October 31, 2006
"Trends in Iraq" - Updated
This figure updates the data presented in an earlier post on Iraq trends, replacing the projection with actual figures for October.
Figure 1: Fatalities in Iraqi theater of operations, through October 31, and 6 month trailing moving average. Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count accessed on 31 October.
For the latest estimates of the current "burn rate" and reset costs associated with operations in this theater, see this discussion.
[late addition - 1 November 8am Pacific]
Figure: A Central Command slide titled "Iraq: Indications and Warnings of Civil Conflict" lists factors that are destabilizing Iraq. Source: graphic from M. Gordon, "Military Charts Progress of Conflict in Iraq toward Chaos," NYT 1 November 2006.
Posted by Menzie Chinn at October 31, 2006 11:00 AMdigg this | reddit
Prof...maybe you can touch upon the yield curve again, when you get a chance. The slope is quickly getting uglier.
Posted by: charts at October 31, 2006 12:05 PM
"Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt."
Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138
Posted by: kuros at October 31, 2006 02:11 PM
Why don't you tie in the lovely CNN video of the sniper shots to more effectively make your point?
Tasteless and useless this is, Professor.
Posted by: jg at October 31, 2006 07:17 PM
@kuros if you have a valid point to make, attack the data and conclusion, but not the person. Attack the person and you look weak, spineless and unable to make an independent thought outside someone else's talking points.
Posted by: jake at October 31, 2006 07:43 PM
jg: When providing information is "tasteless and useless", then indeed we are in trouble. The logical conclusion of your assertion is that we should just turn off our brains.
Posted by: menzie chinn at October 31, 2006 08:36 PM
Very tasteless and useless. How about a chart showing the number of times Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeline Albright and John Kerry told us there were WMB in Iraq and that we had to get rid of the Iraqi dictator?
Posted by: carl at November 1, 2006 04:44 AM
Okay, Professor Chinn, maybe you won't find this 'information' tasteless and useless:
Abortions in the U.S., 2000: 1,313,000
Live births in U.S., 2000: 4,058,814
Fetus death rate due to abortions in the U.S.:
1.3M/(4.1M + 1.3M) = 24% annually
Deaths in Iraq over 2002-2006: ~3,000
Deaths annually, on average: ~750
Troops stationed in Iraq: ~140,000
Death rate in Iraq: 0.5% annually
The risk of death for a fetus is ~50X that for a soldier/sailor/Marine/airman in Iraq. I don't say this cavalierly as I was a Naval Officer myself.
I stand by my statement that your graph is tasteless and useless. I recommend that you stick to economics and behavioral economics.
Posted by: jg at November 1, 2006 07:45 AM
Just to clarify: I take it that you are pro-choice, as you feel abortion statistics are an example of something which is tasteless & useless?
Posted by: Nick at November 1, 2006 08:27 AM
jg: Data are data. However, I must say that your conflation of conditional and unconditional probabilities is misleading. In any case, my primary question is whether they are germane to the subject at hand.
The Nation is currently engaged in a war for which the Administration has no clear exit strategy, per month Iraq-related DoD expenditures (not including total "reset" costs, VA costs) are approximately $8 billion per month, and in which we are incurring thousands of injuries per year. These statistics bearing upon costs are therefore relevant to making a decision upon the Nation's course in Iraq.
Now that you have brought up the issue of taste, I find it tasteless to engage upon a war under false pretenses and reduce taxes and concurrently underfund combat operations (remember unarmored Humvees and inadequate body armor, and insufficient overall troop levels). I also found the treatment of the uniformed military commanders who actually served in combat -- including General Shinseki -- at the very least "tasteless".
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 1, 2006 08:45 AM
Nick, I'm a Mass-attending Catholic, the father of two, and very much pro-life.
I find this blog quite educational, and the ability to get responses from thoughtful academic economists quite valuable. I just wish Dr. Chinn would keep the focus on economics/behavioral economics. I found the Iraq death tally tasteless and useless, and assume that he will find my abortion statistics tasteless and useless.
