During the Vietnam War the American public was continuously fed enemy casualty statistics in order to bolster the perception that we were winning that war. Today with the ongoing war in Iraq we are continuously fed casualty statistics, but it is not the enemy’s body count we are getting, it is not the military or political leadership that is doing the feeding, and it is sure as hell is not a perception of winning that is being bolstered.
About a month ago neo-neocon wrote a thoughtful piece on the effect casualty statistics have on public opinion. I just want to ask this one question:
Is the mainstream news media’s daily recitation of dead and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan valuable to you?
Perhaps it is, and if so I’d be interested to hear in what way. To me it frankly ain’t. I don’t need to know the details about who died from what car bomb at what time in what province each day in order to honor the sacrifice our servicemen are making. I don’t gain information from mere casualty reports that is of any significant value in assessing the war strategically; outlets like Strategy Page, INDC Journal, and The Fourth Rail are infinitely more useful in that regard. Nor are the daily recitations helpful to me in making cost evaluations of the worthiness of the war effort as a whole–I’m well aware of how many have died to date, and there is so very much more that goes into a cost/benefit evaluation than this one statistic.
The only valuable service I can think of that these daily reports provide is to remind the chronically oblivious that yes, there is a war going on in a faraway place you may not know or care about. But how valuable this one service really is may be debatable.