Blogs > Cliopatria > A Handful of Desperate Rejectionists

Jan 23, 2006 1:17 pm

A Handful of Desperate Rejectionists

U.S.A. Today:
The number of attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces and civilians increased 29% last year, and insurgents are increasingly targeting Iraqis, the U.S. military says. Insurgents launched 34,131 attacks last year, up from 26,496 the year before, according to U.S. military figures released Sunday. Insurgents are widening their attacks to include the expanding Iraqi forces engaged in the fighting, said Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a coalition spokesman. He added,"It tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy."

Thirty. Four. Thousand. Attacks. Which proves that we're winning. More on this as soon as I have the chance.

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Col Steve J - 1/25/2006

I understood the sarcasm.

My point was the simply the comparison of two numbers, absent many contextual factors, do not lend themselves to claims one way or the other about the state of the insurgency.

As for energy and other "status" measure, the DOS puts out a weekly status report.

Barry DeCicco - 1/25/2006

Colonel, several of your points would say that an increase in attacks is evidence of the insurgents being successful. Combined with other reports (energy, flight of professionals, the militia-ism of the allegedly federal Iraqi army, etc), we're in deep, deep trouble. Having perused casualty and attack rate graphs a while back, there's no evidence there that this rate is an unsustainable surge effort.

Now, this is not surprising, given the way that the abdministion botched this war - a layered botching, so to speak, so that anything done correctly could be neutralized by a back-up layer of mistakes. But it is a big problem.

Chris Bray - 1/24/2006

Proof we're winning = sarcasm. I was commenting on the fact that BGN Alston was citing a significant increase in the number of attacks -- which the military chose not to weight, in releasing that information, by scale, type, effect, etc. -- as a sign that coalition forces are taking the fight to the enemy. (By that reasoning, a complete end to insurgent attcaks would prove that the insurgents are not at all desperate, suggesting an imminent insurgent victory, while a massive spike to 60,000 attacks in 2007 would prove that we were having even more success against them.)

Also, BGN Alston is the same coalition spokesman who said on 29 DEC that the insurgency is unable to sustain operations and is nearing exhaustion; regardless of scale and effect, 34,000 attacks of any kind would suggest a different narrative. Again, more on this as soon as I can post -- and right now, I'm away from home with only a few minutes of borrowed Internet time.

Col Steve J - 1/24/2006

I'm curious to read your explanation supporting your claim.

I'm not sure how in isolation the number of insurgent attacks prove which side is "winning." An increase in the number of insurgent attacks *could* indicate increased capabilities and better execution of operations by the insurgents. Conversely, in support of your claim, an increase in the number of attacks *could* indicate a fear among the insurgents about losing and a desperate campaign to reverse the tide.

Some other issues between 2004 and 2005 which might lend support one way or the other:

1)The fear of multiple successful elections in 2005 would necessitate increased insurgent responses

2)Lessons learned and operational experiences by the surviving insurgents enable them to conduct more frequent attacks (better effieciency; higher survival rates; adaptation on what works)

3)Change in ROE by coalition forces

4)Iraqi forces assuming more control offer easier targets

Finally, comparing the two number treats each attack as equal in value. Looking at the numbers without knowing the scale, type, location, time, effects, and other factors strikes me as a pointless exercise.

Adam Kotsko - 1/23/2006

If this is what desperation looks like, maybe we need to figure out a way to make the insurgents feel less desperate rather than more.

This whole thing reminds me of a Dilbert comic. Some guy is giving a presentation and says, "Sales for this product should be pretty slow and then will spike dramatically three years after it's introduced." Dilbert asks him why he thinks that. The guy says, "The spike is meant to get the project approved. The three years is to give me time to get promoted." It's eerily similar to "Things will get worse and worse, but then we'll reach a point where they can't keep it up anymore and it'll drop precipitously."

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