Monday, May 17, 2004

On "News Coverage as a Weapon"

I would like to point everyone to the Belmont Club today. It had a most interesting piece on war casualties and victory. I will include an excerpt here. Go and read the whole thing.
Historian John Terraine notes that unit casualty rates during the Civil War were close to those experienced by the British Army on the Somme. The 1/Newfoundland Regiment lost 84 % of its men on that fatal July 1, 1916. But the 1st Texas Regiment lost 82.3% in Antietam and the 1st Minnesota lost 82% at Gettysburg. Nor were these exceptional. "In the course of the Civil War 115 regiments (63 Union and 52 Confederate) sustained losses of more than 50 percent in a single engagement". Losses during World War 2 were just as brutal. Although the average loss per individual mission was often under 5% for the pilots who flew in the British Bomber Command, the fact that they flew 30 missions per tour meant a crew had less than a 1 in 4 chance of completing it. Once you signed on, there was a 75% statistical chance you wouldn't survive. Nor were these estimates far from the truth. Almost sixty percent of Bomber Command, a total of 55,000 men, were killed. They had an easy time compared to German U-boat crewmen, who lost 630 men out of every thousand. Nations required a huge pool of manpower and high birthrates to sustain losses on this scale. Russia alone suffered twenty million deaths during World War 2. Even Yugoslavia, a country whose role in the conflict is hardly remembered as central, lost 1.6 million killed. Defeat in that conflict came to those whose armies were driven from the field, whose cities were reduced to rubble and whose manpower resources could no longer continue the struggle.

Viewed in this context, the American "defeat" in Iraq projected by the press must be understood as being something wholly different from anything that has gone before. The 800 odd US military deaths suffered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom a year ago are less than the number who died in the Slapton Sands D-Day training exercise in 1944. The campaign in Iraq has hardly scratched American strength, which has in fact grown more potent in operational terms over the intervening period. Nor has it materially affected the US manpower pool or slowed the American economy, which is actually growing several times faster than France, which is not militarily engaged. The defeat being advertised by the press is a wholly new phenomenon: one which leaves the vanquished army untouched and the victor devastated; the economy of the vanquished burgeoning and that of the victor in destitution; the territory of the loser unoccupied and that of the winner garrisoned. It is an inversion of all the traditional metrics of victory and defeat. That the assertion is not instantly ludicrous is an indication of the arrival of a new and potentially revolutionary form of political wafare.

1 Comments:

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dambusters Peter Jackson the director of Lord of The Rings is remaking the classic 1954 British War Move The Dambusters I read that the movie is to be made in New Zealand on a budget of 120 Million usd! Anyone know WHRE it is going to be made or who's staring in the movie? Thanks a lot

 

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