Thursday, March 23, 2006

Damned lies and statistics

Probably everybody has read RedState's analysis of US Active Duty military deaths. It says:

Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you wil find quite a few surprises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)

Winds of Change took exception to this analysis and posted this.

Occasional WOC contributor Captain Midnight took a moment to review Proud Kaffir's numbers, The Captain writes, "He is citing raw absolute numbers. They are the result of two things: A 27% drop in the size of the armed forces, and a 54% drop in the death rate from accidents. If you plot the death rate per 100,000 and break it out by cause of death, you get

(from Winds of Change)

As the Captain notes, the graph clearly shows a decrease in deaths due to accidents and a significant upsurge in deaths per 100,000 troops due to hostilities. Misuse of statistics is tendentious no matter what the position being defended.

The comments section at both Red State and Winds of Change raised some interesting points. A Little to the Left at Red State says:

That leads to an average number of deaths per 100,000 soldiers of:
Reagan: 43.22
Bush I: 31.75
Clinton: 27.75
Bush II: 37.05

So as you can see a greater percentage of soldiers die each year under George W. Bush than under either George H.W. Bush or Clinton or Carter. And please don't even try to claim that all that matters is the absolute number of soldiers killed.

But J Steele at Red State retorts:

The number that counts is the number the press uses, the absolute number of deaths in theatre regardless of the cause. That's the number you guys on the left like to use to scare the American people into believing that we can't beat the terrorists so we might as well give up and come home and hide under the bed.

Patrick Brown at Winds of Change raises the interesting point that the deaths per hundred thousand make small armies look bad.

But here's another way to look at it. Suppose that the US armed forces had been cut back to 100,000 men and that only 500 of them had been killed in the Iraq war. That death rate per 100,000 would have been much greater than the actual current rate - but it would have been a substantially better situation for us (setting aside any other consequences of reduction in strength).


A statistic is a number computed from a sample to describe some attribute of interest. Whether or not a statistic is a good answer depends on what question it is intended to answer. If the question is 'how many Americans have died while on active duty over a certain time frame', then Red State's figures give the arithmetic totals. If the question is 'how many deaths per hundred thousand active duty servicemen have there been' then Captain Midnight's quotients are correct. If the question were 'what percentage of military manpower did active duty deaths consist of' it would be different again because the population would have been growing since the 1980s.

For a relative who answers a notification knock at the door, it is absolute numbers that matter. "Is my son alright" and not "how many deaths per hundred thousand" are what concern him then. To a man thinking of a career in the services, deaths per hundred thousand in your military specialty matter very much indeed. The big red spike in combat deaths under present conditions means that you are safer in the Navy or the Air Force than in the ground forces, and if in the ground forces, safer anywhere except in the combat arms. For the public, it is what is not on the graph or the tables that matters most of all. It is how much peace and security this sacrifice has bought. In each of the Cold War years there were those who reviled the military as unnecessary though they brought us home through the Valley of the Shadow of Nuclear Death. And many who claim that the lives spent in fighting terror have been wasted drive straight to their offices each day increasingly confident that September 11 will never happen again. What answer would they want, I wonder, to which question?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And please don't even try to claim that all that matters is the absolute number of soldiers killed.

The obvious counter-retort is, why not? It is important. Should the size of the military be increased, so that when one of them dies, it looks smaller in comparison (i.e. per 100k personnel)?

3/23/2006 02:31:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Perhaps, to rational, concerned people, they all matter!

We must weigh, compare, contrast, consider rationally, these various metrics, on our way to determining the QUALITY of results.

We will ALL die on the way to something, somewhere... I would choose to die taking action for the greater good, than taking evasive action rooted in fear!

3/23/2006 03:11:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

And as an aside, that picture of me age 18, in Korea, shows me in AG-44 dress winter greens, with my camouflage scarf (non Army issue)...

...a marginally acceptable mix of duty, conformity, non-conformity and unique skills (Korean linguist, TopSecret clearance, NorK DMZ)...

Dyed in the wool nerd, even then!

3/23/2006 03:15:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

People have to decide if the result, in both money and lives, is worth it. We won't know the real answer to that for years, perhaps decades. And was the decision that led to the cost a reasonable decision to make.

I would like to see stats on the death rate for the 18-25 year age group, and compare that to the death rate of the deployed military.

3/23/2006 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

Don't you think that, if you look at death rates by age and sex, that the demographic that includes those typically enlisted in active duty whould be higher? Regardless of combat status.

I grew up near a military installation. Seems like we were regularly witness to an accident involving an young enlistee.

Further, the young men typically enlisted may be more prone to such than others in their same demographic due to their personality - more bold, active, willing to take risks, etc.

The forces now employed in IOF are prbably more demographically diverse than any previous force in recent history and, probably more mature. This would skew the ratios in my arguement as well.

In the end, it may not matter how you look at the numbers but it is an interesting exercise and, as wretchard indicates, you can argue them many ways.

3/23/2006 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Michael Moore likes to claim that terrorism is not a valid concern, since the overall probability of being killed in a terrorist attack is miniscule.

Using like thinking - one apparently endorsed by the Left - not only is the percentage of the active duty military killed a valid comparison, but so would be an analysis based on the percentage of the total population killed while in military service.

Enscout: Using the approach you bring up, would it not be even more valid to consider only that percentage of the population that engages in rough or strenuous sports regularly, does skydiving, flys airplanes, does scuba diving, practices target shooting, hikes in mountain or desert areas, hunts game, and builds and tests explosives and rocket motors for fun? I have done most of those things myself, while off-duty.

