Monday, September 06, 2010

Back To Body Counts

In the Vietnam war the news reporters were treated to a daily briefing that included the “daily body count,” the number of enemy killed and/or captured that day. It lost credibility completely when someone figured out that according to the ongoing body count we had killed the entire population of both North and South Vietnam twice over.

Okay, I made that up, but after Vietnam the military quit providing body counts because of the complete lack of credibility of what was provided in Vietnam. Notably, in Iraq and Afghanistan both we have never, ever been given any such “metrics” of putative success.

Well, now we are back to body counts. In an AP News item it was reported Friday that Petraeus announced that “235 militant leaders were killed or captured in the last 90 days, another 1,066 rank-and-file insurgents killed and 1,673 detained.”

As the blog Newshoggers points out, it was reported by UPI back in March that British General Barrons estimated that the Taliban has about 900 leaders overall, including the most junior level, so Petraeus is claiming to have eliminated a full quarter of the enemy in his first three months in country. That claim lacks a certain credibility to me, though, because he’s claiming to have knocked off 26% of the leaders, while only taking out at most 10% of the fighters, and perhaps only 7% of them.

Further, if his claim was true we would certainly be winning, and there is simply no evidence, other than his “body count” that we are. In any event,
I find the very fact that we are back to military-provided body counts as evidence of success to be profoundly depressing.

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