blogenlust
11.29.2004

13% ???


According to this chart, included in this article on the current state of Iraq in last week's New York Times, the United States currently has about 138,000 troops in Iraq. This number has remained pretty constant since the beginning of the war, when we had slightly more (150,000 total) in theater. 138,000 might sound like a lot, but when you're talking about occupying the country the size of Iraq, it hardly amounts to much. Especially when you consider that 21,000 soldiers are being treated for injuries at Landstuhl AFB in Germany:
Nov. 29, 2004  |  Berlin -- About 21,000 American soldiers, most of them from units sent to Iraq, have been treated at the biggest U.S. military hospital outside the United States since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, the hospital said Monday. The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany handles many U.S. combat casualties, but it did not break down the figure into battlefield and noncombat patients. Landstuhl doctors treated 17,878 U.S. soldiers from Iraq and 3,085 from Afghanistan through Sunday, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw told The Associated Press. The patients were treated for anything from gunshot wounds to noncombat ailments such as kidney stones, she said.
If you add the number of US troops in Afghanistan (17,900) to those in Iraq (138,000) you get 155,900. Therefore, those 21,000 soldiers hospitalized in Germany account for approximately 13% of all the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This doesn't even take into consideration the number of soldiers that have been killed, injured but not hospitalized, or emotionally traumatized. Moreover, it is important to remember that the vast majority of soldiers in Iraq rarely see combat. Now I don't know about you, but this percentage seems really high to me. I have a feeling, though, that the number I came up with might not be accurate, or it might not even be that unusual for a military in a time of war, so if there is anyone with a better handle of statistics than I, please feel free to correct or verify these numbers. [this might put things in perspective] However, if the number is close to accurate, it further underscores the difficulty of refreshing troop levels in Iraq over a long period of time. Many of our soldiers are serving their second or third tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, and since casualties have been rising over the last six months, the chances that a soldier will be the victim of some type of casualty is increasing in probability. This raises the question as to how we're going to replace these soldiers as the duration of our occupation lengthens. I've suggested before that we're facing a fork in the road in Iraq. We could either dramatically increase our troop levels or (mostly) get the hell out of there. A lot of people have raised the reinstatement of the draft as a likely response to the first option, while others, in response to the latter, predict we'll manufacture a victory sometime after the Iraqi elections (whenever they happen). Personally, I think the the latter is the most likely and viable option, although we'll still need to find ways of replenishing our troops in the mean time. In this regard, we're ferociously targeting lower-middle class teenagers and single, middle aged mothers. Whereas many people see this as a sign that a draft is imminent, I prefer to see it as treading water until we can figure out a way to get out of Iraq without doing more damage than we did when we went in. My point (yes, I have one) is that the percentage of troops we're taking out of Iraq and Afghanistan because of injuries seems alarmingly high, especially on top of the already tenuous sustainability forecasts in both countries. We need to do something, and what that is will probably have enormous implications for the next four years. UPDATE: 134 troops have been killed in November. The second most in a month since last April when 135 died.