Posted by: jg at November 1, 2006 11:04 AM
Shinseki, the guy who gave us (1) "An Army of One" and (2) 'green berets for all,' so that everyone in the Army feels special. Good riddance to the good General, and I hope that retirement is treating him well.
Posted by: jg at November 1, 2006 11:08 AM
Professor, in the military, getting canned is a fact of life: MacArthur by Truman, a whole series of generals by Lincoln. Officers, unlike professors, don't have tenure. In fact, officers literally serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States, the verbiage used in the commissioning letter.
Posted by: jg at November 1, 2006 11:24 AM
jg: Regarding the "lame-duck"-ing of Shinseki, I said it was "tasteless", not illegal; nor did I say it wasn't a prerogative of the President. But -- returning to substance -- wouldn't you agree that his assessment of the force levels required to stabilize Iraq has proven, in retrospect, more correct than incorrect?
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 1, 2006 12:34 PM
Of course it is not just Shinseki, who was right about his forecast for which he got canned who got canned, but Powell, who was wrong only when he did Bush's bidding at the UN. The people who have been wrong, wrong, and wrong again, such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice, remain in office and have recently been declared that they will be so through the remainder of the POTUS's term, who is, of course, more responsible for the mess being discussed here than anybody, although he is lucky that Pelosi has said she will not countenance impeachment hearings if the House goes Democratic, although they would certainly be most well deserved. He is the one who deserves canning more than any of them.
Posted by: Barkley Rosser at November 1, 2006 12:39 PM
Professor, I think it is possible that force levels will have to be higher, closer to Shinseki/Powell levels than Franks/Casey levels.
There's no more complicated human endeavor than war: technology, psychology, ideology, and economics are involved. The Iraq plan may have to change. But, at the time that we put it into action, it seemed reasonable, plausible, and defensible; you may not have agreed, but a lot of other smart folks did.
The good news is that there is willingness to change. And our plans may well change big-time. But, announcement of that will have to wait until after Nov. 7th (though I'm positive that less dramatic changes have already taken place, and will continue to take place).
Posted by: jg at November 1, 2006 01:17 PM
"Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG). Studies reveal that anywhere from 10- 25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Estimations of chemical pregnancies or unrecognized pregnancies that are lost can be as high as 50-75%, but many of these are unknown since they often happen before a woman has missed a period or is aware she is pregnant."
Based on this and your stats, I can provide the following tasteless information:
Miscarriages in U.S., 2000: 2,000,000
Live births in U.S., 2000: 4,058,814
Fetus death rate due to God in the U.S.:
2.0M/(4.1M + 2.0M) = 33% annually
No-one has anything on God when it comes to killing people.
Posted by: foo at November 1, 2006 05:11 PM
Strange to me how good christians think it's quite all right to kill an unlimited number of Iraqis who never done us any harm nor had the intention of doing so. If such is their religion then to hell with the lot and their god. These enable this half witted fool of a president and too have the blood of thousand of US troops plus the tens of thousands of innocent iraqis. May their god have mercy on their sorry souls.
Posted by: ken melvin at November 1, 2006 06:35 PM
I've avoided coming here to this article because I thought it would be a waste of my time.
I relented as I read in Samuel Elliot Morison's History of the American People 1965, Oxford University Press, p. 1092, [...] The French garrison under the war hero De Lattre de Tassigny had been driven into a stockade in Dien Bien Phu in South Vietnam and, if not shortly relieved, could not hold out. Certain military advisers of President Eisenhower, notably Admiral Arthur W. Radford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in favor of our intervening militarily in Indochina as we had in Korea; and ten years later it looks as if they were right. [...] note date of publication as 1965. I'll so no more here, and leave the correlative impression I've left to the citation.
I will state however, there are no war heroes.
As for the abortion foes who come out of no where to profess their love of humanity, the leading cause of death for American pregnant women is murder.
These are tough issues, for there are no winners.
