Tuesday, October 05, 2004


The Draft & Casualities in Iraq

Cafe Hayek has a good piece on why US military deaths have declined so dramatically in the last 20 years versus just about every war that came before it. It comes down to capital versus labor. When capital is cheap it makes sense to throw lots of manpower at a problem. When labor is expensive it makes sense to try to substitute capital to save on labor. This is why, despite great advances in weapons since the end of WWII and Korea, the US lost so many troops in Vietnam. Labor was cheap because the draft threw thousands of young men at their disposal. Nowadays it costs a lot of money to get someone into the armed forces (even before 9/11). Recruiters have to spend thousands in signing bonuses, college tuition and so on. If a million dollar smart bomb can take down a target as well as 250 infantrymen then it makes all the sense in the world to spend the money on the bomb.

Democrats who advocate a return of the draft for social engineering reasons such as 'spreading the burden' of war to everyone's family should keep in mind that this will likely result in greater causalities as military planners find it cheaper to throw troops at the enemy rather than machines. While we are talking about this, look at Thomas Friedman's piece on Bush's fumbling in Iraq. The jist of it is that Rumsfeld botched the post war occupation was due to a desire to run the war with as few people as possible.

What happened? The Bush team got its doctrines mixed up: it applied the Powell Doctrine to the campaign against John Kerry - "overwhelming force" without mercy, based on a strategy of shock and awe at the Republican convention, followed by a propaganda blitz that got its message across in every possible way, including through distortion. If only the Bush team had gone after the remnants of Saddam's army in the Sunni Triangle with the brutal efficiency it has gone after Senator Kerry in the Iowa-Ohio-Michigan triangle. If only the Bush team had spoken to Iraqis and Arabs with as clear a message as it did to the Republican base. No, alas, while the Bush people applied the Powell Doctrine in the Midwest, they applied the Rumsfeld Doctrine in the Middle East. And the Rumsfeld Doctrine is: "Just enough troops to lose." Donald Rumsfeld tried to prove that a small, mobile army was all that was needed to topple Saddam, without realizing that such a limited force could never stabilize Iraq. He never thought it would have to. He thought his Iraqi pals would do it. He was wrong.

Bush should have taken that "global test" lurch was talking about.
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