So, there's some Drama on one of the blogs I follow. I think, and this is not based on behind-the-scenes conversations with any of the participants, notwithstanding the fact that one of them is a Loyal Reader and frequent commentor here, that the original post was trying to say that 20 KIAs is serious next to the trivial annoyances and petty crap we all get worked up about during our daily life.
I think the second post, the fellow involved thought he was calling 20 KIAs trivial and hyperreacted.
Let me throw in a novel theory.
It is trivial. It's not trivial to the loved ones of the 20 men involved. It feels like the end of thw world. But to America, to us as a society, it not only is trivial, but if it were not trivial, we would be 99.9% of the way to surrender.
Soldiers are Soldiers for one purpose, to fight and win wars. To some, the phrase 'Fighting wars' may evoke the image of strewing rose petals and validating everyone's cultural identity while handing out ethnically appropriate humanitarian aid packages full of halal food. To those of us in touch with reality, it evokes the killing of men and the destruction of the works of man. We can, and do, and will do practically anything else we are called upon, but the fighting of wars is our primary responsibility.
As such, a society which maintains a military and expects to use that military for any purpose must acknowledge the fact that the enemy, those whose young men you send your Soldiers out to kill, will be trying to do the same thing to you.
And sometimes, they will succeed. Using military force is always done with the expectation that it will cost huge amounts of money and varying amounts of blood. At least, here in Reality Land. The time to determine whether or not you are comfortable with that fact is before the war begins, not afterwards. And if you are not comfortable with that fact, then you have only one course of action open to you as a society. That course is supine surrender upon the initiation of any conflict, however trivial the opposition.
Further, even maintaining a military requires a certain hardness of heart on the issue of casualties. Soldiering is an inherently dangerous proposition, and the better you are it, the more dangerous it is. The only way to get good is hard training, and hard training has risks.
Soldiers die in roll-over accidents at a non-trivial rate annually during field training. We have aviation accidents with higher death tolls than 13 almost every year, without a mention on the evening news. But of course, if you loose a helicopter in Iraq, that's a stick to beat George Bush with so of course it gets reported. Sailors fall off ships, Fighter jets smack into ski lifts, and so on and so forth. No one notices.
I'm comfortable with paradox. So let me propose a paradoxical solution. Honor each of these men, respect their sacrifice, and do so in whatever way your tradition leads you.
Then take a deep breath, put your game face on, and recognize that the only honorable and successful way open to us is to show the Enemy that we can afford these losses. For a century, America's enemies have believed that our concern for individual casualties is our weakness, and that they have only to bleed us until our nerve breaks. It worked in 1968, when the United States lost its collective nerve even in the face of overwhelmingly successful operations which essentially destroyed the NLF (aka Viet Cong), which NEVER conducted an operation after Tet. It did not work in 1918, 1944, or 1950. There is nothing fundamentally wrong or weak about American character. Indeed, our concern for casualties makes us better at warfare, in that we use materiel and superior tactics to kill the enemy more efficiently at lower cost.
War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to do our will. Nothing else is relevant. You can kill until you are knee-deep in blood, and until you start killing percentages of your enemy's adult male population in the double digits, it means nothing. You have to compel the enemy to do your will, or you are simply engaging in slaughter. If he compells you to do his will, you have lost.
The will of the enemy is that the United States withdraw from Iraq before creating a security structure which will protect the Iraqi government. He will continue to invest resources in this if and only if he believes there is a prospect of success. No enemy or combination of enemies can inflict casualties on the United States military sufficient to eliminate our physical capability to go where we wish to go and do what we wish to do in Iraq. They simply can't stand up to us and die like flies if they do.
The method they have chosen is, instead, a steady series of attacks intended to erode the willingness of the American People to pay the price necessary to continue to do our will rather than theirs.
Do we play their game? Do we do their will? If we do their will in this matter, why not do their will in the greater matters?
The NLF was so badly damaged that the only way they operated was as an adjunct and auxillary to PAVN forces.
Majorgeneral Freiherr Karl von Clausewitz, freely translated/paraphrased.
Simplification, and I know it. There are many organizations operating in Iraq, as well as several regional players, and all of them have competing agendas. I have reduced them to their lowest common denominator in this statement.