3/23/2006 05:19:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

It could be argued that the use of higher explosive charges launched from further distance would lower our soldiers dead and wounded rate...

if we occupied outside the city and simply applied the russian battle plan for chechnya, we'd have fewer deaths..

we could simply use the syrian tried and true method with hama..

we could use the Arab Legion's way on the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and simple cut off all water, food and electricity and simple shoot anyone who tried to escape....

3/23/2006 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger Cataline said...

There are also hidden factors that the numbers do not show.

In 1980 the overall quality of the U.S. military was rather low because military standards were rather low. Judges did a lot of the recruiting. Alcohol and drug abuse were rampant and the command staff still thought in terms of acceptable losses for an exercise.

The DOD spent the next twelve years turning itself around.

In 1993, Bill Clinton inherited a military that was basically drug free, crime free, safety conscious and generally cleaner living. The acceptable loss rate for an exercise was zero.

Taking Clinton’s number as a baseline for attrition. Bush II has lost 885 more men than Clinton during a period of medium to heavy fighting. Really that’s kind of impressive when you look at it.

3/23/2006 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

I remember during the Desert Shield period, when there was a very heavy level of training, a question being asked at a press conference about some deaths that occurred during an exercise. And the general remarked that the military was experiencing a lower-than-normal overall death rate during that period, including the training deaths (which were at a somewhat higher than normal rate) because there were significantly fewer people being killed in car accidents, etc.

3/23/2006 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

You've tested explosives?
We used to set of fire crackers & bottle rockets. :o)

3/23/2006 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

If you want to use the mortality statistics for Americans to compute the effectiveness of the terrorists as soldiers, you have to look at combat deaths. These are quite a bit lower than overall deaths. And with their increasingly overwhelming dependence on IEDs and suicide bombs, which require little to no combat readiness, the picture is of abysmal effectiveness in force-to-force combat. In fact, it might be argued that the shift to bombings is a sign that the combat effectiveness of the average terrorist is approaching zero. This means that if civil war ever really does break out and terrorists try to control cities and launch actual combat operations, they will fail miserably.

3/23/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Enscout: I have a friend who designs and builds rocket motors both as his job and for fun. We are talking pretty big motors compared to fireworks, say, 3 inches in diameter and 3 ft long, with about 1000 lb of thrust. I used to help him. Now, he was not intentionally building explosives, but sometimes things did not go quite right....

The rockets I have been personally and professionally involved in actually launching were a whole lot big than that, as in 8 to 10 ft in diameter and 70 - 100 ft long - and when some of them went wrong - Hooo boy!

Exhelo: I recall saying to a fighter pilot/co-worker after the first night of Desert Storm (in which we lost 1 aircraft) that I did not think that we could take 500 plus aircraft and fly them all at one time from, say, New York to Chicago with no one shooting at us and not lose half a dozen. He replied "And at night and at low altitude - you are probably right."

Uh oh - the verification word this time is "sementia" - remember what happened the last time they used that one?
And the same thing happened again! But is is fixed now.

3/23/2006 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Who would have ever believed it?

The NYTimes and peter boston are in total agreement.

Abandon Afghanistan!, if...

"... The Afghan man, Abdul Rahman, was arrested two weeks ago. His parents reported him to the police for converting to Christianity 16 years earlier while working for a Christian aid organization in Peshawar, Pakistan. He was hauled before a judge, where he said he had no regrets. "If he doesn't revert back to Islam, he's going to receive the death penalty, according to the law," an Afghan Supreme Court judge told Agence France-Presse. ... "

" ... Afghanistan is not the only American ally that enforces cruel religious laws. But this is a country that was liberated from the Taliban by American troops and whose tenuous peace is enforced by those troops. If Afghanistan wants to return to the Taliban days, it can do so without the help of the United States. ... "

While President Bush is reported to find the Afghani position "deeply troubling",
I believe he will "Stay the Course" in Afghanistan, regardless of pb's or the NYTimes's complaints about the lack of Religious Freedom, there.

I believe that Abdul Rahman's life will be spared, he's insane you know, but what of the next convert?

Or should Chrisitans obey local Mohammedan laws and renounce their faith in the "spirit of peace"?

Should the US continue to support Mohammedan Governments while it fights the Mohammedan Wars?

Is it not time we come to terms with just what it is we are really at War with?

Because as long a Islam is a Religion of Peace, that can execute Christian and Bahai converts, there will be no Peace.

Is the Afghan Government one of Radical Mohammedan Jihadi or Peace Loving Muslims?

Judge not by Mr Karzai's rhetoric, but by his Country's actions against Abdul Rahman.

Statistically, Mr Abdul Rahman is insignifigant, but his story is symbolic of the democratic challenges Wilsonian Policies pose as a mid game tactic.

peter boston and the NYTimes, standing shoulder to shoulder on Afghanistan, wow!

To bad the NYTimes was not as concerned about Mr Tom Fox's Right of Religious Freedom, from his captors, in Iraq.

If they had, maybe we'd have a new rally point, Religious Freedoms. Instead, I think, the NYTimes, lacking convictins, just finds this an easy way to hit Mr Bush.

3/23/2006 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Combat deaths is a disingenuous, defeatist calculus. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are not statistics, do not see themselves as statistics, and do not act as statistics. They advance and protect American interests and the only number that matters is the percent of successes.

3/23/2006 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

Cataline-Your comments remind me of another infamous army that had many of its men recruited by escaping the law. They were often drunk, ill-disciplined, and even derided by their CO.

But Wellington's army was simply the best in the world at that time.

