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The costs of war

January 14, 2011

Check-out these stats:

Total deaths in the Civil War – 620,000

Total deaths in World War I – 8,528,831

Total deaths in World War II – 20,858,800

Total deaths in Korean War – numbers vary, the average appears to be around 2,000,000

Total deaths in Vietnam War – 1,492,846

Total deaths in Gulf War – around 35,000

Let me start off by saying, I purposely left off the War on Terror because it is primarily a war against a not too discernible enemy, thus, depending on your politics, the deaths in this war can vary by millions.  Secondly, take into account the total amount of time these different wars lasted, you will notice, Vietnam, while having a high count, lasted much longer than all the others, so its death per year is much lower than all except the Gulf War.

So what do these numbers tell us?  If you were to chart this on a graph, you would notice a steep increase in deaths reaching a plateau at World War II, followed by a steep decline to the Gulf War.  So prior to World War II, wars we were involved in got increasingly deadly, but following, they became less so.  What happened in World War II to reverse this trend?

The bleeding heart liberal would tell you humanity finally learned its lesson, the bloodshed of World War II was so heinous that we would never return to such fighting again.  Of course, that sounds eerily similar to what World War I was supposed to teach us.  Remember, the “War to end all Wars”?

My contention is two fold.  Firstly, the advent (and use of nuclear weapons), and secondly the advent and use of “smart” weapons.  But before we go down that route, lets analyze why wars got subsequently worse leading up to World War II.

I think it is no coincidence that the reckless disregard for human life (as manifested in both World Wars) was concurrent with the rise of socialism and progressivism.  Socialism is a no-brainer, Stalin and Mao have taught us how little these philosophies regard a single human, or even millions.  But how are progressives relative to the discussion?

First off, progressives were huge fans of eugenics.  They believed it was an imperative to society to breed out the undesirables, which depending on who you asked, could mean anything from the Irish, to blind people.  In some states, sterilization programs were implemented to prevent the genetically inferior from propagating (talking about American States, not German).  Should I mention these bastards were evil?

How does this apply to the making of war?  Well, eugenics falls on its face if you have a volunteer military, because usually people who volunteer for service are physically fit, courageous, honorable, etc., as in, they have good traits we would want to genetically breed into our populace.  But…our military was not voluntary during these wars, it was compulsory.  Hence, while you might lose some of the desirables through the horrors of combat, for the most part, the only people ending up in a pine box were ones you didn’t want anyway.  Not to mention, the desirables had a lot of ways of getting out of serving.

Now, this would suggest a design behind the actual choice of going to war tied to eugenics, that is not what I am suggesting.  What I am suggesting is, the people who were making the strategic decisions in these wars were not concerned with insanely large death totals.  People who support eugenics, like Woodrow Wilson and FDR, did not see casualties the same way you and I might.  They regarded human life much less than a regular (not freaking evil) person would.  Therefore, attempts at curbing the death tolls of battle plans were not implemented, casualties became “acceptable” and we lost millions.

Enough on progressives, lets talk about nukes.  We nuked Japan to end World War II.  Liberals would say we didn’t have to, and for sake of argument, lets go with that.  What would have happened if we didn’t nuke Japan?  We can guesstimate at the number of additional casualties we could add to the 20 million total above, but lets just agree the war would have taken longer to conclude and more people would have died.  But what else?

Does anyone doubt that we (the human race) would have gone another 60 years without someone dropping a nuke?  If we would not have nuked Japan, I guarantee the Korean War would have been a nuclear conflict.  If the world was not given front-row seats to the horrors of nuclear attack as the pictures and death counts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed us, the compunction to not use nuclear weapons would be much less strong.  McArthur wanted to use nukes in the Korean War, fortunately he was over-ruled.  If we didn’t use nukes in World War II, I can’t imagine he would have been.

But nuclear weapons also prevented the total war that we were treated to in World War II.  The two grand nuclear powers fully understood if war was allowed to escalate to the levels present in the Second Great War, then nuclear deployment was an inevitability.  Thus, war was limited to regional conflicts.  We had to check ourselves when, prior to nuclear weapons, we might have gone headstrong into a conflict.  As did the Soviet Union.  The threat and fear of nuclear annihilation prevented war, and I think as the numbers above show, saved lives.

But nukes weren’t the only thing that saved lives, smart weapons have done so, but only in the last war on the list.  Smart weapons are a recent addition to the arsenals of the Western militaries, but they are very effective at reducing deaths in war.  The days of dropping thousands of bombs indiscriminately on civilian populations are gone, if we need to take out a building, we send in just a few bombs or missiles to do so.  Now, for the $64,000, question.  “If liberals were in total control of military policy, do you think smart weapons would have ever been developed?”

