U.S. Involved in Iraq Longer than WWII
We have officially reached a milestone that has been bandied about in the press the last few days. The YahooNews headline gets it as close to right as any: “U.S. involved in Iraq longer than WWII.”
The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in the war that
President Bush’s father fought in, World War II. As of Sunday, the conflict in Iraq has raged for three years and just over eight months.
Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer. Fighting in Afghanistan, which may or may not be a full-fledged war depending on who is keeping track, has gone on for five years, one month. It continues as the ousted Taliban resurges and the central government is challenged.
At least YahooNews isn’t making the mistake of saying that the Iraq War has lasted longer than World War II, as many outlets are. They’re rightly limiting it to the U.S. involvement which dates from our declaration of war December 8, 1941; most start the war with the September 1, 1939 German invasion of Poland, although others tab the July 7, 1937 invasion of China by Japan.
Even that statistic, though, is dubious. For one thing, one could easily argue that the war in Iraq has been ongoing since 1991, since Gulf War I/Desert Storm ended with a cease-fire and American military forces never left. Furthermore, we are using different metrics for the “wars.” In the case of WWII, we are stopping with V-J Day and not counting the post-war occupation and nation-building activities, which lasted until 1952. By that standard, this war ended in three weeks.
While it should go without saying, Victoria Coates reminds us that the casualty tolls of the two wars are vastly different:
[W]e have lost 2303 of our best and brightest to combat in Iraq to date–which is for me a far more tangible cost to our nation than the number of days we’ve been there. How does that stack up against WWII? The battle death tally for WWII was 292,131. More than a quarter of a million. 292,131. It’s a staggering number, especially when you remember that the total population of the United States was less than half than it is now in 1941 at roughly 132 million. The AP might also consider that during the period we were involved in WWII, we lost servicemen at the rate of 6,639 per month.
That’s worth remembering. Of course, in both cases we had goals of effecting regime change and defeating the forces of fascism. In WWII, we achieved both. In the case of Iraq, we easily achieved the first but seem to be making little progress in the second. The cost was far greater in the first war but, so far at least, so was the return.