Although it has to be said they were fighting the French...

3/23/2006 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Even the NYT can be right once in a while. I'm sticking to my guns on this.

3/23/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger JAF said...


I had that same problem with that word verification issue. It appeared to only be affecting my Firefox browser as to when I briefly went to IE (holding nose) the issue wasn't there.

3/23/2006 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger C-Low said...

I posted this on the Winds article to make the point that the statistics are to break the LLL propaganda myth.

You are missing the point.

The point is to disprove the media and LLL’s propaganda campaign that the current losses of today’s military are unacceptable and also un sustainable (the broken military idea).

The numbers prove that
A) Our current losses are more than sustainable even common
B) Our military will not be broken by such small losses
C) We can hold such losses for decades if necessary without breaking our ability.

The LLL’s and the Media use our casualty numbers to portray our war effort as “to expensive” “is it worth it” “unsustainable” these are myths and lies that should be debunked. These numbers prove them as what they are propaganda.

If we allow the LLL’s and the Media to set the bar so high that it makes War impossible to execute we are doomed to defeat after defeat with war as an impossible idea (what they want). If a nation can no longer take casualties even battle defeats and mistakes in war then it matters not how powerful its military tech is it is a dead nation that is simply in waiting to be conquered.

In business life and even war expectations must be realistic and casualties in Iraq are lower than what could be expected by historical comparison, to allow that to be declared unacceptable is unrealistic and makes war impossible. We cannot allow the LLL’s set the bar at unrealistic unachievable levels.

3/23/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger snowonpine said...

I researched many sets of statistics over my career including such casualty figures and my experience was that many of my clientel, when they grasped the statistics at all, picked and chose among these various ways to look at the situations being measured, including casualties, so as to bolster their political objectives. Not surprising but discouraging. What do they say, "a Cynic is a failed Idealist?

3/23/2006 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

As well you should, pb.
Even a broken clock, like the NYTimes, is right twice a day.

But do we advise the Afghans to maintain the Laws on the Books, but not enforce them, like US Immigration Laws.
Or do we make them face reality and change the Law, to fit the modern norm?

Can we have even have Mohammedan Governments that conform to Modern norms, before we win the War?

It seems in Afghanistan, we do not yet have a modern liberal Government installed. The War there continues, as well.

The degree that their culture needs to change, to modernize, will not occur my ozmoses or magic.
There will not be a sudden awakening of liberalism in the Mohammedan Arc.
Force will be required to forge that desired change in their Society.
One side or the other in the Culture Clash will submit to the superiority of the "other" system. Until that occurs there will be no Peace.
Now, if there are moderate Muslims, we should support them in their Civil War with the Mohammedans. But if Mr Karzai's Government is not liberal & moderate, which Islamic Republic should be expected to be?

3/23/2006 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

this is very interesting stuff.

Basically what we are doing here is attempting to convert data into information.

the data remains as it is, but the information gleaned therefrom is really based on the individuals.

I've seen this happen repeatedly in business. A given "fact" or set of "facts" becomes the topic. the conversation revolves around A few common themes.

For people who don't "like" the facts their first response is to doubt it's validity. What's the source of the data? How large a sample? What was the data collection technique? and so on.

another common response is what I call "it would be nice to know". this is often a thinly veiled attempt to cast doubt on the completeness of the data, or just to change the subject.

For example one presents a spread sheet that says "16.2777555% of customers who bought product X also bought product Y." someone then says: "It would be nice to know if those were male or female customers." It's a truly effective technique.

HELODRIVER uses a variation on "it would be nice to know" this is called "information metastasis" where one set of facts generates questions that require another set of facts that generate question, ad infinitum.

I like information metastasis because it's a damned good living.

As for the qualitative conclusions that are being drawn, here's my two cents as the proud father of a grunt.

the volunteer military is essentially self selecting. The people that are in it chose to be. I've read some information, most notably the response to Rangel done by either Heritage or AEI, I'm not sure which, that looks at the demographics of the volunteers, but it doesn't speak to their mind set.

the military is a dangerous place. Those guys do dangerous stuff and yes there are people out there like karridine (God Bless them) who simply accept that as a fact of life.

I recall my son describing an extraction excersize wherein he hung, clipped to a cable, beneath a helicopter. My response was basically "Holy shit! what were you thinking about?" His reply was "Man, this is fun."

this also points out a big problem with studies like this: the dynamic nature of the process under review. The composition of the military has changed dramatically and that impacts the data. guys who chose to do this stuff are IMHO going to be better at it than guys drafted into it against their will.

Another aspect of this is training. They trained the snot out of my son. he was in the corps for almost two years before his first deployment. during the stand down between deployments he never sat still. They worked him and worked him and worked him.

I get a lot of questions about my son's service. Am I "scared"? well, frankly yes I am, but he's not, he's superbly trained and doing what he chose to do.

Still, I would be far more frightened about him in an old jalopy with his his teenaged friends going 90 miles an hour down a country road after drinking way too much beer.

Say what you will about the military but at the very least they do provide adult supervision.

3/23/2006 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Yes, skipsailing, the Corps does offer a certain sense of stability in a young man's life. The midnight curfews are especially nice to hear of, for a father, as I express my regrets to Jr, agreeing that the Party never really starts 'til after then.

I've traveled, hung beneath the belly of a Huey, in days long past. Your son is right, damn good fun, as long as ground to air commo is good when you're about to land.

3/23/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Peterboston: True!

As the old saying goes:

"It costs a lot to win a war."

"But it costs everything you have to lose one."

