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December 06, 2007

Comments

Is it my fault if these graphs Charles uses in his post irresistibly remind me of How To Lie With Statistics (which will be 54 years old next year), especially the sections explaining how to design graphs so as to make insignificant changes look... well, significant?

That even according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which is known to underestimate casualties, at least 600 Iraqis are being killed each month... well, that's not a metric of "success".

A good and, I believe, balanced summary. Thank you for the leg work.

There is little doubt that the overall violence is decreasing, but just why is still a question mark. The surge probably played a role, but questionable as to what amount. You do mention some troubling signs, such as Sadr starting to rumble a little bit. Although I think he is still more interested in political power at this point, and he may be, in the long run, the best hope for a stable Iraq with minimal influence from Iran.

I really am not impressed with the Iranian involvement. It seems relatively minute, particularly compared to our involvement during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

As a final note, regarding your disclaimer, I think it is important to note that we can neither win or lose Iraq. That is up to the Iraqi people, and I question just how much more we can do about it.

I have yet to hear an explanation of what "winning" is.

"As I see it, the Nevada Senator is invested in American defeat in Iraq..."

Couldn't help yourself, eh? After that admission that Republicans shouldn't get too "triumphant?" And what should they be triumphant over, bringing Iraqi violence down to the peaceful numbers it had in 2005?

I'll grant you that this "surge" has borne fruit, but forgive me for growing very cranky the moment someone mentions how this is "bad for the Democrats." We've heard this brainless chant before, Charles.

DU

While I remain skeptical as to how these numbers have been counted (i.e., the Iraqi death count doesn't seem to jibe with other figures I've heard, leading me to believe this might be an accounting trick), I sincerely hope these number do represent a real and sustained trend back towards zero.

Now, if we could just get the Iraqi government to agree on anything (and American contractors to stop pillage their country and our treasury).

reading along, reading along...

"As I see it, the Nevada Senator is invested in American defeat in Iraq."

full stop. i shall read n'more.

On winning, I would say its opposite is clinging to cliches, vulgar sentimentality, and middle-manager Powerpoint optimism in the face of Iraq's post-2003 reality (500,000+ dead, 4 million refugees, with the best-case scenario for stability being a tribal government forged via ethnic cleansing).

A million Birds are diligently running cons and some of them even know it

ethan: I have yet to hear an explanation of what "winning" is.

A Republican winning the next Presidential election.

Oh, I just lost a giant comment because of the stupid confirmation thing that I always forget exists because no other blog I post on has one. Wunderbar!

The gist was that I don't think violence is a useful indicator of "progress" because a) while lowered violence is undeniably a good thing it's not a sufficient condition for Positivitudinousness in Iraq ("victory" is not a meaningful term); b) the stats are fudgible by changing how casualties are tallied and sorted, e.g. the fake "autism epidemic" that resulted from a change in diagnostic criteria but did not reflect an actual change in autism rates -- my opinion is that this kind of effect can't account for all of the statistical trend we're seeing with violence in Iraq, but probably does account for some.

But anyway I wanted to say something else tangential to that, so whatever:

We're scheduled to have 30,000 come home by next spring, and Iraqis (reinforced by U.S. embeds) will need to step up.

Nothing I've read gives me much faith that the Iraqi Army or Police will "step up", unless by "step up" you mean "kick off the Iraqi Civil War that everybody's waiting to start once the Americans aren't looking" -- something that, once again, nothing I've read indicates is even remotely preventable without precisely the kind of permanent, multi-decade occupation in force that we can't afford any more because we're already too far in debt from the first five years of our occupation and don't have the manpower to implement even if we did have the cash for it.

I think that it's incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge that the surge appears to be working. Fighting a point when we're wrong only discredits us. While I was skeptical about the likelihood of success (largely because there have been so many broken promises), I have never founded my opposition to Administration policy upon that point. My opposition is founded upon my judgement that the remaining objective of this policy (bringing democracy to Iraq) is unattainable under any reasonable circumstances.

I think that it's incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge that the surge appears to be working.

I think it's incumbent on people who claim that the "surge is working" or "appears to be working" to outline their metric of success. May we take it that your metric of success is "only 600 Iraqis confirmed killed in one month"?

Joshua: Oh, I just lost a giant comment because of the stupid confirmation thing that I always forget exists because no other blog I post on has one. Wunderbar!

OT: Use Firefox. Firefox will let you page back, retrieve your long comment, and re-comment it. IE sucks.

Charles, the American people couldn't care less about Iraq beyond a universal desire to get out. We have no legitimate business in Iraq. We got involved there based upon lies told to us by the administration concerning nonexistant WMD and existential danger a third rate country posed to our American way of life. It was all BS and now we just want to put it all behind us.

Iraq was lost the day it was invaded. Americans will never support a war based upon lies. Why is that so hard for conservatives to understand?

"I think that it's incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge that the surge appears to be working. Fighting a point when we're wrong only discredits us"

Well, no, it's not incumbent on us to acknowledge that the surge is working when we don't know what role it has played in lowering casualties. It's not a civility contest. We don't now and never have known how many casualties our own forces are inflicting either, a point which seems to interest no one in the MSM or political circles. (Michael Massing has an article on civilian casualties in the opening months of the invasion in the latest New York Review and he had a similar article in Salon a few weeks ago--his work stands out because so few in the media show any interest in this subject.)

Everyone seems to agree that casualties are down, but to a large extent this seems to be the result of Sunnis becoming sick of the Al Qaeda types and siding with the US against them. In that sense the left (I don't know about the Democrats) could take credit for pointing out all along that the Iraqi "resistance" has been divided between Sunnis who are outraged about the occupation but oppose the targeting of civilians, and those who target civilians. There's now an open split between the two and obviously this has caused much of the drop in casualties. Otherwise the insurgents could just continue to play whack a mole with the American troops.

Good post Charles. Credit where credit is due. Not that I agree with your political slant, but you did put a lot of work into this.

I'm reminded more of Tacitus's comment: "they make a desolation and call it peace."

Let's assume that the death count is actually down. Good. On the other hand, this might simply be because the ethnic cleansing has been successful and there's fewer enemies around to kill. The Christian population has already almost been wiped out. The reports I keep seeing about further bodies continually being found in Baghdad and elsewhere keep me on the pessimistic side. Plus, we seem to be seeing further gains by the fundamentalists--murders of ordinary women simply for not wearing the veil and similar.

