|August 4, 2010|
|Armchair Warriors Belittle U.S. Losses|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|A favorite tactic of armchair warriors who support the continued fighting in Afghanistan effort is to compare U.S. losses there to other battles in American history. |
The Wall Street Journal's Brett Stephens yesterday made reference to the now somewhat obscure Civil War Battle at Stones River in central Tennessee. More than 1,700 Union soldiers died while 1,300 Confederates perished. Wrote Stephens: "That's nearly three times the fatalities the U.S. has endured in more than years of fighting in Afghanistan."
The implied message is stop whining and "stay the course." In linking the Civil War to Afghanistan, Stephens is comparing apples to oranges.
Thankfully, Brett didn't drench up the single bloodiest day of the Civil War. That was the Sept. 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, when a combined 26,134 Americans were killed, wounded, missing or captured. There was also the three-day carnage at Gettysburg, where 51,112 of the combined 157,000 Union and Confederate forces were casualties.
Stephens' logic could even be used to belittle the number of Civil War dead. After all, there were more than 700,000 French and German casualties over a ten-month period in the WWI Battle of Verdun. That trench warfare slaughterhouse, which introduced the use of phosgene gas, took place on a battlefield of less than six square miles.
The U.S. has lost 1,216 soldiers in Afghanistan (and 4,413 more in Iraq). During the last week, America lost Sgt. Kyle Stout, 25, of Texarkana, Tex.; Specialist Michael Stansbery, 21, of Mount Juliet, Tenn.; Capt. Jason Holbrook, 28, of Burnet, Tex.; Staff Sgt Kyle Warren, 28, of Manchester, N.H.; Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash., and Lance Cpl. Shane Martin, 23, of Spring, Tex.
They are more than just numbers to their families, friends, communities.
It was crystal clear to Union and Confederate soldiers why they were fighting. Both societies accepted massive casualties for their respective causes. Six percent of all white men aged 18 to 43 in the North died in the Civil War. Eighteen percent of that same age group were sacrificed in the South. The final death toll topped 618,000.
The French fought at Verdun to defend their homeland and protect the approaches to Paris, while the German intent was to "bleed the French white," according to German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn.
What is the U.S. purpose in Afghanistan, other than to save face over a failed policy?
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