But these are the facts, and this is our empirical nation that it is always demanding winners, when we should be the model we profess to be by ensuring the quality of life for the future instead of reliving the past for our gloriously insipid present.
Don Robertson, The American Philosopher
An Illustrated Philosophy Primer for Young Readers
Precious Life - Empirical Knowledge
The Grand Unifying Theory & The Theory of Time
Posted by: Don Robertson at November 2, 2006 06:27 AM
This site is titled econobrowser. Could you tell me of what economic use your statistics assume?
Wouldn't your post be better placeded on a site called politicobrowser? I, for one, would love to see more economic analysis and less political propaganda.
Posted by: Dick at November 2, 2006 06:50 AM
Dick: If you click on the link embedded in the post, you will see that it hooks up to my previous post on "burn rates" (currently $8 billion dollars per month). But as I noted in another post (which you commented on), the estimated cost of fatalities is $6.9 billion per 1000, yielding a total cost to the Nation of at least $19 billion thus far. This is an economic cost to the Nation, on top of the other personal and psychic costs incurred. Since you are aware of this previous post, and the costs documented therein, I must conclude that your question is merely rhetorical. But, in the interests of completeness, please re-read the previous posts alluded to for an answer to your query.
By the way, when did reporting official statistics become "propaganda"?
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 2, 2006 08:56 AM
There is a widely read blog called "econlog." Have you read it? It has a strongly conservative and libertarian tilt. It also features a much higher percentage of posts that are strictly on politics, as well as social and cultural matters than this blog. I follow it closely and participate in discussions on it. I have not seen you complaining about the presence of "political propaganda" on it.
Also, have not seen you admit that you were making false statements on this blog when you asserted that Saddam was "harboring" al Zarqawi. That used to be widely claimed, but is now admitted not to be so by the US government that documents that Saddam was trying to capture him as he was trying to overthrow Saddam, a widely known fact even back then.
I would suggest, Mr. Dick, that you owe Menzie Chinn and the readers of this blog an apology.
Posted by: Barkley Rosser at November 3, 2006 08:54 AM
I think JG has lost touch with the idea that questioning our leaders (and measuring the performance of their policies), is our patriotic duty, whether we are economists, political scientists, or whatever.
Personally, it's quite clear to me that the Iraq war is a matter of economics: we would not be there if the world was not dependent on Middle Eastern oil. You may debate the details of the connections, but the broad fact remains: if not for oil, we wouldn't be there. THAT's economics.
Posted by: Nick at November 3, 2006 10:33 AM
Menzie and Barkely-
You are repeating a myth about Shinseki's departure. See http://www.factcheck.org/article275.html
Posted by: Rich Berger at November 3, 2006 12:51 PM
Rich Berger: I disagree. I am fully aware that Shinseki was not "forced" to retire. Indeed, that is why I chose the language I did, namely "lame duck"-ing. I think it is widely agreed that the announcement of Shinseki's successor was much earlier in Shinseki's tenure than typical in an Army Chief of Staff's term. I suggest you consult Thomas Ricks' Fiasco for further discussion.
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 3, 2006 01:28 PM
I notice that for the second time my posts pointing out that the incident of rapes in Madison is 33% higher than the national average is no longer on the site. Does this make you uncomfortable?
Posted by: Dick at November 3, 2006 01:40 PM
Dick, Econbrowser receives several hundred spam comments every day, and it's been particularly heavy this week. Most of these get automatically filtered out by key words that are banned. Occasionally somebody wants to try to use those words in a legitimate discussion. When they do, the risk is that the comment will be lost or at best delayed. And by the way, due to a software quirk that I've never figured out how to override, once you use one of the banned words, you have forever triggered a delay in any subsequent comment you post from that same IP address, regardless of the content of the subsequent remark.
All of which has nothing whatever to do with anybody trying to silence your expression. It's just an unfortunate cost of the system. The spam is so bad that, without these filters, we simply couldn't allow any comments at all. My best advice is, keep all discussions absolutely G rated.