Charlie, you had me interested. I'm *glad* there's finally a little good info coming out of this mess. But then you immediately turned it into a club to hit democrats with. Tell me what it looks like when we win. Tell me what we have to measure. Then you can tell me Harry Ried was wrong.

Here's the NY Review of Books article on US-inflicted civilian casualties during the opening months and how this story was sanitized, even in books critical of the war--

link

I'll be responding to comments tonite or maybe tomorrow.

Dan Bartlett on the usefulness of right-wing blogs, December 1st: They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.

Search term "invested in defeat" reid on Google.

Great. After 4 years of bloodshed for no good reason, we may be ramping down the violence, even though the government is still essentially nonexistent, the country is bankrupt, and millions are dead, maimed, or dislocated. Where do we sign up for the victory parade?

Shorter Charles: Look, I proved that pouring cops into a gang zone decreases the number of people killed! In other news, dog bites man!

The problem is, there's no reason to think that this quarter's trend will actually produce long-term gains, especially after we 'de-surge.' That's what the whole debate was about. I don't recall anyone saying it was extremely unlikely that pouring more soldiers in would reduce the violence while the soldiers were there. It's nice, and I'm happy for the people who didn't get killed last month, but where does this get us? How long do we keep pouring manpower and borrowed money down this hole?

BTW, you quoted Reid out of context. Considering you were quoting a Washington Times article in the first place, that's impressive, but not in a good way. Reid was talking about "the political divisions in Baghdad," when he said it was "getting worse," according to the article you linked. Nothing in your post says otherwise.

As for:
the impasse in the Iraqi government is not much more gridlocked than our own national government.
Circa 1865, you mean?

But I'm glad you're willing to concede that
It's clear that the earlier political benchmarks were too ambitious timingwise.

It might not hurt, in the interests of fairness and all, to mention who set those benchmarks. And that those benchmarks were an extreme drop down from the warmongers' original rosy scenarios. I.e., the one prediction that someone actually made that you say was wrong was not made by the Democrats.

Don't feel so bad about the "invested in defeat" thing. Dick Cheney's invested in Iran's having a nuclear-weapons program, so glass houses and such.

Ack! Death to italics!

Sorry 'bout that. Hopefully, you can still work out which parts are mine, which parts are Charles's, and which parts of my deathless prose would naturally be emphasized.

Am I accusing him of being unpatriotic?

No just of "surrendering to al Qaeda." Lotsa daylight there.

When 40 senior al Qaeda members are killed or captured in one month, it's time to leave. Al Qaeda has irretrievably lost, in my opinion.

Yes I'd say we can go home, knowing that the statistically negligible Qaeda are not going to rule Iraq, even in tandem with their Iranian BFFs. No matter how hard the despicable Harry Reid surrenders to them.

As I see it, the poster is invested in making the Iraq conflict a tool for achieving domestic political goals. A claim of "victory" there will lose him fewer Republican seats in the Senate in 2008.

Am I accusing him of being unpatriotic? Well, if I were, at least I'd have the stones to admit it.

Also "time to leave" obscures that these are mostly Iraqis calling themselves al Qaeda. I get stupider just reading this stuff.

I'm glad the added troops are helping. I doubt that anyone thinks that the US will commit to keeping 150,000 troops in Iraq for the next century, so I'm not certain what we can expect in the future, particularly since Iraq still doesn't have a functioning government. Notice also that our troops, who once had almost complete control in Afghanistan, are losing control there as the violence in Iraq decreases. It sure looks like a game of whack-a-mole with too few troops.

By the way Al Qaeda in Iraq is not Al Qaeda. They're just some locals and other troublemakers using a well-known brand name with permission. Good PR for them, meaningless in attempts to control terror.

I recently wrote a long post on violence in Iraq. It is important to remember context. For instance, some Iraqis are returning to Iraq from Syria because Syria doesn't want them, not out of desire. That's not always the case, of course, but NPR recently did two stories on it, and it's good to know the dynamics.

Troop fatalies are down, and several accounts report Iraqis are indeed more optimistic. That's good. However, the violence overall remains extremely high.

The biggest issue is that political reconciliation is still nowhere in sight, and that was the whole point of the esclation, or "surge," in the first place.

Finally, I really have to question your slam on Reid, and it really makes me wonder how seriously I can take you. "Surrending to Al Qaeda"...? Good grief.

Bush complied with Al Qaeda's most important demand the day he pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia.

Sorry, that's really odd. I was signed in through Typepad, but it didn't display my handle at 3:300pm above.

Uggh! Again! Trying one more time, otherwise, it's Batocchio at 3:30pm.

One thing I keep hearing, even from the administration, is that Iran is to a certain extent cooperating in the recent efforts to reduce violence. I assume that if this were true, Iran would be getting something out of it, diplomatic trade-offs somewhere. So I do wonder whether we should be counting our chickens quite yet. At the end of the day, we need a strategic vision for our Middle East policy; no statistical trendline can provide us with one of those.

Thanks for the article giving some details about possible Iranian involvement; that's by far the most evidence I've seen so far.

What the heck is the line, i.e. the actual graph, running through the bar graphs? That's either useless, horrifically misleading or just kinda pointless depending on what it's supposed to mean, and either way it diminishes what utility the figures have.

Oh, and everyone who said that there was no point reading past Charles' usual calumnies was of course correct. I'm just trying to figure out if there was any point in reading this post to begin with.

Nationally, the impasse in the Iraqi government is not much more gridlocked than our own national government. It'll take time to hammer out de-Baathification, oil revenue sharing and power sharing, and it's clear that the earlier political benchmarks were too ambitious timingwise.

Considering that the entire strategic goal of the surge was to enable a political reconciliation at the national level, this is a remarkably lame assessment. Pages and pages about how violence is down, but the utter lack of political progress dismissed with a cursory paragraph! Well, yes, I suppose that's the entire "surge is working" strategy in a nutshell.

Of course, no one can actually accuse Charles of arguing that the surge is working, since even though his posts argue that in a dozen different ways, he always includes a disclaimer at the end to the effect that he's not actually saying that!

Now, as to the amazing, amazing excerpt re: Iran. What are the odds that our senior political and intelligence officials are unwilling to go on the record regarding Iran's role in arming the Iraqi insurgency, despite the free hand regarding Iran they would assuredly get if they made that case convincingly... and yet they are willing to anonymously spill their guts regarding all sorts of sensitive intelligence information to the editor of the "Long War Journal"?

