« Brits Contemplating Deep Defense Cuts | Main | Quantifying the Hypocrisy of Lefty Academicians »

September 20, 2010

War and "Proofiness"

Food for thought served up by one of the worst practitioners of the fine art of torturing numbers until they confess to things that simply aren't true:

Falsifying numbers is the crudest form of proofiness. Seife lays out a rogues’ gallery of more subtle deceptions. “Potemkin numbers” are phony statistics based on erroneous or nonexistent calculations. Justice Antonin Scalia’s assertion that only 0.027 percent of convicted felons are wrongly imprisoned was a Potemkin number derived from a prosecutor’s back-of-the-envelope estimate; more careful studies suggest the rate might be between 3 and 5 percent.

“Disestimation” involves ascribing too much meaning to a measurement, relative to the uncertainties and errors inherent in it. In the most provocative and detailed part of the book, Seife analyzes the recounting process in the astonishingly close 2008 Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. The winner, he claims, should have been decided by a coin flip; anything else is disestimation, considering that the observed errors in counting the votes were always much larger than the number of votes (roughly 200 to 300) separating the two candidates.

“Comparing apples and oranges” is another perennial favorite. The conservative Blue Dog Democrats indulged in it when they accused the Bush administration of borrowing more money from foreign governments in four years than had all the previous administrations in our nation’s history, combined. True enough, but only if one conveniently forgets to correct for inflation.

As someone who works with numbers and how they inform management decisions, I see all of these errors on a daily basis. Interestingly, the NY Times review doesn't mention the distortion I see most frequently in the political realm: the selective use of statistics to imply that a process is unfair or unjust. In an essay provocatively titled "Unequal Sacrifice", The Nation wrings its hands over the cruel injustice of war:

For those with the patience to wade through its jargon-laced and data-laden pages, the book reveals disturbing—although by no means surprising—truths about exactly who pays the price for this country's ever-growing propensity for war. Yet the single-mindedness with which Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen pursue their subject ultimately limits the value of the enterprise. The analytical rigor that unearths small but important insights impedes recognition of vastly larger ones. A preoccupation with nuance begets myopia. Hewing to the standards of their discipline, Kriner and Shen seem oblivious to the larger implications of their findings.

What are those larger implications? Just ask Michael Moore:

...by cross-referencing official casualty records with Census data, they reach a conclusion that affirms Moore's verdict: "when America goes to war, it is the poorer and less educated in society who are more likely to die in combat." Furthermore, this gap is by no means a recent development. Kriner and Shen survey the pattern of US military fatalities in four conflicts, beginning with World War II and proceeding to Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. (Regarding the distribution of casualties in earlier US history—during the Civil War, for example—the authors are silent.) Only in the case of the war against Germany and Japan did "the nation's long-held norm of equal sacrifice in war" prevail. Given the reliance on conscription to raise the very large forces required for that conflict along with the military's refusal to induct anyone who didn't meet strict, if arbitrary, health and literacy standards, "the poorest and most undereducated counties actually suffered lower than average casualty rates."

military_income.gif The meme that blacks and the urban poor suffer a disproportionate number of wartime casualties is one of the most pervasive of media distortions. Never mind that it has been thoroughly debunked time after time. The Heritage Foundation crunched the numbers on two Gulf II military cohorts. The income distribution was particularly enlightening. Here are their findings:

... on average, 1999 recruits were more highly educated than the equiv­alent general population, more rural and less urban in origin, and of similar income status. We did not find evidence of minority racial exploitation (by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). We did find evidence of a Southern military tradition in that some states, notably in the South and West, provide a much higher proportion of enlisted troops by population.

The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets. However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on ter­rorism began, as did the proportion of highly edu­cated enlistees. All of the demographic evidence that we analyzed contradicts the pro-draft case.

Another source that didn't look at income or education yields some interesting insights about the supposed "unfairness" of combat:

Who_serves.jpg

Data: Census.gov, About.com

The graph above answers two questions:

1. In the military's target age bracket, who is most likely to serve in an all volunteer force?

Answer: Blacks and white men are both overrepresented in the armed forces.

