10
   

How many lives has the United States saved in your lifetime?

 
 
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 12:34 am
Disclaimer: We all understand that this is a question with a multitude of interpretations that can be made, I want to leave it that way because I am interested in the range of interpretations a2kers will come up with. Please don't ask for the question to be refined, it is precisely as open-ended as it is meant to be. We all understand that there are information gaps that make a precise answer impossible or require complete guesswork on your part (guess well!). Sometimes there will be ranges you will have to pick a median from or sometimes there will be lives you may want to split the responsibility for and not attribute entirely to the US. Because of that I am not interested in hearing these obvious challenges in coming up with an answer repeated ad nauseum and while I can't stop you from doing that I will be dismissive of such posts here. We get it. This is a simple question with a complex answer. Please don't be captain obvious.

To the best of your knowledge, how many lives is America responsible for saving in your lifetime?
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 12:38 am
@Robert Gentel,
Disclaimer 2: if you aren't curious about the answer this is going to be largely pointless to you. There is no follow up point. This is just about the academic challenge that a reasonable answer to this question represents. Most people probably aren't up to the challenge, it is tedious. It takes time (which is precious to us all, no shame in not having time for this).

I don't have any point to this thread other than trying to collect this research. You have been warned. Please don't waste your time if you don't want to know the answer for yourself. If you do, please contribute even partial research to give ideas to others.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 02:23 pm
This thread has not yet received any responses. I guess a thread attracts more responses if people have an opportunity to say something negative about the United States.
wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 03:09 pm
@wandeljw,
But, what do I know? I am only an old man.

(Comedian Jon Stewart would say that my response reminds him of his Jewish grandmother. Smile )
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 03:46 pm
@wandeljw,
Why do you think this is a thread that does not provide the opportunity to say something bad about the US? I think people are going to bring their usual baggage to the table. And while we are on that point, I noticed that you also didn't reflexively say "zero" in this thread.

Anyway, I think this is going to be a less busy thread primarily because it's a question that requires a lot of guesswork and even more thinking than the other one. It's easier to tell how many people were killed than those who were not killed. I expect that to be the biggest limitation to participation. I've never tried to answer this question for myself in earnest and honestly don't even know where to start myself.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 03:53 pm
oddly enough, after exhaustive research, the answer i came up with is the same as the killed answer, 14.6
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Sun 11 Dec, 2011 04:12 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I guess my answer would again be zero. I would assign neither credit nor blame to an entire country.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 02:39 am
@Robert Gentel,
My brain is boggling simply about what I would need to research!!!


Like US research and inventions, net effect of projections of US power(I normally consider that negative, but then I think how one little carrier stopped the Indonesian military and their horrid client militias from their slaughter as much as Oz boots on the ground did in East Timor........I really don't have time...but great question. Just considering what you'd have to include is challenge enough.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 07:36 am
@Robert Gentel,
I suppose it really depends on how you want to count "saved" lives. Do you count beneficial inventions contributed by those from the US or just official government action. If you consider the latter, almost every decision costs lives. As you mentioned, direct measurement of lost lives is easy while computing saved lives is completely hypothetical. Take the first Gulf War for example. Large, aggresive country overwhelms its smaller neighbor and annexes it. US leads multinational war effort. The bad guys are chased out, the original government is restored and the troops go home. This effort cost lives, not saved them even though Kuwait was liberated and Iraq was not occupied or even invaded. The body count would have been less if everyone had just let Iraq have Kuwait. If the US had made clear to Iraq that it would not stand for an invasion in the first place, lots of lives would have been saved, but how would we ever know about it? Likewise, US/Nato intervention in Serbia definitely drove up the body count although many claim that as a victory. Did the US save lives by not backing the UK and French over the Suez canal? Probably averted a war, but how would we know? Has US support from Israel stopped Middle East war or made it more likely and if you think it has stopped it, how many lives have been saved? In my service days, I spoke with a naval historian who specialized in WWII battles in the Pacific. During the occupation of Japan, the allies discovered extensive fortifications that we didn't even know existed prior to the war. The estimate is that a land invasion of Japan would have cost 1 million allied lives and 2 million Japanese lives. So after seeing the massive loss of life during the battle of Okinawa, did the US "save lives" by dropping the atomic bombs to force surrender? If the US is saving lives by preventing wars with the threat of military intervention, how many actual interventions are required to make that threat viable?
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 11:36 am
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
I suppose it really depends on how you want to count "saved" lives.


I wanted to see a range of interpretations for that. It's more interesting to me than the numbers that they ultimately produce.

Quote:
Do you count beneficial inventions contributed by those from the US or just official government action.


I personally would only count official government actions. The lives which the United States as a nation has saved.

Quote:
If you consider the latter, almost every decision costs lives.


Do you mean typical consumer decisions?

