My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Just For A Laugh

If you want to read an extraordinary exercise in statistical and rhetorical gymnastics, read this piece in Slate (courtesy RCP) titled "Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966).

First of all, the authors, Philip Carter and Owen West, delay pointing out the nearly 5 to 1 ratio of U.S. combat deaths between 1966 and 2004 until the sixth paragraph--kinda late for a piece about numbers:

In 1966, for example, 5,008 U.S. servicemen were killed in action in Vietnam. Another 1,045 died of "non-hostile" wounds (17 percent of the total fatalities). Since Jan. 1, 2004, 754 U.S. servicemen and -women have been killed in action in Iraq, and 142 more soldiers died in "non-hostile" mishaps (16 percent of the fatalities, similar to Vietnam).

But what they give the reader in the third graf shows where they're really going with this:

But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.

Got that? Because of changes in how we treat wounds, approach battlefield treatment of wounds, and fight wars (?), we're allowed to tinker with the numbers, and what we're going to demonstrate is that this war is just as bad as Vietnam 1966.

What follows is a laughable application of numbers and statistics to pull the relative deaths into a virtual tie, thus forwarding the meme that Iraq is Vietnam. Never mind that there's still that pesky 5-1 ratio, or that in 1966 North Vietnam was completely outside American control, not to mention that the Vietcong were being supported by China (a major power) while Iraq's insurgency is being supported on the QT by Syria and Iran (minor powers). Oh, and, let's not forget that there's that little issue of the handover of power and elections on the horizon.

At least they attempt to conclude with a head fake towards balance:

Critics of the war may use this analysis as one more piece of ammunition to attack the effort; some supporters may continue to refer to casualties as "light," noting that typically tens of thousands of Americans must die in war before domestic support crumbles. Both miss the point.

I think the "both" in question is actually West and Carter.

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