Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”.
…William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

What is the cost of an “effective” response in Syria?  Looking to recent history (something no one in Washington seems capable of doing) we find the Kuwait liberation, Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991).  America lost a total of 294 service persons (114 KIA, 145 accidental deaths & 35 due to “friendly fire”.

I recall the astonishment at the relatively low “cost” in human lives to eject Iraq (our recent ally) from Kuwait.  Any other human costs?  Well, the Senegalese lost the next most troops at 92.  Around 687 total military lost by the coalition forces (Kuwait itself lost 1).

What about Iraq itself?  As it was impossible to count the total corpses a definitive number will remain unknown.  The best estimates have come from Beth Osborne Daponte (  She has since published two studies in scholarly journals about the effects of economic sanctions on Iraqi children, and casualties from the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath. Her final estimates were higher than her original ones: 205,500 Iraqis died in the war and postwar period, she believes today.

Cost “them” a bit but they were the enemy.  And yet: “… never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”  …John Doan, “No Man is an Island”.  When we loose the whirlwind of war we never know the cost aforehand.

How about that old nemesis of mine…Vietnam.  Total combat death estimates vary from 450,000 to 1.166 million (the Viet Cong is the big variable).  Wounded in combat were around 600,000+ documented.  But civilian death estimates run from a half million to well over 2.5 million when including deaths in Cambodia and Laos.

That is a very respectable return on Truman’s initial investment of $15 million in arms, equipment and advisors to South Vietnam on June 30, 1950.  Incidentally, China began sending arms & equipment to Ho Chi Mihn’s North Vietnam about the same time…mostly composed of American surplus equipment abandoned after WW II!

Perhaps the more accurate question for this little rumination is, “How many million deaths are we willing to set in motion to “punish” Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons?

No man is an island, Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
…John Donne


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