One wonders how past wars could have been fought if news reporting had consisted almost entirely of a recitation of casualties. The D-Day invasion was one of the greatest organizational feats ever achieved by human beings, and one of the most successful. But what if the only news Americans had gotten about the invasion was that 2,500 allied soldiers died that day, with no discussion of whether the invasion was a success or a failure, and no acknowledgement of the huge strategic stakes that were involved? Or what if such news coverage had continued, day by day, through the entire Battle of Normandy, with Americans having no idea whether the battle was being won or lost, but knowing only that 54,000 Allied troops had been killed by the Germans?
Hinderaker's point is well taken, particularly when he gets to the matter of casualties in times of peace:
The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. . . .
That's right: all through the years when hardly anyone was paying attention, soldiers, sailors and Marines were dying in accidents, training and otherwise, at nearly twice the rate of combat deaths in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to the present. Somehow, though, when there was no political hay to be made, I don't recall any great outcry, or gleeful reporting, or erecting of crosses in the President's home town. In fact, I'll offer a free six-pack to the first person who can find evidence that any liberal expressed concern--any concern--about the 18,006 American service members who died accidentally in service of their country from 1983 to 1996.
Along this same vein, I received this email the other day:
My father served as a B-24 pilot in WWII. I've been researching his service and the conditions under which this 20 year old flew 43 combat missions. During WWII 35,946 airmen died in accidents (other than battle deaths). Even the training is beyond our modern day comprehension. There were a total of 3,502 fatalities in primary, basic and advanced flight training. My Dad was part of the 450th Bomb Group (720th, 721st, 722nd and 723rd Squadrons) known as the Cottontails. Each squadron consisted of approximately 15 planes. During the 18 plus months they were a unit, 1,505 men were killed or missing in action. Could we or would we tolerate such losses today?
The source for these figures, my emailer tells me, is Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue (page 68). And his point is well taken, too.