Security and Irrational Risk
… (I do not regard the freedom of the Iraq a proper purpose for Americans to die for)
Every action has a risk. Simply existing has a risk that an event out of your control will interact with you; not many people are struck down in the prime of life by meteors, but it happens and is a measurable risk. There exists no activity accomplished by Americans, or anybody else, which does not carry a level of risk.
One of the most important aspects of the professional military that has been built since the end of the Vietnam War is our appreciation and control of risk. Some elements of the various safety regimens have trended to the ridiculous, but mostly the US military has become better for studying and managing risks and benefits.
The above quote is a sample of the irrational emphasis on safety common in political discussions about the war. By taking so absolute a stand, the author of denies the any action, save divine intervention, on our part to help the Iraqi people. While I don't object to service members praying for the Iraqi people, I cannot recommend it as the centerpiece of a strategic action plan for the Middle-East. Regrettably, opposition to the war has established miracles as the only munition acceptable to them. This is not a rational basis for security.
All of us in the military are volunteers. I volunteered again this year to serve with the reserve unit that was most likely to deploy. I did so because I felt that I could make a reasonable contribution with a marginal amount of risk. The units serving in Iraq are also experiencing high levels of re-enlistments. Part of this is due to exceptional leadership, but a lot of it is due to service members willing to accept a reasonable amount of risk to accomplish something.
Missing in the discussion of the value of American lives is the value of what is being achieved. There are about 25 million Iraqi's and we have so far lost less than 2,100 Americans. Is one American life worth the freedom of 1,000 Iraqi's? What about 10,000? Do the math any way you want, but those who are taking the risks are accepting them by re-enlisting in record numbers. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are investing themselves in the freedom of the Iraqi people.
If this discussion was taking place over coffee at Lloyd's of London, it would take moments. A risk is being offered and rational investors are placing themselves at stake to cover it at the defined rate of return
. The concerns of people not involved in the transaction would probably result in a series of boring dinner party conversations, but nothing else. Since we are in a democracy, we are exposed to those same insipid dinner party guests every day on national television. The exposure has not given them a better appreciation of risk or return, or in fact an offering of what they would be willing to invest in. The opposition to the war has not defined a rational level of risk they will accept to achieve greater security.