August 04, 2003

SLIPPERY NUMBERS

For The Ageís Kenneth Davidson, itís still all about oil:

Is Iraq's oil good enough reason for one or two of America's 148,000 occupying forces to die in Iraq each day over the next four years?

Davidson is a lefty economist, which explains why he can extrapolate 50 deaths since the start of May into one or two deaths per day until 2007.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 4, 2003 01:06 PM
Comments

"Is Iraq's oil good enough reason for one or two of America's 148,000 occupying forces to die in Iraq each day over the next four years?"

That statement seems to be internally contradictory. If the war was about controlling Iraqi oil, then the US would never leave -- they'd lose control of the oil.

Posted by: Patrick Phillips at August 4, 2003 at 05:24 PM

I wouldn't exactly call Ken a lefty economist - it implies he knows something about economics. Unfortunately, Davidson's Keynesian brand of economics got blown away by stagflation in the 1970s, and since the end of the Cain-Kirner years, Ken's been huffing and puffing. He's just a lefty.

Posted by: steve at August 4, 2003 at 06:41 PM

Everytime a new casualty figure for a given time period in Iraq is given I would like to see a comparison:

Total number of US citizens who died in the same period.

Of those a break down by vehicle accidents, violent deaths, and occupational deaths.

And for a little sport, perhaps Chinese mining deaths could be listed as well.

I don't have the time or motivation to do the research but if someone is interested please do so.

Might put a little bit of perspective on the quagmire.

Posted by: Razor at August 4, 2003 at 07:18 PM

Guys, I must admitt to some disappointment. For what is supposed to be an informed readership I see little evidence of a basic understanding of the point of Ken Davidson's article.

On the contrary, I fail to see how one can jump from anything in his article to Tim Blair's comment above. I don't know where you went to school Tim but at good old Burwood High we were taught to 'read' the text before making a comment.

Could it be that Davidson's underlying concern about corporate governance has pricked another boil here?

Posted by: Surfrover at August 4, 2003 at 10:37 PM

"I fail to see how one can jump from anything in his article to Tim Blair's comment above." I think I found where Tim got the idea that Kenneth Davidson thinks the war is all about the oil. It's the part where it says: "Is Iraq's oil good enough reason for one or two of America's 148,000 occupying forces to die in Iraq each day over the next four years?" It's the first sentence so it's easy to miss.

Posted by: scott h. at August 5, 2003 at 12:16 AM

Surfrover-

The point is that when an economist demonstrates "creative" elementary mathematics, he is either incompetent or mendacious. Either way, his point becomes moot.

Razor-

I've been asking something similar - what is the death rate overall in the US military in non-combat situations (i.e., stateside mishaps, road accidents in Bosnia, hillbilly attacks in Mississippi-training-exercises-gone-bad, etc). Given the small amount of enemy-caused deaths so far during the occupation, it may not be much different (and the response I always get from the lefties when I raise this is the ever-popular smug, righteous, and utterly cheap "Tell that to their families." That ranks right up there with "It's for the children" in cheapness.)

Posted by: Dave S. at August 5, 2003 at 12:24 AM

The majority of deaths in the Gulf since major warfare ceased have been non-combat related. The bulk of these has been due to traffic accidents. There's a lot of heavy equipment moving around and a mishap involving armoured vehicles and pedestrians is almost always fatal for the pedestrian. There's been a number of suicides, a couple of guys have died of pneumonia, and there's been a few deaths due to firearms accidents. The total death toll for the whole shebang (including the heavy combat phase) has been around the 160 mark, with around 50 of those occurring since the cessation of major hostilities. Of those, fewer than half have been combat-related. It's dangerous being in the military in peacetime, let alone wartime. Every time NATO did a major exercise, there would be deaths. Sometimes these could rise into mid double-digit amounts in pretty short order.

In other words, while each death is individually tragic, the notion that US forces are being bled dry by constant guerilla activity is risible.

Posted by: David Gillies at August 5, 2003 at 03:51 AM

I know this has been said before, but it is worth repeating:

1) If our President's goal was control of Iraqi oil, all that he would have had to do upon taking office is agree with the government of Iraq that the US wouls support France and Russia's move to lift sanctions at the UN in return for hefty contracts. The UN would have been happy, the oil companies would have been happy, the EU would have been happy and, frankly, not many would have noticed. The idea that the President took 16 months to argue the case for war in front of the world, the UN, Congress and the American people, spent billions on executing it and risked all those lives to get the same benefit is on its face ludicrous.