The Pentagon seems to be increasingly resorting to making its case concerning these sorts of issues by means of "anonymous leaks" to the right-wing blogs. What I'm not sure about is whether Charles simply fails to understand his role in this propaganda process or whether he is yet another willing regurgitator.

But in the interests of good-faith discussion, I'll simply postulate the following base-line question: Why should anyone be expected to attach any credibility to what Bill Roggio says anonymous sources have told him about Iran's role in Iraq? While I'm happy to keep an open mind regarding Iran's antics, I have no idea why I'm expected to lend any credence to this account whatsoever. What is the track record of the "Long War Journal," for example, regarding the existence vel non of Iran's nuclear program?

Iran got confirmation that we knew that they were not working on nuclear weapons.

From what I've read, the Sunni's have finally had it with the foreign jihadis, and that's caused a reduction in deaths from Sunni insurgents, for now.

I am surprised it took them so long.

But I doubt that they, or the Mahdi army, will acquiesce to a permanent US occupation, especially one where American companies get to "privatize" Iraqi oil production, and walk off with 20-50% of the oil revenue.

With respect to Iranian involvement, at this point, I don't trust anything that the administration says about Iranian involvement -- their #1 priority with Iran is regime change, to get an opportunity to privatize *their* oil as well. It is pretty clear that this administration will lie about anything to further that aim.

That doesn't mean there isn't any Iranian involvement in Iraq -- they're allies of SCIRI, after all, which is a part of the Iraqi government. And if I were an Iranian government official, knowing that the Bush administration wanted my government destroyed, I'd make sure *someone* was taking shots at American soldiers in Iraq -- the more we're pinned down in Iraq, the less likely we're likely to overthrow the Iranian government. It is unlikely to stop unless we actually negotiate a truce with the Iranian government, which is probably out of the question for Bush.

In other words, get your gloating in now. The long term interests of the Bush administration and both the Shiites and Sunnis are no more aligned today than they ever were. The only way this violence will stay down for an entire year is if we actually begin to withdraw from Iraq.

That doesn't mean there isn't any Iranian involvement in Iraq -- they're allies of SCIRI, after all, which is a part of the Iraqi government.

Yeah. And it's really simple...next door neighbor. Former ruler got taken down by country who has declared you unfriendly. What country with a collective IQ over room temperature (Celsius) would NOT want to influence politics in their favor???

As I see it, the Nevada Senator is invested in American defeat in Iraq.

As I see it, Charles is invested in biased analysis and scapegoating.

Hey -- it's just a legitimate a remark as this calumny against Reid. Particularly given admissions by Charles in the disclaimer -- maybe, just maybe, Charles, you might consider using the disclaimer to conceive of the other guy's point of view.

That is, if as you admit, we are not winning, not turned a corner, manpower levels are too low, the Surge goal of political reconciliation making no progress, and at best, you are willing to sit on the fence for six months before making a final decision, then just maybe, maybe, someone like Reid has some motive other than wanting to see America fail for acting as he does.

The Surge was a short term strategy built around the idea that if violence levels could be lessened, maybe political reconciliation could happen. It is short term because from the outset, it was not possible to maintain the increased troop levels due to inadequate numbers of troops to deploy. We are now nearing the time when they must start coming home no matter what.

It is great that violence is down at the moment. I say at the moment because there is no reason at present to expect it to stay down. Why is that?

How about this list as the dominant trends in the country.
1. A major factor in lessened violence is the decision by Sadr to stand down temporarily. Its a smart move with an eye toward the long view because they also know the Surge is temporary. There is no reason to expect that to continue as troop levels drop -- as they must.
2. Shiite power struggles are also on hold in general -- it is not just Sadr. This is a major source for future trouble, and even internal Shia reconciliation appears unlikely without significant violence.
3. Anbar has become calmer as the Sunnis sort out amongst themselves and rid themselves of the non-tribal and foreign insurgents. We are arming one faction of insurgents, who are temporarily not fighting us for reasons of expediency, in order to take out this other faction of insurgents. There is absolutely no reason to expect the newer Sunni militias to continue to act this way. And this strategy of temporary calm is definitely setting the stage for more fierce bloodletting -- we are undermining the possibility of reconciliation in this manner. And it is probably intentional, for any number of reasons. One theory is that a failed national state in tension between hostile but balanced internal forces is the best we can hope for (and it keeps the Saudis happy since the Sunni are no longer getting slaughtered). Another is that stability in Anbar is worth it politically in the US no matter how idiotic the means of achieving it.
4. When is it going to be possible to have elections again for the national seats and the Kirkuk referendum? Any time in 2008? What will happen to violence levels should elections be attempted again? They are going to skyrocket.
5. Is the Kurdish situation going to become more or less unstable as the Kurds continue to establish a de facto independence? Will violence go up or down as the Kurds assert greater independence?
6. To what extent is lessened violence simply the result that local ethnic cleansing has largely been achieved? Probably a lot, and that speaks volumes about the unlikelihood of reconciliation.

Violence is down because of an unsustainable Surge with more cops on the street. It is down as the factions have cleansed their own turf and are re-organizing for greater confrontation ahead. It is down as the crazier insurgent factions get taken out. Nothing suggests that the dominant factions in the country are inclined to try to get along, as opposed to resorting to violence.

COIN is largely irrelevant to the major problem because this is a civil war.

As you sit on the fence contemplating four years of failure in this Republican war and wonder how much longer we will diddle away waiting for "victory", please answer this question. Why are we sending Americans to die, and what strategic American interest is being served that merits the further deaths of Americans in war? And the answer pretty be pretty damned good, because if it's not, then you owe Reid a giant apology.

al Qaeda is losing its gambit

Please stop conflating al Qaeda with "al Qaeda in Iraq." They are separate groups. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist until Abu Musab al-Zarqawi declaring allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed his group in October 2004.

Most American deaths in Iraq are due to Sunni insurgents, not al Qaeda in Iraq.

Muqtada al Sadr have made threatening noises, but he and his Mahdi militias are still on the sidelines

Because al Sadr declared a six-month truce in August 2007.

I have yet to hear an explanation of what 'winning' is.

President Bush's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq defines victory as including:

An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.

Adams and the Barbary Pirates, Lyautey and Morocco, Churchill and the River War, Ataturk, Tito, the Shah, and Saddam. All would agree that Muslim populations behave better under heavy armed guard.

“Now hath Allah lightened your burden, for He knoweth that there is weakness in you. So if there be of you a steadfast hundred they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a thousand (steadfast) they shall overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. Allah is with the steadfast.”
...

