Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Five years after 9/11

A Zogby Poll shows that about 58% majority says the Iraq War has not been worth the loss of American lives, while 36% say it has. Here is the partisan breakdown: Among Republicans, 58% say the war has been worth the cost in lives, while among Democrats, just 20% hold this view.

Martin Gilbert (the official Churchill historian) has a new book out: The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War. The battle lasted four months. While by the end of the four month long battle it was fair to say--as a German general did--that the Somme became "the muddy grave of the German field army," (German casualties were over a half a million men) it is also worth noting that the British lost

nineteen thousand (19,000) soldiers on the first day. For the rest of the story see
this and this.

Discussions - 9 Comments

The November 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly ran an article titled "Murder By the State." Bruce Falconer charted the statistics on deaths caused by war and deaths caused by tyrants killing their own people/s. The numbers were taken from R. J. Rummel’s books, "Death by Government" (1994) and "Statistics of Democide" (1997). Between 1900 and 1987 governments had murdered an estimated 170 million people; wars had seen the death of 34.4 million. More recently, Saddam’s killings in Iraq (that is, post-1979)had been estimated at approximately 290,000 by Human Rights Watch. The idea of taking a class and designating a percentage of it to represent battlefield deaths strikes me as a sobering pedagogical device. I suggest that it be done also with an eye to tyranny-induced deaths and the results will be even more sobering. The class can then be invited to weigh the percentages and draw reasonable conclusions. It might also be noted that several wars were started by tyrants, attacking non-tyrannical regimes--so in a way the deaths caused by tyrants might be increased even further.

Looking at death from a cost-benefit-analysis perspective is quite ghastly, and frankly I don’t understand the point of this post. Are you saying that the huge loss of life in WWI (for next to no gain on anyones part) makes the American sacrifice in Iraq look small (and acceptable) in comparison?

In my opinion the level of death in Iraq is important and sad, but is only one factor to consider in whether this war has been worth it. For me the largest reason for being against this war is that it has worked contrary to our interests in the region, has re-invigorated religiously fundamentalist terrorist organizations, has significantly increased the level of global terrorism and has made U.S. citizens reviled and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks here and abroad.

In this respect I’d argue that the WWI sacrifices were essentially for nothing other than national preservation; in Iraq the sacrifices are actually working contrary to their intended objective and thus the sacrifice (whatever the number) is ultimately much more tragic.


An interesting question, one I’ve been pondering all night. Whether a war, a battle or even an individual war related death is ever "worth it," to me, would depend on the following:

1. The reason for the war. If the war is for survival, of course, it would always be worth it. If the war is to topple a sadistic murdering tyrant who wants to control the world, but does not yet have the power to do so...?

2. Whether the war is won or lost. Would it have been worth it to the Brits to have lost so many people in WWII if the Germans had won? I think the answer would be yes. But was it worth it to the Germans to have lost so many people in that same war? Surely not.

3. Then there might be certain battles in otherwise "worth it" wars where the battle is not worth the cost in lives: Peleliu during WWII was a bloody battle for an island which, it turned out, we didn’t need. Although the war was worth it, the battle was not.

4. Then there are casualties that are just senseless and pointless. A convoy truck driver who gets killed by an IED; Pat Tillman.

5. Who can deny though that a life that is lost in an effort to save the lives of others is "worth it."

Abbie Hoffman:

Ah never mind.

Sometimes Peter’s posts are like haikus. Here’s what I make of it.

Yes, the polling question leads to everything that has been said. It’s an odd and entirely "modern" question, but it appears even in the Melian dialog, and the Melians will have none of it. It is also the question that lies behind the use of family interviews by those on opposing sides of any war. The age is democratic. For the rest, Uncle Guido gives a nice check list.

Without explanation, Peter also calls our attention to the Somme (and to a great website). Was 1916 the year when Europe learned, to its horror, that the question used in the Zogby poll is unavoidable, awful, and perilous?

Don’t know about haiku. I do know that the Iraq war is more important than WWI (which was a foolish war by virtually any standard). As for Mr. Yippy, he can’t know if "re-invigorated religiously fundamentalist terrorist organizations, has significantly increased the level of global terrorism and has made U.S. citizens reviled and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks here and abroad." That’s just wishful spin.

I also know this...the Arabs are very hard to deal with. Inaction in the face of provocation is taken as weakness, inviting ever more attacks. Action in the face of provocation results in blood feud, possibly inviting more attacks. You really can’t win...fighting with Arabs is never a clean affair, and Israel proves that "tit-for-tat" results in decades of low-intensity warfare.

Don’t let Abbie fool you...he doesn’t have any solutions, just bitching.

Abbie Hoffman is right. He doesn’t understand the point of the post.

U.G., That’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking list. #2, yes. We HAVE to win, even though I think dain is probably right in his second paragraph, that a total win is impossible. It is just so messy! On the other hand, who would have thought, once, that we could all live peaceably with Germany?

Will M. brings up a point related to one that bothered me after I posted last night; the loss of Iraqi lives both before and after the war, deaths of the type of person who would be so useful in building a free, peaceful and prosperous Iraq. What a horrible pity that is, too! And who has killed or is killing those people? That consideration makes Abbie’s "largest reason" just seem silly. As if there were no terrorist attacks before, or that America was honored in the region before and had sustainable interests in the region. As if the Middle East, especially Iraq, was a safe, sane and peaceable place before the US showed up there and to do what? Do you suggest we were creating a hornet’s nest that we could then kick? Oh, please!

Yet even knowing the war is "worth it" does not eliminate grief over the loss of life in something that, like WWI, or any other war involving tyrannical horrors, really do not HAVE to be perpetrated. Did terrorists HAVE to attack the US? Do the Wahabi’s HAVE to instigate and perpetrate jihad? Did Saddam HAVE to be cruel, horrible and aggressive? Neither did Kaiser Wilhelm HAVE to be such a fathead. Sadly, though, it follows that since there is evil and foolishness, SOMEBODY will have to defeat it.

So we come U.G.’s point #5 Who can deny though that a life that is lost in an effort to save the lives of others is "worth it." and the wonderful and pitiful truth of it. Still, the worth of those who do that sort of thing just makes the pity of the loss harder to bear.

So enlighten me then Will M. with the point of this original post.

Abbie, Dude:

Think of it this way:

Would it be worth it to go on 9 acid trips knowing that 1 in 10 go bad and result in death, thinking you will just skip that 10th bad one?

Now shut up, man. Your bong’s gone out.

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