Monday, September 04, 2006

What is War?

War. What is it, and what things characterize it? Here are several things that Wikipedia lists as "Effects of War":
  • Death, injury, and destruction of property
  • Unexploded ordnance
  • Destruction of works of art
  • Rape of women and children
  • Territorial changes
  • Liberation/Institution of new social/economic/political order(regime change)
  • Resolution, continuation, or increase of political, economic, or social conflict
  • Increased or decreased probability of future armed conflicts
  • Environmental/Infrastructure damage
  • Famine
  • Disease
  • Scientific advances
  • Negative psychological effects on individuals
  • Drain on resources(economic, material, manpower, etc.)
  • Displacement of refugees/strain on surrounding states due to conflict
  • Social upheaval
  • Destabilization or strengthening of involved/interested/surrounding states position due to conflict
Now, take a look at these numbers of war casualties:
  • The number of World War I casualties (military and civilian) was over 37 million - over 15 million deaths and 22 million wounded. This includes almost 9 million military deaths and about 6.6 million civilian deaths. The Allied Powers lost more than 5 million soldiers and the Central Powers more than 3 million.
  • The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II, irrespective of political alignment, was roughly 62 million people. The civilian toll was around 37 million, the military toll about 25 million. The Allies lost around 51 million people, and the Axis lost 11 million.
  • 600,000 Korean soldiers died in the Korean war according to US estimates. More than a million South Koreans were killed, 85% of them civilians. According to figures published in the Soviet Union, 11.1% of the total population of North Korea perished, which indicates that 1,130,000 people were killed. In total about 2,500,000 people were killed. More than 80% of the industrial and public facilities and transportation works, three-quarters of the government offices, and one-half of the houses were destroyed.
  • US casualties in the Korean war are as follows: 33,686 battle deaths, 2,830 non-battle deaths, and 17,730 deaths of Defense Department personnel outside the Korean theatre.[17] There were also 8,142 US personnel listed as Missing In Action (MIA) during the war. US casualties in Korean war are fewer than in the Vietnam War, but they occurred over three years as opposed to 13 years (1960-1973) in Vietnam.
  • 58,239 US troops were killed in action during the Vietnam war. 128,000 were wounded in action. 1,000,000-5,000,000 North Vietnamese were killed in action, and 2,000,000 to 3,500,000 Vietnamese civilians were killed.
Let's take a look at the casualties of the current war in Iraq:
  • The Iraq Body Count project puts the total of civilian deaths reported in major media between 41,041 and 45,613 through August 24, 2006.
  • US casualties: 2,637 total deaths, 19,323 combat wounded (8,773 evacuated), plus an unknown number of non-combat injuries.
Now, the purpose of this post isn't to justify the Iraq war based on the fact that casualty totals are significantly lower than other major conflicts. The purpose of this post is to simply state that war is long, ugly and full of death. If you believe that we are truly at war in Iraq, your expectations should be lots of casualties, significant time and resources, and victory. If you believe that we are not at war in Iraq, but are instead stuck in the middle of a civil war that doesn't involve us, your expectations are that we have failed and should withdraw before we suffer further casualties. The way you view Iraq seriously depends upon whether or not you think we are truly at war.

This has no bearing, by the way, on whether or not this is a just war, or is the best way to carry out an advance on our enemies. That is for you to decide. If, in fact, we are truly at war, no one should be at all surprised by massive casualties, difficult, time consuming conflicts, and even civilian casualties. I hate to say it, but that's what war is.

I'd love to read your thoughts on this. Please feel free to share.


Chad Freeman said...

I believe that we are in the middle of a big mess over there. To be honest I wish there was a clear answer of why we are there, without a lot of political rhetoric, just straight facts. I am glad that Sadam is no longer is no longer able to torture and kill people. But to be honest, I am not sure what Sadam had to do with 9/11. When we first entered Irag, all that was spoke of was Wepons of Mass Destruction and shadows of 9/11, but now the president has distanced himself from such statements. But are we at war? Yea. Should we be there?... I don't know, like I said, as a small brained 24 year old kid, I would just like some straight answers.

Steve Hayes said...

Good comments, Chad. I'll try my best to respond as a person who, like you, struggles with what's going on in Iraq. I am, however, supportive because I don't think George Bush is being inconsistent in his stated purpose for invading Iraq. In order to get to the bottom of why this thing happened in the first place, you have to go back to Bush's initial speech in which he detailed the plan for dealing with terrorism in general, and Iraq in particular. These are some comments from Bush's speech to a joint session of congress on Sept. 20, 2001.

"Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."

Furthermore, Bush says, this war that we were about to fight would be:

"a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. . . . From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

Bush restated his ideology when he was sworn in for his second term. At that time he stated:

"We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. . . . We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."

On the new conception of terrorism and the political roots of the assault we suffered on 9/11:

"We have seen our vulnerability—and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat."

Bush is the only person who has been consistent in his assessment of terrorism and Iraq. He stated his case early on, and he's not wavered. Only his critics went from support of the war to vicious criticism of Bush and his policies.

I'm not saying this thing is going as I'd like it, but I can't think of any war that has gone according to plan. All people remember about war is whether or not we won or lost. If we win in Iraq (meaning if a democratic government is established), history will call it a success. If we lose, it will be another Vietnam. Either way, George Bush has not been the waffling, lying President that many have characterized him as. He's been very consistent, and I'm going to wait and see what happens before I give in to the extraordinary pressure to declare him inadequate.

Todd In China said...

