Maintaining the Status Quo

An excerpt from yesterday’s Air Force Times regarding the drop in U.S. casualties for the month of July (an 8-month low):

The No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, expressed cautious optimism last week about the decline in deaths.

He said casualties had increased as U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds in the initial stages of the five-month-old security crackdown to clamp off violence in Baghdad. Now, he said, casualties were dropping as Americans gained control in those areas.

Those words, “casualties dropping as Americans gained control,” sound familiar, like they’ve been repeated a number of times in the past as the war has progressed. If I dig into the past couple years’ news archives I will likely find words that express the same optimism for the same reason.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, U.S. casualties go down in July because it’s so damn hot in Iraq that our troops go on fewer excursions, and the Iraqi militants know better than to hang out in 130-degree heat waiting for them?

U.S. Casualties

Here is a graph showing the percentage of soldiers killed, by month, since the war began in March 2003. June, July, August and September represent 4 of the 6 months that historically have the lowest casualty rates. Temps are well above 100 each of those months.

The White House propaganda machine will be working full force the next month to justify the Surge and to continue maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq. The summer downturn in casualties may get used by the White House as a sign that the Surge is working. The White House may neglect to mention that this June and July were, by far, the worst of all Junes and Julys since the war began: 101 and 78 deaths, respectively, compared to the respective averages of 53 and 49 the four preceding years. The White House won’t say that unless a miracle happens, 2007 will be the bloodiest year of the war.

The numbers are doing nothing but going up. The U.S. military cannot win either an urban conflict or a civil war. Their efforts are not curbing the number of people willing to strap or drive bombs to their targets and blow themselves up. They military is, however, winning a lot of resentment by demonstrating that there are worse alternatives than living under a repressive dictatorship.

After we’ve burned up our troops in the hot desert for another year or so and the Surge fails to curb the violence to any great extent, I suggest that the U.S. consider pulling out, say, most of its troops for a year or two, to see if this new way forward might make a difference in the conduct of the war.

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