C-low: When people make such "unsustainable loss" assertions I think perhaps they are thinking in terms of THEIR ability to sustain them. A split fingernail would cause them to run, shrieking, from the field of battle.

As the earnest, cute girl handing out antiwar leaflets said to me at the entrance to the Pentagon City Mall just before the start of Desert Storm: "We have to stop this! we can't expect to fight in temperatures of 100 degrees!"

No, my dear, YOU could not. But WE can.

Jaf: I had SEMENTIA happen twice again, and I am only using IE.

3/23/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...


Your message was not lost. Please assume that the readers here are largely in agreement with your intentions and applaud your work as an attempt to set the losers straight.

For me, it reinforced a hunch that I have held all along - that many of those deployed might have been casualties of their commute to work or other accidental death.

As skipsailing and others have stated, it is fascinating and indeed precipitates the desire to see more stats.

3/23/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Afghanistan and Iraq have seen the soft side of the hand. I think that was the proper way to go at the time and will continue to believe that for so long as there is a reasonable expectation that the outcome will be a civil Islamic government. I will abandon that belief when it becomes clear that outcome is not achievable.

The apostasy provision in law or in the constitution is not a fatal flaw. Politics is the art of the possible and I'm sure that a lot of horse trading had to be done to even get a constitution. But what people say and what they do is important. If this man were executed or imprisoned for apostasy that would mean that the Afghan government was incapable of acting in the most minimal civil fashion. That would be an unacceptable outcome.

3/23/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

C-Low said...

"The point is to disprove the media and LLL’s propaganda campaign that the current losses of today’s military are unacceptable and also unsustainable... The LLL’s and the Media use our casualty numbers to portray our war effort as “to expensive” “is it worth it” “unsustainable” these are myths and lies that should be debunked."

The total deaths from a single day of terrorism on 9/11 was 2986. As of 20 March 2006, total American deaths in Iraq resulting from 3 years of conventional combat and terrorist suppression were 2319. Three years versus one day generated comparable American deaths.

A single sneak attack by terrorists on the American mainland was far more effective at killing Americans than open warfare in Iraq. That's why it's vital that we kill terrorists in the Middle East BEFORE they get to the homeland. The War in Iraq has been and continues to be an appropriate response to 9/11.

The MSM's propaganda campaign based upon daily combat deaths as a form of Chinese water torture is a complete and utter disgrace. This form of sedition is a reasonable tactic for Baghdad Bob or al Jazeera but not from our own media.

3/23/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

I always wondered about that picture of Karridine!!

Anyways, it's obvious that the important part of the curve is the red part showing Lebanon, and now the current conflict; but, more importantly, Wretchard shows us that the real issue is the question to the answer...

The ETA in Spain, if they remain true to their claim, are proving that the terrorists are losing the popularity contest.

As many polls as Clinton commisioned, I don't know why the neo-cons haven't commisioned a few themselves to help frame the debate.

For instance, they should be writing the questions and polling the heck out of the moslem countries; not waiting for the MSM to come up with more leading questions of their own to slam Bush. Why not ask them whether they believe the terrorists represent mainstream moslems? Why not ask them whether other religions have a right to believe what they believe? Why not poll cosmepolitan moslems in Tehran and India (India has one of the highest counts/sheer number of moslems within its borders).

Any good pollster, just like the bedeviled statistician knows that it's all in how you frame the question...

3/23/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Kayle said...

I looked into death rates about a year ago and determined that overall death rates were up noticably. But a second thought occurred to me recently: I believe that the number of support personnel have decreased significantly due to outsourcing, leading to the question: have death rates among combat personnel increased? (or alternately, if you included all the civilians holding jobs that used to be counted as military personnel several decades ago, is the overall death rate much different?) My guess is that death rates are still up, just not by as much.

3/23/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

On Karradine's Gravestone:

"This man Dyed in the Wool"

3/23/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

People don't like to die in the name of political correctness, sitzpinkler policies, and etc:
"Sir, I am willing to die for a country that is not my own,” he told a former mukhtar, a local official, in one Mosul neighborhood, firmly but quietly. We were drinking tea with the onetime official in his home, sitting on machine-made
carpets, leaning on bare cinder-block walls.
"So will you resume your position as mukhtar?”
Turner asked.
"Brave men must stand forward.
Iraq's wealth is not oil but its civilization.
Trust me by the projects I bring, not by my words.
Will you stand with me against the insurgents?
The men who threatened you are just sixteen-year-old boys with guns but no
jobs. These projects will bring jobs to your streets.”

The former mukhtar seemed to like the American lieutenant.
But he said no. "I cannot resume my role as mukhtar,” he said.
"They will kill me.
The contractor down the street was threatened if he continued to repair the neighborhood.
If you are so serious about security, then why did you Americans release prisoners from Abu Ghraib?”

Many of the detainees that had lately been released from Abu Ghraib were known to be hardened criminals from the Mosul area, and the release had undermined the credibility of American troops here.

Turner replied that the decision was one taken by Iraq's own new government.
The former mukhtar wasn't convinced.
For Iraqis meeting with Americans in Mosul, the name Abu Ghraib” had a different connotation than it did in the United States.
Here it meant not brutality but American weakness and lack of resolve
Though I have made it a rule not to respond to critics, the two writers who have criticized my reporting from Mosul both share a distinction of having never been there themselves. One proudly claims to have never traveled outside the US. But the highly respected Robert Kaplan actually did spend his time in Mosul.
Mr. Kaplan’s piece ,(PDF file) in addition to being well written with particularly trenchant analysis, also serves as an authentication of my dispatches.