In the age group eligible for military service:

17% of the military is black (blacks comprise 12.2 percent of the same age group in the general population)

84% of the military is male (men comprise 50.9 percent of the same age group in the general population)

2. In the military's target age bracket, who is most likely to sacrifice (i.e., become a combat casualty)?

Only two groups - whites and men - had disproportionately high casualty rates. (whites suffered 75.2% of combat casualties while men's sacrifices were a stunning 97.6%).

Oddly, though, The Nation doesn't think it's at all "unfair" for blacks to die in combat at rates that are roughly half their numbers in the armed forces, nor that women shoulder a disproportionately low share of wartime sacrifices. Nor is it concerned that men in general comprise a stunning 97.6 of combat deaths.

It would seem that some inequalities are more important than others. And if you can just avoid presenting all the numbers, it becomes that much easier to obscure some "larger truths" in service of a dishonest and petty narrative.

Posted by Cassandra at September 20, 2010 08:09 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/3895

Comments

I had a tunnel rat, two SEALs, five Green Beanies, six USAF fighter pilots, and most of my flight platoon say the same thing to me at one time or another during my sojourn in the Land of the Two-Way Rifle Range:

"This war is LBJ's concerted effort to kill off the American middle class."

Posted by: BillT at September 20, 2010 09:59 AM

I'm always amazed that the mewlings, even when by happenstance they seem reasonable, of the NYT, a jobs welfare program for liberal hacks, is taken seriously by anyone other than their fourteen subscribers.

Still, I suppose it's useful for the rest of us to track the antics of the idiots, for our own protection.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 20, 2010 10:16 AM

Yanno, I was sitting on my front porch, after feeding the Exterior Guard Freeloaders (aka The Cats), and I was wondering when we would see new graphs and charts from you. I teased my mind with the possibilities and the form which it would take.

After reading this, I need to ask: Don't you think that using statistics as truth tables is less accurate because of how the numbers will be interpreted by either side?

Posted by: Cricket at September 20, 2010 10:19 AM

The biggest single problem I see with the use of stats (assuming they're being used honestly) is that people don't bother to ask how well the stat they're using as "proof" answers the question they're asking?

Sometimes you don't have any choice (example, you're trying to draw an overarching conclusion across different data sets that compiled different measures or compiled the same measure in different ways). IOW, there's no consistent baseline.

If there's a HUGE difference between two populations (example, 10% of this one does X, 95% of that one does X) then I think you can reasonably conclude that they're different with regard to X even if you can't tell exactly how different they are. Still, if every single study says they're very different (but the amounts differ) you can still probably conclude that the difference isn't a minor one :p

Of course that kind of consistency rarely happens.

A good example of using the wrong measure occurs with income inequality studies that use "household income".

You can't do that without controlling for two things:

1. At the very least, household size.
2. Hopefully, the number of f/t workers per household.

Another one I see, and this is really hard to control for, is assuming that the bottom quartile 3 decades ago is comprised of the same people in the bottom quartile today.

I think we all (me included) have to be careful not to read too much into the data. If I believed that whites or men were oppressed, I could "reasonably" infer from my chart above that they feel "pressured" by society into volunteering for combat.

And to a certain extent that may well be true. I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be the same stigma attached to not being in combat when I talk to black friends. Their attitude is almost, "only chumps volunteer to die". I think part of this may be a generalized distrust of government because in other ways, young black men can hardly be said to be risk averse.

Likewise, few people think less of a woman who wants to avoid combat. Is that "fair"? No. Is it reality? Absolutely.

The question in my mind is, "Are these cultural influences tantamount to coercion/oppression? Are they good or bad?"

Posted by: Cassandra at September 20, 2010 10:31 AM

Don't you think that using statistics as truth tables is less accurate because of how the numbers will be interpreted by either side?

I don't know if it's 'less accurate' (I think accuracy is what it is regardless of bias). I think it's absolutely less effective because of our tendency to discount information that doesn't confirm our pre-existing beliefs and promote data that does confirm them.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 20, 2010 10:33 AM

The reason I was asking this is because of the sample population. Since you chose your data from reliable sources, and the military population is a smaller subset, the default reasoning I was taught in school (which means there is theory, not reality) is that the data is more accurate if the population is larger.

