American involvement in World War II began on December 7, 1941 and ended on May 8, 1945 in Europe and September 2, 1945 in the Pacific. As of today, the War in Iraq has lasted longer than American involvement in what was clearly the greatest war ever fought:
WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in the war that President Bush’s father fought in, World War II. As of Sunday, the conflict in Iraq has raged for three years and just over eight months.
Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer.
And the long war isn’t only occurring in Iraq:
Fighting in Afghanistan, which may or may not be a full-fledged war depending on who is keeping track, has gone on for five years, one month. It continues as the ousted Taliban resurges and the central government is challenged.
Not to mention the fact that we are still hunting down al Qaeda operatives and leaders.
Of course, these comparisons are meaningless.
First, World War II didn’t start on Pearl Harbor Day, it started two years and two months earlier when Germany invaded Poland. Some might even argue it started earlier than that.
Second, as James Joyner points out, you can make a convincing argument that the Iraq War was really just a continuation of the Persian Gulf War, which started in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Finally, stopping World War II at V-J Day while continuing the Iraq War to today ignores the fact that the Iraq War itself ended within three weeks; what we’ve been dealing with since then is an occupation that clearly wasn’t adequately planned for, not a war against the forces of Saddam Hussein.
If you really want to compare statistics, this seems to be a far better one:
[W]e have lost 2303 of our best and brightest to combat in Iraq to date–which is for me a far more tangible cost to our nation than the number of days we’ve been there. How does that stack up against WWII? The battle death tally for WWII was 292,131. More than a quarter of a million. 292,131. It’s a staggering number, especially when you remember that the total population of the United States was less than half than it is now in 1941 at roughly 132 million. The AP might also consider that during the period we were involved in WWII, we lost servicemen at the rate of 6,639 per month. Per month. I’m sorry, I keep repeating myself, but as someone who did not live through that war, the numbers are so large that they become abstract and I’m having trouble making them real. Maybe that’s why the AP chooses to harp on the number of days we’ve been in Iraq in comparison to WWII. We can all comprehend three years and eight months. We can remember where we were in May, 2003 and mark the passage of time. It’s a little more challenging to grasp that over that same time span during WWII, we suffered casualties at more than 100% the rate we have in Iraq. 2303 x 100= 230,300. We’re still 60,000 short of our losses in WWII. 60,000. I can hardly wrap my brain around it.
Say what you will about the continued occupation of Iraq and the fight against the insurgency, but the fact that it has lasted longer that was far more bloody means absolutely nothing.
Update: Further thoughts at The Liberty Papers