Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Price of Hype

There is another plastic turkey issue that anti-war types will hype. It seems like our air strikes in Iraq are increasing. Naturally this is viewed as a problem:

The airpower escalation parallels a nearly four-month-old security crackdown that is bringing 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Baghdad and its surroundings — an urban campaign aimed at restoring order to an area riven with sectarian violence.

It also reflects increased availability of planes from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. And it appears to be accompanied by a rise in Iraqi civilian casualties.

In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, American aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 229 expended in all of 2006, according to U.S. Air Force figures obtained by The Associated Press.

Ah yes, the dreaded airpower escalation. Civilian deaths are naturally up:

The rate of such reported civilian deaths appeared to climb steadily through 2006, the group reports, averaging just a few a month in early 2006, hitting some 40 a month by year's end, and averaging more than 50 a month so far this year.
Those are maximum tolls based on news reports, and they count those killed by Army helicopter fire as well as by warplanes, Iraq Body Count's John Sloboda aid. The count is regarded as conservative, since it doesn't include deaths missed by the nternational media.

As if the international media would miss any Iraqi casualties!

But what of the numbers? First of all, consider that our bombs are the most accurate weapon we have. The bombs mentioned as examples in the article specify they are 500-lb bombs. Those are GPS bombs. While use of firepower should be minimized in counter-insurgency, our precision bombing makes the old rule a little old when it assumed carpet bombing would be needed to destroy a target from the air.

And at an average of 1.75 bombs dropped per day, we've accidentally killed 225 Iraqi civilians (50 per month for 4.5 months). Less than one accidental death per bomb.

Also consider that the article says that in Afghanistan--the good war--we've dropped 929 bombs this year as of May 15. So we're dropping about a quarter of the bombs that we drop in Afghanistan (where we'd do more if we weren't "distracted" by the Iraq War, according to the military geniuses in the Loyal Opposition)

Still, the count in Iraq does not include Marine strikes or cannon fire. But on the other hand, "civilian" deaths include insurgents and terrorists, since naturally it is tough to tell dead civilians wearing civilian clothes from dead insurgents/terrorists wearing civilian clothing.

To be generous to the critics who are "conservative" in their claims, let's call it double to count those "missing" deaths and assume all are civilians. That's 100 civilians per month killed. Two per bomb dropped. And this is an escalation. And they are accidental deaths probably caused because the enemy hid among civilians. Unlike those suicide bombers who enter a market and pull the trigger to deliberately kill civilians.

But wait. I'm having a flashback to 2004. Let's recall this Lancet study:

Public health experts have estimated that around 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the United States invaded Iraq in March last year.

And the cause of those deaths?

The experts from the United States and Iraq said most of those who died were women and children and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths.

This study is widely believed by our Left.

Fancy that Sunni Arabs claimed women and children were the main victims!

So from March 2003 to September 2004 (the article is from October so I'll assume the prior month as the end point), 100,000 Iraqi civilians died according to the Lancet study. Most from air strikes. Let's call "most" 60,000. So in 19 months, we killed 60,000 Iraqi civilians in air strikes according to the Lancet study. That's 3,158 per month dead in our air strikes.

But wait! Didn't the recent airpower "escalation" result in the deaths of 50 Iraqi civilians per month on paper (or 100 if we double to make sure we don't miss any that the lazy international media might miss). I mean, this is terrible isn't it? A massive escalation? Yet how did this escalation happen when war opponents claim far more deaths in the past? Shouldn't the story be the amazing progress we've made in reducing civilian casualties to only 3% of previous levels from the first part of the war?

Crisis hype is always a danger for the hypers. The current situation must be portrayed as really really bad, yet this claim undercuts past claims of even worse events. Of course, if nobody remembers the past hypes you can get away with new hype. But that Internet thing is a great tool to remember the past hypes.

Bring on the next plastic turkey. Their efforts bore me.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes why we are dropping more bombs:

First, many more Sunni Arab leaders are switching sides, coming over to the government, and joining the fight against the Sunni Arab terrorists groups (a mélange of nationalist and religious fanatic organizations, plus al Qaeda and other foreign factions. ) Sunni Arab militias are not much more effective against the terrorists (who are certainly more fanatical, a major military advantage in the Arab world), than the Iraqi security forces. But these new alliances have led to more information about where the terrorists hang out, and this has resulted in the greater use of American smart bombs.

Got it? Not an escalation of random bombardment but a reaction to having more information on targets. The bombs are our most precise way of eliminating a target without risking our troops and while minimizing death or damage to nearby innocents.