Quote:
As you mentioned, direct measurement of lost lives is easy while computing saved lives is completely hypothetical. Take the first Gulf War for example. Large, aggresive country overwhelms its smaller neighbor and annexes it. US leads multinational war effort. The bad guys are chased out, the original government is restored and the troops go home. This effort cost lives, not saved them even though Kuwait was liberated and Iraq was not occupied or even invaded.


While I think that was a just war, I agree that it did not result in a net savings of lives. I am torn on whether to count the lives saved anyway (not a net number of lives saved but just a gross total). I estimate that between 500 and 10,000 Kuwaiti lives were saved directly (with perhaps more saved indirectly by curbing Saddam's expansionist tendencies, which would probably not have stopped if Kuwait was annexed with impunity). That guess is predicated on the notion that there would have been a some effort at insurgency had the international intervention not taken place with that as the probable range of Kuwaiti lives lost.

Quote:
The body count would have been less if everyone had just let Iraq have Kuwait. If the US had made clear to Iraq that it would not stand for an invasion in the first place, lots of lives would have been saved, but how would we ever know about it?


Actually Saddam threatened Kuwait with military action publicly over oil quotas and moved troops to the border in movements that the US detected. Cheney initially said the US would defend Kuwait if attacked but a spokesman later walked back that statement, saying Cheney had taken personal liberties with it. A state department spokesman then clarified that “We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.”

The next day ambassador Glaspie met with Saddam and told him that the US has “no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam interpreted these statements as signals that the US would not intervene and the diplospeak obviously did not manage to communicate the US position well enough (party because the US position was rapidly evolving).

The first time I think the US sent a clear signal that it would not accept the invasion was the day before it happened. There definitely were some wasted opportunities to send a better warning to Iraq prior to the invasion.

But personally, I would not ever hold the US responsible for that kind of loss of life. I consider it to have been a minor diplomatic misstep with Saddam's regime obviously bearing the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for the lives lost.

Quote:
Likewise, US/Nato intervention in Serbia definitely drove up the body count although many claim that as a victory.


I completely disagree here. There was about to be an explosion in ethnic cleansing and incidents like the Račak massacre convinced NATO it had to act.

NATO casualties were also an order of magnitude lower than that of the Serbs making their contribution to this total much lower than it would have to be to have clearly resulted in a net loss of livees.

Quote:
Did the US save lives by not backing the UK and French over the Suez canal? Probably averted a war, but how would we know?


It most definitely did, but needs to share responsibility with Russia. The way the US helped to avert this war was by telling Israel that it would allow Russia to bomb it to kingdom come and Russia was willing to do it.

This most certainly would have been a war, and the US most certainly did save lives here. I estimate beween 5,000 to 20,000.

Quote:
Has US support from Israel stopped Middle East war or made it more likely and if you think it has stopped it, how many lives have been saved?


The US helped stabilize the region, brokering important treaties like the one with Egypt, but the Arabs were beat and finally knew it. I think the open warfare period was going to wind down anyway.

Since then, the US has allowed Israel to delay needing to make the final concessions for a comprehensive peace and shares some responsibility for shielding Israel from pressure and giving it the diplomatic cover it needs to wage war in places like Lebanon and Gaza. At the same time Israel is dealing with belligerents and I honestly do not think that the US share of responsibility is large enough to be significant.

I pretty much give the US a wash on the middle east, perhaps even a net positive effect if you go back far enough (it definitely hasn't been a net positive in my lifetime in the region but if you add a few decades I think so).

Quote:
In my service days, I spoke with a naval historian who specialized in WWII battles in the Pacific. During the occupation of Japan, the allies discovered extensive fortifications that we didn't even know existed prior to the war. The estimate is that a land invasion of Japan would have cost 1 million allied lives and 2 million Japanese lives.


I think a big part of this estimate is rationalizing the use of nuclear weapons. The dehumanization of Japanese as irrationally committed to defense unto the death was greatly exaggerated.

Quote:
So after seeing the massive loss of life during the battle of Okinawa, did the US "save lives" by dropping the atomic bombs to force surrender?


I think the motivation had more to do with showing the bomb off than saving lives. If they really wanted to save lives they would have waited more before the second one to allow the first one's news to better get out. But they wanted to test a different bomb on a different landscape.

Japan was already beat and while that hastened their acceptance of this fact and might have saved some lives by my estimate the typical American narrative of it saving perhaps millions is entirely fanciful. The "Japs" were just not as inhumanly irrational as the US propaganda films convinced the US public it was.


Quote:
If the US is saving lives by preventing wars with the threat of military intervention, how many actual interventions are required to make that threat viable?


I don't think any actual interventions are required, but do think that the grandest hypothetical scenario we are faces with are the lives potentially saved by the so-called "pax Americana."
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 11:47 am
@wandeljw,
I think that is a newfound position of yours, made necessary by reflexively denying any national responsibility for any lives lost.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 12:14 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I'm still in the hole (otherwise known as large project) I created for myself on the other thread - trying to research during lunch etc.