The Sunni are backed by Saudi Arabia and will never accept the loss of their power or control of the oil revenues.

The Shia are backed by Iran, consider themselves to be genetically superior to the Sunni, and will fight to retain the power that President Bush gave them.

The war has been won by our warfighters. Iraqis has been given years to decide if democracy is compatible with Iraqi DNA and/or Islam. Time to fall back to isolated bases and let water find it’s own level. The other option is to police Iraq forever.

If it is in America’s national interest to give Iraqi kids candy, send the State Department.

As I see it, the Nevada Senator is invested in American defeat in Iraq.

Feh. Cheap shot.

On other topics:

Fewer people killed is a good thing. Full stop.

What I take away from all of this, Charles, is that we can look forward to a continued presence in Iraq at about our current level of commitment.

My guess is over 100,000 in uniform plus about an equal number of contractors, for about another five years.

Does that sound about right to you, Charles?

Thanks -

I have no patience the opinions of people who have been wrong time and time and time again. You know, I accept that I can't slam dunk when I play basketball. Why is it that people who are consistently wrong about Iraq don't just come to terms with their inability to analyze, reason, etc. in a manner that gives them any purchase on the future?

What I distrust about the surge is that our gains amons Sunnis have come at the cost of (a) arming Sunni groups (b) stoking up ethnic animosity between Sunni and Shia groups, short-run strategies that trade up long-run security to get us more peacefully to Nov '08.

Here's my bet. The situation will continue as on fairly stable, until we withdraw in large numbers. Then, within five years, it all goes to pieces. A major civil war

You know, I accept that I can't slam dunk when I play basketball. Why is it that people who are consistently wrong about Iraq don't just come to terms with their inability to analyze, reason, etc. in a manner that gives them any purchase on the future?

Because (I imagine), you don't define yourself by your ability to dunk a basketball, but people who have been consistently wrong about Iraq define themselves by their assumed insight into current events, imo. If you felt your ability to dunk was a fundamental quality, your inability to do it might be more disturbing.

May we take it that your metric of success is "only 600 Iraqis confirmed killed in one month"?

No, that is not my metric of success for the surge. I will not consider the surge successful until violence levels have been brought much lower. However, at this point, that appears to be the most likely outcome.

Bush's fault when things are bad, but when things look better there has to be another reason... doesn't that about sum up most of the logic?

House Democratic leaders are preparing an omnibus fiscal 2008 appropriations package that would provide billions in emergency spending for the war in Afghanistan and for some domestic defense needs, but would not offer any new funds for operations in Iraq.

The House tests expected to vote on the package next week, but it is likely to stall in the Senate, where Republicans have consistently backed President Bush’s demand for additional war funds for both Iraq and Afghanistan, with no strings attached."

Can't imagine why Charles might think people like Reid and Pelosi are invested in defeat?

Jesurgislac is obviously anti-American and possibly just a bubble of plumb.

Four more years of a Repbulican president could see her to the nuthouse. That might be best for her and everyone else.

Can't imagine why Charles might think people like Reid and Pelosi are invested in defeat?

you really should spend some time with a dictionary. it appears you don't know what the word "defeat" means.

Can't imagine why Charles might think people like Reid and Pelosi are invested in defeat?

Think you're imaginator needs a tuneup; seems it's a bit off its beam trying to divining why others may think and feel.

Good news, to be sure, but irrelevant to assessing the wisdom of the invasion in the first place, or the conduct of the occupation thereafter.

If I climb into my car hammered after a night in the bars, and actually make it all the way home without wrapping myself around a pole, or taking anyone else out, that's good news.

It doesn't mean a.) that getting behind the wheel in the first place was a wise move, never mind b.) an argument in favor of my doing it again next Friday, or c.) an adequate qualification for giving me a NASCAR ride.

I'm a little angrier than usual today. Found out a few days ago that an acquaintance's aunt died in Iraq (shot by Blackwater while driving a taxi). I sort of feel that people like her are dead because people like the aforementioned were wrong. In the great cosmic trade off between people's prerogative to define themselves in whatever way improves their self-esteem and innocent people's lives, I sort of feel that the American conservative has had a little too easy a time of it.

And now as we are arming both sides of a conflict that shows no signs of structurally resolving, we are supposed to smile and call it a trend or progress or a turned corner.

I know these arguments are ad hominem, but -- look -- we've gone through the pains to dismiss every single stupid argument as they come up. But there is a pattern here of error after error. At some point, the people putting together these dumb arguments simply need to stop making them.

But to do so would be to admit error and that, among all others, is the Original Sin of movement conservatism.

Someone pinch me. For a moment there, I thought we were still stuck in 2006. Or was it 2005, or 2004? I'm not sure; most of Charles' posts start to look the same after a while, especially if you stack them up side by side over the course of the war. The only meaningful variation on average is in how many cheap shots they take at Democrats, how many pretzels he ties his statistics into in order to make them say what he wants, and how much cherry picking he engages in when choosing who and what to respond to.

Wake me when it's 2008.

It's all about the sinof pride. Charles's post is about winning. it sisn't about the cost of "winning". Nor is it about who has paid the cost.

I am very gald thhat fewer people are dying now. However, because his focus is on proving that we are winning, inn order, i believe to save his pride, Charles hhas neglected to mentin one very signnificant factor in whhy the death tole is less: because the killers have succeeded. under Saddam Iraq had a thrivinng Christian community: now they are mostly either dead, or exiled, and only a very few remain in hidinng. Under Sadam there were mixed nneighborhhoods: now, through ethnic cleansing, the couuntry is didved into ethnic enclaves. the Sunnis are either dead, inn exile, or isolated into ghettos.

Of course thhe death tole will go down once the killers have achieved their goals.

If the goal was to create an Iraq with no Jews or Christians and with thhe Sunni populationn resduced to an isolated, marginalized status, then i gues we are winning.

Like Viet nam, conservatives seem to care very little about the purpose or cost of a war: they concern is only withh thhe vanity of being able to declare victory.

Be nice if the amount of money we were spending in Iraq instead of America dropped too.

$190,000,000,000 this coming year?

Yeehaw!

Well, I for one am glad that Iraq is experiencing [the equivalent of] one 9/11 every five months. That seems like a wonderful use for 2 trillion dollars and the lives of a few thousand American servicemen.

Posted by: gregg bril | December 06, 2007 at 08:40 PM

Fixed.

