October 1, 2007

Gratefully Not Dead: Iraq Civilian and US Military Deaths Plummet

Hatched by Dafydd

Fair warning: I am not a military strategist, nor do I play one on the internet. But I am an interested layman, and I've read as much as I can understand about counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy without returning to university.

From what I gather, one of the predictions of classical COIN is that, as the country fighting the insurgents shifts to a more effective COIN strategy, the indicator of success will be a significant drop in both civilian and military casualties, including deaths. (From now on, I will only discuss deaths, because it's hard to get data on non-fatal casualties.)

Insurgents practice asymmetrical warfare: They do not target the armed forces of the country the way an army would, force on force (milspeak for army vs. army in the open battlefield); and they don't precisely seize territory... thus eliminating two methods of evaluating military success in other types of wars.

In fact, the Islamist insurgents don't even seem to set up shadow governments (other than vague "caliphates," which are simply dictatorships by the biggest thug), nor do they attempt to win the "hearts and minds" of the civilians, as e.g. Communist insurgents tried in Vietnam, Korea, the Maylay states, and so forth. Rather, Islamist insurgents rampage through a town, killing civilians in essentially random ways, until they're driven out by COIN forces (as in Fallujah I and II in the pre-COIN period of the Iraq war).

Insurgents mostly target civilians; and even when they do attack the COIN army, they prefer to do so by ambushing patrollers, rather than trying to duke it out with an attacking force (the Taliban's catastrophic record against NATO shows why). In order to survive, an insurgency needs a constant stream of "victories," however small, to convince both the civilians who provide the sea of support for them and even for the insurgency's own members that the insurgency is the "strong horse," and everyone better get aboard. Each mass killing is considered a victory.

If instead they suffer a string of obvious defeats, then they start looking like losers: They lose support not only directly (members killed and captured) but also indirectly through a loss of prestige or "face." Fewer dead civilians and "infidel" soldiers (including IDF) directly translates into a loss of power and hegemony ("perceived fitness to rule," as I define it based on Gramsci). Therefore, the proper measure of COIN success is significantly fewer civilian and Coalition deaths.

When the country fighting the insurgency becomes more effective and begins denying the insurgency a sufficient stream of victories -- substituting instead a steady drip, drip, drip of insurgent defeats in the form of killings and captures and interdiction of attacks -- then two things happen:

  • Some civilian supporters of the insurgency rethink their loyalty, start withdrawing support, and begin instead cooperating with the defending country;
  • The insurgents themselves drift away from their former organizations (from fear and boredom), fading back into the general population... or if that is impossible, crossing the border into some adjoining country (as, e.g., Muqtada Sadr has returned to Iran).

So -- you're way ahead of me -- it's no surprise that a drop in civilian and military casualties is precisely what we've seen in Iraq since the COIN strategy was actually implemented in June: An initial spike of military casualties during the pre-implementation phase of preparing the battlefield, followed by the civilian and military death rate plummeting:

  • According to Iraq Coalition Casualties (iCasualties), civilian deaths in September were 746, the lowest since February 2006, when it was 688; civilian deaths have dropped by nearly 75% from the local high in February.
  • AP reports that civilian deaths in Iraq dropped by 50% in September alone;
  • According to Breitbart, September saw only 70 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq (iCasualties reports only 66, plus 3 non-US Coalition deaths)... the lowest total since July 2006.

Here is a table compiled from the iCasualties 2007 figures; ISF means Iraqi Security Forces, including the Iraqi Army, National Police, and local police:

Iraq insurgency killings in 2007
2007 Month Civilian deaths ISF deaths Coalition deaths Total deaths
January 1,711 91 86 1,888
February 2,864 150 85 3,099
March 2,762 215 82 3,039
April 1,521 300 117 1,938
May 1,782 198 131 2,111
* June 1,148 197 108 1,453
July 1,458 232 87 1,777
August ** 1,598
76 88 1,762
September 746 96 69 881

* COIN implementation actually begins after battlefield prep;

** Figure includes anomalous, one-time bombing of Yazidis that killed 520; parenthetical figures exclude Yazidi bombing.

Here are the data for civilian and total killings in line-chart form. Note that for the chart, we have removed the anomalous Yazidi bombing of August 14th. The reason we chose to do this can be found in a previous post, Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down:

Iraq insurgency killings 2007

The trendline is clear, even brutally clear: The COIN strategy is working exactly as planned. Barring any significant changes, the Iraq war is, for all military intents and beyond all argument, over; and it has ended in victory for the United States and for a free and democratic Iraq.

What remains is mopping up... which will surely be deadly and surely result in the killings of many innocent civilians and of many American, Coalition, and Iraqi security forces. But the mop-up will not change the final result; the insurgency has been broken.

As al-Qaeda is driven out of Iraq, the ruling Shia see less and less reason to support or tolerate the "death squads," which also kill Shia who don't conform to the militias' crabbed vision of Islam. More Shia will join "Mosul awakening" or "Basra awakening" type organizations and begin informing on militias and their murderous activities.

