The Human Toll Of The War 'To End All Wars'

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Astronuc
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Main Question or Discussion Point

or Why War is a losing proposition for all involved.

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/138823855/the-human-toll-of-the-war-to-end-all-wars
The human cost of World War I was enormous. More than 9 million soldiers and an estimated 12 million civilians died in the four-year-long conflict, which also left 21 million military men wounded.

"Many of them were missing arms, legs, hands, genitals or driven mad by shell shock," says historian Adam Hochschild. "But there was also a human cost in a larger sense, in that I think the war remade the world for the worse in every conceivable way: It ignited the Russian Revolution, it laid the ground for Nazism and it made World War II almost certain. It's pretty hard to imagine the second world war without the first."

. . . .
It is a profound discussion.

. . . 31 percent of the men who graduated Oxford in 1913 were killed [during the Great War].
 

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  • #2
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Cool piece, thanks for posting it

you are correct in not being able to understand WW2 without WW1 (and European imperialism in general before that)

The first genocide of the 20th century was committed by the German Army in SW Africa, also the practice of executing random civilians in reprisal for acts of resistance was practiced in occupied Belgium.
 
  • #3
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For the average soldier fighting in the trenches of Western Front in WWI, this war was arguably worse than WWII. British and French losses in WWI exceeded losses in WWII.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A2854730

The trenches were often flooded and bombarded, sometimes constantly for weeks. Soldiers were sent "over the top" into withering machine gun fire and rarely gained any significant ground in these misconceived attacks. Lethal mustard gas was used frequently toward the end of the war. Possibly worst of all, virtually no progress was made toward victory for either side after nearly four long years. With the withdrawal of Russia from the war in January, 1918 Germany moved veteran troops west for a final crushing offensive. Both sides were at the point of exhaustion and Germany realized this would be a final all or nothing gamble for victory. It failed and Germany finally sued for peace in November, 1918 after a revolution overthrew the Kaiser's government.

The total losses, killed and wounded, are given as over 31,000,000 according to the above link, but I've seen higher. Ultimately the war achieved very little and it set the scene for the rise of Fascism and WWII where estimates of 50 million dead are sometimes quoted although I doubt if anyone really has a good estimate. WWII was probably the last war of its kind, but only because of the MAD doctrine of mutual nuclear annihilation.
 
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  • #5
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For the average soldier fighting in the trenches of Western Front in WWI, this war was arguably worse than WWII. British and French losses in WWI exceeded losses in WWII. .
Yes, but WW2 was almost entirely fought in the USSR, where the losses were much higher than WW1. Six million German dead compared to 2 million and 9-10 million Soviet military casualties.
 
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  • #6
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Yes, but WW2 was almost essentially entirely fought in the USSR, where the losses were much higher than WW1.
Well, it was the biggest theater in terms of manpower, but "almost essentially entirely" is not really true. There were fronts in North Africa, Italy and of course the new Western front after D Day; not to mention the war in the Pacific, China and SE Asia. Action in all of these theaters contributed to the final victory over Fascism.

Six million German dead compared to 2 million in ww2 and 9-10 million Soviet military casualties.
Yes. As for WWI, I was specifically talking about British and French losses, and the conditions on the Western Front of WWI.
 
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  • #7
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Well, it was the biggest theater in terms of manpower, but "almost essentially entirely" is not really true. There were fronts in North Africa, Italy and of course the new Western front after D day not to mention the war in the Pacific, China and SE Asia. Action in all of these theaters contributed to the final victory over Fascism.



Yes. As for WWI, I for specifically talking about British and French losses, and the conditions on the Western Front of WWI.
Excuse my sloppy writing there

Certainly the scope of the war was wider, but it was the only the scale of the German - Soviet conflict that made WW2 surpass WW1. The other point is that after the horrendous casualties of WW1 the French and English were unwilling to pay the human cost to defeat Germany, which in both wars was only defeated by costly attrition. Its ironic that it took the participation of a totalitarian dictator with an absolutely ruthless disregard for human life to win the war for the Western democracies.
 
  • #8
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Excuse my sloppy writing there

Certainly the scope of the war was wider, but it was the only the scale of the German - Soviet conflict that made WW2 surpass WW1. The other point is that after the horrendous casualties of WW1 the French and English were unwilling to pay the human cost to defeat Germany, which in both wars was only defeated by costly attrition. Its ironic that it took the participation of a totalitarian dictator with an absolutely ruthless disregard for human life to win the war for the Western democracies.
You make a point that I've made myself, although its not popular in the US. Given the fact that the Red Army had pretty much pushed the Germans out of the USSR and was moving into eastern Poland (prewar boundaries) on June 6, 1944, one could argue that Comrade Stalin didn't really need his Western allies. The war would have lasted longer, and I believe the Germans would have resisted furiously, but it's a possibility that the Russians would have taken Berlin if D Day had never happened. Stalin later indicated he would not have stopped at Berlin but would have gone on to Paris had circumstances been different.
 