I think that it's incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge that the surge appears to be working.

The merit of a counterinsurgency campaign can only be assessed when counterinsurgent forces leave, not when they are at their maximum in-country.

The basis for evaluating the success of counter-insurgency is the ability of the occupying force to determine the political future of the country, and on this basis things look very bad, since even with the maximum possible number of troops in country, the political dynamics are completely beyond US control.

In fact, I would argue, and have long argued, that the political impact of US military activity is very limited. Conflict in Iraq entered a stage before the surge began: the battle for Baghdad was essentially won by the Shia, with most Sunnis gone inter-communal violence in the capital naturally petered out. At the same time, the self-avowed Al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed their hand, as everyone knew they would. Iraq is a far more cosmopolitan country than Afghanistan, no one who knew anything about Iraq thought that these guys could maintain a substantial popular base there.

Lastly, arming and paying the armed groups in the Sunni groups is simply the next logical step in the gradual process of the US rehabilitating those elements of Iraqi society that maintained the Baath regime (read between the lines and its obvious that large numbers of Saddam's secret police and intelligence services now work with the Americans to provide information on Iraqi and Iranian developments - a la postwar Berlin). With everything that's going on in the country, I'm very worried that a real storm is coming, full-on inter-regional warfare aided and abetted by external powers.

1. The objective of the surge was to provide a window for political progress. Political progress has not occurred, as CB admits: "It'll take time to hammer out de-Baathification, oil revenue sharing and power sharing, and it's clear that the earlier political benchmarks were too ambitious timingwise."
Hammering out these issues was the whole point of the surge.

2. This sentence - "Al Qaeda appears to be moving its main effort to Afghanistan, after operations in Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Europe (not to mention North America) have all largely failed" - betrays a grotesque misunderstanding of the war. There is no meaningful sense in which AQ has been directing its "main effort" first at one target and then elsewhere. The attacks in Europe were not carried out by the sort of fighter who turns up in Iraq, nor the sort of fighter who turns up in Afghanistan.

The sentence is as meaningless as saying "The international conservative movement, having failed to win the Australian election, is now shifting its main effort to the US presidential campaign". There is an "international conservative movement" (and an "international liberal movement" for that matter) in the sense that there are people in lots of different countries who sympathise with each other and have some similar policy goals (and some which are very different). But there is no centrally directed ICM which can shift forces from one theatre to another.

Note: Iraqi deaths based on news reports .
This is not a definitive count.
Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site.
--says the source of these favorable statistics on which this post is based . . .

I like ajay's point number two. Although sniflheim said it shorter, ajay is opening more of a dialogue.

What the heck is the line, i.e. the actual graph, running through the bar graphs?

It's a three-month moving average. It smooths out the spikes by averaging the last three months. If casualties go 500, 800, 200, 900, 800 the bars will go up and down, but the three month-moving average will go 500, 630, 630 and show that casualties are on a slightly upward trend.

ajay's ploints above bear repeating whenever there is a discussion of AQ.

First of all, the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with AQ. AQ didn't exist in Iraq prior to the invasion and AQI is, at most, a small franchise of the parent company which was happy to have the US think AQI was really important.

Prior to the invasion AQ was on the run with extremly limited ability to create attacks in various parts of the world. Support for AQ had decreased sharply until the invasion took place.

Also, I don't know exactly what CB means by "failed". There were succesful attacks with loss of life. And it is important to remember that any real damage to AQ and other, primarily homegrown, groups was done through law enforcement, not military operations.

They have refocused on Afghanistan primarily because we screwed up there and allowed them the opportunity to come back in, along with the Taliban.

AQ, or any terrorist groups have, at best, a 5% chance of having any viability in Iraq if we left and zero chance of being a major player in Iraq or Iran.

Above I mentioned that CB's post was fairly balanced. By that, I meant for a CB post. His dig at the Dems and particularly the senator from Nevada were not only unnecessary but bordering on libelous.

"When 40 senior al Qaeda members are killed or captured in one month, it's time to leave."

Great! Let's load up the Humvees and make like a cow patty and hit the trail!

it's almost amazing to me that even though ajay's and john miller's points are rock-solid and, after this many years into the mess, should be common wisdom regardless of political ideology... they still need to be repeated - every time the subject comes up.

Noumenon: It's a three-month moving average.

I'd thought the same at first but no, it's not; that's the second of the two bar graphs. This is something else. Looks like a crudely drawn (well, splined) line of "best fit" to me, but without any further information on its provenance, the line is nothing but base deception.

cleek: There's a reason I don't bother trying to raise more substantive points in this sort of thread any more. Although it'd be awesome if Obwi would have a macro button that would generate a standard response whenever something like this came up again...

Harry Reid was so influenced by these events that he declared the war "lost", surrendering to al Qaeda

You mean like when Nixon surrendered to North Vietnam, which is why we all speak Vietnamese now?

Charles:

Thanks for your effort in this post.

I won't repeat objections in previous comments, much of which I agree with, but I'll add the following:

"Nationally, the impasse in the Iraqi government is not much more gridlocked than our national goverment."

Cripes. I'm going to ask that you consider removing that sentence from the post, along with the usual "invested in defeat" boilerplate.

(Baby, all of us are invested in whatever happens in Iraq for the next 50 years. It's unfortunate that our one-time business partner, Saddam Hussein, couldn't be around to help us pay off the balloon payments on that subprime loan the Administration saddled us with before the house is foreclosed.)

Back to the offending sentence. Are you telling us that if the current gridlock between the Democrats in Congress and the Republican minority and the President over the Alternative Minimum Tax is not resolved soon that a bloody civil war will ensue?

Will Kurdish South Dakotans declare secession and together with their Kurdish brothers in North Dakota cause Canada to invade our northern border? Will tax-hating southern Republican religious conservatives begin planting roadside bombs and going door-to-door with machetes and hack liberal, government-supporting atheists into little pieces, starting with Warren Buffet?

Is partition coming soon in Texas? Will NATO garrison troops across the country in case things get out of control?

See, it's sentences like the one I quoted that don't let me put aside the notion that you are invested in something other than reality.

P.S. Just saw Larry Kudlow on CNBC rudely shouting down two or three people with horsecrap rhetoric regarding taxes. Maybe you're right ---- our gridlock is just as dangerous and possibly as lethal as Iraq's.

Will tax-hating southern Republican religious conservatives begin planting roadside bombs and going door-to-door with machetes and hack liberal, government-supporting atheists into little pieces, starting with Warren Buffet?

