Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lies, damned lies...

Mr. Jones passes along this interesting chart (which originally comes from here):
Now, at first glance it makes our Most Excellent Adventure in Iraq look like a bargain... but it's lying with statistics, as so often happens.

The Iraq Occupation has gone on for about 2.5 years following the initial invasion. The first Gulf War was indeed quick and cheap, unless you include the cost of sanctions enforcement (and if you're including the costs of the current occupation, it's only fair). The Vietnam conflict went on for over a decade, so on a per-year basis, it was a lot closer to the two more recent wars (thus demolishing the central claim of those citing the chart, which is that Iraq isn't like Vietnam). WWII was indeed a "total war" involving a massive committment of human and economic resources, but it lasted (for the US) four years (and I can't tell from these sources if the cost of occupying Germany and Japan are included), so it's not quite as dramatic as it looks. The Civil War, of course, is a special case, since the chart includes both sides: we were paying for the whole war not just one half of it, as usual.


Avedon said...

Vietnam is generally regarded as having lasted for two decades. This "war", on the other hand, is one we're told is intended to run...forever.

Ahistoricality said...

I decided not to get into the question of when the war "started," but yes, "over a decade" is a bit understated. I've seen a few comparisons of Iraq now and Vietnam in the early years (remember "advisors"?), most of which convince me that, though history doesn't really repeat itself, it is indeed possible to make the same mistake twice.

I don't have time now, but I was also thinking about what it would mean to consider the first and current Iraq wars as part of a single conflict, sort of like fighting the Korean War and then not installing a Syngman Rhee puppet in the South.... For that matter, the Korean War technically isn't over, either, and I suspect those costs haven't been included.