Sunday, November 18, 2007

Iraq Casualties: A Glimmer of Hope

From the Iraq war finally comes some data that permits optimism. US military casualties were markedly down in October when compared to same-month averages from prior years. Here are the figures from the beginning of the surge in February, compared to the averages for the same months in previous years:

US Military Casualties in Iraq:

February: 78
March: 78
April: 103
May: 126
June: 101
July: 74
August: 78
September: 60
October: 37

February: 44.0
March: 37.0
April: 87.3
May: 76.7
June: 61.0
July: 50.0
August: 62.5
September: 58.5
October: 78.3

February: 34.0
March: 41.0
April: 15.7
May: 49.3
June: 40.0
July: 24.0
August: 15.5
September: 1.5
October: -41.3

It is necessary to look at the data by month, because there are severe seasonal influences, such as religious holidays, that cause the figurs for some months to be higher than others. If we only looked at a total average, we could mistake the passing of a historically low month(say an average of 40), even if it were getting worse (52), as an improvement because the total average (100) would still drop compared to the prevous total when the new figure was added, because it is smaller than the average. So at a bare minimum it has to be looked at monthly.

Notice above how the difference begins to crash starting in May, and then continues to accelerate downward without exception. While this is definitely good news, it needs to be kept in perspective. Proving we can control Baghdad via sheer military might is one thing. Creating a stable society with a democratic government that we can leave to fend for itself is quite another. Children behave much better when the adults are in the room too. We also need to have the Iraqi deaths decline as markedly. We can hardly celebrate if they have turned on each other in lieu of killing Americans.

It is only one step in a very long process, but it is a step forward. We need a lot more of those.

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