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  • #9
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You make a point that I've made myself, although its not popular in the US. Given the fact that the Red Army had pretty much pushed the Germans out of the USSR and was moving into eastern Poland (prewar boundaries) on June 6, 1944, one could argue that Comrade Stalin didn't really need his Western allies. The war would have lasted longer, and I believe the Germans would have resisted furiously, but it's a possibility that the Russians would have taken Berlin if D Day never happened. Stalin boasted he would not have stopped at Berlin but would have gone on to Paris.

http://www.gnosticliberationfront.com/exposing_stalins plan to conquer europe.htm
I think that is becoming a consensus view of military historians. With the cold war and a reliance upon some self-serving memoirs by Nazi generals the US developed a very distorted view of the war.

To your link, not really familiar with Suverov, but I know David Glantz, the foremost western historian of the war, has spent some time and effort refuting his thesis of Stalin's planned attack.
 
  • #10
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To your link, not really familiar with Suverov, but I know David Glantz, the foremost western historian of the war, has spent some time and effort refuting his thesis of Stalin's planned attack.
I deleted that link. I decided it wasn't up to PF standards. I'm very sure Stalin talked about the possibility of the Red Army advancing into Western Europe, but I haven't found a good internet source yet.

EDIT: OK. Stalin is quoted as saying: "The reason why there is now no communist government in Paris is because, in the circumstances of 1945, the Soviet Army was not able to reach French soil." I edited the last sentence accordingly in the above post you quoted.

http://home.comcast.net/~ghaff/lword/commie.html [Broken]

Scroll down past the Lenin quotes to the Stalin quote.
 
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  • #11
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I was very surprised to see the statistics: 40 days of combat per year for WWII soldiers, and 240 days of combat per year for Vietnam War soldiers. Those WWII guys had it easy, didn't they? (sarcasm) For the guys in the trenches in WWI, it seems that every day would have been a combat day. Did they have R&R in WWI?

EDIT: Apparently R&R (Rest and Rehabilitation) was available in WWI.

http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ymca.htm

See: Statistics
 
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  • #12
mheslep
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or Why War is a losing proposition for all involved.

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/138823855/the-human-toll-of-the-war-to-end-all-wars
It is a profound discussion.
. . 31 percent of the men who graduated Oxford in 1913 were killed [during the Great War].
When a friend visited from Britain some time back, he demonstrated the contrast between US and British losses in WW1 thus "all of us, all of us, have a great aunt in the family that never married" because of the amount of men killed.
 
  • #13
mheslep
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Certainly the scope of the war was wider, but it was the only the scale of the German - Soviet conflict that made WW2 surpass WW1. ...
The Asia/Pacific conflict took its toll: 10-20 million deaths in China, 3-4 million in the Dutch East Indies, 2-3 million in/from Japan, 1.5-2.5 million in pre-partition India (famine from Japanese closure of Burma road), 1-1.5 million in French Indochina, ...
 
  • #14
Astronuc
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Dr. Mark Harrison, University of Warwick - The Frequency of War
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1844898 [Broken]
. . . the global number of armed conflicts between pairs of states has risen steadily since 1870. The rate of increase is around two percent a year. The two world wars prove an anomaly, but after 1945 the frequency of conflicts returned to the same rising path as before 1913.
I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that war is not necessarily affordable.

I disagree with some of Dr. Harrison's thesis. War is a matter of choice.
 
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  • #15
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Dr. Mark Harrison, University of Warwick - The Frequency of War
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1844898 [Broken]
I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that war is not necessarily affordable.

I disagree with some of Dr. Harrison's thesis. War is a matter of choice.
Well, yes. It is a matter of someone's choice. Poland did not choose war on Sept 1, 1939, but someone else chose to make war on Poland, and so for the USSR and the USA in 1941.

On Sept 11, 2001 the USA was attacked. Did the US choose war or was war forced upon the US? IMO, the latter, and I was quite pleased (as much as one could be pleased about anything at that grim time) with our rapid response. It would have been better if Bin Laden had been killed at the time, but given the logistics of the US conducting effective military operations halfway around the world in a landlocked country, I was impressed. For a while, Afghanistan was cleared of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who fled to Pakistan (whom we took, and still take to be an ally).

The war against Iraq was clearly a choice made by the US administration; a bad choice IMO. I thought so then and I think so now. I sold all my stocks in August, 2002 when it became clear the administration was hell-bent on war. When the price of gold dropped in April, 2003 after the fall of Baghdad, I bought gold. I thought the real trouble was just beginning. I wasn't wrong.

But the point is: yes, war is a matter of someone's choice, but not the choice of everyone involved; especially the country that didn't make the choice..
 
