August 27, 2003

AUSTIN BAY WRITES THAT WE’RE WINNING:

Iraq’s success has frightened autocrats throughout the Middle East. Autocrats in Taliban caves, in Iran, in Syria, fear Iraqi democracy. Coalition success in Iraq is forcing the House of Saud to choose between democratic evolution and fatal revolution.

Defeatist hotheads who natter about “root causes of terror” must understand the taproot of terror is tyranny. Theft and brutality by local dictators are the leading causes of Third World poverty. UC-Berkeley faculty resolutions don’t stop gangsters. Cutting the taproot usually requires the explicit presence and sometimes the precious lives of Western soldiers.

August has been a hot and horrid month in Baghdad. Fascist and Islamo-fascist thugs are testing the collective will of America, the Iraqi people, Britain, and their coalition allies.

There will be more wretched months. It’s war.

It’s also a war we are winning.

Meanwhile, John Hughes writes in The Christian Science Monitor that Iraq isn’t Vietnam, even though domestic critics — and Al Qaeda thugs — would like it to be.

But we knew that.

UPDATE: Read Phil Carter on body count journalism:

I do not think that death makes a good metric of success in war — or nation building — for at least three reasons. First, focusing on death as your metric of success gears every effort towards producing death, or avoiding it. That strategy is not necessarily consistent with our goals in Iraq, especially today. On the inflicting side, we do not want to inflict maximum casualties on a population that we are trying to win over. On the avoiding side, too much emphasis on casualty avoidance and force protection can frustrate a commander who is trying to accomplish his/her mission.

Too many journalists, pundits, and politicians are still stuck in the Vietnam era.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Paul Shelton emails:

I’ve been getting tired of the lame body counts, like: now MORE have died since Bush declared….as did during actual fighting.

Well, is it just me, or before the war didn’t at least a couple of those ex-generals on CNN with some kind of ax to grind with Rumsfeld make body count predictions of between 3,000 and 5,000? And that was with no mention of “occupation” or guerilla war.

Chicken-little generals lied, many fewer died.

Yes, the number is more a reflection of the astonishingly low death toll during “major combat” than of any especially high death toll during occupation.

MORE: Reader David Hurwitz emails:

Obviously, we all hate to see any Americans killed in war. But the media has focused intensely on the ‘post-war’ bodycount exceeding the bodycount during the war. But the media are missing two important points: 1) how is the bodycount compared to what was predicted before the hostilities began? Certainly as compared to the predictions of thousands to tens of thousands of American deaths, the military operations have been executed superbly. Amid all the criticism the administration and Rumsfeld are receiving, the original benchmark seems to have been lost. 2) Since the operations were executed so well, the number of American deaths during the war were extremely low. This very success has set a benchmark for post-war hostilities that is impossible to beat. Imagine a prediction that among 150,000+ peacekeepers safeguarding a previously hostile region, surrounded by currently hostile regimes, that deaths would total less than 200.

Yes. A prediction of actual casualties to date, made in February, would no doubt have been denounced as absurdly optimistic. But the goalposts keep being moved.

STILL MORE: Kamil Zogby offers some perspective on the numbers:

While I too am concerned about the welfare of every US soldier, I think the way US casualties in Iraq are being reported has to be put in the proper perspective. 140 deaths since the end of major combat operations is roughly 10% of those “1,350 violent, non-combat related deaths (that) occurred each year in the armed services.”

Indeed.