Hey man, don't put ideas in their heads.

Will tax-hating southern Republican religious conservatives begin planting roadside bombs ....

I'm not sure whether we've been spared so far by virtue, or by indolence...

There are several possible reasons besides the surge for the decrease in violence (which started before the surge), such as Sunni revulsion against AQ in Iraq (which started before the surge), absence of targets as people have fled from mixed areas, and just exhaustion from the cycle of retribution.

Charles ignores all explanations but the surge - this is called bias.

The surge is probably irrelevant - violence could not keep increasing forever, and when it slowed or reversed, this would have been hailed by the likes of Charles as a victory for the Administration.

I'm just trying to figure out if there was any point in reading this post to begin with.

No.

skeptonomist assumes most conceivable explanations while explicitly excluding the "surge" as irrelevant - now that really is bias.

Not to mention more than a little idiotic, I mean that is saying the most powerful military in the world steps things up a peacekeeping notch and it has no relevant effects in violence.

To me the more relevant question is weather it is achieving it's goals. So far I'd say it's doing a fairly good job. The surge isn't a miracle machine of course violence isn't zero, but things have come down dramatically. Political progress is very slow but there are signs of progress, besides I thought the surge sell was 'we bring down the violence creating an environment for political progress.' Well it's coming down the true test will be how long that lasts and what progress is made.

Overall, I thought it was a fairly well written piece with most of his assertions backed up by reported facts on the ground.

As for "the Nevada Senator is invested in American defeat in Iraq." "I'm convinced that he believes we've already lost and I'm convinced that he believes that what's best for America is more Democrats in Congress." comments I happen to think this is more or less correct. But, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think Harry Reid looked at the writing on the wall some time ago and determined that we had lost the war, and feels like many Americans do that continuing it to be a terrible waste of lives and money. As a politician it is his duty then to convince others to help him end the war. Of course he would emphasize violent events and Bush's incompetence, how else is he supposed to convince others to believe and thus vote his way. And of course the head democrat in the senate thinks that more democrats in congress would be good for America, what democrat doesn't?

On the other hand the claim that 'declaring the war lost and 'surrendering to al Qaeda' being the same thing is more than a little biased.

We've been at war almost 5 years and we've at last made significant progress--we've generated some numbers that can be projected on a graph showing a downward trend.

A lull in the fighting means nothing without political progress, which has not been made, and all too likely, cannot be made.

Good post Charles - really, overall. It gives me hope…

My criticism would also be with the hit on Reid. It’s not that I don’t agree with you on that point, it was just unnecessary (people think that or not) and it gave many folks here a reason to write off your otherwise good post. I think that editing out that one line would have had more people taking this more seriously.

In any case, I greatly admire your stamina posting this in this venue.

What absurd nonsense.

Yes, violence has gone down. Yes, the surge was partly, but, by no means entirely, responsible for the drop in violence.

The other reasons include Al Sadr's restraint of his troops, the effects of ethnic cleansing and consolidation of territory in preparation for the civil war to follow our departure.

Of course if we don't depart, the violence will resume.

Political progress won't be made until we leave because a truly democratic government will be pro-Iran and anti-America.

Iraq is still living in fear, Americans are dying and our troops are not making the situation better.

Meanwhile Commander Codpiece is building permanent military installations and refusing to discuss a timetable for withdrawl.

This post is delusional.

the numbers today put us where we were in 05.

for reference, the Iraq Study Group was launched in Mar 06, because the numbers in 05 were terrible enough that people were demanding a new way forward.

in other words: we're back to the kinds of numbers that outraged people two years ago.

How anyone can buy into pretty charts that are suddenly trending downward is beyond me. Does it occur to anyone that the decreased numbers might have to do with the fact that 4 (out of 21) million Iraqis have fled the country? How about the fact that 1 million are already dead? Or that we no longer count those shot in the back of the head? Or how about given the fact that we are now relying on Iraqi forces to give us body counts - in Oct., the entire command and control system used by Iraqi security forces to communicate with headquarters was shut down for two weeks. And for those 2 weeks, U.S. commanders and the Iraqi government received no reports from Iraqi forces in the field. How about the fact that Sadr called off his men for 6 months? Might any of those things have anything to do with the miraculous success? How anyone could believe anything that comes out of the administration simply makes my head sin.

OCSteve; I think that editing out that one line would have had more people taking this more seriously.

I didn't even get down that far. It was the pretty graphs designed with advice from How To Lie With Statistics that made this post impossible to take seriously. That Charles sees "victory in Iraq" as a matter for party politics makes it impossible to take Charles seriously.

Yes, violence has gone down. Yes, the surge was partly, but, by no means entirely, responsible for the drop in violence.

I'll add to Garth's comments.

It's great that violence has gone down, but invading Iraq does not, did not, and will not have anything to do with defending this country, or with countering Islamic or any other kind of terrorism. I'm still waiting for the rationale for our presence there that can pass both the smell test, and the requirements for legitimate warmaking under international law.

The people who now drive the foreign policy of this country had a burning desire to invade Iraq for many, many years, for reasons having nothing to do with Islamic terrorism, Al Qaeda, or any kind of direct threat to the US. 9/11, an event unrelated in any way whatsoever to Iraq or Saddam Hussein, was their ticket to ride, and so here we are.

It's wonderful that things are incrementally better, rather than incrementally worse, but the whole project is illegitimate.

So, let's make the best of it, and see what we can salvage out of the situation. I am, sincerely, grateful that Petraeus has a clue, and that Rumsfeld is out of the picture. Maybe it will even turn out not too badly, in the end. That would be great.

But none of that redeems the falsity and illegitimacy of the initial enterprise.

Thanks -

Look, I'll be frank and admit that, based on his intermittent posts on Iraq, I don't like whoever 'charles' is very much, since I have yet to see him refrain from using the 'positive news item from the war on terror of the week' to grind petty domestic political axes. I hope I do not contravene the posting rules of this blog by saying that, in my estimation, I have yet to see him rise above the level of boilerplate Republican Party agitprop targeted at the reasonably informed demographic. This post fits that pattern.

Nevertheless, I welcome any excuse to discuss this topic because it is of infinite fascination to me. I do think that Charles' posts have an unintended merit in that they poke the insecurities of the Democratically-inclined who so obviously predominate on this blog, and this particular case, there is clearly a Democratic fear that the Surge (TM) [isn't that just PR speak for reinforcements? - shut up voice of sanity in my head!] might prove successful enough to stymie the much yearned for Obama/Clinton victory next year.

