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.
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.
If you consider the latter, almost every decision costs lives.
Do you mean typical consumer decisions?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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."