Sunday, April 18, 2004


Part of the newspeak of this war was to redefine "casualties" as soldiers who are killed, instead of its traditional definition of soldiers who have to be removed from the theater of combat due to death or injury. I don't have a problem with that, really. For military usage the traditional definition is useful, but for the rest of us it's probably just confusing.

However, to great degree we've been completely ignoring the number of wounded. This is wrong for two reasons. First, the obvious one, many of these peoples' injuries are quite severe and will transform their lives. That shouldn't be ignored.

But, second, from a military perspective, the number of wounded and not returned to duty is growing. In April, 464 soldiers were classified this way so far. Aside from concern for them personally, this means 464 fewer pairs of boots on the ground, or 464 replacements that need to be found.

It was quite disturbing to hear Rumsfeld refer to people (meaning the troops) as "fungible." I'll give him a pass on the callousness of that statement, and instead focus on the fact that he's just flat out wrong, and wrong in a way that our Secretary of Defense shouldn't be wrong.

In our modern military, and in the midst of a conflict, people are not fungible. There is a lot of specialized training. There are a lot of specialized tasks that not all soldiers are trained to do. In addition, there are the issues of unit cohesion and general morale. And, let's not forget experience.

Bringing in new people to handle this situation is going to be problematic for those and many other reasons. No longer will new troops believe, and behave as if, they are liberating an oppressed people. Instead, they will go in perceiving that they are going in to fight a guerilla war.