies?

There is a cold-blooded calculus at the heart of decisions that must be taken by the leaders we choose. No one likes to talk about it but it's the elephant in the room. Let's stipulate that every life is precious and every one of us cringes when we switch on the TV and hear casualty reports. Let's also stipulate, however, that we expect our elected leaders to make life and death decisions mindful of the interests of the broader society and of generations to come.

Any leader disposed toward treating these decisions in exclusively personal terms is unfit for leadership. But what happens if our leaders have no referent for the human calculus of preserving the nation's security? Suppose they have no idea or refuse to even consider the price they are willing for us to pay for our security. We recognize the inevitability of deaths in our police and fire services and among our utility and sanitation workers. As a society we know that, taken together, these four professions alone have an average daily duty-related death rate of about one per day. But we also appreciate the absolute importance of those jobs for our daily well being.

Let's look at the record on precisely the terms Senator Boxer suggests, the daily average rate of military fatalities. As in any analytical exercise, we must simplify as well as recognize that over the years our casualty reporting systems have become much more precise. We also need to realize that the lethality of warfare is not measured solely in those who perish but also in terms of the injuries suffered.

Over time, the ratio of wounded to dying has risen significantly, from about 1.7 to 1 in both World Wars, to 3 to 1 in Vietnam and about 7or 8 to 1 in the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also must put aside the average daily death rate in the military since the post-Cold War downsizing began of about between two and three per day from training and auto accidents, disease and so forth.

Let's look then only at military fatalities from all causes during our major wars and consider those wars as part of long term national security policy strategies. And we will not treat the losses suffered by our many and varied allies over the years, including those in the current conflict. Further, the Confederate dead of our Civil War must be included. Lincoln himself would have wanted it thus.

In the full sweep of U.S history, from the commencement of the Revolution on Lexington Green in April 1775, until the sunny morning of September 11, 2001, our average daily sacrifice has been between 14 and 15 military fatalities (1,217,000 fatalities/83,461 days = 14.6/day). Since 9/11, the average daily sacrifice has been 1.7 per day (3200/1900=1.68).

From the Revolutionary War until the American entry into World War I, the average daily rate was about 11 per day (578,000/52,231=11.07). From World War I through the break up of the Soviet Union, the rate was over 16 per day (636,000/38,811=16.39). Or in our long running confrontation with Soviet communism following World War II until the collapse of the Soviet empire, the rate was over between 6 and 7 per day (112,400/16,892=6.65).

As things stand, the conflict with Islamic radicalism involves the lowest average daily military fatality rate of any long run national security era. It may worsen, it may improve. If Congress had been asked on September 12, 2001, to endorse a national defense posture against Islamic radicalism that traded up to 2 military fatalities per day over the subsequent five years in return for no additional homeland attacks, the deposing of terror friendly regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ending of Libya's nuclear program, what would they have done? Would Congress accept that bargain today?

In making the national defense calculus our leaders cannot ignore parts of history they don't like and choose just the parts they want in order to pretend that national security can be achieved at little or no human cost over the long haul. We can no more remove Vietnam or Korea from the Cold War calculus than we can the Italian campaign or the re-taking of the Philippines from the World War II calculus. Those costly campaigns, seen by as some as inconclusive, misdirected or unwarranted, are part and parcel of ultimately winning strategies. Decisive engagements usually come only after many indecisive ones.

If we choose to resist Islamic radicalism and to help others, especially in the Islamic world, to resist and defeat it, and if we believe that freedom and democracy at home and abroad will certainly demand military force - then what daily military fatality rate are we willing to accept as a matter of policy?

Philip R. O'Connor is a writer in Chicago and holds a doctorate in political science from Northwestern University.


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226 Comments

Shades of grey?
"If we choose to resist Islamic radicalism and to help others,"

That is the color chart. I cannot see the gray.

Daniel Murray

What is Boxer doing to make cars safer?
How many die every day from car accidents? Or from hospital induced infections? or ....take your pick.

Maybe we should go back to human sacrifice to appease the gods
you can do the same calculation there: if the sacrifice of three children a day will keep the gods on the side of our nation, surely this is a cost worth bearing. and those who would stop this are not only against our country, but against the gods.

What this ponderous exercise in bogosity is missing is linkage. There is no evidence at all that the invasion of Iraq has made the US more secure against terror, has disrupted international terrorism. It was started on the basis of assumptions about WMD and links to Al Qaeda that have proven utterly wrong. It has been carried out with gross incompetence and lack of planning. To bury this record under an exercise in days over deaths division is a travesty.