I don't think you tortured the numbers; on the contrary, I think your reasoning is sound and the statistics bear out your logic.

As I near the end of my student time, and I see real-world application of the information, and how you have presented it, I only hope that I can do as well in practice.

Well done!

Posted by: Cricket at September 20, 2010 12:02 PM

P.S. I am in a financial management class right now. Just curious; would there be a beta associated with your data?

Posted by: Cricket at September 20, 2010 12:09 PM

I think it depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Here, there are two common inferences:

1. That the percentage of people in a given group who "sacrifice" (i.e., are killed in combat) is disproportionate to their numbers in the population at large.

This supposedly "proves" that their sacrifice is "unfair" (they are shouldering an unequal share of the burden of military service). I think here we're mostly concerned with the sample size of "sacrificed" - the numbers of each group in the military and in the general population are both large.

4600+ seems big enough, and one thing I generally try to do is compare the proportions to the Vietnam war, where the sample sizes are much larger. And they're roughly similar despite the fact that Vietnam used the draft and OIF/OEF is an all volunteer force.

A few insights: it seems that in allowing the military to be more selective, the all volunteer scheme actually reduces the number of poor/uneducated servicemembers. But that would contradict the liberal oppression mantra.

Also, how much sense does it make to look at only who sacrifices? How about who benefits from serving? Isn't the "benefit" part of cost/benefit relevant in assessing "fairness"?

One reasonable interpretation of these numbers is that women and blacks BENEFIT disproportionately from military service because their "sacrifice rate" is far below their participation rate. But again, that undercuts the victimization narrative.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 20, 2010 12:34 PM

I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be the same stigma attached to not being in combat when I talk to black friends. Their attitude is almost, "only chumps volunteer to die".

Your friends are either playing the "I'm too smart for that" game with you or they have very narrow mindsets.

Ask them if they would have been willing to march in Selma and face the dogs.

Posted by: BillT at September 20, 2010 12:36 PM

Oh crap:

2. That the percentage of people in a given group who "sacrifice" (i.e., are killed in combat) is disproportionate to their numbers in the armed forces.

This is (IMO) the question people ought to be asking with an all volunteer force. The first question is more appropriate with a draft.When people don't choose to serve, it makes sense to look at service/sacrifice as a proportion of the population.

But when they volunteer, I think the "fairness" of the proportion who bear the costs makes more sense relative to the number who actually serve for a number of reasons (not the least of which is readiness and cost/benefit).

Posted by: Cassandra at September 20, 2010 12:38 PM

Ask them if they would have been willing to march in Selma and face the dogs.

But that really is the attitude I've encountered - it's not "their fight". I can understand this to a certain point: if you've been fed a bunch of nonsense by the likes of Charlie Rangel, it tends to skew your assessment.

I think it's important to note here that I'm talking about people who aren't from a military background. I'm not sure non-military whites are all that different but I do think they aren't contending with that whole 'hardest hit' meme (though arguably they are the ones who ought to be, given the stats).

Posted by: Cassandra at September 20, 2010 12:41 PM

What about a breakdown of jobs? Support from the rear? I think that would be the beta I would use. Do you think that would be a better way to asses who faces the greater risk?

Posted by: Cricket at September 20, 2010 02:53 PM

FWIW, the sensible (IE, not "feminazi" or welfare type) women that I talked to when I was in tended to have choice-systems similar to mine-- I didn't want to go coast guard because dealing with drug smugglers at random is way to dangerous, but I wanted to DO something. So, work on a tin can-- needful job, and the direct threat will probably kill you before you even know what's what.

Most of the black, older folks I ran into had MAJOR authority issues, even when they were the authority, which would probably support your observations....

Posted by: Foxfier at September 21, 2010 02:30 AM

"This war is LBJ's concerted effort to kill off the American middle class."

They'd have made the first and right call on Obama then. Before he was even given time to "show his stuff" as they said.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 21, 2010 10:43 AM

Ask them if they would have been willing to march in Selma and face the dogs.