The answer to that question is obvious.  Liberals hate the military.  They hate military spending.  They have no concept of fighting wars, and no inclination.  It was conservative war fighters who have been the men behind every major advance in military technology.  To a liberal this is a horrible claim.  To anyone who can think, this is something to be proud of, because these advances in technology has saved lives.

War is inevitable.  It is a sad fact of humanity.  But as humanity progresses, our wars are becoming less costly in human lives.  This is evidenced by the only recent oddity of anti-war folks citing the cost of war in dollars as opposed to human lives.

The costs of war are horrible, but I would much rather measure that in dollars and cents, than in grieving widows and children.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 2:42 pm

    Those are some interesting stats and your analysis is, I think, right on. Great article.

    • January 14, 2011 2:44 pm

      Thank you my friend. =)

  2. January 14, 2011 9:30 pm

    Nukes surely created the climate for peace – but nukes controlled by sovereign nations. The threat of the usage of these nukes is what put the rubber on the road. When the machine gun was invented Mr. Gatling said it would end all wars because it could kill so many people and thus nobody would want to fight again. He was wrong. As nation states devolve and nukes spread, they will become the biggest longterm threat.

    Good analysis. Nukes will, in final analysis, put an end to modern civilization.

    • January 14, 2011 11:12 pm

      Good point at the end there. My thinking is if nukes are used again, they will be of limited use, but I am probably wrong.

  3. January 14, 2011 9:36 pm

    What liberals fail to understand is that advances in military weapons, while having the potential to be more deadly, actually save live because of the deterent factor. If liberals had their way these weapons wouldn’t exist and more lives would have been lost in the current wars. Nukes have also saved lives in addition to the Japanese lives saved by the quick ejd to WWII by this very same deterent factor. While the left thinks that these weapons are evil, they serve a vital role in stopping wars from happening in the first place.
    Great post!

    • January 14, 2011 11:18 pm

      Good point. If the US did not have such an overwhelming advantage compared to anyone else militarily, there would be a helluva lot more war than there is now. The only problem I see is, we pick and choose our battles for strategic purposes only, while leaving humanitarian efforts alone, which in my opinion, leaves us morally defunct. I think efforts should be made into Africa for example to stop the complete cluster that is going on over there (in multiple countries).

  4. LD Jackson permalink
    January 15, 2011 6:02 am

    Good post, Colin and interesting discussion. I think you are right in your assessment that nuclear weapons have actually saved a lot of lives, through the deterrent factor. There is no doubt that they saved a lot of American lives through their use in Japan. Smart weapons have also been effective, in that they have controlled the causalities, so much so that when our military does make a mistake and kill civilians, the reaction is that we are akin to Genghis Khan.

    Going back to nuclear weapons, I think the concern that rouge states or terrorists will obtain and use small nuclear devices is legitimate and almost certainly will happen, sooner or later. The results will not be pretty.

    • January 15, 2011 7:03 am

      You are right Larry. Talk about short termed memory on civilian casualties – would the liberals prefer we go back to the tactics of World War II?

      Not sure if this is very comforting, by I see any use of nukes in the future to be of a limited engagement only. Someone somewhere is going to light one off, of that I am assured. Depending on who the recipient is (most likely us, and I hate to say it, hopefully because we CAN show restraint) there may or may not be a response in kind – but either way, it will not be a full commitment of their nuclear arsenal. I must expound on my hopefully statement – I only make that because the US is the only country I am 100% positive would take a measured and guided approach to the use of nukes, and that is the approach necessary when we are talking about such a powerful weapon. Obviously I do not relish the destruction and death that the rogue attack would cause on our nation, but I am thinking big picture here.

  5. January 15, 2011 11:34 am

    Excellent analysis! You brought together a whole lot of perspectives and different issues and tied them together in a very well thought out post. To me, the progressive and liberal damage to our military continues as we see Obama force America into a New START Treaty that is so far from an equal bilateral agreement. We gave Russia all of the power in the new version and to top it off, the proliferation of nuclear power is again expanding, thanks to weak-kneed Presidents who have an appeasement mentality rather than take a strong position against nations like Syria and Iran. There will be yet another wave of nuclear danger in the world… an escalation of tensions unlike what was seen during the Cold War days. At least with the USSR, we were dealing with somewhat reasonable people who were not driven by theological differences and were inclined to keep it to only a power struggle. Once places throughout the Middle East get fully weaponized nuclear technology, they will become the epicenter of religious wars much like the Islamic conquests in the 700’s.