Whatever she might suggest people like marjon would fervantly oppose..
...regardless of the value of the suggested action, simply because she is a Democrat, judging from marjon's previous posts on all or any topic.

What is liberty worth to you?
Obviously liberty is worth quite a bit to those who volunteer to offer their lives to defend their own liberty and the liberty of those who refuse to defend it for themselves or others.

Like Rangle's draft proposal, Boxer's comments are designed to weaken any will to win.
The democrats know that a full frontal assault to surrender in Iraq now will not succeed. Therefore, they must cast doubt and chip away at resolve.

Boxer: "What price in American lives are we prepared to pay for our national security policies?"

A better question might be, what value do you place on your liberty or the liberty of your fellow human beings.

Boxer's answer is, apparently, not much.

Whatever she might suggest people like Lemming would fervantly support...
...regardless of the value of the suggested action, simply because she is a Democrat, judging from Lemming's previous posts on all or any topicS.

Thomas Nast sure got one thing right.. making the braying jackass the icon of the Democrats.. and that was long before they began living and preaching the gospel of marx.

We are not safer
False premise alert: the false premise here is that the Iraq operation has made us safer. Here are ways we've been made less safe:

1. Iraq is being turned into a Somalia style failed state in which terrorists can thrive.

2. Whatever ill will drives America haters around the world has been enflamed. Bush is wrong to say they attack us because they "hate our freedoms". They attack us because they hate the things we do to them, like making Iraq into a failed state.

3. We've overextended our military, taking the military options off the table in dealing with North Korea and Iran. These countries are building nuclear weapons that actually threaten us (unlike Saddam).

Maybe we should go back to burying our head in our rectal cavity to appease the gods of the effete s

you can do the same calculation there: if the sacrifice of three children a day to some dictator will keep the gods of the effete snobs on the side of our nation, surely this is a cost worth bearing. and those who would stop this are not only against our country, but against the gods of the effete snobs.

What this ponderous exercise in bogosity is missing is linkage. There is no evidence at all that the doing nothing about Saddam would have made the US more secure against terror, or disrupt international terrorism. It was stated on the basis of assumptions about the lack of WMD and lack of links to terrorists other than Al Qaeda that have proven utterly wrong. It has been proposed with gross incompetence and lack of understanding. To bury this record under an exercise in days over deaths division is a travesty.

Are you crazy???
It's not the choice of gods, it's the total lack of linkage between the action and the end. And as for the "effete" crap - running on empty as usual.

What is stupidity worth you?
Judging by this response, everything.

>Obviously liberty is worth quite a bit to those who volunteer to offer their lives to defend their own liberty and the liberty of those who refuse to defend it for themselves or others.

The armed forces in Iraq were not defending our liberty. Owing to the stupidity of the political leadership, aka Rumsfeld, they have not even been able to successfully defend liberty for the Iraqis. But for you, none of this even registers: you just dutifully repeat slogans that even the people who made up the slogans have disavowed.

Failed State
Notice Iraq is now a "FAILED STATE" in the absence of Saddam. What was it with him there?

So, we are left with the conclusion: We can never "destabilize" any autocratic state, unless we can guarantee that the after the removal of the the dictator, we can have everybody come together and sing Kumbaya.

Of course lets hear the left tell us about its major exercise in deposing a dictator: Iran. Let's hear how the Islamic revolution that gave us Khomeini and Adminijhab (no apologies for the spelling) was a roaring success.

For years the left was chanting not to tolerate a "son-of-a-*****" because he was our "son-of-a-*****".

I suspect our major mistake was in believing that the desire for freedom and dignity would overcome the martial impulse that is part of the cultural fabric imposed buy the great religion of violence.

Of course as usual, the left offers nothing but bitching and moaning, no rational alternative, because while the realists understand the world as it is, full of chaos and misery, where great endeavors take time, in their fantasy land, everything is instant, costless perfection. Of course, they will lead us to this promised land.

Our own country had to kill hundreds of thousands less than a century after its founding to rid itself of the stain of slavery, but hey the world was different when philistine political passions couldn't be guided by the new aristocracy of the vapid philosopher kings.

Now that you guys have uncorked the bottle of impatience and unease- have fun dealing with it.











