12 October 2006

Civil war

President Bush explained last week that we're seeing a bit of fringe terrorism in Iraq.
The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause, so they've been fighting a bloody campaign of sectarian violence, which they hope will plunge that country into a civil war. Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war.
Whew. It's a good thing this hasn't turned to civil war. Imagine how bad that would be. The American Civil War, for instance, was a notoriously bloody conflict.
The war produced about 970,000 casualties (3% of the population), including approximately 620,000 soldier deaths
Now that's serious. 3% is a small number for many purposes, but when it comes to this ... well, think of every class you took until you graduated high school. The war would have taken one person out of each of those classes.

The Iraq war isn't that bad, is it?

As it happens, just this week we have probably the best figures yet about Iraqi casualties.

A new survey says more than 650,000 Iraqis have lost their lives as a consequence of the invasion by the United States and Britain, with an estimated 200,000 violent deaths directly attributable to Allied forces.
Even I'm surprised by these numbers. But I believe them. This study, published in the British medical journal the Lancet, is the sequel to a controversial study a couple of years ago showing that about 100,000 Iraqis died in the first 18 months of the Iraq war. That previous study was controversial, of course, because war hawks insisted that the war must have made things better in Iraq in every way. Crooked Timber has a thorough review of resources on the subject that convinced me that the original Lancet study was legit, so I presume that the same applies to this new, more thorough, study.

And no, things wouldn't have been even worse under that evil tyrant, Saddam. That 100,000 was how many more died than than would have had we not invaded. Likewise with the new study.

Well, at least we put an end to Saddam's torture chambers. Uh. Or not.

But I digress. How does Iraq stack up against the American Civil War?

The 654,965 deaths estimated to have resulted from the invasion represent about 2.5 per cent of the Iraqi population.
See! Another 130,000 Iraqis are gonna have to die before this counts as a civil war.

You may also be wondering how the duration of the Iraq war compares to that of the American Civil War. Confederate troops captured Union forts on 3 March 1861, and Lee surrendered on 9 April 1865, putting the American Civil War at 1498 days. Whereas the Iraq war, which began 20 March 2003, has lasted for only 1301 days.

So not to worry. We've got an entire Friedman to get things sorted out before this becomes a civil war.

Some regular readers may be recalling an earlier post of mine, asking if the US spent longer fighting World War II. Not to worry. We haven't crossed that threshhold yet, either.

We have another month on that clock. So relax.

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