March 5, 2002

Opinion Journal Gaffe

Today’s WSJ “Opinion Journal” titles Ralph Peters’ essay on military casualties, “In War, Soldiers Die” — followed by this subhead: “American casualties are a good sign. It means the military is doing its job.”

Listen, I can appreciate that casualties are expected, necessary — hell, even natural — to most successes in warfare. But “American casualties are a good sign”? C’mon. What an unfortunate choice of words…

Posted by Jeff G. @ 4:12pm

Comments (2)

  1. It depends on what you mean by “good.” The fact that we had such minimal casualties was actually potentially a bad sign, in that it indicated that we may have been fighting with one hand tied behind our backs out of fear of casualties. 

    And in fact, that’s exactly what happened in Tora Bora–we were willing to let the Afghan troops carry our water, and many of the enemy escaped as a consequence.

    He’s saying that casualties are an indication that we are now starting to get serious about the war, and are finally getting over the body-bag syndrome that was one of the factors leading up to this mess.

    Later today, I may post something on this subject on my website (in another context–space technology development, in which excessive risk aversion leads to expensive failure).

  2. I agree entirely with the argument Peters’ article makes– which, tellingly, is dispassionate. 

    The use of “good,” though, gives me (visceral, admittedly) pause.