The major Shiite parties, DAWA and SCIRI, will find it much easier to cut the militias off at the knees than continue funding them and then apologizing for their activities; to the extent the militias will continue to exist at all, they will likely transition to launching occasional attacks on rival Shiite parties in advance of elections, as is the Arabic way of democracy: The days of a hundred throat-slittings a day of randomly selected Sunni Iraqis are gone, and they're not likely ever to return... they were situational, caused by Shiite overreaction to al-Qaeda depredations.

The question now changes to the larger geopolitical conundrum: How to use Iraq as a model for transforming the Middle East and the larger Non-Integrating Gap. In the future, no matter who is president, we shall require Gap countries to become more or less democratic states that are basically secure and basically free; and we shall require them to enter the global grid of communications, capitalism, and political moderation.

As Iraq cools down, its very existence should make it much easier to deal with problems like Iran, Syria, and even countries in other regions, such as North Korea and Venezuela. Too, the final success of the Bush policy will induce other Western nations -- those bold, independent trendsetters -- to jump on the bandwagon. ("Oceania has always supported pre-emptive strikes, covert action, and counterinsurgency!")

All I can say is thank you, Mr. President, for quite literally sticking to your guns. You will be remembered... but not the way Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) fantasizes!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 1, 2007, at the time of 7:18 PM

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Tracked on October 9, 2007 3:15 PM


The following hissed in response by: ira


I would love to see how these numbers compare to the monthly fatality numbers of the military during the Clinton "Peaceful" years. Most of those deaths were accidental, either plane, chopper or vehicle crashes.

The above hissed in response by: ira [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2007 7:55 PM

The following hissed in response by: Greg Marquez

I don't remember if you mentioned this in the previous article about the Yazidi, but now I'm wondering if Al Queda didn't kill them just to keep the numbers up.

Greg Marquez

The above hissed in response by: Greg Marquez [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 1, 2007 9:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I hope and pray this trend continues.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 3:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: howardhughes

This piece by Dafydd should be distributed to J-schools around the country to illustrate the way to write an informative concise news article.

The above hissed in response by: howardhughes [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 4:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/02/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 10:35 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

More data on the same subject interpreted.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 1:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: leftnomore

So just how, exactly, will Pinky Reid defend his comments and Senate seat? How will Miz Clinton regain face after another year of mop up in Iraq? Could it be the ultimate set-up for the 2008 election season?

No wonder these pathetic Dems were hyperventilating for withdrawl... they would rather the nation lose face and Iraq be lost, just to be able to point fingers at Bush. They are the great Satan in this world.

The above hissed in response by: leftnomore [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 2:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bookworm

If you haven't already sent your nominations in to the Weasel Watcher, I think this is a good candidate.

The above hissed in response by: Bookworm [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 2:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


It is, and I did!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 2:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: exDemo

From the Atalntic Coast to the shores of the South Asia, the Al Queda Iislamo-Fascists have ben losing. The MSM and even many blogs here don't often refer to teh success on all the Fronts of the GWOT.

But we are winnng and winning Big on many Fronts.

1) Morocco has defeated its Al Queda groups.

2) Algeria fought hard and lost 150,000 citizens defeating the GIA Al Queda IslamoFascists.

3) Libya and Qauddafi surrenderd without a shot. He alsao ended the remnant of the GIA from continuing the GIA Algerian war. Without Libyan safe havens for R & R,. They had to cease and concede defeat in Algeria.

4) Egypt has arrested and greatly diminsihed the Muslim Brotherhood in its infancy of IslaoFascist war.

5) Lebanon every the victomhas asserted it independence; It has pounded an Irani sponsored groupin a Palestinian camp and have bled hezb'Allah.

6) Syria is existing only as long as Persian checks keep coming in. Even so the Kurds are sponsoring a Gueriila war in the far NE Syrian provices for their Kurdish bretheren.

7) Jordan and its citizesn have turned on Alqueda for the hotal and marriage bombings.

8) We have solved the basis for theh suppressed natioanlsim of the Kurds in the autonomous Provinces of Iraq.

9) Pakistan has survived wiht Mushara alliance with Benizir and the ingenious trap for the Al Queda in evacating Pakistan for the death trap in Tora Bora II.

10) Afganistan is freed of the Taliban; turnover to international peacekeeping forces is ahead of the scheduel for Iraq.

11) Iran just creeks and teeters on the edge of collapse. They ration gasoline in oil rich Iran. Inflation is over 100%. Guerilla wars rage in two provinces. The Theocrats have mucked up the economy and after thirty years the Iranian populace knows it and hates them. All the money for idiotic foreign adventures supporting Hezb'Allah, Hamas, Taliban, Mahdi Militia, Syria, Darfur, etc drains the coffers. Running a Manhattan Project is expensive and produces no return for the economyand starves the OilPatch. Oil output is falling due to lack of investment. Its Soviet Union circa 1988 in Persia.

Hail, President Bush, the gutsy, stubborn, persevering, steadfast, leader and the Wartime Victor of the GWOT. Will he be recognized as such before he leaves office in 16 months?

The above hissed in response by: exDemo [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2007 3:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: judson

Onward to Iran, United Federation of Gap Countries! And set your phasers to dumb...

The above hissed in response by: judson [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2007 12:30 PM

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