The Washington Post has begun running a long series of articles by Rick Atkinson, author of an acclaimed new book about the Italian campaign n World War II, regarding the chief military challenge we face in Iraq: the IED, or improvised explosive device. As the article notes:
IED’s have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces.
The Pentagon has poured vast resources into defeating these infernal devices (Atkinson writes that $10 billion has already been spent with another $4.5 billion budgeted in fiscal year 2008), but at most it has managed to stay even with the assailants. That is, even as the number and lethality of IED’s has increased, the number of U.S. casualties has stayed constant. That’s something, but it’s a far cry from the ultimate objective—to cause a decline in U.S. losses.