September 23, 2006

U.S. Military Death Toll Now Equals 9/11; U.S. Civilian Death Toll Since 9/11 Remains Unchanged

From the AP:

Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now surpass those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next.

The difference between the two events being that it took five years to kill 2,973 servicemen and women, and 102 minutes to kill the same amount of civilians.

Even so, it does no good to note that the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen that have died since September 11, 2001 in Afghanistan and Iraq averages out to under two deaths a day. The fact that it is true and that, by historical standards, an inconceivably low body count for so long a war is irrelevant. Less than two deaths per day is still too many -- too heartbreaking -- for the relatives and friends left behind.

As we acknowledge this though, it also needs to be remembered that the other side of this equation, American civilians killed at home, has remained unchanged. The Left will roll its collective eyes at the suggestion that the war has anything to do with this fact. To them the war has been a waste, these deaths have been a waste. In their minds, this latest "milestone" is symbolic of futility, another justification, or excuse, to surrender Iraq. Maybe Afghanistan, too. The fact that the five years of war abroad have coincided with five years of peace on the home front stirs not the least bit of intellectual curiosity in them. Saddam and al-Qaeda had nothing to do with each other before the war, don't you know.

For those of us interested in things like causation, however, it remains a pressing question. So why no attacks on U.S. soil in five years? The laundry list answer includes better signal (thanks to the NSA) and human intelligence (thanks to places like Gitmo), a government now cognizant of the threat that is faced, disruption of terrorist finances and tighter airline security. These techniques have broken up terrorist cells still relatively early in the staging, but apparently could not head-off a planned, Spring of 2003 al-Qaeda subway bombing meant to rival 9/11 in scale. The New York Times was spared running a front-page photo of oily smoke rising from beneath Manhattan like a funeral pyre only because al-Qaeda itself canceled the operation.

It appears then that the lack of domestic attacks is not merely that we're getting better at detecting them, but also that they have been less inclined to attack us directly. Again, why? Probably because of the spectacular violence and unpredictability of America's response to domestic attacks.

The attack here, unlike the train bombings in Spain, united the public around a hawkish policy. This lead directly to the invasion of Afghanistan, and also made the American public willing to support the invasion of Iraq a year and a half after September 2001. As liberals like to point out, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. True, but this country's adversaries and those they support witnessed that in its anger, America can and will strike out at enemies regardless of whether they were behind an attack on American soil, or were merely glad it happened. It established the credible threat of what America would do if hit again at home. This threat, in turn, seems to have created a deterrent effect.

Are there other reasons than a supposed deterrent that might explain the lack of attacks here? I don't think so. You would have to believe either that our domestic counter-terrorism is comprehensive, something that the subway bombing plot revealed it is not, or that terrorist groups that gleefully behead people in Iraq have decided to not attack the U.S. at home out of a renewed sense of fair play.

Granted, there is no telling how long this deterrence will exist. Tomorrow, a lone cell could take matters into its own hand, or next year Iran's president may wish to speed up the Hidden Imam's arrival. Uncertainty in the nature of the threat. But for half a decade it has held, and that's why it has taken five years for military deaths to reach the number of 9/11 dead, as opposed to ten or twenty years to reach those lost in both 9/11 and what could have followed. Those that have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere did so to buy us these safe few years. The Left may believe it otherwise, but these deaths were not wastes.

Posted by JakeM at September 23, 2006 01:53 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Excellent observation ....isn't that what the govt. is supposed to do- protect its people! We were attacked and have not been since.....Military losses are always tough..each and every one of them...and in a pre terrorist world...enough is enough, but we are 'fighting a war on terror that extends to many parts of the world and is fought on many different avenues...but WE have been far...another attack will happen sometime....its unfortunate, but inevitable......but lets not be partisan about our the major media will undoubtably my cardinals get any relief pitching!!!!!??????

Posted by: cardinals fan at September 24, 2006 04:41 PM