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Saturday, June 24, 2006


 

Troop "reductions" in Iraq - The New York Times plays with numbers


It doesn't qualify as innumeracy, because it probably qualifies more as deliberate obfuscation than confusion. But in reporting on plans (always future plans!) for U.S. troop reductions in Iraq, the Times claims that the plan calls for "sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007." Well, "sharp reductions" is a broad phrase, and this might qualify as a "sharp reduction": "the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007." Wow, you think, that's more than a 50% reduction, which would indeed justify the use of the adjective "sharp" to describe it.

Except for one little detail, which the Times does reveal: "Combat brigades, which generally have about 3,500 troops, do not make up the bulk of the 127,000-member American force in Iraq." Indeed, a few paragraphs later the Times does part of the math: "A reduction of eight combat brigades would equal about 28,000 troops." However, they never do the final math: 127,000-28,000=99,000 American troops occupying Iraq. And, while if you went from 127 pounds to 99 pounds, I might concede that you had achieved a "sharp reduction" in your weight, but that's only because if you went much lower, you'd be dead. When it comes to an occupation, I'm afraid it will take a lot bigger reduction than that to qualify as "sharp." Of course, there's another requirement too -- it actually has to happen, unlike every other reduction that's been talked about since "Mission Accomplished Day" more than three years ago.

I got a kick out of this part of General Casey's plan:

In the general's briefing, the future American role in Iraq is divided into three phases. The next 12 months was described as a period of stabilization. The period from the summer of 2007 through the summer of 2008 was described as a time when the emphasis would be on the restoration of the Iraqi government's authority. The period from the summer of 2008 though the summer of 2009 was cast as one in which the Iraqi government would be increasingly self-reliant.
Weren't those the things that were supposedly already happening? Wouldn't it be interesting to hear how General Casey described the last 12 months? Or the 12 months before that?

You do have to love how, just days after the Congress (all Republicans and most Democrats) beat back any talk of a "timetable" for withdrawal, along comes the Prime Minister of Iraq talking about a timetable.


Why stop here? There's more...

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