If you’re like me and you read the news in print, on the web; you listen to it on the radio, in the office; and you watch it (seldom) on TV, you may have heard comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Although I’m rarely reading over your shoulder, or in shouting distance while you read these entries, I can hear a few of your responses:
“Please. Not another list.”
“You can read news on the web?”
“Is he EVER going to go back to work full time?”
Well, I decided to do a little research… stressing “little.” Here’s some of the highlights (I use this term lightly):
Vietnam peak (number of U.S. troops: 1968 – 1969: 550,000
Private Contractors (approx 10%): 55,000
Total U.S. Personnel investment: 605,000
Total land area: 128,000 sq mi
Population: 41m (approx – in 1970)
Population density: 320/sq mi
Troops in Iraq (the U.S. contingent among the dwindling “coalition of the quasi willing”): 160,000
Private Contractors: 160,000
Total land area: 169,000 sq mi
Population density: 171/sq mi
Taking the recent population totals for Vietnam and comparing it to the the number of troops there, you get a U.S. Personnel to Vietnamese ratio of 1 to 140. Looking at the total land area and the population density – along with a bit of reading about the country’s geography, there’s a fair bit of the country that his habitable.
Now that the “surge” is underway in Iraq, our U.S. Personnel to Iraqi ratio is 1 to 84. Furthermore, looking at the population density – along with a little reading about the country’s geography, there’s very little of the country that is habitable.
So… by my rough calculations (and with no military training or expertice whatsoever), it appears to me that we have almost twice as many U.S. personel commited to Iraq on a per capita basis as we did in Vietnam, to cover far less habitable territory.
Granted… we lost Vietnam, and since the mission was supposedly different**, the value of these numbers may be limited. (**Since the mission seems to be a moving target in Iraq, it’s difficult to determine just how “different” it really is.)
My point to this entry is that Iraq is not another Vietnam. In some respects this may be worse. Although the overall numbers are lower, you can make the argument that we’ve got a BIGGER investment of personnel in Iraq (when you consider the size and make-up of the objective) – and with all due respect to Mr Bush (which at this point isn’t much), we’re still losing.