3/23/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

oops, that's from Yon:

3/23/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Radioblogger has mp3's of Anderson Cooper Mike Yon interview, as well as Christopher Hitchens.

3/23/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger JAF said...

If the sementia issue happens again, try clearing your cache/cookies/temp files. Then close the browser and reopen it to see if that clears up the issue.

3/23/2006 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

An interactive map of Coalition military fatalities and estimated Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq, 2003-2006.

3/23/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Losing your cookies is a cure for Sementia?
Gag me.

3/23/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Yes, doug, at least in Iraq the Indig Government is only releasing our Enemies. They have not yet begun sentencing Religious converts to death.

Perhaps that will begin once there is a Prime Minister chosen. Perhaps not.
I do know that in Iran they execute those that preach the Bahai message.
One must wonder, though, just what Mr al-Sadr thinks of converts to Christ?
He does not seem like the sort whom would let that kind of thing "slide", for long.

3/23/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"But do we advise the Afghans to maintain the Laws on the Books, but not enforce them, like US Immigration Laws. "
Just use the Calculus of the WSJ:
The cost of Employing Illegals in the USA is the
Dollars Paid per hour.
...the cost of medical care, education, prison building, maintenance, and operation are all
Simply make Christian Martyrs an off-budget expendable.

3/23/2006 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

We could do the figures with an al-Sadr Slide Rule!

3/23/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Yep, if ole Karradine had been born Iranian, the Mullahs would've silenced him one way or another. Wonder how it feels to be devoted to a system of belief that can tolerate no questions? Must be kinda shaky-feeling, down deep.

3/23/2006 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Iraq's Oil Crisis
By Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- While officials privately debate whether communitarian violence in Iraq constitutes a low-grade civil war, there is no disagreement about the oil crisis there, which has little to do with the insurgency. Gasoline and home heating fuel are scarce and expensive, thanks to runaway corruption. This problem's difficulty and importance will test the new Iraqi government once it is organized. ... "

There is more and in part goes to the heart of the challenge.

"... U.S. officials who are close to the situation gave me a totally different explanation. They blame corruption at every level, from the oil ministry on down, that is common to Iraq. It cannot be controlled by the Americans but is the responsibility of the long-delayed Iraqi government. Thus, oil is a microcosm of the overall conundrum in Iraq, where there are no good options for the Bush administration in dealing with a culture where honesty and efficiency historically have been rare. ... "

3/23/2006 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

From what I've read, buddy, they take the preacher into the Public Square and hang 'em, high.

Just like those "Happy Boys" that doug presented to US a few months ago. Waiting in their cage, being videoed as their air dance approached.

Saw a list of Iranians executed and why, once. Enlightening as to what constitutes a Capital Crime in Iran.

God help Hollywood types, if the Iranians and their ilk ever rule the World.

3/23/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

Yes, buddy - if you live anywhere in the ME besides Israel, you'd better just drink the Kool Aid or who knows where you'll end up.

Sort of like staff meeting at the NYT, WaPo, etc.

3/23/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Goodfellow said...

These statistics can't be right, can they? According to multiple sources, the death rate in the US for the age group 15-34 is well over 100 per 100,000 population per year. This would indicate that, from a fatality perspective, even serving in the US armed forces during war time is comparatively safe with, and maybe even slightly safer than, just living a normal life in the US.

Deaths and death rates for the 10 leading causes of death For People 15 - 24 Years
Deaths and death rates for the 10 leading causes of death For People 25 - 44 Years
Deaths/Mortality Statistics for the US

3/23/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Doug Santo said...

Good post today. The graph is informative.

3/23/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

"God help Hollywood types, if the Iranians and their ilk ever rule the World."

On this one particular line of truth, some of us might find ourselves in a separate reality (Carlos Castaneda's term), a sort of "lose-win" situation.

3/23/2006 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Looks about right
in the teens early 20's Accidents, Homicides and Suicides lead the way.

In the Military, homicides drop, accidents have dropped through an intense "safety first" campaign that has been systematic in the Military for decades, now.

Combat deaths, though tragic, have been extremely light in the Mohammedan Wars.

In the desire for even more data, what are the stats for Iraqi nationals, deaths per thousand per annum, both pre and post Invasion?

That would be even more enlightening, if available.

3/23/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/23/2006 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger david bennett said...

Our likelyhood of failure is portrayed right here. Before the war General Zinni said the following:

“You could inherit the country of Iraq, if you’re willing to do it. If our economy is so great that you’re willing to put billions of dollars into reforming Iraq. If you want to put soldiers that are already stretched so thin all around the world and add them into a security force there forever, like we see in places like the Sinai. If you want to fight with other countries in the region to try to keep Iraq together, as Kurds and Shiites try and split off, you’re going to have to make a good case for that.”

The administration tried to make the case by denying the costs and consequences. Dr. Lindasy was fired for saying it could cost over 200 billion. Zinni's "desert Crossing" plan was completely ignored because it prepared for too many problems. So were other studies including those from the army War College.

This was an administration and a rightwing that argued you responded to 9/11 by shopping.

Now disgracefully but predictably the rightists here argue the costs are not significant compared with x. They are for those who pay them. Deaths remained stable in 2004 and 2005 despite lies here a year ago that were in significant decline. It can be hoped, but is far from established that they will reduce, bt as the president noted we may be there for years with serious costs.

Serious costs.

Don't minimize them. Those who die or are wounded or are psychologically torn (and tour after tour increases the odd) are a tragedy. Listing their numbers, reading their names, looking into their coffins is a minimum of what we can do.