As someone sympathetic to the Dems, but not eligible to vote in the great superpower of the US of Awesome, I think your fears are misplaced. Each time administration sympathisers cling to the latest fleetingly positive news with obnoxious zeal, they merely plunge to new depths with reality's inevitable refutation of their spin. I happen to c

Shag, my magnum opus has disappeared forever. The brief synopsis: Charles talks through his pants, but it is interesting in the sense that he riles very worried democrats. nevertheless, i don't think dems need to worry, as the fundamentals are so bad, and the reps are overselling fleeting, overexaggerated positive news from Iraq so much (as always), that I am sure reality will give a shout out to the unwashed voting american masses long before next November in order to remind them that Iraq is Bad, and George Bush is Satan, only dumber. In short - Obama will have be caught eating (white) babies to lose this one.

Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that Obama actually sucks, but I still think he'll win.

Before I answer specific comments, I'm going to explain why I was harsh on Reid. Way back in January, I wrote in favor of the current counterinsurgency strategy because I believe it's our last best chance to turn Iraq around. I truly believed that it should be given a fair shot, and I'm still of that view.

Reid is diametrically opposed to that position and he's been unwilling from the get-to to give it any kind of chance. He and Pelosi are the two Democrats who have the power (potentially) to cut the plan short. Over the ensuing months, they have repeatedly tried to undermine the plan by defunding it and by inserting phased troop withdrawals into bills, and in highly partisan fashion I might add (GOPers aren't innocent in this either). Fortunately for the pro-COIN crowd, they've come up short.

What bothers me is that they're continuing with these proposals and they're continuing to talk down the war effort, despite the dramatic improvements over the last three months. I chose the word "surrender" deliberately, using the dictionary definition. Because Bush hasn't changed course, Reid is on record as saying the war is lost. Therefore, if he is a man of his word, then it is reasonable to conclude that he will act upon his beliefs, and that his proposals are a form of surrender, to be done in a fashion that is least harmful to Americans and Iraqis both.

If I were convinced that we have irretrievably lost in Iraq, then I too would be in favor of some form of phased withdrawal plan that minimizes disruptions for Iraqis and minimizes any further troop casualties. At this point, I'm not convinced. In fact, I'm moving closer to recommending that the current plan stay in effect, giving more time for the security situation to take hold, more time for the national politicians to make progress, and more time for more Iraqi forces to get properly trained.

I'm probably a little more irked at Reid than usual because of his more recent antics.

I have yet to hear an explanation of what "winning" is.

Ethan, I've defined winning as Iraq being a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. I should probably add sustainable to that description. I'm not optimistic that it'll happen.

...but forgive me for growing very cranky the moment someone mentions how this is "bad for the Democrats."

Eye, I didn't say that the recent improvements are bad for Democrats, and I won't. The point I was making was that Reid-Schumer were saying that the war was going to win them seats, based on polling that they hired out. I agree with O'Hanlon that Democrats do get the credit for pushing Bush hard enough to make changes.

CB, who would we be surrendering to? Serious question. As you pointed out, AQI is no threat. So who?

Secondly, how does our staying there benefit either us or the Iraqi's, since a good portion of the downward trend in violence has nothing to do with the surge and the upswing in violence was totally caused by us to begin with.

Thirdly,since the military does not have the manpower to continue the current plan, which is the whole reason for the reduction by 30,000 (which mirrors the increase for the surge) so how is that a feasible plan?

Finally, you credit Reid with being a man of his word and then condemn him for being true to his word. Would you prefer that he be a hypocritical person like Bush, Cheney or all but one of the current candidates for the Republican nomination?

As someone sympathetic to the Dems, but not eligible to vote in the great superpower of the US of Awesome, I think your fears are misplaced. Each time administration sympathisers cling to the latest fleetingly positive news with obnoxious zeal, they merely plunge to new depths with reality's inevitable refutation of their spin. I happen to c
And then the Democrats killed him.

I've defined winning as Iraq being a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. I should probably add sustainable to that description. I'm not optimistic that it'll happen.

Wise of you not to be optimistic.

OK, so you've defined winning that way. Perhaps that's how we, the US, officially define it these days (it's certainly not how we defined it when we started). Has anyone seen any evidence supporting the propositions a) that that is our actual goal, b) that we have good reason to want that so badly as to kill almost 4000 of our own population and well over a million of Iraq's*, or c) that casualty rates slipping back to, as cleek put it, "the kinds of numbers that outraged people two years ago" is a sign that we're approaching this goal?

*Let's put that number into perspective, shall we? Of all the Iraqis that were alive in early 2003, about one out of every twenty-five is now dead specifically because we invaded. A good way to put the American deaths into perspective is that they're coming close to being twice the American death toll on 9/11.

I've defined winning as Iraq being a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

"Winning" therefore involves killing all the Iraqis who, in a representative republic, would vote for it to be a theocracy.

Charles, OCSteve is right. It's that single word, "surrender". It's so negative, you'd never consider applying it to yourself, even though you admit that you are "not optimistic" about success in Iraq and that if things don't work out, you'll consider arguing for "some form of phased withdrawal."

I do appreciate you not calling us "defeatocrats". I hope you'll consider not using that term anymore when you post on Redstate.

And I do enjoy reading you, so please keep writing.

Charles: The current plan IS phased troop withdrawals, of the extra troops who trickled in as the "surge". The "surge" has served its purpose, arguably militarily, but most important politically, in buying Bush another Friendman to kick the football of Iraq down the field until the ethnic cleansing finished on its own or the Democrats get elected and can be blamed for "stabbing the troops in the back" and "surrendering to terrorists".

It's folly to attempt to separate out Democrat-bashing from other rationales and justifications for the war.

The 'goal' for the whole bloody war was for the White House to have a stick to beat Democrats with, to reduce domestic opposition to the Glorious Revolution to a cipher. "Victory" is achieved when the Democratic party is reduced to the size of the post-Mulroney Canadian PCP.

This whole misbegotten escapade in Mesopotamia has been nothing more or less than a second American civil war-by-proxy, attempting to settle deep and abiding differences about what this country, not Iraq, is, means, and does, by having a war over it.

If it wasn't in Iraq, it would have been someplace else.

