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This remarkable graphic illustrates a number of points that have become obvious in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers aren't willing to die for Queen and Country in the old manner. And modern states can't politically sustain even Second World War (never mind First World War) casualties. Hence the huge rise in the amounts spent on the armour that stops the soldiers being killed.

But of course this has also resulted in a massive rise in injuries (look at the killed to injury ratio on the bottom of the graphic)...and the human, social and economic cost of looking after injured and traumatised ex-soldiers isn't represented on this graphic.

Neither is the civilian and 'enemy' cost of war. The Robo-soldier may be safer, but the amount of death and injury he can cause to civilians or less well protected 'enemy' forces is correspondingly greater. The 'colonial' advantage in technology translates into an exponential rise in the death of those in whose country these recent wars have been fought.

In every war since the First World War, the number of civilian deaths as a proportion of the total of those killed has risen. In Vietnam there were 60,000 US troops who lost their lives. But perhaps 2,000,000 Vietnamese on both sides lost their lives.

But the paradox for the imperial powers, in Afghanistan as in Vietnam, is that counter-insurgency wars can't be won by military means alone. And the technological superiority of the major powers, and the civilian and resistance deaths they cause, makes the 'winning of hearts and minds' near to impossible.

This explains the US flip-flop over the 'cautious restraint' policy in Afghanistan. First the US were killing 'too many' Afghans and the situation was becoming unstable and counter-productive. So 'cautious restraint' was introduced to bring the Afghan body count down. But this then means that the US doesn't really use its technological superiority. So now 'cautious restraint' is being abandoned.

The truth is that for the US and its allies there is no answer to this paradox...other than the one which the US is being forced to consider: getting out as soon as possible.

John Rees

John Rees

John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.

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