Read It And Weep
If we go into Iraq, how many casualties do you expect to see (on the side of the US and our allies)
John Hawkins: “Probably 300 or less”
Charles Johnson:”Very few”
Henry Hanks: “Less than 200”
Laurence Simon: “A Few hundred”
Rachael Lucas: “Less than three thousand”
Scott Ott: “Dozens”
Glenn Reynolds: “Fewer than 100”
Tim Blair: “Below 50”
Ken Layne: “a few hundred”
Steven Den Beste: “50-150”
More from another pre-war interview with Tim Blair:
“John Hawkins: If and when do you see the United States hitting Iraq? How do you think it’ll work out?
Tim Blair: It all depends on Iraq’s fearsome Elite Republican Guard. Why, those feisty desert warriors could hold out for minutes. Dozens of US troops will be required. Perhaps they’ll even need their weapons.”
Except for Rachel Lucas’, those are some pretty embarrassing predictions. I’m not sure I see how anyone could think that the casualties in Iraq would be “fewer than 100”, as Glenn Reynolds thought. I suppose if one imagined that we’d just roll into Baghdad, depose Saddam, and head home, that might be in the right ballpark, but that just raises the question: how could anyone think that that was likely to happen? A variant of this mistake would be thinking that invading Iraq would be like the Gulf War; this would overlook the huge difference between rolling back a recent invasion, which allows you to simply reinstate the original government and leave, and deposing a longstanding government, which requires creating a new one.
These are mistakes that ordinary people could easily make. But no one who has thought seriously about war should ever make them. (That includes Donald “don’t talk to me about planning for the occupation” Rumsfeld.) New governments do not appear by magic. People who have been brutalized by dictatorships do not suddenly start believing in the rule of law. This takes work, and time, and a lot more focus that we gave it for the first five years of the war. And it leads to more than “dozens” of casualties.
If you haven’t thought seriously enough about these things, the right answer to the question “How many casualties do you expect to see?” is “I don’t know”. In retrospect, it’s clear that none of these people, except for Ms. Lucas, had any idea what they were talking about. Unfortunately, they didn’t know that either.