No, as a matter of fact, I would not
And as a matter of fact in many posts on many issues I have just tried to say, sure, there's some truth on both sides but. The reaction is consistently, "there's only truth on our side." Over and over. And this thread looks to be another illlustration of the noisemaking.

"The armed forces in Iraq were not defending our liberty"
There were a lot of Democrats in Congress who, by their votes and comments disagreed with you.

A encyclopedia of misstatement and errors
Someone doesn't get it.

>Notice Iraq is now a "FAILED STATE" in the absence of Saddam. What was it with him there?

A stable dictatorship that was no longer a threat to its neighbors and slowing rotting from within. A human rights disaster, but no worse that 50 other places we weren't doing anything about.

>So, we are left with the conclusion: We can never "destabilize" any autocratic state, unless we can guarantee that the after the removal of the the dictator, we can have everybody come together and sing Kumbaya.

You mean, unless we have a coherent plan for a post-destablization society?? There are never guarantees, in anything. The problem, as insiders at all levels have now pointed out, was Rumsfeld and Cheney ignored all efforts to plan the followup to the invasion.

>Of course lets hear the left tell us about its major exercise in deposing a dictator: Iran. Let's hear how the Islamic revolution that gave us Khomeini and Adminijhab (no apologies for the spelling) was a roaring success.

We didn't depose the Shah: the Iranian people did. The democrats didn't sell weapons to the Iranians: the Reagan government did.

>For years the left was chanting not to tolerate a "son-of-a-*****" because he was our "son-of-a-*****".

When Rumsfeld was in Baghdad shaking hands with Saddam and giving him satellite intel to target gas attacks on Iranians. Yes, Amnesty International raised questions. Should they not have? The democrats didn't. They probably should have.

>Of course as usual, the left offers nothing but bitching and moaning, no rational alternative, because while the realists understand the world as it is, full of chaos and misery, where great endeavors take time, in their fantasy land, everything is instant, costless perfection. Of course, they will lead us to this promised land.

What "rational alternative"did Rumsfeld and Cheney offer? What was the plan? You'd be surprised, but criticism of absolute stark failure is more than "bitching and moaning.' Democrats have presented a whole series of alternative plans: all of them have been ignored. Look 'em up

>Our own country had to kill hundreds of thousands less than a century after its founding to rid itself of the stain of slavery, but hey the world was different when philistine political passions couldn't be guided by the new aristocracy of the vapid philosopher kings.

I see. So now it was the liberals who would have been for slavery. Sure.

And they have since realized they were sold a bill of goods
And not just Democrats: read what TCS's own Ken Adelman is saying about this now.

Try a better line
Your repeated, unsubstantiated summary declaration of opposing viewpoints as "running on empty" is boring, meritless and itself, vacant.

Generally
Its your mental health thats questionable.

You didn't have a point before
And you don't have one now. All you're doing is waving a silly looking flag with the word Effete on it. Kiss my effete as s

Not Getting It
I see. So now it was the liberals who would have been for slavery. Sure.

Hey Lemming: where are all these plans Hyperlink please.

Obviously, its you who "doesn't get it" as usual. Realists understand that when absolute control is lifted, there's going to be a period when everybody fights for control, violently.

Actually, to the extent slavery is the involuntary compulsion into labor, you'll have to speak with "bring back the draft" Charlie Rangel about liberals being for slavery.

zero for zero
all you're doing is making noise.

My line was absolutely accurate
The Bush administration Iraq policy is running on empty - ask TCS star Ken Adelman. You're only rebuttal is to call critics "effete." That's running below empty.

Profit and loss
Any calculus of gain or loss going into the decision to wage war on an inert nation must consider the likelihood of an adverse outcome. That is precisely what was discounted going in ("a cakewalk") and what is on us now.

Our unilateral action has resulted in the destabilisation of the Middle East, aroused the anger of the entire world of Islam, alienated our erstwhile allies and sent the nation halfway down the road to fiscal and moral ruin. All these factors, in Mr Rumsfeld;'s immortal formulation, were "unknown unknowns".

Most Iraqi opinion now centers on the assumption that nothing will begin to get better until the Americans leave. How long, then, will it take for us to internalize that message?

A dictatorship.
Let me add to the above.

> "Notice Iraq is now a "FAILED STATE" in the absence of Saddam. What was it with him there?"

A failed state is a country without an effective central government, such as Afganistan before the Taliban, Somalia today. Iraq under Saddam was a dictatorship with a strong central government.

