I am saddened by Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi's Nov. 7 Outlook article, "How Many Deaths Are Acceptable? A Surprising Answer," based on their research regarding Americans' views of acceptable military casualties in case of conflict.

Would respondents' answers be the same if a draft were implemented to complete a military mission? Then everyone's husband, father, son or daughter could be the one possibly coming home in a body bag. Worse, the public's attitude shows that it views the military as an abstract organization, not as a group of young men and women who are sacrificing much more than most of us can conceive.

I fear that this attitude will put pressure on the government to become involved in conflicts in places where we have no business being. Military men and women are not parade soldiers to show that we are bigger than the next guy or even to do other countries' "cleanup tasks."



Now let me get this straight: According to Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi, fear of casualties is "a threat to national security." Worse, it is "corrosive to the professional military ethic" because, as West Point Prof. Donald Snider believes, "troops are supposed to be willing to die so that civilians do not have to." Wow! By this logic, George Armstrong Custer must have done well at Little Big Horn.

Missing from the story is the significant point the numbers make: The experts -- the military professionals -- consistently valued human life more than other groups mentioned in the survey when assessing possible courses of action. That is to be applauded, not questioned.

Most disturbing is the implication that those military professionals are somehow wrong, afraid or out of touch because they cherish life more than those who don't share their experience with war. Let's face it: Casualties are bad. Knowledgeable military and political leaders realize this. Therefore they have chosen, wisely, to pursue strategies (primarily involving aerospace power) that minimize casualties as a result.


Air Force Historian

Bolling AFB