I try to keep the Factory out of politics (not always successfully). I'm not always successful in that regard, especially since I read some political blogs, and I just can't stand it when they lie.
Take Red State for example. They have a recent blog post suggesting that peace is dangerous, and the recent combat fatalities in Iraq are actually *not that bad*:
In the peaceful year of 1980, 2,392 servicemen died while on duty defending our country. In 2003, the start of the Iraq War, only 1,228 servicemen and women died. In 2004, the number was 1,874, it went up to 1,942 in 2005, and it dropped to 1,858 in 2006. [my bold]Wow. More deaths in peacetime than during all out combat? That doesn't compute, but maybe it's true...
In fact, only during the Clinton years of 1996 into the Bush years of 2001 and 2002, during a period of time when the Clinton policy of refusing to defend our national interest was in place, do we see the number of military deaths fall below 1000 annually.Wait, so if you exclude the most peaceful years of the last 25 years, then you can conclude that peace is dangerous? I'm rather reminded of the Princess Bride quote:
Humperdinck: Tomorrow morning [my guards] will escort us to Florin Channel, where every ship in my armada waits to accompany us on our honeymoon.Of course, if you exclude the peaciest years, then peace might have some bad points. But let's actually examine the data, shall we? (They're available here for those who want to dig them up).
Buttercup: Every ship but your four fastest, you mean. Every ship but the four you sent.
Humperdinck: Yes. Yes of course. Naturally not those four.
Click on the graph to see it in nauseating detail, but there are really 3 data sets that I want you to look at. One is the total deaths, and that is in light blue. The folks at Red State aren't lying when they say that there were more deaths in the military in 1980 than in 2005. They're just being completely disingenuous. Underneath that, in red, is the number of accidental deaths (vehicle accidents, training accidents, plane crashes, etc). That has been more or less steadily decreasing over the last 25 years. That accounts for the vast majority of the decrease in deaths in the military, and has remained relatively stable throughout the Iraq conflict. Now look at combat deaths. That's in black. Combat deaths have spiked, account for the enormous jump in military deaths (as you might expect).
So they're comparing the early 1980s, when accidental deaths were a huge number of deaths, which through whatever means have been brought down to much lower levels, and saying that the military deaths now are "only" in the thousands.
Now, let's examine one more bit of disingenuousneses of their claim. How much of not a big deal is the fact that for every fatality, there are 7.6 people that are wounded and saved by modern technology. Compare this to the Viet Nam War, where 2.6 people were wounded for every death. This is because many more people are being saved.
Expressed another way, if America were fighting in Iraq using Viet Nam era medical technology, many of those wounded would be dead. Instead of 3000 American deaths in Iraq, it would be closer to 9000 deaths. But that's really not a big deal to the folks at Red State, who would have you believe that the deaths in Iraq are no big deal. (I'm going to save for another time the discussions of civilian dead in Iraq, which are a *much* huger deal). Or as they say:
The moral of the story is that peace is dangerous.No, the moral of the story is that if you ignore trends in data, you are dishonest.