Saturday, November 18, 2006

Soldiers as cattle.

The link I'm about to give you here is actually meant to be part of some sort of "The New Republic" journalism feud that will mean little to anyone outside of the journalism industry and, even to those within it, will mean little to those who aren't working for, or hoping to work for, "The New Republic." But, read it anyway. It's about whether or not we could send an additional 50,000 troops to Iraq and about how me might go about doing so, despite the fact that our military is stretched thin over two Middle Eastern occupations and growing threats from North Korea and Iran, to name only two potential hot spots.

Just read the post and look at how they deal with numbers that represent living, breathing, people. This is a blog post that is, at it's core, about how the U.S. should not only deploy the people who have volunteered to defend it, but how it should recruit more of them to that cause. Yet, it deals with those issues from such a huge distance that you'd likely read it without even thinking that human lives are the real subject being discussed.

It reminds me of a scene from Woody Allen's movie, "Love and Death," where Allen's character (Boris) remarks during a battle between the French and the Russians that, "The battle looks totally different from the view of the generals on the hills." The scene then cuts to the general's perspectives and we see, instead of people fighting, two herds of sheep charging towards one another.

What the commentators on the war too often forget is that there are real people involved in the Iraq conflict. They even forget that real people are involved in any human conflict. Real people shouldn't be reduced to "forces we could deploy," as is suggested by excerpts from both lefty and righty pundits in this blog entry. Real people should be discussed as if they are, actually, real people.

That's what irks me every time somebody, from either side, says that we could win the war in Iraq by deploying more troops. Nobody advocating that view seems ready to bluntly deal with the fact that it demands putting more human beings in deathly danger. From a distance, we can have strategic debates about whether more troops amounts to doubling down on a bad hand or doubling down on a hand that looks bad but is just good enough that it deserves more support. But the high-altitude strategic thinking shouldn't inform this debate.

More than 3,000 American troops have died in Iraq so far. Those have been real deaths of real people. How many more should we put in death's way?

Yes, the battle plan was flawed and we did send too few troops into Iraq from day one and that led to the current chaos. But I find, in light of what Iraq is now, that I am highly skeptical of any pundit or policymaker who thinks they know what magin number of extra people in the field will lead us to victory. Is 20,000 more people enough? 50,000? 100,000? That's really all gibberish. Nobody really knows what 5t will take. Talking about people in numbers of five or six figures just obscures the fact that it's individual people that we're talking about.

We should really be asking whether or not the death of one more fully characterized person is worth trying to salvage a war that we started and that was a bad idea from the very moment that we started it. We need to start facing this war on the level of the very real human toll that it's claimed and that it might claim again as we press on.


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