Monday, October 1, 2007

Peace is Dangerous - wait, WTF?

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.

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.
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).

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.



Quixie said...

Fantastic post!!

Aniko said...

I think you might have left out another important factor: did the overall size of the US military change since 1980? The high number of accidental deaths might be driven in part by a larger number of people.

The Factician said...


Yes. That's part of the problem (sorry if I wasn't clear). Yes, they're comparing a larger to a smaller military. But that's not the whole story. Today's military is about 65% of the size of the military in 1980. Accidental deaths are about 35% of what they were in 1980. So fewer troops is not the whole story in terms of the decrease in deaths, but it's part of it.

No doubt that the folks at Red State will now declare that war causes fewer accidents...

Greg Laden said...

No,no, no!!! You are totally missing the point!

By making the military safer, with respect to accidents, we get to build up Morality Points. The argument that Red State is making is, in essence, that if we make all the soldiers wear seat belts (that alone accounts for most of the decrease in death due to accident rate, plus airbags and such) then we can build up morality points and use them for fighting wars. Jeesh...

The Factician said...

Morality points. Perfect! I love it! And we can apply this at home. If you put a seatbelt on your child, you can morally smack them at home, because you've saved their life! ;)

Karl said...

Body counts have little to nothing to do with the worthiness and justification for any war. Statistics like this also minimize the individual lives lost. Some wars are just and worthy (WWII, Afghanistan, Civil War, the first Gulf War,) others are not, like Iraq, for example. When a nation of people are lead in to a war, like lemmings, under false pretenses, where not even the leaders of the war would initially provide true cause, then that nation eventually becomes a nation of sheep, lead to eventual slaughter.

You do not have to be beaten militarily to lose your soul, and there are many ways to lose wars. The economy, and the falling value of the dollar, is just one example.

The problem with a hawk, is that it only knows violent force and death to acquire what it needs. While it is away, hunting its prey, the snakes invade its nest, to feast on its offspring. And eventually, it too dies, becoming vile nutrition for the insects and gnats of the world. Great nations are almost always born out of progress, spirit, high moral values, and with revolution over repression, with their hawk-like claws, a justification for a just war. But all throughout history, great nations die. They die out of arrogance and isolationism. What makes anyone think we are any different, especially when, as a nation, we are succumbing to the same traps of self-righteousness?

The events of September 11, 2001, were criminal, of the most abhorrent kind. The perpetrators should be hunted down, tried, and/or killed for their crimes. An example should be made of them for their evil and antipathetic deeds.

Instead, this disaster of a regressive American administration has lead America down a different, darker path, of which we will never fully recover. Even if we eventually "win" this supposed war in Iraq, our economy will never fully recover, and our soul will be forever tarnished. This war has been, and will continue to be, funded, unnecessarily, on the backs of our children, and our children's children, and their children's children. Their standard of living will not be as good as ours has been, nor as good as it could have been. Our economy will continue to shrink, and our production possibilities will be forever restricted, never to be realized as they could have been. Our country, will never be the same.

All of this, for a bunch of lies, and a power grab, by a few despicable and misguided individuals...all too good and high-and-mighty to bother themselves with the truth...and the Constitution of the United States.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little T emporary Safety , deserve neither Liberty nor Safety ." - Ben Franklin

Yet, some of us, instead of admitting a fault, and doing what it takes, as quickly as possible, to repair what we have done, choose to continue to propagate the lies through whatever tomfoolery and pointless statistic we can find. "It's the media! Down with the media! They don't report the Truth!" Blah. Blah. Blah.

The truth of the pudding, my friends, is in the eating. And right now, the press, especially the so called Fair and Balanced press of Fox News, has been spoon-fed this pudding from day one, and so many people, like gluttons for fear and control, continue to eat it like there is nothing left on Earth to eat.

My hope for this country, is that one day soon, very soon, we cease to be sheep, and once again, become conscious of what has truly made this country great, to regain our souls, and become the shepherds our founding fathers provided us the foundation to be, and the Greatest Generation afforded us.

Good night.