But you rightists don't want anything that makes you uncomfotable, you celebrate weakness. That's why over and over you declare victory in Iraq refusing to understand the meaning of a long hard battle.

Don't rationalize he dead or try to trivialize. Weep and understand the death of one of them is too much for the likes of you, not worth the sacrifice for those who say shit like "oh but look at traffic accidents or D day or polio."

3/23/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Politics is the Art of the Possible"

Police Work is constrained by the Justice System.

Now, more than ever, "Warfare" is subject to both.

But when Clinton, Gorelick, and Half-Bright did it that way, it was a "Bad Policy."

Wonder what the Founders had in mind for the
"Commander in Cheif?"

3/23/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

(probably knew how to spel it tu)

3/23/2006 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Robin: That data is very believeable. Consider that in order to get in and stay in the military you have to:
1. Take a written test.
2. Go through various forms of training, much of which is designed to make you disgusted and want to quit.
3. Handle high pressure situations in the real world.
4. Be evaluated periodically, including medically.
5. Generally behave yourself. NOTE: Too many speeding tickets will kill your career in advance and failure to do something as simple as properly balance you checkbook can get you thrown out. Then there is drug testing.

All of the above tends to weed out the "One of y'all hold my beer and watch while I do this!" crowd rather early.

I can't assure you that the military is exclusively and always the best, brightest and toughest of our population but they do have a much, much higher percentage of those attributes than is "average."

For example, the military suicide rate is a fraction of that of the general population, despite the nature of the job.

To give a similar example, in Japan they have very strict gun control. Their murder rate is a fraction of that if the U.S.
Do you know what happens when Japanese immigate to the U.S., with our much looser gun control laws?

Their murder rate goes down further. To make it from Japan to the U.S. you have to have enough on the ball that it imposes another "filter."

3/23/2006 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

David, it's good that you recognize these costs. I think you're battling a cartoon image of 'rightists', though.

Yes, there are some who fit your characterization, but they're of small number. Smaller I daresay than the number on your side of the issue who refuse to admit to any cost deriving from not fighting this war.

And, when you 'look into the coffin', you should remind yourself that there is a person in there who gave his life in a cause with which you disagree. Such a reminder might cause you to penetrate the issue somewhat more deeply.

3/23/2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Great stuff, I'll show it to my son.
The civilian population also includes the incredible rates for young blacks, courtesy of liberal-enabled fatherlessness, bottom of the barrel NEA Teachers, and etc.

...and of course the deaths from the "Hispanic" Gangs, and the cumulative total of the 100k Plus total Felons/YEAR "free traded" from them to us.

3/23/2006 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Bennett just dished out the same ol' crap serving of self- righteous criticism.

Well, Dave you can serve it but I'm not having any.

Thanks anyway.

3/23/2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Cleric killed, exchange blown up in S. Waziristan

By Dilawar Khan Wazir

WANA, March 22: A pro-government cleric was killed by gunmen in the Laddah subdivision of the South Waziristan Agency on Wednesday and a telephone exchange was blown up in the Shakai area. Witnesses told Dawn that the car of the pro-government cleric, Maulana Sibghatullah, was ambushed at Laddah, about 70 km south of here. The attackers, who were masked, killed Maulana Sibghatullah and took away with them three other people who were in the car.

It may be mentioned that the cleric had been associated with the Taliban in the past. However, during the unrest in the agency he dissociated himself from the group and entered into an agreement with the government. ... "

From the Front

They do not discriminate, those Mohammedans.
They kill all denominations.

3/23/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Everybody's equal 'Rat:
We're all liberals now.
If Germany votes for a New Hitler,
so be it.

3/23/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

david bennett

You demean our war dead with your whimpering. Acknowledge their bravery. Salute them. Respect their brothers in arms. Donate your money or time to veteran families. Show your pride in being an American.

3/23/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More news from the front: is reporting that the Afghan National Army has killed 15 Taliban crossing the border. The BBC reports that Pakistan is claiming that the dead Pakistanis were innocent; arrested and murdered.
Musharraf, addressing crowd of 80,000 warned foreigners to leave the country "immediately or be crushed."
Afghan clerics demand death of man who converted to Christianity, warn he'd be killed if set free

Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan — Senior Muslim clerics demanded Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity be executed, warning that if the government caves in to Western pressure and frees him, they will incite people to "pull him into pieces."

3/23/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

From the Times of London

Britain pushes for military option to restrain Tehran
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor

BRITAIN is pressing for a United Nations resolution that would open the way for punitive sanctions and even the use of force if Iran were to refuse to halt its controversial nuclear programme.
In a confidential letter obtained by The Times, a leading British diplomat outlines a strategy for winning Russian and Chinese support by early summer for a so-called Chapter VII resolution demanding that Iran cease its nuclear activities. ... "

" ... The confidential letter was written ... ... by John Sawers, the political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and sent to his American, French and German counterparts.

“They (the Iranians) will need to know that more serious measures are likely,” wrote Mr Sawers, in a letter first leaked to the Associated Press. “This means putting the Iran dossier on to a Chapter VII basis.” ... "

The Times online reports that the quickest action could be expected is May. That would be quicker than likely when this is considered

"... “We are not going to bring the Russians and Chinese to accept significant sanctions over the coming months, certainly not without further efforts to bring the Iranians around,” Mr Sawers wrote. ..."

Mr Putin spent last week in China, both Countries are advocating a "go slow" course on Iran.

3/23/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My gut reaction to the Cooney AP story on the Afghan Christian is the same as PeterBoston's.

