Counting the Dead

Historians are now suggesting that the Civil War killed a lot more people than we had previously understood.  Relying on census data, they posit a new figure of at least three quarters of a million people, and perhaps 850,000.  What does that mean in terms of the trauma to the civilization?

The new estimate suggests that more men died as a result of the Civil War than from all other American wars combined. Approximately 1 in 10 white men of military age in 1860 died from the conflict[.]
For purposes of comparison, consider that less than 1% of Americans of military age have even fought in the Iraq war.*  A conflict that approached the Civil War would have resulted if everyone who served in Iraq had died there; and then nine times as many more were sent, and they also all died there.

Are such conflicts behind us?  ZenPundit, who has been writing about the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) doctrine being promulgated at the UN by Anne Marie Slaughter and the Obama administration, warns that the doctrine is deadly on its face.

Finally, while boldly rejecting international law’s long established definition of sovereignty, Slaughter offers two easily falsifiable assertions, that states can no longer govern effectively by governing alone and that the ever present danger of arbitrary meddling by foreigners is a prerequisite for good governance. If so, Switzerland would be a Hobbesian hellhole today and Central America and the Caribbean islands would resemble tropical Singapores . The omnipresent threat of foreign meddling on religious grounds is what states ran away from screaming after the Thirty Year’s War, which may have killed up to a third of all the people in the Germanies.
"A third of all the people in the Germanies" is of course not 10%, but 33%.  Surely we are too wise for that, though; wars where millions died for an ideology where surely left behind with the 20th century.  Weren't they?

* The exact figures on how many served in Iraq appear to run between one and one and a half million; there are more than two hundred million Americans of military age, if we take military age to be 18-65 (which we should, as several of our general officers have served in Iraq past the age of sixty).  Note that we move from "white men" to "Americans" because (a) the demographic composition of American society has changed so substantially since 1860 that we could only sustain anything like a comparative figure by expanding "white" so that the category meant simply "not black"; but even then (b) black Americans are a disproportionately large part of our military forces, meaning that we still wouldn't get a reasonable comparison. For a similar reason, note the move away from "men."  However, note that the "less than one percent" can be read as "only about one percent" even if you restrict the sample to "American men of military age," of whom there are slightly more than 100 million.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Those conflicts are behind us until another one starts again.

For instance, the "War of Africa" that has been going on and off in the Congo since the 1990's. Millions dead, apparently.

But that post and the article it references seems to me to be so much empty disputation.

Nobody is going to run the world like that.