Bombings in Iraq

BOMBINGS IN IRAQ….Last night I was reading the report O’Hanlon and Pollack wrote after their recent trip to Iraq (not the NYT op-ed, the actual report) because I was curious to see if they provided any actual metrics indicating that the surge was working, as opposed to merely subjective judgment about things like morale and COIN effectiveness. The short answer is no, though more about that later.

As I mentioned yesterday, though, there’s one piece of good news from Iraq these days: the number of bombings is down this summer compared to last summer. This is one metric that O’Hanlon and Pollack did mention, but look at how they do it:

Successful U.S. tactics have gone well beyond classic military measures. For example, coalition forces are now trying to remove nitric acid and urea from stores, since these are the ingredients for homemade explosives. As a result, when many car and truck bombs are detonated these days, they are often less powerful than before, further helping to explain the reduction in casualties….

This is crazy. The Brookings Iraq Index (author: Michael O’Hanlon) doesn’t specifically track car and truck bombings anymore because “we are no longer receiving useful data on the number of car bombs in Iraq,” but they do track “multiple fatality bombings” in general. Here are the numbers:

Feb/Mar/Apr

May/Jun/Jul

Change

Total # Bombings

160

124

-22%

Total Fatalities

2061

1579

-23%

Fatalities Per Bombing

12.88

12.73

-1%

This is the absolute best case for these numbers. In fact, they’re cherry picked: the Feb/Mar/April period was unusually high for bombings, so any comparison with this period will produce the rosiest possible picture. Even at that, though, the lethality of bombings is the same post-surge as pre-surge. Conversely, if you compare apples to apples, and look at bombings this summer vs. last summer, the average number of fatalities per blast has gone up from 8.04 to 12.84. That’s a huge increase, and suggests that bombs are getting more effective, not less.

Want more? The chart below shows the number of fatalities per bombing on a monthly basis since the start of 2006. If there’s any kind of serious decrease in the effectiveness of Iraqi bombs over that period, I sure don’t see it.