War by the Numbers

Walter Russell Mead makes the humanitarian case for war in today’s Washington Post. He runs the numbers and claims that

Sanctions are inevitably the cornerstone of containment, and in Iraq, sanctions kill.

In this case, containment is not an alternative to war. Containment is war: a slow, grinding war in which the only certainty is that hundreds of thousands of civilians will die.

The Gulf War killed somewhere between 21,000 and 35,000 Iraqis, of whom between 1,000 and 5,000 were civilians.

Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment kills roughly 5,000 Iraqi babies (children under 5 years of age) every month, or 60,000 per year. Other estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills about as many people every year as the Gulf War — and almost all the victims of containment are civilian, and two-thirds are children under 5.

Each year of containment is a new Gulf War.

Saddam Hussein is 65; containing him for another 10 years condemns at least another 360,000 Iraqis to death. Of these, 240,000 will be children under 5.

Those are the low-end estimates. Believe UNICEF and 10 more years kills 600,000 Iraqi babies and altogether almost 1 million Iraqis.

It’s a powerful case that the bad alternative of war is more humane than the French alternative of continued sanctions and inspections. What I can’t say is whether the numbers are solid, but you can bet Matt Welch can. Hopefully, he’ll have something to add to (or subtract from) this.

UPDATE: Matt Welch responds.