2) Guerillas need shelter, supply and support to thrive, let alone win. They will be denied the first two by a modern US Army which has (unlike the leftwing critics) gotten over Vietnam. If anyone thinks the US won't go into Iran or Syria to deny guerillas shelter or support, you're kidding yourselves. We are not living in 1968 anymore. As for the third, I doubt they have much support. As our reconstruction proceeds, more and more daily are seeing the benefit of joining the winning side. Stronger horse and all that. The only good lesson Al-Queda has taught us.

Posted by: KevinV at August 5, 2003 at 05:43 AM

KevinV, Check out the piece by an officer from 4ID on the website www.sftt.org. The US Army in Iraq is voting with its feet. The chicks are all getting pregnant to get themselves home and this poor grunt's unit has applied for early discharge en masse. The risk is that recruitment will collapse in the US. And the casualty rate is very high, total deaths around 220 with serious injuries (loss of limb etc) about four times that. Born on the 4th of July etc.

Best wishes Ralph

Posted by: ralph at August 5, 2003 at 07:34 AM

Ralph - As a veteran, I've no doubt that some, maybe all, of these stories are true. What they mean, though, is probably not what you think. You would find very similar comments (though not the pregnancy issue! THAT is very interesting, and is sure to prolong debate about full female integration in the Army) among soldiers in the Normandy campaign, after Chosin, in Vietnam, etc.

There are a lot of people who joined the Army guessing and hoping that they would never see actual combat. However, my sources continue to tell me that, over all, grousing aside, morale is high, unit effectiveness is very good and things are looking up.

According to my recruit command master sergeant in Portland, Oregon, recruiting is above average at present, mostly (according to him) to shrinking job opportunities here.

I have yet to see systemic morale problems beyond the day-to-day stuff one expects. And they are obviously getting the job done.

We'll see.

Posted by: KevinV at August 5, 2003 at 08:56 AM

I simply guess that those who inflate the "morale problem" are very unlikely to have served any real amount of time (say, 6 months or more) in enlisted service (for sure -- some get it in officer corps). THE NUMBER ONE right of enlisted personnel is bitching (when not on duty or when the Top is not in obvious earshot). I would be waaaaaay more worried to not hear any bitching and moaning. It's what keeps us sane.

As for getting pregnant, this has been a problem from the first when unpleasant duty occurs. It doesn't have to be war. It is "unmanly" to accuse the "little ladies" of dereliction of duty (and they did have help), but it happens every time. Pregnancy is an "easy out." Remember Corp Klinger in M.A.S.H. trying for a psycho discharge? Same thing, except pregnancy is easily verifable, and no one can say nasty things about an expectant mother. Odd how few abortions there are when a pregnancy gets you out of dirty duty, huh? (That probably sounds like a cheap shot, and maybe it is, but we don't let the enlisted fathers out, now do we?)

Anyway, neither is a good indication of either the fighting capability nor the will to fight of a given unit.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at August 5, 2003 at 11:41 AM

Sounds like it's all about Baby Oil.

Posted by: pooh at August 5, 2003 at 12:14 PM

A better question is how many men and women in uniform die every year from training accidents and other non-combat related causes when comparing US combat deaths in Iraq. But it is perhaps valid to ask this question with relation to the entire US so long as the oil is being "usurped" for the US, as opposed to the US military.

Posted by: charles austin at August 5, 2003 at 12:56 PM

Ralph, when I was in the Army, by the end of a month long deployment to some shit hole in the Northern Territory, say Booraloola, or South Australia, say Woomera, at least 30% of my Squadron wanted early discharge. And, we had a relatively high-morale unit seeing as we were Tankies. Can't imagine what the grunts felt like after the amount of shit they had to put up with. So to suggest that during/following a major deployment to a dump like Iraq that the discharge rate is up a little doesn't indicate a failure of the mission or a collapse of the military. The same thing happened for the Aussie Army after E. Timor and it's not like that was a quagmire. It's just that the fella's who have had enough for the moment and have a load of dollars burning a hole in their pocket and have been dreaming of better things want out. No big deal. Also it is good for the defence forces to maintain a reasonable turn over of personnel - but I won't bore you with the reasoning behind that point.

I suggest that if they want to keep In Theater Morale a bit higher they start invading/liberating countries where there is alcohol and the women are more accomodating than Iraq and Kosovo. Might help reduce the in-service pregnancy rate too. North Korea fits the bill if South Korea is any guide to the drinking and women.

Posted by: Razor at August 5, 2003 at 01:59 PM