Iraq Numbers

Frank Beamer has a saying, "Things are never as good as they seem, nor as bad as they seem." With that in mind, some numbers that surprised me:

81, 76, 50, 49, 43, 25

What are these numbers? This week’s Powerball winners? A safe deposit combo? New numbers to torment those poor b*stards stranded on the island in Lost?

No, they’re the number of troops that have died in hostile actions in Iraq for each of the past six months. That last number represents the lowest level of troop deaths in a year, and second-lowest in two years.

But it must be that the insurgency is turning their assault on Iraqi military and police, who are increasingly taking up the slack, right?

215, 176, 193, 189, 158, 193 (and the three months before that were 304, 282, 233)

Okay, okay, so insurgents aren’t engaging us; they’re turning increasingly to car bombs then, right?

70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30

Civilians then. They’re just garroting poor civilians.

527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).

The numbers are from a very informative "Iraq Index" report from the Brookings Institution.

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Yeah, Brookings has been

Yeah, Brookings has been doing good work. I don't even pay attention to the news on Iraq anymore, I just keep an eye on their Iraq data.

the data is very

the data is very interesting. the data mentioned in the original post is really just the tail end of a much larger data set and is not indicative of the overall trend.

the question I have is, is what is considered a secure and safe Iraq? Less than 25 attacks/day? 80% of the citizens surveyed feeling safe? basically, what is the criteria for success before we can pull our soldiers back?

The BBC has breathlessly

The BBC has breathlessly been pushing the 'looming civil war' line for the last two months, though they're letting it drop now it just isn't happening. It's like the 'dreaded afgan winter' and the 'elite republican guard' all over again. The lefty loons aren't anti war, they're on the other side. They're never going to accept that we've won in Iraq, they'll always define victory as something different. They never say the west won the cold war for instance, only that it somehow 'ended' before some piffle about how terrible it is that russians now have cars.

Excellent blog, required reading.

It's funny how much closer

It's funny how much closer we can get to reality sometimes if we consider the numbers. Of course it's also possible to lie with statistics.

I agree the whole "civil

I agree the whole "civil war" crap was nonsense. sure people hate each other but there could never be a civil war with American troops still in the country. a common enemy unites blah blah blah

my question is more about the exit strategy? is there a metric we need to achieve before we leave Iraq?

I'm curious to know what

I'm curious to know what those statistics would be for similar periods prior to our arrival. Also if you RTFA you'll note in the graph on page 3 that there have been a few previous down trends. In fact, this time last year had fewer fatalities. Yes, lying with numbers is fun.

Yes, lying with numbers is

Yes, lying with numbers is fun.

What's the lie?

The implication that Things

The implication that Things Are Getting Better. Sure, coming down from one of the most violent periods of the last three years is "better," but the selected set of numbers tries to paint a rosier scene.

I should clarify that my

I should clarify that my concern is not over the progess of the war. I get pissy anytime someone uses statistics selectively (which is probably always).

well its confusing at best.

well its confusing at best. the charts on page 22

shows the # of attacks have steadily gone up but the footnote says the number of "successful" attacks has gone down significantly.

regardless of the actual numbers there is also a culture of fear we have to deal with in Iraq. even if the numbers are going down, if the citizens don't feel safe then we still have a problem. I find it similar to when people who swim in the ocean are more afraid of a shark attack than drowning even though statistically it is more likely.

space dog, Your standards

space dog,

Your standards must be quite low to call the situation in Iraq a "win" for the US. Perhaps you can say that we're winning, or that there's been an improvement from some low point, but not a win.

Cornelius, As the commenter


As the commenter on Instapundit said, pointing out the down trend is *not* an argument that Things Are Getting Better. It is an interesting point that If This Surprises You, You Should Wonder Why- if our news media were reporting a holistic picture of Iraq we should not be surprised to hear statistics like these, because the underlying truth would already be reflected in the narrative.

Instead, its bombings, bombings, bombings. Even Zeyad is complaining, though in the opposite direction; all the US hears is bombing bombing bombing when there is a lot more sinister shi'ite going on (sorry for the pun). But all we hear is Zarqawi Insurgency or Looming Civil War, neither of which really capture whats really going on.

Brian is right. To someone

Brian is right. To someone with a principled argument against the Iraq War, casualties ramping up or down don't really matter -- they were against it from the beginning. And even if there were zero casualties, one could still have objections. Unfortunately, most people are dirty fence-sitters, and so this information is vital to them determining if they want to be pro or anti-Iraq war.

Secondarily, it's fascinating from a merely informative perspective. I personally don't think the invasion of Iraq was good for America -- but I don't know what the long term impact on the people of Iraq, or the Middle East in general, will be. Being good for them (or just some of them) is not mutually exclusive to it being bad for us (or just some of us).

So information like this is interesting to me because I don't buy the relatively one-sided view supported by lmany. I think invasion was a bad idea, but I'm willing to accept that it's not the worst, most apocalyptic decision of all time, and that every person involved is not the spawn of a unholy coupling of Satan and Dick Cheney.

To paraphrase Silvio Dante,

To paraphrase Silvio Dante, The spawn of Satan and Dick Cheney has yet to reveal him/her/itself.

"the # of attacks have

"the # of attacks have steadily gone up but the footnote says the number of “successful” attacks has gone down significantly."

This picture is basically what you'd expect if the most talented insurgents were being attrited off and replaced by poorly trained second-stringers.

Hmm, 10th April. How many

Hmm, 10th April. How many Iraqis killed so far this month?

It was 71 in one hit last night... :bomb::bomb::bomb:

Looks like some of the

Looks like some of the figures in that report show a recent downward trend while others show a recent upward trend or are flat--multiple fatality bombings are up (and as probligo notes, April will continue that on the basis of just one day's activity), estimated number of insurgents are up, crime rate is flat (and near its peak).

Caliban, As a dirty fence

Caliban, As a dirty fence sitter, I take offense. If we were getting 100,000 casualties per month I surely would want to turn tail and run. I prefer to think of it as being flexible to reality. There is nothing about this war that based on principles alone I could say "Yes, I'm pro war" or "No, I'm not".

The US going in doesn't violate any of my deeply held principles. There's no draft. I don't for instance worship "sovreignty". I'm a limited government libertarian so taxes for the military doesn't bother me. As far as I can see we did not initiate the agression.

Nor would us not going in have violated any of my principles. I don't feel there are any principles that said we had to help the Kuwaitis or opressed Iraqis. So it all comes down to dirty fence sitting for me.

I can't say I like the idea of the US taxpayer paying for reconstruction, the instituted constitution, etc. But I have the same issues with Afghanastan, and Palestein.

Spoonie, Not sure why you


Not sure why you are so sure civil war couldn't break out with our troops there. I think it is a possibility and if it were to happen I would want the troops out immediately. There are reasons why "benevolent" outside powers are at a disadvantage in a civil war.

In fact I think that terrorists could have been dealt with in much cheaper ways than what Congress and the President have choosen. Then again I don't have much confidence in my abilities in international conflict. So I have to give them a pass. This is certainly better than the shoot tents with multi-millon dollar missiles strategy of the prior administration. That is if you wanted results.