Today the Senate joined the House in voting for a withdrawal of forces from Iraq. However, it ain't gonna' happen until at least after the next presidential election.
It is worth taking a moment to ponder when and how wars and military conflicts end. A war has never to my knowledge ended due to a popular vote in any body of any government.
A war ends when the cost in human lives finally proves to be an unbearable cost by one of the parties for whatever motive was used by that party to take part in the conflict. Or more simply one of the parties needs to capitulate. Unfortunately this is how it has always worked.
So today's vote has no meaning on the battlefield - except for one. It's a giant step towards capitulation. This is the reason for Bush's request to add even more troops to the region. The only way that we can avoid capitulation ultimately is to force the other side to capitulate. Somebody has to cry uncle, and if it's not going to be us, then we better get busy and start killing people.
So how many would we have to kill to get them to capitulate first? They aren't fighting to bring democracy to the third world or to topple a dictator with imaginary weapons. Many of these fighters are fighting for their homes, for their creator, for the honor of their wives and daughters that have been defiled, and for their very lives from slaughter by opposing clans. Those are some strong motives. My guess is we'd have to kill 10% of the population to get them to throw in the towel, or about 2.6 million people.
Right now we're at somewhere around 750,000 (both coalition-induced casualties and sectarian strife) - or a little under 1/3 of the way there. How many US losses could we take before a forced capitulation? I think if they took out 1/4 of our forces, we'd be unable to continue - or somewhere around 40,000 people. They've currently taken out over 3,000, so we're less than 10% towards a total capitulation. Now these are just some wild numbers thrown out here because nobody can calculate the exact cost of lives lost and the precise value of motivation. But I'm only trying to point out that in the overall pattern of traditional human warfare, this one is likely to be far from over on the battlefield.
Just for comparison, it took 58,000 US deaths for us to capitulate in Vietnam, and 18 to flee Somalia - with an extremely weak motive to fight. Afghanistan folded at about 8,500, again with little motive to keep dying. It took around 2.5 million deaths to get Japan to surrender, and around 7 million to get Germany to fold in WWII. So this isn't an exact science - it all depends on the strength of the motive. Eventually, the deaths exceed the motive and death will keep occurring until that point is reached.
Just some things to think about as you try and figure out how and when this will all stop.