> "So, we are left with the conclusion: We can never "destabilize" any autocratic state, unless we can guarantee that the after the removal of the the dictator, we can have everybody come together and sing Kumbaya."

More or less right, except for the Kumbaya part. We said we invaded Iraq for the benefit if the Iraqi people (once the WMD excuse fizzled). But we've made Iraqis even worse off than they were under Saddam.

Acceptable losses
Hi Joanie,

"what daily military fatality rate are we willing to accept as a matter of policy?"

I would suggest that in the case of a clear and present danger, we would accept casualties on the scale of a World War II.

But in the case of a situation that was better before we went in to improve it, one more would be too many.

Hearts and minds
The rule that we failed to follow was that we should replace Saddam's security state with something better. Had we done so the Iraqis, who were initially inclined to like us and to want to be like us, would have in fact been very grateful.

This kind of thinking did not enter into the calculation. The war was planned by amateurs with no actual military experience. Worse, it was entered into by people who did not understand that war is political, not merely military. They thought we could just "win" (which we did, years ago) and that would be it.

No Subject
>> "The war was planned by amateurs with no actual military experience."

Should we only allow combat veterans to run for office? Yeah, let's see how that goes over... Of course, it did work for Robert Heinlein...

When the going gets tough, quit?
They were all adults. All looking at the same information.

So what changed? Its too tough? Not worth it NOW? If it was not worth it now why was it worth it then?

Or is it because it is not popular?

It's this little thing called "reality"
First, they weren't all looking at the same information. The information not supporting alarmist conclusions was suppressed. Bush didn't allow U.N. inspectors enough time to determine that in fact Iraq had no WMDs.

>So what changed? Its too tough? Not worth it NOW? If it was not worth it now why was it worth it then?

It wasn't worth it then. Congress didn't vote to go to war with Iraq, it authorized Bush to use force if he thought it required. Bush was wrong. If Congress had known then what it knows now, the invasion wouldn't have taken place.

But that said, if the plans for post invasion had been smart and complete, we wouldn't be in this fix. The plans were based on wishful thinking. Now, we've lost whatever chance we have. This isn't about popularity, it's about reality. Or doesn't that concept exist in your universe?

Maybe the Cheney should have listened to people who knew what they were talking about
NaW!! He's a genius. He and Rummy don't need to listen to anyone.

What Is The Cost For Less Security
It's one thing to say that there is a certain cost in lives to increase our security.

The Iraq war, though, is something else. Through the efforts of the Bush administration, thousands of terrorists have been created, armed and trained. With each passing day things get *less* secure for people.

So - what is the cost in lives for making us less secure?

It's a ridiculous question - but then again, it is no less ridiculous than the suggestion that opposition to the war is based on the loss of U.S. soldiers' lives.

Failed States
> Notice Iraq is now a "FAILED STATE" in the absence of Saddam. What was it with him there?"

Safer.

" If Congress had known then what it knows now" CYA
Congress, the last time I checked was a co-equal branch of government. They have authority and responsibility.

If they abrogated that responsibility, then they should all be fired. Since they were not all fired, those that voted for war need to take responsibility as well as the voters who put them back in office.

And key members of Congress have access to the same information that the Executive has. All they have to do is demand to see it.

"even worse off than they were under Saddam"
Justify that please with specifics because I hear that from the left all the time.

nuclear Libya
Phil is being naive in writing that Libya has been defanged and disarmed, without the capture and literal disarming,beheading of war criminal abu minyar("colonel"Muammar gaddaffi) who has ordered abductions abroad, assassinations and plane bombings and tens of thousands of deaths and jailed dissenters in adopted Libya over 36 years of dictatorship. It is just another PR stunt from a war criminal who has not compensated survivors of his terrorism, and this administration can't take any credit for "safety" from him. I have been working on campaigns, accounting, and voting for over 19 years now, and the lie about putting gaddaffi out of the terrorism business by Oliver North, and the capitulation to gaddaffi's terms in the trial of the indicted suspects in the Pan Am Bombing, and complete incompetence from Cheney in opposing oil sanctions against that terrorist regime, make me want to stand for election on another line like The Constitution Party or Natural Law Party instead of the treasonous incumbent RINOs and Dinos.Stop dealing in shades of Gray with wretched,bigoted, anti-semitic, anti-christian anti-American fascists and communists and islamist wife-beating rag heads!Vote for me, I am the only one with the brains and experience to tell it like it is for native born,over-taxed,middle class, white, Christian Americans who speak and type in English, not Washingtonian double-speak!

