More Troops = Less Violence?

MORE TROOPS = LESS VIOLENCE?….William Stuntz, writing in the Weekly Standard a few days ago, tried to make the case that sending more troops to Iraq would help contain the violence there:

Consider these data: Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up.

The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties.

I didn’t bother linking to his piece when it came out because his argument sounded so iffy and cherry picked that it was hardly worth responding to. However, BruceR at Flit didn’t give up so quickly: he created a graph that plotted the number of troops vs. the level of violence, and when that didn’t support Stuntz’s hypothesis he went back to the drawing board and tried graphing the numbers a few different ways. None of them panned out. His conclusion: “The prospects that another 20,000 increase (c. 180,000 Coalition forces combined) would achieve anything lasting seem dim.”

Donate Now to the Washington Monthly and your gift will be doubled