Hit em where it hurts

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 21, 2010 10:44 AM

But that really is the attitude I've encountered - it's not "their fight". I can understand this to a certain point: if you've been fed a bunch of nonsense by the likes of Charlie Rangel, it tends to skew your assessment.

The blacks I know in the military see right through the Charlie Rangels, the Al Sharptons, and the Jesse Jacksons, yet, somehow, *they're* the ones who are the chumps...?

Posted by: BillT at September 21, 2010 03:04 PM

Cassandra - Just a couple of points, with respect to your initial post.

First, I imagine that you well understand that there is no necessary conflict between the Kriner and Shen study, on the one hand, and Tim Kane's (Heritage Foundation) study on the other. That is, both may well be correct. (E.g., one (Kriner and Shen) deals with casualties and the other (Kane) does not; "apples and oranges", as it were.) [That is not to say, of course, that either one or both analyses are in fact without flaw.]

I bring this up because your para. commencing "The meme that blacks and the urban poor suffer . . ." could easily be taken by the hurried reader as amounting to an assertion that the K & S study is in fact flawed, and contradicted by (e.g.) the Kane study.

While the K & S study did conclude that proportionately more casualties arose from the poorer and less educated elements of society, it is unclear to me from Bacevich's piece in The Nation how great the "disproportion" is (either with respect to Iraq or earlier wars). Perhaps (while "statistically significant") such disproportion is not "socially significant" in a meaningful sense. Indeed, Bacevich himself chides K & S as being naive in believing that (the public's appreciation of) such disproportion is likely to influence policy (or even (?) to tend to influence policy); on that vector, then, the study (even if flaw-free) is in a real sense not socially significant.

Point number 2 (2.0, 2.1, 2.2 [?]). It is unclear to me why you attribute to "The Nation" the opinions of the author of the piece appearing in The Nation - that is, Andrew Bacevich. Nor do I understand why you characterize Bacevich ("The Nation") as "wring[ing] [his] hands over the cruel injustice of war." (Emphasis added.) That said, I do believe that Bacevich, like any intelligent, educated and moral person is very much concerned with the "cruel injustice of war". War is by its very nature unjustly cruel, and where war is, moreover, "unjust" (in the Augustinian (etc.) sense) it is all the more appropriate to be concerned with the "cruel injustice of war". In this regard, (as I understand him) Bacevich believes that the security of the United States does not require, is not in fact furthered by, and is in fact impaired by the pursuit of the current strategy in Afghanistan; as such, he might well view our war policy as violating "just war" principles.

All that said, a close reading of the Bacevich piece does seem to support the notion that Bacevich views the K & S study as accurately revealing a true disproportionality of casualties (on "class lines"). That said, that "fact" may amount to a minor quotient in what I take the gist of the Bacevich piece to be about: the unwise path of military adventurism/perpetual war, as promoted by the most affluent and influential classes/actors, resulting in "unequal sacrifice" on the part of the less affluent and influential.

Finally, I am somewhat at a loss to understand the point you are making when you write that:

Oddly, though, [Bacevich] doesn't think it's at all "unfair" for blacks to die in combat at rates that are roughly half their numbers in the armed forces, nor that women shoulder a disproportionately low share of wartime sacrifices. Nor is [he] concerned that men in general comprise a stunning 97.6 of combat deaths.

I have little doubt but that Bacevich does think it "unfair" / "unjust" that our troops, black, white, yellow, male, female, straight or gay, rich or poor, suffer the casualties as they do - in fighting unwise and unnecessary wars. Your para. immediately above has the look and smell of a tremendously carmine red herring, and I would agree (albeit without the sarcasm) with your suggestion that "It would seem that some inequalities are more important than others." And, while you might not agree with his position(s), your assertion that Bacevich advanced in his essay a "dishonest and petty narrative" is unmotivated, and unsupported, and false.

Cheers.

Posted by: pond at September 23, 2010 01:37 PM

your para. commencing "The meme that blacks and the urban poor suffer . . ." could easily be taken by the hurried reader as amounting to an assertion that the K & S study is in fact flawed, and contradicted by (e.g.) the Kane study.