    The spread of weaponized nuclear material has not spread to far as of yet(hopefully), thankfully in part to the fact that the countries who possess it still are egomaniacs and not religious zealots. China, N.Korea, and Russia are still in love with money and not religion like the Muslim nations. I fear nuclear weaponry in the hands of muslims because frankly, they lack principles. They are driven by hate to extremes that most national leaders still avoid. Muslims are almost the polar opposite to liberals and that is why our foreign diplomacy(and domestic as well) under President Obama is so terribly frightening. There is not a symbiotic relationship between these two groups… it is appeasement by liberals combined by opportunism by Muslims. They are merely taking every single inch that the liberals give them and when the libs stop giving an inch, the Muslims will demand a mile and then some. We have walked ourselves into a very bad corner and now we’re being boxed into it.

    We must get a leader who recognizes the real and true dangers on the military side of things. He must recognize the need for smart weapons as you pointed out and keep technology pushing the edge of the envelope in order to defeat the rising threat before it is too big to handle. We also must stop burning our real allies like England and Israel. We need to strengthen our ties to other powers that we have relied on in the past… France is not one of them, Mr. Obama. We will need a powerful united front again someday in order to quell the hate of the rising Muslim tide. (sorry so long, you inspired some deep thought with this post)

    • January 15, 2011 12:04 pm

      Hey no problems on the length, excellent observations. Oh, and thanks for coming by and commenting. =)

      Obama’s recent snubbing of Britain in favor of France is breathtaking. The last time France was an actual ally, was, hmm, the 1780’s. Meanwhile, barring a couple growing pains like the War of 1812, we have been allies with Britain longer than anyone else. He is a moron, and a dangerous one at that. His goals of reducing nuclear arms is admirable, but he is focusing on the wrong people. Like you said, it ain’t the US, Russia and China the world needs to fear. It is psychos who relish the thought of millions of infidels burning by the fire of Allah. But, of course he is doing nothing to stop Iran from achieving this end, which oddly is being helped by the likes of our good ally France. Its almost like he is helping our enemies.

  6. January 16, 2011 3:02 pm

    I think you’re right that nuclear weapons likely (at least so far) have prevented there being a WW III.

    But I take exception to your making a progressives, including FDR Woodrow Wilson at least, a undifferentiated weak kneed mass that hate common people and are willing to make them cannon fodder they’ll sacrifice by not employing weapons to win a quick decisive victory. Harry Truman dropped the bomb, and I think he would have called himself a progressive.

    I think you either need to differentiate more between progressive (or at least non-conservatives) or say Harry was a conservative. I think he’d spin in his grave at the latter.

    Interested to hear. I often don’t agree with you, but I think your worth a regular read.

    • January 16, 2011 3:31 pm

      Hmm, I think you might have combined two of my contentions into one. The increase in death tolls of wars leading up to and plateauing at World War II was, in my opinion, attributable to a political mentality that was rampant during the early part of the 20th century that diminished the value of the individual. I separated the philosophies behind that mentality into socialism and progressivism, but in reality, they end up being almost the same thing. It was this mentality I feel, that led leaders to view high death tolls as a necessary result of war, thus they did not take the efforts necessary to reduce such happenings, as is evidenced by the needless bloodshed of battle plans in World War I that forced men to charge across open fields in day light head first into waiting machine gun nests. The results of those idiotic plans are staggering, for example, the Battle of Verdun had a total death count of 306,000, in a little over a year, and the Battle of the Somme had a total casualty count of 1.5 million and death toll of 300,000, in only 5 months. These numbers are ridiculous, and did nothing to provoke the leaders of any of the warring parties to change their tactics (what needs to transpire to make these guys notice their tactics suck?). And despite what people think, almost all the general staff of the allies were reluctant to use the newly developed tank, stupidly thinking it was ignoble and beneath them.

      What’s worse, these idiots (at least in the Allies) did not change their tactics in the interim between the two world wars, thus we were totally taken by surprise when the Germans (who were not supposed to be able to re-arm remember?) came at us with tactics and equipment none of them ever dreamed of, even though Germany tested these tactics in the Spanish Revolution. I still maintain it was the progressive/socialist mentality that led to these comedies of errors that led to so many senseless deaths.

      As far as them not deploying weapons to win a quick decisive victory, I never suggested the progressives did not use weapons they had available, I suggested that the anti-war liberal mentality would never have created such weapons in the first place. And that was more relative to the latter half of the 20th century, not so much in the early half, where military advances were hampered by old school thinking and stubborness to change.

      And finally, I think you for the compliments. =)


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