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  • #16
mheslep
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If the term 'forced' is to mean in the sense war came to 1939 Poland, it is not clear to me how one argues that war was forced on the US by the Sept 11 attacks. The Sept 11 attack was of course forced on the US, but not the war to follow in Afghanistan. Nor was it the case that any kind of imminent invasion or possible US defeat was forthcoming from the Taliban/AQ for the US as was the case for, say, 1939 Britain.

Rather, it seems to me that the war in Afghanistan was a choice that included i) an understandable desire for retribution on AQ, and ii) an assessment on the threat of future possible terror attacks emanating from the area, even though such attacks could never threaten complete military defeat of the US (in the 1939 Poland sense), and though terror attacks such as Sept 11 might be prepared from many other areas besides Afghanistan. It seems to me that salient point was not so much whether or not US action was forced but whether or not US action in Afghanistan was defensive, or offensive as was Hitler's Germany; clearly the US acted defensively.

As in ii) above, the war in Iraq was also posed, in part, as an assessment of a threat: Iraq attacked Iran, attacked Kuwait, gassed its own citizens, was known in the past to have had an active nuclear weapons program, sponsored terror attacks abroad. The difference IMO was that the assessment of the threat from 2003 Iraq was done recklessly.
 
  • #17
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If the term 'forced' is to mean in the sense war came to 1939 Poland, it is not clear to me how one argues that war was forced on the US by the Sept 11 attacks. The Sept 11 attack was of course forced on the US, but not the war to follow in Afghanistan. Nor was it the case that any kind of imminent invasion or possible US defeat was forthcoming from the Taliban/AQ for the US as was the case for, say, 1939 Britain.
I think I made it clear that it was my opinion that the 9/11 attacks created a state of war not of our choosing. Some have argued that it was a criminal act that did not justify a military response, I simply disagree since most of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban regime and served as base for Al Qaeda. I did not specifically equate 9/11 to the situation regarding Poland in 1939 except that in both cases, a warlike act was inflicted on a nation at peace. One could argue that a military response was not required after the Japanese attack on Hawaii since there was no imminent threat of invasion of the US mainland. One member of Congress did in fact vote against a declaration of war.

On the other hand, Iraq did not attack, nor did it serve as a base of operations for an attack on the USA.
 
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  • #18
turbo
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War is a matter of choice.
For the countries in power, war is a matter of choice. For the countries who will be preyed upon or "punished" for some perceived infraction, war may well be a matter of fact, however undesired.
 
  • #19
mheslep
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I think I made it clear that it was my opinion that the 9/11 attacks created a state of war not of our choosing. Some have argued that it was a criminal act that did not justify a military response, I simply disagree since most of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban regime which served as base for Al Qaeda. I did not specifically equate 9/11 to the situation regarding Poland in 1939 except that in both cases, a warlike act was inflicted on a nation at peace. One could argue that a military response was not required after the Japanese attack on Hawaii since there was no imminent threat of invasion of the US mainland. One member of Congress did in fact vote against a declaration of war.

On the other hand, Iraq did not attack, nor did it serve as a base of operations for an attack on the USA.
Well I'm in agreement with most of that except what creates "a state of war", or perhaps what brings it into being. I don't mean to address here simply a legalism that may never followed up by any action, and which I'm not qualified to address.

Before 9/11 most might have commonly said a state of war results via military attack from another nation state that significantly threatens the safety of the US or one of its allies. Surely, we don't say massive acts of violence alone are sufficient, or the Oklahoma City bombing would have thrown the US into a state of war. Surely we don't say lawlessness abroad against US interests, alone, is sufficient or the US would be thrown into a state of war with Somalia the first time two guys in a motor boat fired on a US manned container ship. I'm suggesting, then, that after 9/11 the state of war came about not after the attack, but after the US assessed a future threat from AQ in Afghanistan and brought itself into a state of war, justifiably so, and acted accordingly. The US assessed a future threat, that could not be addressed adequately by sending in the FBI or reinforcing cockpits.
 
  • #20
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http://costsofwar.org/

http://costsofwar.org/article/us-and-allied-killed-and-wounded [Broken]

http://costsofwar.org/article/us-veterans-and-military-families [Broken]

http://costsofwar.org/article/civilians-killed-and-wounded [Broken]
 
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  • #21
turbo
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I don't mean to pull a hijack, but there are other "great wars" and our WWII vets are currently being shortchanged. My father and his compatriots are almost all in their mid-80's or older (much older in some cases) and the VA is planning on pulling the portable trailer that acts as the VA office in northern Maine. If the VA is successful at nickel-and-diming our vets, most of them would have to drive over 100-300 miles round-trip to get to the old Togus VA hospital to get basic medical care, like blood pressure checks and medication, screenings, etc. That is just wrong. My father and his fellow old vets don't like to ask for help, and they are liable to forego medical services when it is made inconvenient or personally difficult to access them. Can we afford to give Pakistan $12B to build a dam, and not afford to provide our vets (WWII and more recent) the VA health care that they were promised?
 
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