March 24, 2003
Vietnam Comparison

Some reporters seem eager to portray yesterday's small setbacks in the War on Iraq as the first steps into the quagmire of a new Vietnam War. As Bill Quick, the DailyPundit, says:

What sort of namby-pamby pantywaists are reporting on this war? I lived through Vietnam. The casualty numbers for this entire attack would rate barely a mention in the numbers for a single day of the Vietnam conflict, and most reporters, even the antiwar ones (many of them, though fewer than today, believe it or not) would have been shocked at the notion of victories expected in a few hours. In that war, it might be a week's bloody work to take a single hill, which would then be lost a week later, and have to be retaken all over again - generally at a cost much greater than we have spent in the entire Iraq attack.

That Quick is right can be demonstrated with a five-minute Google search, a PDF reader, and some simple arithmetic. This site gives "total in-theater deaths" for the U.S. military in Vietnam (1955-75) as 58,198 (not counting another 1,876 killed, missing, or captured with no remains, which I will omit, though a case could be made for including them). According to this site, over 98% of Marine deaths in Vietnam came in the six years 1965 through 1970. If the other services followed the same pattern, that means an average of 26.03 deaths per day over those six years. Perhaps casualties in the other services were a bit more spread out: let's say 25 per day as a useful estimate.

So far in Iraq, U.S. military deaths total 25 over 5 days.* To turn Iraq into a new Vietnam, we would have to quintuple the casualty rate, and keep it quintupled for another 5 years, 11 months, and 25 days. So far -- knock on wood -- the Vietnam comparison is absurd.

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*I have omitted the 14 British and unknown number of pro-U.S. Kurds killed in Iraq, but I've also omitted the Koreans, Australians, and of course the pro-U.S. Vietnamese killed in Vietnam.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 24, 2003 08:08 PM