Tuesday, December 13, 2005

DUELLING PERSPECTIVES

We have two numbers-heavy articles today, both from the UK:

First, Editor and Publisher recounts a sorry laundry list produced by the UK Independent "commemorating" the 1,000th day of the Iraqi war:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001659215

You've read it all before. Three numbers do seem to me to have special significance, all relating to cost:

15,955 American soldiers wounded in action; 2,339 allied troops killed - as we have been repeatedly reminded, over 2,000 of them American; 204 billion dollars spent.

Nearly seven to one, wounded to killed. It's a testimony to our technology and their ferocious ingenuity. Our technology has prevented this war from degenerating into a bloodbath.

And 87.2 million dollars spent for every man lost. While you can never equate men lost to money spent, it is important to realize most of the red "we" are bleeding is ink. It's going to take a long time to pay this bill.

For a more upbeat appraisal, there is this from the BBC:

"Survey finds optimism in new Iraq"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4514414.stm

For the whole survey, and it's 2004 counterpart:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/12_12_05_iraq_data.pdf

http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/15_03_04_iraqsurvey.pdf

As always, I recommend skipping the fluffy article in favor of the actual surveys which are, IMO, excellent. At 27 pages each, they offer a wealth of data. The first three questions are repeats, giving a nice baseline.

The number of people saying their lives are very or quite good is about the same, but more choose "very good."

The number of people who say their lives are much better or somewhat better than a year ago is down, but a year ago the question was framed against the pre-invasion situation.

Unfortunately, the number of people who think things will be much or somewhat better in another year is down slightly.

Ominously, the number of people who believe the invasion was absolutely right or somewhat right is down slightly - 47.2% to 46.2% - but the number who think the invasion was absolutely or somewhat wrong is up significantly, from 39.1% to 50%. The change is in the undecided respondents. So I'm afraid that doesn't speak well of us.

Three really troubling items:

The number of people who believe Iraq needs a single, strong leader stands at 50%, up from 46.6%.

The number of people who have no confidence at all in the occupation forces stands at 54.6%, up from 42.8%

The 2005 survey only: Who in your opinion has contributed most in helping the reconstruction of post-war Iraq? NOBODY, 36.9%. The only other double digit response is "The Iraqis," 12.3%. "Americans" are credited by only 6.3% of the respondents. Maybe those favorable press campaigns are a good idea...

And a good note to end:

The number of people who believe Iraq will need that strong man in 5 years is down from 35.5% to 30.5%, and the number who think Iraq will need a democracy is up from 28% to 41.6%.

That's always been my greatest concern: We get rid of one bastard and they install another. On that one score alone, I think there is considerable cause for optimism. If, in another year, more than half of all Iraqis look forward to democracy, well, that will be an accomplishment indeed.

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