US Army Major Matthew Cavanaugh writes:
I think Rodger Shanahan is taking The Interpreter's distinguished readers on a bit of a wild-goose chase with the Iraq War violence figures. They're important, but frankly there will never be a solid set of numbers on which we can objectively agree are correct.
This was my point in bringing up the Bobby Ghosh piece or 'The Lifesaving War'. It wasn’t accurate — none were (or are). Just as the Lancet's figures were inaccurate. Sean Gourley (interestingly enough, a Kiwi) at Oxford pointed that out. It will be a long time until we get good public data from Iraq, so everyone chooses to see what they want to see regarding numbers.
The analysis will not be satisfying no matter what the conclusions. For example, if there was a figure from an eminently credible organization that had kept the exactly correct number secret (for some unspecified reason), would it change anyone's mind, either way, about the war? I suspect not.
Let's also get off the ad hominem. Whether Rodger is 'particularly disappointed' or not, he's now added 'lazy intellectually' to the 'Orientalist' comment. Both were about the person, not the idea, so let's just stick to the subject. Which is the Iraq War, and its appropriate place in our collective rear view mirrors. What was gained? At what cost? These are things we can really discuss and learn from. Because that's the point - learning so the next choice is (hopefully) better.
Getting back to Ghosh, he brings up a very interesting counter-factual: that Saddam would have survived the Arab Spring. Is this not a more worthy topic than retreading (the numbers) ground that has been chewed to bits?