I'll never forget Sherman's March To The Sea from the Civil War in the States. He cut a wide swath in front of his enemies, burning everything in his path. Other armies have used this tactic as a means of starving out their enemies. It works. Sometimes I've thought that Sherman must have been a real animal sometimes to use it... but it works. Yeah, it would SUCK to be the one whose house is burning and I know that a lot of barbaric... war related things happened then. STILL, it's effective in ending wars. In my mind, I've caught myself thinking, "Why don't they try that in Iraq?" But the obvious smacks me in the head again. Where do you draw the lines? Who's in? Who's out? Like in Viet Nam, who's VC and who's not?

I can't just say, well, have all the GOOD people move out of the city and we'll bomb whoever's left.

One thing I DO truly believe: We shouldn't be using Marines and other fighting forces to run cable, phone lines and water pipe. They trained to kill. Don't send in a pitt bull to do a Jack Russell's work. Maybe a Nehemiah strategy would work. Empty a city. Encircle and empty it. Rebuild it. Re-populate it. Get the heck out of the country.

Meanwhile, back in my apartment 8,000 miles from the conflict and 12,000 miles from Washington D.C., my dinner's ready.

Chad Freeman said...

I say what I am about to say knowing how unstudied I am in history (and current events for that matter). Steve the qouets you used of Bush, they seem speak of a war that will never end. I understand that war is long and brutal. I understand that lives will be lost. I understand the nature of war. I also understand that war is big bussiness for the government. There is a lot of money to be made (and yes I do believe that to be fact). I am not saying this is the reason we are in Iraq, but to think critically about the war is to understand the economics of the situation.

I think this war will be what defines Bush as a president (fair or not). What hppened on 9/11 was horrible. Personally, it effected me in ways that I don't understand yet. I didn't cry. I wasn't shocked. I was just an empty headed college student that never took the time grasp the history that I was living in. I am still unsettled (and a little uneducated) about the way 9/11 is used to (seemingly) place fear (sometimes, not all the time).

I don't know if this war will turn out to be the WWII of my time or the Vietnam. History is subjective, it all depended on the time in which it is veiwed.

Steve Hayes said...


My point was to show that there was, is and has been a clear answer as to why we are there, and that answer has been consistent. Now, whether or not you find that answer to be satisfactory is up to you, but it can't really be said that there isn't clarity from the Bush administration as to why we are there. You seem to think Bush has "distanced" himself from his initial reasoning for the war, and, based upon the quotes I shared, I think that he hasn't distanced himself at all.

Now, as to the business and financial impacts of war, I'm not sure that applies here as it has in the past. It certainly hasn't helped the overall economy, and it hasn't done anything to boost the job market. In the past, various industries were much more involved in the economy of war, but now, with private contracts and such, the business of war isn't what it used to be. Having said that, I'm sure there have been companies that have profited from this war.

I don't believe, though, that the Bush administration has invaded Iraq, and invovled the American people in a lengthy war because they wanted to make money. That's a pretty serious claim, and I just can't buy into it. I think there are too many checks and balances to allow for such a blatant abuse of power. I'm not saying the Bush administration is immune from corruption, but I'm saying I don't think we're at war because of money. If we are, this war is a complete failure because all it seems to be doing is draining our resources and causing oil prices to bootstrap the American people.

Anyway, I value your thoughts, and I hope I can challenge you as you have me.

Fay Caulk

Prophet of Now said...

Wow what a great debate going on here? I guess I'll sound off with my two cents.

First I think its very easy for us here, so far from the realities of these conflicts to chime in with our two cents. One thing I do know is that we pray that God will bring an end to war but I'm not sure we even understand the implications of that statment. I think war is a sort of picture of the reality of our rebellion against God. This is what rebellion from a just God brings.

Steve thanks for those quotes from Bush. That really clarifys things for me. I agree with those things, everybody wants freedom; it is indeed "the premenant hope of mankind." However I think our doubt comes from one facet of our post-modern world. I think many in my generation-I'm thirty now-would tend to agree with those statements on some hazy level. The real issue though is that many of us are uncomfortable with this kind of affirmation of a universal value that is outside of us. My heart sings to hear such words from the mouth of our president. Its not just about protecting our interets its about meeting the enemy of men head on. But so many of us don't belive it. First we don't belive there is any sort of universal standard-so who is this Bush the younger forcing his western ways on us? And second even if we do believe-on some hazy level-in universals we don't belive anyone is sincere when they espouse them. This seems to be the question to Bush-you can't seriously expect us to belive that you really care about these people. I don't know George Bush personally. I don't know his heart, but these words ring true to my heart.

Now I must admit I'm a bit biased. My father served in our United States Armed Forces for 22 years as an officer in the Army. I've always understood that sometimes violence is the only correct response to evil. My favorite OT book is probably Judges-though Samuel is a close second. There is story in Judges of a man plunging a sword so deep into a man that his belly closed over it. There is another story of a woman who lull's an enemy general to sleep with warm milk and nails his head to the ground with tent peg. There is no mistakeing who the heros of these stories are and for me it is an insuficient and unsuportable argument to say that the Old Testament was another covenant. The simple truth I see emmerging from these texts is that there are times when the only correct response to evil is violence. When it might actually be wrong not to kill it. Let's not forget how the book of Revelation describes the return of our Lord. I'm sure Nebuchadnezzar profited greatly from his invasion of Isreal, but God still used the Babloyians to purge a great evil form his people-how many must die? I don't know...

Anyway I'd best end this post. I could easily get way to carried away with this. I've always had a special place in my heart for the tough guys, the cops and robbers, the violent men, the soliders, the warriors who protect us.

We..."Sleep peacably in our beds at night only becuase rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf." Georgore Orwell

Perhaps we should be willing to see that sometimes violence against evil-violence not revenge-is the only truly mercyfull way to deal with evil.