Readers in a hurry often come to mistaken conclusions, pond.

I made no assertions as to the methodology of the K&S study. Bacevich's article presented no hard numbers from that study - just a lot of "broader conclusions" bolstered mostly (from what I can see) by vague references to Michael Moore.

What Mr. Moore has to do with the study escapes me, but perhaps you can enlighten me? From the Bacevich article:

... the communities on whom the burden of sacrifice falls most heavily are precisely those that wield the least clout. Not having much money, they are easily ignored. "Citizens from low-income, low-education communities," Kriner and Shen write, "are disproportionately less engaged in politics than their fellow citizens from socio-economically advantaged communities."

Nowhere in that article is it ever established that - in fact - "citizens from low income, low-education communities" bear a disproportionate share of the casualties.

There is a lot of blather about Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911 (also blissfully fact free). I understand that you find all of this tremendously compelling, even without a single shred of data or a single data point to back it up.

In refutation of the author's repeated assertions that war unfairly burdens the poorest and least well educated sector, I presented not one but several sources: casualty data from Vietnam, casualty data from OIF/OEF, and recruiting data from OIF/OEF (these would be the group of folks who make up our armed forces, pond. Combat casualties are a subset of this group.) And like Bacevich, I expanded my comments beyond the K&S study to address the "broader implications".

The "poor/black hardest hit" is a dishonest narrative. You may not like that, but the facts happen to say otherwise.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2010 02:14 PM

In this regard, (as I understand him) Bacevich believes that the security of the United States does not require, is not in fact furthered by, and is in fact impaired by the pursuit of the current strategy in Afghanistan; as such, he might well view our war policy as violating "just war" principles.

And fighting people who have declared war on you violates the "just war" principles -- how, exactly?

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2010 03:57 PM

BillT -

It is the "how" you go about it, that most often raises the problem. Proportionality and likelihood of success under the circumstances are perhaps particularly apposite in this context.

I imagine you are aware of the fact that the vast amount of persons killed in Afghanistan are not AQ. And that AQ's numbers are quite small in Afghanistan (and in the region, generally, for that matter). Hundreds, if not thousands, of non-combatants have perished, and as to the Taliban, the Taliban/Talibans is/are no natural enemy of the United States.

If you are ignorant of the position taken by people such as Bacevich, you can google him (for example) and quickly educate yourself, via some his writings or via audio recordings, etc. readily available on the net. Likewise, there are many informative web-pages on the subject of "just war". (Frankly, I do not recall specifically if I have read/heard Bacevich invoking the just war principles, but as I suggested above, I suspect that that doctrine has substantially informed his views.)

Cheers.

Posted by: pond at September 23, 2010 04:28 PM

Cassandra - You wrote:

In refutation of the author's repeated assertions that war unfairly burdens the poorest and least well educated sector, I presented not one but several sources: casualty data from Vietnam, casualty data from OIF/OEF, and recruiting data from OIF/OEF (these would be the group of folks who make up our armed forces, pond. Combat casualties are a subset of this group.)

Perhaps you don't understand the meaning of the word "refute" (and its derivations). You did not "refute" the K&S analysis as reported by Bacevich, but rather you merely pointed out that a different study, which did not address casualty figures at all, came to a conclusion which you apparently believe conflicts with the K&S analysis. (And in like manner you pointed to another datasheet which didn't address "class".) To repeat, the K&S and Kane (etc.) studies are apples and oranges. Surely, you see that?

The "poor/black hardest hit" is a dishonest narrative. You may not like that, but the facts happen to say otherwise.

Here your error is "red herring" / "changing the subject"; K&S are not reported as saying that blacks are "hardest hit". Rather, (as Bacevich wrote):

[T]hey [K&S] reach a conclusion that affirms Moore's verdict: "when America goes to war, it is the poorer and less educated in society who are more likely to die in combat."

Not a word about blacks.