I do separately occasionally choose to edit or delete comments that are in the nature of personal attacks that do not advance the discussion. (Menzie to my knowledge has never done this, the culprit is always me). I must say that some of the comments in this particular thread come close to that threshold. Let me again encourage everyone to please address each other respectfully and remain focused on the intellectual issues.
Posted by: JDH at November 3, 2006 02:21 PM
Dick: First, thanks to JDH for clarifying what happened to your posts. Second, to be explicit: I didn't see either of your posts that you mentioned, so had no opportunity to delete them (or have them make me uncomfortable). Third, I have never deleted a comment for content. Thus far, in my approximately one year of writing for this blog, I have deleted one duplicate post. I hope this addresses your concerns.
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 3, 2006 04:50 PM
"Also, have not seen you admit that you were making false statements on this blog when you asserted that Saddam was "harboring" al Zarqawi. That used to be widely claimed, but is now admitted not to be so by the US government that documents that Saddam was trying to capture him as he was trying to overthrow Saddam, a widely known fact even back then."
Post your source Rosser...
Posted by: Grzesiek at November 3, 2006 07:17 PM
Weak, very weak. I quote you from above regarding Shinseki-
"Of course it is not just Shinseki, who was right about his forecast for which he got canned".
In any case, I eagerly await your response to Grzesik.
Posted by: Rich Berger at November 4, 2006 06:42 AM
Grzesiek and Rich Berger: In response to your query addressed to Barkley Rosser, please see this text from the following Congressional Research Service document: Kenneth Katzman, "Iraq and Al Qaeda: Allies or Not," Report to Congress, Congressional Research Service, February 4, 2004, page 7:
A number of official sources maintain that Baghdad was connected to Ansar al-
Islam. The State Department report on global terrorism for 2002 stated that "it is
inconceivable these groups [Ansar al-Islam] were in Iraq without the knowledge and
acquiescence of Saddam's regime." In his presentation to the U.N. Security
Council on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Powell said the following about
Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam:
"Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda
lieutenants...Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical
organization, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq...Zarqawi's
activities are not confined to this small corner of northeastern Iraq. He traveled
to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital for two
months while he recuperated to fight another day. During this stay, nearly two
dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations
there...From his terrorist network in Iraq, Zarqawi can direct his network in the
Middle East and beyond."
However, some accounts question the extent of links, if any, between Baghdad
and Ansar al-Islam. The Administration did not assert that Baghdad and Ansar
carried out any joint operations. Baghdad did not control northern Iraq even before
Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it is questionable whether Zarqawi, were he tied
closely to Saddam Hussein's regime, would have located his group in territory
controlled by Saddam's Kurdish opponents. The Administration view on this point
is that Saddam saw Ansar as a means of pressuring Saddam Hussein's Kurdish
opponents in northern Iraq, explaining why Ansar was based in northern Iraq. An
alternate interpretation is that Saddam Hussein was indifferent to Ansar's presence
in Iraqi territory so long as the group remained focused on Baghdad's Kurdish
By the way, this Powell speech was the same one where he made allegations of the existence of WMD's in Iraq. I believe I am correct in my belief that he now regrets making that speech, given what he now knows about the sources for the intelligence ("curveball" etc.).
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 4, 2006 09:51 AM
Menzie, I asked your fellow professor to post, not you...
I take your post as being somewhat dated and might I add, slanted toward your political leanings.
Let’s be very clear here: Zarqawi & Hussein were not involved in 911. That is not my contention.
There was contact between the IIS and Zarqawi; maybe this was Saddam's attempt to keep an eye on him or maybe Saddam felt there could be an operational relationship between the two. Who knows what the true intend had been?
I suggest you do a little less cherry picking and more due diligence in researching a possible link; start with a column by Thomas Joscelyn.
JDH: Any correlation between the number of spam postings to this website and the highly charged political rhetoric posted by your colleague? First it was the baiting regarding global warming, now the war.
