The casualty crossover point in warfare

David Goldman:
Nations do not fight to the death, but they frequently fight until their pool of prospective fighters has reached a point of practical exhaustion. In most cases, this involves reaching the 30% mark where casualties are concerned.

Wars of this character demarcate many turning points in world history. They include the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and, at least in some respects, the two World Wars of the 20th century. The 30% solution appears yet again in Germany’s casualty figures during the Second World War. Germany lost 5,330,000 of 17,718,714 men aged 15-44 years, or again 30% of the total.

There are disturbing similarities in these wars to the present situation in Western Asia.

There is no simple common characterization that applies to all the wars of demographic exhaustion, but there surely are common elements to be found in all or most of them. These include the belief that the alternative to pursuing the war would be national ruin, as well as the belief of ordinary soldiers that the war will lead to their social and economic advancement for ordinary soldiers (the “field marshal’s baton in the rucksack”). These were existential wars rather than wars of choice in the minds of the major combatants. Wide historical surveys risk selecting data that fits broad patterns, to be sure, but the parallelisms are sufficiently compelling to make the effort worthwhile.
This is a long piece but well worth reading in full.

My own view is that enemies do not quit until they come to believe their cause is hopeless.  Japan had been beaten back everywhere int eh Pacific but was not willing to surrender even after the first atomic bomb hit one of their cities.  It was the second one that caused them to finally accept that their cause was hopeless.

The problem with the way President Obama has handled the war with radical Islam is that he has done things to give the enemy hope rather than to take it away.  His withdrawal from Iraq was a classic blunder if this type and his announced withdrawal from Afghanistan also gave the Taliban hope that they had out waited the US.   His dithering responses to events in Syria and Libya have also given the enemy hope.


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