Friday, October 26, 2007

Why are deaths down in Iraq?

By Libby

We lost the internet here last night. It was off until about 5:00pm today. It was unnerving to be cut off from the news for so long. Even worse, I was stuck inside the McPartment on a rainy day. I was reduced to doing housework and writing posts about yesterday's links I didn't get to, from memory...

So nobody is talking about Iraq much these days. It barely makes the news except for the ocassional White House press release about how the surge is working -- honest. And while the Pentagon's numbers on violence are more than a little suspect, the good news is that troop fatalities are truly down. Thank God for that but that doesn't really make much sense since we have more troops there than ever and they've been conducting a lot of ground operations. Fred Kaplan at Slate examines the data to explain how this could happen and it's really not that encouraging.

First of all, although we have been in a lull in the last couple of months, 2007 has already surpassed the troop fatalities of 2006 and is on track to surpass the tally for 2004-5. We're still losing our soldiers, just not for a last few weeks. A closer look at the tactics reveals that the reason is very likely that we have jumped up the number of air strikes this year. From January to September, they flew 996 strikes which is more than the previous three years combined.

The obvious downside to this is when you take out a whole apartment building to get one bad guy, many innocent civilians die. There's simply no way to target one individual from the air in an urban setting. This is a problem when success hinges on winning the hearts and minds of the people. The more airstrikes they conduct, the more families of the innocent victims will be likely to join the insurgencies.

Considering that the fall in troop fatalies can be directly tied to the increase in the air strikes, it looks like more tactics geared for political advantage at home that will sabotage the mission to bring stability to Iraq. I mean it's great that it's protecting the soldiers but it's blowing the whole purpose of the operation. That gives Bush what he wants, a reason to run out the clock, but it doesn't do a thing for our national security or the well being of the Iraqi people we're supposed to be protecting, not killing ourselves. Pure madness.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Steve & Molly said...

Hi Libby,

This seems like an excellent point to drop a reminder (aka, shameless plug).

You posted about "Meeting Resistance" a couple of months ago and we thought it only reasonable to point out that many can now go to see it.

We've been held over for a second week at Cinema Village in NY and the AMC Dupont in DC. We'll be doing Q&A's after the 4.30 and 7.15 showings in DC (our website has us down as doing the 9; we're not and we're trying to get that changed).

We then move West next week, opening in Santa Fe and at the Fairfax, LA. Our site has details and updates will be coming soon.

http://meetingresistance.com/screenings.html

So far our audiences have been coming away with a lot of new questions about Iraq; the way it's being fought and the way it's being reported.

Hopefully, many more will come and learn about the type of war they're being asked to support and just why the troops are relying so heavily on these airstrikes.

Best

Steve & Molly.

12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I've seen some buzz around Blogtopia on this. I'm happy to give you another plug.

8:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libby - I see an immediate problem with your premise. If the rise in bombings is growing the insurgency, then troops casualties should be rising, not falling.

You're also assuming a causal relationship between air missions and troops deaths - they may not be related.

And if it were simply a Bush ploy for short term gain, why would he not have done it long ago? Your implication is that troops deaths will rebound and surpass previous numbers. I think we all hope you're wrong.

3:45:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

No, I'm not implying that troop deaths will go up, certainly not as long as the air strikes continue. I'm not implying anything, just remarking on the article's analysis of the situation. It seems to me to be common sense that taking out the smipers with air power would cut down on troop deaths because of less engagement necessary on the ground but it would inevitably cause more collateral deaths because air strikes simply cannot be targeted to one individual in a crowded urban setting. Hearts and mind anon. It's right there in the COIN manual as a necessary component for success. You don't win them by killing innocent civilians.

I'm not so much criticizing the policy as noting the obvious practical effects of it.

9:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libby - Iraqi deaths appear to have dropped as well now, so the problems I saw with the original premise here are even more apparent.

This appears to be due to several things, including increased amounts and accuracy of intelligence from Iraqis as well as more troops. As to more air strikes; my guess is that the improved intelligence is the reason. This would also likely result in greater accuracy and the fewer collateral deaths we've seen.

3:45:00 AM  

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