I'm just going to drop off a couple of ideas here (this appears to be a retirement project).

direct involvement in conflicts / threatened(promised) involvement in conflicts

funding of medical devices/techniques related to/not related to conflicts

China / Africa
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 12:58 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I guess "national responsibility" has always been a problem for me. I was a child when I came to the United States from Germany. American kids my age started telling me about Hitler and World War II as soon as they found out I was German. I felt completely disconnected from that. Learning details about the Holocaust in school actually did make me ashamed to be German. As a teenager, my first girlfriend was Jewish and I completely mishandled that relationship. I gave her a Hanukah present and later found out her family celebrates American-style Christmas only. She thought I was very peculiar and did not want to date me anymore. I eventually learned that nationality and religion are not as relevant as I thought.

As far as evil is concerned, war crimes and holocausts make me ashamed to be human rather than any particular nationality. Positive accomplishments such as those in medicine and science I see as the result of combined efforts by people from a variety of nations.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 03:28 pm
@wandeljw,
Funny that. Earlier today I did a quick search for your posts (just googling your username and "America") because I thought I'd remembered you saying something about there not being enough appreciation for the good that America has done. Anyway, I didn't find what I thought I remembered but instead saw a post where you mention having been born in Germany and having come to America as a child and the thought occurred to me that its unique history might make you want to disassociate individual responsibility from the acts of one's nation and be uncomfortable with assessments of national responsibilities in general. I get that, it's arbitrary and unfair for you to feel ashamed of acts you had no say in.

However, I do not feel the slightest bit ashamed to be American and wouldn't be at all ashamed to have been born German. All other things being equal I have something like 4×10^-7% of the responsibility for my nation's acts so I only feel personally responsible for national acts that I personally advocate for within a democratic system and do not feel responsible at all for national acts I was outspoken against.

Nevertheless, I don't think that should result in avoiding assigning any responsibility to nations. They are very clearly entities with enormous impact and enormous responsibility. Nearly any nation has legal obligations (does the USA also have no responsibilities to its creditors?) and legal responsibilities and to say a nation has no responsibility is like saying a corporation or business doesn't either. It's plainly untrue.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 03:32 pm
@ehBeth,
ehBeth wrote:
I'm still in the hole (otherwise known as large project) I created for myself on the other thread - trying to research during lunch etc.


You should try Thomas' shortcut. There are some things that make all the other things rounding errors. If you start with them there is diminishing returns in researching further but if you try to count too individually it will be an impossible imposition on your time.

Quote:
I'm just going to drop off a couple of ideas here (this appears to be a retirement project).


Maybe we should all try to help each other on this one. I could certainly use the help brainstorming what to even begin to research.
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 03:51 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I too am slammed, but if we want to collaborate, perhaps we could suggest events where we think there is credit to be had. I propose a starting date of 1970 since I was alive then. Other dates are welcome. Here are some thoughts off the top of my head where the US might have contributed to lives being saved.

1) Middle East non-war efforts - Did US efforts after the Yom Kippur War result in fewer wars? [See Robert's Post]
2) Korea - Do US troops prevent a war between N and S Korea?
3) Taiwan - Does the continued US support for Taiwan prevent war between Taiwan and Mainland China?
4) India / Pakistan - Did the US have any role in limiting them to three wars?
5) Bosnia / Serbia / Kosovo - Any positive effect? [See Robert's Post]
6) Tsunami relief - What was US support in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami worth?
7) East Timor / Sudan - Anything to claim there?
8) Government funded humanitarian support for AIDS, malaria, education, etc.
9) Saudi Arabia - Did US actions in Kuwait prevent a Iraq invasion? Is there anything to claim from Kuwait? [See Robert's Post]
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 04:04 pm
I tend to think of medicine - in various ways, since I've questions re missionary type medicine and most of that is by groups of individuals anyway, whether I think of some groups well or not - not the country as such, but there are likely stats on how much the US government has sent to crisis sites with disaster situations. Those are probably included in tsunami aid, and so on, but if investigated as a category may add up to big numbers.

0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Dec, 2011 09:07 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:
This thread has not yet received any responses. I guess a thread attracts more responses if people have an opportunity to say something negative about the United States.

I don't think that's the reason. I think the reason is that there is no direct evidence of lives saved, whereas there is direct evidence of people killed. To best of my knowledge, the best answer I can give to the question for this thread is "I don't know". And that's barely worth posting.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Dec, 2011 10:28 am
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
I propose a starting date of 1970 since I was alive then. Other dates are welcome.


If we are collaborating I say we start with most recent events (lowest hanging fruit) and work backwards with no specific end date (we may give up before it, or want to work past it).
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Dec, 2011 01:35 pm
My grandfather was on the team that created the reverse osmosis filter. Probably every drop of water you've had, passed through one of these. Clean an potable water is probably the largest enabler to prosperity. Some 60% of illness is passed by contaminated water, so if we're to talk about lives saved, the number would probably be north of a billion.

That said, lives saved/taken is not a bank account. A moral check doesn't require a negative balance to bounce.

A
R
T
 

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