"As you have sown so shall you reap." - Cicero
Posted by: Grzesiek at November 4, 2006 10:36 AM
Grzesiek: Thanks but no thanks. You stick to Weekly Standard and I'll stick to the Congressional Research Service and the National Academy of Sciences. Even the Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq (pages 337-339) is pretty skeptical regarding the links you allude to.
But I do like your Cicero quote: Indeed as we sow, so shall we -- as a Nation -- reap.
Posted by: menzie chinn at November 4, 2006 03:57 PM
Sorry that I did not snap to attention at your request and you had to hear from the blogger who posted all this instead. Was off taking a daughter to look at colleges and was email incommunicado.
Anyway, if you google "Saddam apb al Zarqawi," you will get Juan Cole's Informed Comment for March 16, 2006. The links are there. A curious detail is that one of the documents was up on a Ft. Leavenworth site, but was then taken down...
This bit about Ansar el Islam was something that just obviously stank right up front when Powell cited it in his UN speech. Not only were they in Kurdish territory not controlled by Saddam, they were also in territory not controlled by the Kurds. They were a fundamentalist Kurdish group in a salient sticking into Iran, and it was the Iranians who were supporting them. They were enemies of both Saddam and the local Kurdish regime for being too secular. When the Kurds and US troops finally took the area, our people were claiming we would find WMD in one of the buildings there. Nothing.
Regarding Saddam having an agent there, well, if I remember correctly, the old Communist Party of the USA had so many FBI agents in it that some cell meetings probably had a majority of them. Certainly did not prove the CPUSA and FBI were in cahoots.
Posted by: Barkley Rosser at November 4, 2006 11:43 PM
Juan Cole??? Why not cite Seymour Hersh for the love of God? Can you find a source with more bias?
You're missing the point; there are other resources out there that have Zarqawi in Iraq. Check the Mary Anne Weaver piece in the 'Atlantic'. It states that Zarqawi was in and out of the Sunni Triangle on numerous occasions to recruit and train.
This article also states that Ansar al-Islam and Zarqawi did work together.
There are many pierces out there; you two do a disservice to your profession; if a student used a biased source to buttress a term paper you'd undoubtedly take them to task for not thoroughly researching the subject.
John Edwards was correct in saying that there are two Americas, he was wrong on those comprising the split: there are the elites like yourselves and lets not forget the president of Penn that threw that repulsive Halloween party downplaying suicide bombing and decapitation, and then there are the rest of us that work for a living and are willing to fight for freedom not just live off of it.
Posted by: Grzesiek at November 5, 2006 03:18 AM
I retract the "you do a disservice to your profession" and the linking of both of you in spirit to the president of Penn and the despicable display at that Halloween party.
It is wrong of me to be so over the top in my judgment of either of you professionally or personally just because we differ in philosophy.
BTW, I do stand on my prior comments about Cole & Hersh being biased, and the other studies you cite as being incomplete.
Posted by: Grzesiek at November 5, 2006 07:55 AM
I sent you to Juan Cole because he has the links to the original sources. Figured that was easier than listing all of them. He is not the source and this is now a widely recognized fact, even if you have not heard about it. Don't believe him, look at the links.
Also, I did not disagree that al Zarqawi worked with Ansar el Islam, at least to some extent, or that he hung out in their territory of control some. The issue always was whether Saddam also worked with them and if this proved what is now known to be false, that Saddam worked with al Zarqawi (going in and out of the Sunni triangle does not prove this, any more than that al Zarqawi managed to get himself some hospital care in Baghdad at one point did). It was Colin Powell in his speech to the UN who claimed that the presence of a Saddam agent in the Ansar el Islam group proved that he was working with them (and thus also with al Zarqawi). To anyone who knew anything at the time, this was an utterly ridiculous claim at the time for reasons I have already discussed, made all the more ridiculous as subsequent information has come out.
Posted by: Barkley Rosser at November 5, 2006 12:41 PM