81, 76, 50, 49, 43, 25
What are these numbers? This week’s Powerball winners? ... No, they’re the number of troops that have died in hostile actions in Iraq for each of the past six months. That last number represents the lowest level of troop deaths in a year, and second-lowest in two years.
But it must be that the insurgency is turning their assault on Iraqi military and police, who are increasingly taking up the slack, right? 215, 176, 193, 189, 158, 193 (and the three months before that were 304, 282, 233)
Okay, okay, so insurgents aren’t engaging us; they’re turning increasingly to car bombs then, right? 70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30
Civilians then. They’re just garroting poor civilians. 527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).
My point here is not that everything is peachy in Iraq. It isn’t. My point isn’t that the insurgency is in its last throes. It isn’t. My point here isn’t even to argue that we’re winning. I’m at best cautiously-pessimistic-to-neutral about how things are going there. ... My only point is that ... I was unequivocally shocked when I saw this. Completely the opposite of what I’d expected. My non-scientific sample of three friends, all of whom are considerably more bullish about the prospects in Iraq than I am, revealed three people similarly surprised by these numbers.
Myelectionanalysis expected to find the reverse of the actual numbers, as you would be led to think if you confined your reading to the International Crisis Group, who in their February 15, 2006 report, entitled "In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency" describe an insurgency that is going from strength to strength.
This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse, reveals relatively few groups ... whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising. ... The emergence of a more confident, better organised, coordinated, information-savvy insurgency, ... has survived, even thrived, despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, suggests the limitations of the current counter-insurgency campaign.
But it's hard to reconcile the International Crisis Group's report with the second link. An Armed Forces Journal article entitled "It will be better when you leave" says it has become so comparatively quiet in former Iraqi hotspots that the troops are wondering what to make of it.
There are more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 23,000 of whom are Marines. But even in the most insurgent-infested places in Iraq, the troops aren’t doing much. The Fallujahs and Mosuls and Tall Afars are history. The insurgents seem to be lying low. They’re not coming out in great numbers to confront U.S. troops. They’re not mounting as many effective IED attacks.
Sometimes it seems the American forces are searching for things to do — going on patrol for the sake of going on patrol. At some point that patrol is going to hit an IED — it’s a numbers game. But it’s unlikely that a patrol was specifically targeted. It’s just bad luck.
Could the insurgents be executing a similar strategy to the Taliban in Afghanistan? As Sean D. Naylor reported in the February issue of AFJ, Special Forces officers who work closely with tribal militias in Afghanistan’s most remote provinces warn that the former regime that protected al-Qaida is lying in wait, marshalling resources for the day America leaves.
As Myelectionanalysis says, he's not interpreting history; just reporting the numbers. That casualty numbers are down not just for Americans but for Iraqis and civilians too appears to be anecdotally confirmed by the Armed Forces Journal article. But the question is what does it mean? One possibility is that the "increasingly confident" insurgency reported by the International Crisis Group is giving America one last respite before unleashing hell and finally driving the US from Iraq. The other possibility is that the enemy, unable to defeat the US military in the field, has embarked on a strategy Amir Taheri called "Waiting Out Bush". Or in Belmont Clubese, the enemy having lost the military war now hopes to win the political war. Taheri says that many Arab capitals are simply waiting for a new administration to ride to their rescue. The trick is simply to "wait out Bush".
Hassan Abbasi has a dream--a helicopter doing an arabesque in cloudy skies to avoid being shot at from the ground. On board are the last of the "fleeing Americans," forced out of the Dar al-Islam (The Abode of Islam) by "the Army of Muhammad." Presented by his friends as "The Dr. Kissinger of Islam," Mr. Abbasi is "professor of strategy" at the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps University and, according to Tehran sources, the principal foreign policy voice in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration.
To hear Mr. Abbasi tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of "the last helicopter." ... According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.
It is not only in Tehran and Damascus that the game of "waiting Bush out" is played with determination. In recent visits to several regional capitals, this writer was struck by the popularity of this new game from Islamabad to Rabat. The general assumption is that Mr. Bush's plan to help democratize the heartland of Islam is fading under an avalanche of partisan attacks inside the U.S. The effect of this assumption can be witnessed everywhere.
Which brings me to the "very serious piece of news" I promised readers. It's completely off topic, so funny and yet so serious that it simply must be included in this post. Carlos the Jackal has been fined by a French court for hate speech. According to the Guardian:
April 4 -- PARIS (AP) - A Paris court fined the terrorist known as "Carlos the Jackal'' more than $6,000 Tuesday for saying in a French television interview that terror attacks sometimes were "necessary." The 56-year-old Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was convicted of defending terrorism. The court did not convict him for expressing pleasure that "the Great Satan" - the United States - suffered the Sept. 11 attacks, saying those comments were his personal reaction. Prosecutors asked for a fine four times larger than the $6,110 penalty imposed. But the judges said they did not see the need for a higher fine because Ramirez's comments referred to the past and aimed to justify his own actions. Ramirez, dressed in a red shirt and blue blazer, kissed the hand of his partner and lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, during the judgment.
The Carlos story isn't a parody and readers who think it's a hoax can click the link to the Guardian to verify that it's real. But it epitomizes the absurdities in Western political culture which makes the strategy of winning-while-losing possible. Because the "last helicopter" is always ready for boarding whether it needs to leave or not; and there are a long line of political leaders willing to take the trip on principle. Just because. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were very probably right when they characterized that certain kind of person.
He's a real Nowhere Man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me?
I'm afraid he might be.