Body Counts

During his radio show Thursday, Boortz related that one of the questions raised during the conservative talkers meeting with President Bush was the lack of body count of dead terrorists in Iraq. As Boortz related it, body count of terrorists is something that the Administration has distinctly and adamantly refused to engage in.

I've heard this point of contention raised several times during the War in Iraq. The media, every anti-war group and democrat politician can tell us with almost up to the minute exactness how many U.S. servicemen have been killed in Iraq, but we don't know how many terrorists and al Qaeda have been killed in the fighting. Oh, certainly, we'll hear the occasional news report of a major operation and that a certain number of terrorists were killed in the fighting, but no running total. It seems inconceivable that we have the number of U.S. military dead shoved in our face day after day, yet we have no comparable number of enemy dead to use as a yardstick for measurement.

I'm with the President on this. I don't think a body count of dead terrorists is a good metric to use - especially in this kind of fight. If we were fighting a conventional standing army, or in pitched battle against a nation, then the number of enemy killed might be a useful measurement. In that type of fight you can use the number of enemy killed to gauge the deleterious effects it's having on their ability to fight effectively. You could use the number of enemy tanks or aircraft or ships destroyed to measure the ability of the enemy to attack or counter-attack.

In the fight in Iraq, we are not fighting a conventional force, nor a nation. We are fighting terrorists, a shadowy, non-cohesive enemy with no battle lines or fronts. There is no army to wage battle with, nor an entity that can surrender. All that will happen is they will melt away.

I think that many of the leaders of our military today are products of the Vietnam experience and it's aftermath. The body count was a much utilized measurement to indicate success or advancement in Vietnam. However, even if the North Vietnamese body count was ten times that of American forces, it didn't guarantee our success, nor popular support for the war. Part of this phenomenon can likely be found in the differences in our cultures and values. A loss of an American life in any effort is seen as a loss by Americans. In other countries, the loss of a soldier or fighter is just the loss of a soldier or fighter. This is probably more true of terrorists. The death of a terrorist is simply a martyr for jihad. Heralding and tallying their deaths probably only feeds their sense of martyrdom and can be used as a marketing tool for terrorism.

Yes, it would be nice if we had some distinct measurement of overall success in Iraq. It would make it much easier to debate with, and fight off, the anti-war hordes who can so easily hold up the number of American dead. However, this is a war that is different than a conventional war, and an enemy that is different than any we have met. A body count of dead terrorists to use as some artificial measure of success would be handy, but it would hardly be any measure of where we are at in attaining our goals in Iraq.

In reality, having a body count of the terrorists we have killed in Iraq would not sway the anti-war crowd one way or another. It might make us on the opposite side feel better if we had something to throw out there to counter their attacks. But, we can debate this war without an artificial measure of success like body counts. We can debate, and ultimately win this war, on the facts and the merits, and in the end, that's all that is going to count.