And the Easter Bunny brings us all kinds of good things
How about admitting that it's a mess before you start pointing a finger at the Democrats for calling it a mess.

As for this:

>And key members of Congress have access to the same information that the Executive has. All they have to do is demand to see it.

No, they don't. The heads of intelligence agencies report to the President, not Congress. If they are filtering data to give the President what he wants to hear - and we know know they were - Congress won't hear about the filtered data unless someone leaks it.

Heinlein: Citizenship must be earned.
What a great idea:

Citizenship must be earned.

Then Cheney didn't earn it
And I wonder why, since he was in favor of that war.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil: What an excuse!
Congress has the authority to access that information IF they want it.

Don't ask, don't tell and then Congress can put all blame on the President if it goes wrong.

Congress bears the same responsibility as the President.

It is just easier to poke one belly button than 535.

Hey Lemming: Insanity from a fellow traveller
"But we've made Iraqis even worse off than they were under Saddam."


Res Ipsa Loquitar

You aren't running anything but your mouth
Its seems you can't do to much but shop for opinions that match yours and flap your lips. Try again.

"any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction." HR Clinton
"If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.

If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise. "

"So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him - use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein - this is your last chance - disarm or be disarmed."

http://clinton.senate.gov/speeches/iraq_101002.html


" "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002"

" "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
- President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998"

" "[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Letter to President Clinton.
- (D) Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, others, Oct. 9, 1998 "

" "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002 "

" "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002 "

http://www.glennbeck.com/news/01302004.shtml

And what party controlled congress during this period?
We've seen over and over again how much information has been misrepresented or withheld. And Congressional republicans - including particulary Pat Roberts, the longtime chair of the intelligence committee, enthusiastically helped. But of course it's all the fault of the Democrats. But wait - there's no problem at all, so it isn't anyone's fault -- except for the Democrats.

Only problem here: Saddam complied
And Bush attacked anyway. without consulting the UN.

and as for this:

>" "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002 "

That's what we thought. Except when the U.N. inspectors went in to look in 2003, they found nothing. Zero. But we attacked anyway.

Yes, Cheney did earn it by Heinlein standards. He was a Congressman from WY.
As well as serving as Sec. of Defense.

A most liberal Senator support the war effort and his party dumped him.
Democrats did not want responsibility, they wanted scapegoats.

Under Heinlein rules, Cheney couldn't have run for congress
... after student-deferring his way through the Vietnam war because he had "other priorities."

zero zero zero
why? you've proved you're a jackass who has nothing to offer but noise. this thread doesn't need more noise. yours & welcome to it.

Why not just post "I hate Democrats?" That's your only message
You have no interest in dicussing any issue in any context but finding excuses for Bush.

Automated Mass Production
Unmanned aircraft smaller than the drones presently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan can be mass produced by machines. These UAV's (unmanned air vehicles) are made from composite materials and aluminum motors. Sometimes UAV's are partially filled with hydrogen or helium. The use of these gases enables the aircraft to fly at higher altitudes, longer, with smaller aluminum engines. Manchines can be constructed to mass produce UAV's from raw materials. The machines can make all of the UAV parts, and assemble the planes together. The new use of automated mass production of UAV's can greatly improve the capability of the U.S. Armed Forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

causality
Some of you need to study the meaning of causality. There is no measurable correlation between our attack on Iraq/Afghanistan and increased hatred toward America THAT WILL RESULT IN VIOLENCE. Precisely because there hasn't been any violence in America since the war you have nothing to stand on.

I think this follows Occam's Razor, all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one. Therefore ... They hated us before the war, they hate us now, and they will probably hate us for some time after. Whatever the reason they hate America and as far as I can see they will continue to hate us. This happened before the war and therefore was not an effect of the war.

Now what we did do, something that we can MEASURE, is kill a lot of people that hated us. And having less people that hate us is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. We left the borders open when we attacked and thousands of anti-American, terrorists entered Iraq and got mowed down by our forces.

I would argue that those fighters were the most likely to attack America on our own soil. Because they had the propensity to seek out the enemy and engage them. The war in Iraq was too tempting for them because of its proximity and they fell into our trap. And died. Therefore we are measurably safer now.

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