I've defined winning as Iraq being a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

How about its territorial integrity? After all, if building up the Sunni tribes doesn't contradict the supposed goal of national unity, we could have done that back in 2003. The fact is that Petreus' policy in the Sunni areas really ratchets up tension between the central government and the western parts of the country. Annapolis was the predicted flop, except for the bizarre presence of so many Arab representatives. The best explanation for that I can come up with that they hate and fear Iran more than Israel now.

I think we could well end up in a situation soon of Iraq being the battlefront between Iran and the Arab states (and the USA), would could well take the shape of a nasty civil war fuelled by outsiders, a Congo-type situation.

A positive side effect could be the resolution of the Israel-Palestine question, as the Arab states will have bigger fish to fry, and everyone would be on the same page in hating Iran so long as Tel Aviv can be persuaded to give the Palestinians a good enough deal - and this may happen (not with Olmert) as Sunni and Kurdish Iraq will steadily supplant Israel as the US' strategic priority in the region.

I've long thought that Israeli strategists were not at all happy with the invasion, as they ought to have figured that it would be a mess, that Iran would benefit, and that Iraq in the long term would have much more to offer Washington as an ally than they could.

Charles,

Perform a least squares regression going back to March, '03, on this data. Tell me which way the line slopes.

Thanks.

Don't be silly, Bobby. History began at the latest possible point to show you that things are the best they've ever been by people who have never been right about anything.

If winning means a free, peaceful, representative nontheocratic Iraq, then it is not going to happen or at least not for so long thhat even Republicans will not be able to claim credit.

The peaceful part is likely to happen first, by attrition: enough killing and the fighhers and their targets will be dead and not fighhting anymore.

The representative part is pretty problematic,b tu mighht happen: the process of killing off thhe grouups that would otherwise demand represtation is well under way.

Free? Well in thhe past Republicans have definned as free any government thhey liked so I suppose that when it becomes expedient for domestic purposes to announce thhat Iraq is free thhe Republicann politicians will do so.

Representative? Well, now thhat thhe Christians and Jews are out of the picture and thhe ranks of the Sunnis have been thinned, the problem of power sharing is a little easier. Stil thhere's thhe Kurds to deal with. The current government has decided to go on vacation again...

Nontheocratic? On paper Iraq isn't theocratic. In terms of actual politics, maybe in three or four generations.

But this is just Charle's defintion of winning. It is not the Pepublican party's definition or the Bush ad."s definiton. Their definition of winning is that Iraq is off the news, the permenent bases are establishhed, and we get a big cut of thhe oil. Establishing a free, represetntative Iraq is no more important to the Republican party than the establishhment of free representative governments in Viet Nam or Chile or Guatemala or Nicaragua.

Their definition of winning is that Iraq is off the news, the permenent bases are establishhed, and we get a big cut of thhe oil.

I'm sorry to say that I agree with this.

If you look at what this administration has actually *done* in Iraq, as opposed to what they've *said*, I think this conclusion is more or less inescapable.

The structuring of oil development terms under the CPA to the advantage of US businesses. Favoring of politically connected US contractors over native Iraqi or other regional contractors in the rebuilding efforts. The actual, and ongoing, construction of an enormous and permanent embassy and military bases of operation in the country by the US. Etcetera.

Ignore, for a few moments, what they've said, and look at what they've actually done. That will tell the tale of what our agenda there is actually about.

I appreciate, sincerely, Charles' work in putting this stuff together, and am, sincerely, glad that the trend in the brutal killing of both US servicepeople and Iraqi nationals is downward. I doubt that Charles is, personally, motivated by anything other than a desire for this nation to do well.

But I have to say, to Charles and folks like him, you've chosen a poor crew to ally yourself with. I make them out to be a bunch of lying, murderous, avaricious SOBs.

Thanks -

I used to criticize Charles for things like "defeatocrats", but have stopped doing so. I think it's well worth remembering that someone given substantial respect as a thoughtful observer and analyst among Republican bloggers can still, at this late date, face a president who doesn't care about bin Laden and a party which votes against readiness standards for troops going into combat and keep saying that it's the Democrats who aren't serious about this. I think it's ludicrous and contemptible, but I'd no more want it hidden or dressed up in misleadingly polite language than I would the rants we've seen again recently from Charles' blogging neighbors and peers about the genetic inferiority of black people. It's important to see that the people who cheered the thing on in the first place are still far from accepting any responsibility for the consequences of their cheering, and still all too glad to foist that responsibility onto any available target, including those who spent years trying to bring any sense or accountability to the enterprise before gradually rolling over for more and more senseless demands.

Well, at least we can thank the troops for their commitment. Regardless of the political aspects, they have done a pretty good job, so thanks.

DaveC,


No. No. No. I will not thank the troops. I will not put a frakking yellow ribbon on my car. I will not watch a stupid youtube video. You can do those things if you want. I won't do them because they don't change anything.


I will write letters to my congressmen asking for more VA funding and more educational and vocational assistance for returning soldiers. I will support candidates for office that I think will advocate for soldiers and bring them home, and I will pester them until they do that. I will donate to charities that help soldiers and their families.


By the way DaveC, do you actually think anyone should thank the troops or are you just trying to derail the thread because someone at church hurt your feelings and you didn't have the gonads to confront them?

Perform a least squares regression going back to March, '03, on this data. Tell me which way the line slopes.

Why would you fit a line to what is obviously not a simple linear trend?

brendanm98,

What were civillian casualties in the fall of 2002? What are they now? Are they higher? Are they lower?

Social scientists try to use various explanatory variables to uncover a likely explanation revealed by the data. They also like to use more data, rather than less, to lend robustness to the conclusions.

Political hacks, on the other hand, skew the vertical axis to show wavey trends to demonstrate a preconcieved conclusion. Why, I'd bet you a million that if the casualties were trending up, CB would show that the surge has done something right, and ask for more troops and another Friedman Unit.

Batiste does a 180 on Iraq. (h/t CQ)

OK, not quite a 180. But I mostly agree with this:

It's time to discuss the way forward rather than prosecute the past. Congress must do the same, for our nation and the troops.

Third, the counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq. It is showing promise of success and, if continued, will provide the Iraqi government the opportunities it desperately needs to stabilize its country.

I’m going to say that Batiste, a well known administration critic, backs up Charles here. I want to be hopeful that there is some possible outcome here that doesn’t involve some exponential expansion of violence. I have opposed the surge; I still don’t know what to think about what is happening. Some days it seems good, some days hopeless. I’ll admit that being a war supporter initially I’m probably grasping at any straw that will make things come out less bad. Less bad is all I can hope for at this point.

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