Monday, June 01, 2009

It Won't Add Up

After we won in Iraq without using body counts, we are going to keep doing this in Afghanistan?

In recent months, the U.S. command in Afghanistan has begun publicizing every single enemy fighter killed in combat, the most detailed body counts the military has released since the practice fell into disrepute during the Vietnam War.

The practice has revealed deep divides in military circles over the value of keeping such a score in a war being waged not over turf, but over the allegiance of the Afghan people. Does it buck up the troops and the home front to let them know the enemy is suffering, too? Or does the focus on killing distract from the goals of generating legitimacy and economic development?

This is ridiculous. With much higher casualties in Iraq we kept home front support barely high enough to win without body counts. Even if combat intensity matches Iraq (and it won't), we'd be talking about monthly tolls of 35-40 KIA. Home front morale can handle that as long as it seems like we are winning. As long as our people assure us that as a general rule we are inflicting casualties at a rate of x to 1, that is fine.

As for the troops, they don't need to know the body count. They are the ones kicking ass and taking names. They know we are outfighting the enemy since they are--you know--doing it.

And this just risks angering Afghans. It is one thing to be abstractly in favor of Americans killing local enemies. I'm sure our friends are fine with that. But when they also hear regularly about numbers of Moslem deaths elsewhwere--even insurgents and drug gangs--those deaths might not seem as justified.

We won in Iraq without body count press releases. Why do we think we need them in Afghanistan?