If that's the way it's going to be, then screw 'em.

3/23/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Just goes to underscore the depth of the problem. This is occurring in Afghanistan, the Theater that is often touted as the "Success" in the War on Terror.

This single issue seems to be moving ever more posters into Mr Lowry's "To Hell with Them" Hawks category.

Each person has their own, private, tipping point, it seems.

3/23/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/23/2006 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Afghanistan was a success by the mere fact of taking down the Taliban and driving them and al Qaeda out of Afghanistan into the Tribal Areas. Whether or not the Taliban enjoys some success in regrouping in Waziristan doesn't diminish the initial effect.

Bin Laden's strong horse-weak horse metaphor is operative in their world. Every impudent Arab/Muslim leader that gets smacked down, Saddam included, demonstrates their weakness and creates self doubt in the rightness of the Islamist cause. If we're not going to kill them all then we damn sure better be ready to do what's necessary to discourage them all.

If Karzai cannot stand up to the clerics on the apostate case while US troops are in the country, and suffer no consequences, that demonstrates fatal weakness on both his part and ours. The resurgent Taliban can't win in Afghanistan but we can still lose.

3/23/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/23/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I do not understand what grounds on which you wish Mr Karzai to stand, peterboston
The Law favors, demands it seems, the execution of the apostate.
Mr Karzai, most likely, took an oath to uphold the Law.
It may be an unjust Law, from a multicultural perspective, but it has been their Law for millenia.

The claim of initial success in Afghanistan is reasonably valid, despite missing Osama. Just as there was initial success in Iraq. Saddam's Government, the original objective is long, three years, gone, as well.

The fact that Insurgents cross the Syrian border to regroup, rearm and recreate, before reinfiltrating Iraq does not diminish the initial defeat of Saddam.
It does, though, illustrate the simularity of the difficulties of stopping a War at a line on the map and not upon the destruction of the Enemy.

3/23/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rat: It's been my position all along that Bush's plan to bring the Islamic world into modernity has been worth the gamble.

If it turns out that, we lost the gamble after giving Afghanistan, and Iraq precious gifts, then at least we tried...

If this man is killed by the mainstream Muslims in Afghanistan then we should cut our loses at the table and go to the Desert Rat's plan for a Crusade.

3/23/2006 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

The situation in Afghanistan WRT the Christian convert shouldn't suprise anyone. It is the same old routine for Islam.

It is becoming more evident to me that Iraq will go the same course. Once we allow Islam to its own devices, they will revert back to levels of violence just as under Saddam & the Taliban. It's only a matter of time.

Now, per their new constitution, Iraq has adopted this violent worldview as their state "religion". It is incompatible with democracy - a government that requires participation. The Islamoids will obstain. As long as they are given this power these states will fail.

Centuries of history should suffice as proof.

I consider myself an optimist in most matters, however, we are dealing with an ideology that will not allow adherants to tolerate any other worldview. It is a false religion based on domination and worldly power. If allowed to manifest to its purest form, there will be only one man standing - everyone else survile. This is the goal of Amhadinejad.

I was hoping that the Iraqis would embrace democracy and develop a secular government free from the confines of this cancer, but they have erred.

I support the war effort and the unbelievable job our troops have done and continue to do over there. I think we need to continue to confront the Jihadis on their turf. So gird up your loins gents. 'cause if we continue to "stay the course", it looks like it will be a long, hard slog.

3/23/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/23/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Islam is a horribly flawed ideology. Humanity would be much further along had it never existed. That being said, however, there are plenty of people who self identify as Muslim who are willing, given the opportunity, to participate in the global community as other than 7th century brigands.

I do believe that the Small Footprint war is an historically unique noble effort and was and is the proper path until facts on the ground tell me otherwise. Toss out what anybody has to say about either Afhganistan or Iraq and make judgments on what the various actors do. No complex human activity is a linear regression from point A to B, war even less so. On balance there is still not enough reason to abandon the Small Footprint strategy.

Part of the Small Footprint strategy is that Muslim armies will almost always be more successful killing off the Islamists then we would be absent a Western committment to total war, and I think we are still a long, long way from that.

The Islamist delusion would end very quickly if the Western democracies would only make a firm, united stand that Western civilization, and their own cultures, will be defended at any cost.

3/23/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

That is reasonable peterboston and accurate, The importance of a smaller footprint is one of the primary reason some of our troops should begin to withdraw.

There are other Fronts to which some of them could be sent, other than directly back to the States.

I have yet to hear a response to Mr Annin's call for a Darfur Rescue Force. He needs about 12,000 troops and some armed helos to work with the African Union troops and stop the genocide in the Sudan.

That would be a good place for the Western Civilization to draw the line and stand united. Protecting Black Muslims from Arab Mohameddan raiders and militias.

3/23/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

One of my favorite statistics is that according to one theory; 60% of all felons like tomatos. Aha, I knew it. Never liked tomatos much, let alone felons.

3/23/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

I don't want to see Leviathan troops in sub-saharan Africa unless we're there on a punitive expedition. If you can't pick sides in a shooting war you got no business being in the line of fire.

3/23/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

This graph woul be FAR more interesting if it included Vietnam, Korea, WW II and WW I.

3/23/2006 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Well then, pb, where do we draw the line?
Where does the West stand united, if not on the farthest frontier.
Of course we pick a side in Darfur.
We are on the Black rape victems side, the side that is being wiped out. Against whom Genocide is being applied, that is the side we should be on.

As I say, there the UN has asked for help, to stem the tide of Mohammedan Genocide.

