How Long A War? Let's Ask

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With U.S. combat deaths approaching 600 since major combat operations ended in Iraq nearly 16 months ago (in contrast to only 109 before the fall of Baghdad), the Pentagon has decided it's time to get some help in figuring out how long the postwar fighting might last. The Army quietly released a contract announcement last week that it was seeking to calculate "the possible intensity and duration of a guerrilla war in Iraq." The Army wants to award a contract to the Dupuy Institute, a Washington-area think tank, by the end of the month. The institute will be asked to study "casualties from various guerrilla conflicts in the 20th century," including the Greek civil war, the Malaysian insurrection and the Indochina war (the Vietnam War isn't specifically mentioned), the contract announcement says. Charting the death and destruction of those conflicts should tell the Pentagon "if the casualties in Iraq will decline over time, increase over time or remain at a steady state." The study will provide the basis for estimating costs, the announcement says, and "will also attempt to address projected force sizes for such a war." There was no immediate word from the Pentagon on a question likely to be raised by critics of our postwar planning: What took so long?