Via the Daily Caller, let’s be charitable and assume this is a simple brain fart about which century is the 20th, not an assertion that Iraq was the worst conflict of the last hundred years. She inadvertently raises an interesting question, though: Is Iraq the most catastrophic war of the 21st century? Given China’s military build-up and Putin’s czarist ambitions, it’s a cinch that it won’t hold that title in the year 2100. But what about right now?
If you’re measuring strictly by the number of deaths, the war in Darfur was probably worse. The Iraq Body Count site claims 188,000 deaths, including all combatants; the number killed in Darfur had already exceeded 200,000 by 2006 and may now have surpassed 300,000 per a UN estimate last year. (It may be much higher than even that.) But Darfur has never been on America’s political radar, so go figure that it wouldn’t leap to mind when Holmes Norton was thinking of conflict. What about the Syrian civil war, though, which nearly saw a U.S. bombing run late last year? By some estimates, that’s already claimed 150,000 lives and shows no signs of abating. Iraq has remained formally intact as a multi-sectarian country (although that’s capable of changing quickly) but in Syria it seems a foregone conclusion that the country won’t survive in its current form. The only plausible way Syria remains “united” at this point is if Assad steamrolls the rest of the rebels and then does God knows what to “pacify” the Sunni population. Otherwise, the country may well split into an Iran/Hezbollah Shiite fiefdom on the one hand and a jihadi-controlled Sunni one on the other. It’s always strange to compare atrocious situations like war, but it’s hard not to think Syria will end up being the yardstick against which modern catastrophes are measured for years to come.