Should the West decline to fight afar, soon, the battle will be in Paris, again.

Those Algerians are goin' to fight Jihad somewhere.

3/23/2006 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"I do believe that the Small Footprint war is an historically unique noble effort and was and is the proper path until facts on the ground tell me otherwise."

There is nothing wrong with Small Footprint operations per se. But they are not applicable everywhere. In this regard, Iraq and Afghanistan are apples and oranges. Model operations in one place are not automatically transferable to the other. (Markedly different tactics are employed as well.) Iraq IS a numbers-intensive environment. This was not known, of course, beforehand. Once it became known, the best that could be done was a mid-size force stretched out over a number of years. There simply was no alternative.

But what you do with the resources at your disposal is as or more important than their number. More troops, like more money, does not all problems solve, and can exacerbate or create new problems.

But you already know that.

3/23/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Dave Shock said...

While this data on deaths may be correct regardless of questions posed and statistics derived, a more telling figure would the relative comparisons of total casualties, i.e., inclusion of wounded/injured personnel.

A great deal of capital resources has been expended over the years in R&D and production of equipment, as well as capacity building and training of personnel to limit loss of life. The same event to personnel in 1983 that would have resulted in death then may not result in death in 2005 due to these investments and/or greater O&M costs.

Additionally, looking at total casualties figures would provide a much better picture of the total cost of using the military per operation or time period. Not to detract from the ulitmate sacrifices made by our brave men and women who are placed in harm's way, the total cost to military is likely far larger when personnel are wounded, yet similar to those killed, are not able to resume active duty.

Note that this is only looking at one side of the equation, the costs. The other side of the equation is of course the benefits.

In this type of reasoning it is the ratio that would illustrate which President has been forced by events, or at his own discretionary judgement, of using the military in the more effective manner. Questions could be asked, were the returns from Grenada better or worse than Panama? Or was Gulf War I not quite so good as once thought in comparison to Gulf War II?

Of course the trick of this type of analysis is not so much on the cost side but in assessing the benefits, whether ex ante or ex post.

3/23/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"There simply was no alternative."
One Obvious Alternative would have been to wipe out Tikrit and it's environs at the outset.

Not only would this have killed a sizeable portion of what was to become the insurgency, it would have
"Sent a Message"
to others so inclined.

3/23/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Rat has mentioned the successful brigade operation in Mosul, and applauded it as a demonstration of, among other things, Small Footprint. The reality is that Iraq requires many, many such "holistic" operations, which, taken together, would greatly exceed the current footprint and outstrip resources as well.

3/23/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

If it's a post-Korea UN operation there are no sides. The Arab League is violently against any push back on Khartoum and Kofi would not likely see any more $500,000 "awards" if there were. The African Union's next meeting is in Khartoum of all places. If the Africans don't care enough about the Arab Muslims running amock to choose sides how the heck can we do it?

A maxim from the Soviet days was that whichever side won Africa would automatically lose the Cold War. Punitive expeditions yes. Peacekeepers no.

3/23/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...


Interesting you said that about Tikrit because that is exactly what I suspected would happen.

3/23/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Doug, you know as well as I that it wasn't, and isn't, going to work like that.

3/23/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...


The Small Footprint is a strategy not a tactic. I think it's based on two lines of thought. One is that offsite fire support is so good that small ground units can still bring overwhelming firepower. The other is more political. That the only way the USA can avoid scaring the bejeezus out of everybody is to purposely keep troop levels below whatever could reasonably be considered an occupying army.

The tradeoff is that our troops can't be in enough places at once to keep all the holes plugged. Is is the right strategy? Only history will tell, but so far I think it is.

3/23/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Because flattening Tikrit was never an option (not nowdays) the solution there, as everywhere, could only be to "go to where the bad guys are." On the ground.

There has been extreme reluctance to do so.

3/23/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"That the only way the USA can avoid scaring the bejeezus out of everybody is to purposely keep troop levels below whatever could reasonably be considered an occupying army."

Which is fine, when you're not an occupying army in the midst of a labor-intensive endeavor.

The everyday demands of Iraq, alongside other commitments, exceed resources. I'm not inclined to look at it as foot-dragging stinginess on the part of the SecDef, which is a regular criticism, but as an inevitable consequence of a smaller force to spread around. You can't use what you don't have.

But, yes, too many holes to plug. Too many moles to whack.

3/23/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I think politics will demand we flatten something if we get hit by another 9-11.
I know I will.

3/23/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

If one 9/11 didn't do the trick, will another?

I wonder, Doug.

3/23/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

There's a saying: Go big or go home.

We can't do either.

3/23/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger wildiris said...

Just to put these numbers into a different perspective, one should compare them to various "peace time" industrial occupations. For example, logging, hard rock mining and commercial fishing have had, historically, fatality rates as high as 2 or 3 per 1000 per year. Yes, those numbers are correct! That translates to 200 or 300 per 100,000 per year! It is actually almost 10 times safer to be a soldier in Iraq than a logger or commercial fisherman in the Pacific Northwest.

3/23/2006 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

If I were 25 instead of 40, I'd be over there and count myself richer for having done something more for my beliefs, freedom, and America, than sit on my ass typing on some blog.

How do you measure this? Foolish stats!

3/23/2006 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

Wildiris, good point about dangerous civilian occupations. My brother spent several seasons working on a trawler in the Bering Sea in the '80s. Those vessels are big enough to be not quite so dangerous, but to this day he won't eat commercial crab, which is harvested by much smaller boats. "Too much blood on it," is what he says.

3/23/2006 10:42:00 PM  

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