It's not clear to me if you are voicing a gripe about Bacevich not including charts or figures, etc. from the K&S study in his essay, when you write that:

Nowhere in that article is it ever established that - in fact - "citizens from low income, low-education communities" bear a disproportionate share of the casualties. (Emph. added)

If you are, well, one can gripe about anything one wants, I suppose. Bacevich didn't set out to "establish" anything; with respect to the K&S study, he reported what he reported, and commented on that report as he did, for whatever purposes he was seeking in writing his own piece.

Personally, I would have preferred it if Bacevich had thrown out a number or two from K&S so one could (quickly) better judge how "socially significant" the disproportion is (see my first post). That said, this "flaw" in his essay (if "flaw" it be) is one which I venture to say afflicts a multitude of essays/articles/writings - including perhaps yours and mine from time to time. However, if I, as a reader, am interested enough, of course I can go and check for myself! And of course so can you! I have no reason, however, to believe that Bacevich misrepresented that K&S study.

Cheers.

Posted by: pond at September 23, 2010 05:21 PM

Pond:

I'm going to warn you that I'm really in no mood for this right now.

Please pay attention to my statement re: blacks.

The meme that blacks and the urban poor suffer a disproportionate number of wartime casualties is one of the most pervasive of media distortions.

Last time I checked, K&S is not "media". Nor, I would argue, is Bacevich "media".

To adopt your own formulation, "surely you are aware of the meaning of the word 'media'"?

I've already pointed out that Bacevich used the K&S study as a starting point to generalize about larger issues. I'm really not sure why you can't see (especially as I did so EXPLICITLY by making it crystal clear who I was talking about by using the term "media" rather than "K&S" or "Bacevich") that a refutation of a MEDIA DISTORTION is clearly not intended to as a refutation of a study I haven't seen and that Bacevich provided not one number from (thereby making it pretty damned hard to pretend to refute).

I don't mind having a discussion but I'm not interested in "refuting" things I did not say, nor in continually pointing out what I DID say. A perfect example is this:

I have no reason, however, to believe that Bacevich misrepresented that K&S study.

Had I said that he did, this might make some sense. But since I didn't say that, I am not going to spend any more time responding to your inaccurate characterizations of my post, nor to your repeated (despite several attempts to correct the error) assertions that I was refuting the K&S study, which I have never seen.

Once again, I would normally never be this snotty but I will adopt the convention you used.

Perhaps you don't understand the meaning of the words "broader" and "implications"? Or of using a particular case as an introduction to commenting on a "broader" phenomenon (media distortions).

Let me be plain: you are being insulting and I am not interested in responding to rudeness.


Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2010 05:48 PM

Proportionality and likelihood of success under the circumstances are perhaps particularly apposite in this context.

Are you suggesting we should only kill Al-Q and the Taliban a little bit? And the likelihood of success doesn't enter the picture when you're battling an enemy who has stated that they want you to either convert to their brand of belief or die.

I imagine you are aware of the fact that the vast amount of persons killed in Afghanistan are not AQ.

The majority of those we engage are either Al-Q or Taliban. We have killed hill bandits who were apolitical, or drug lords defending their turf. The vast majority of non-combatants who have died were killed by Al-Q or Taliban attacks.

...and as to the Taliban, the Taliban/Talibans is/are no natural enemy of the United States.

The Taliban is the regional host to Al Qaeda, which attacked us. The Taliban engages in attacks on Pakistan, our ally, and attacks on our troops protecting Afghan civilians from attacks. How is the Taliban not our enemy?

If you are ignorant of the position taken by people such as Bacevich, you can google him (for example) and quickly educate yourself...

Your concern that I am ignorant of Bacevich's position is touching, but how did you arrive at that assumption based on my question: "And fighting people who have declared war on you violates the 'just war' principles -- how, exactly?"

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2010 05:50 PM

Cassandra -

I'm sorry your undies have gotten so bunched up. Take some breaths.

Re: "blacks" you rebuke me for allegedly failing to pay attention to your statement about blacks:

Please pay attention to my statement re: blacks.

The meme that blacks and the urban poor suffer a disproportionate number of wartime casualties is one of the most pervasive of media distortions.

In point of fact you made two statements about blacks, one in your initial post (reproduced above), and one in your reply to my post. In the initial post, the reference seemed to me to be but a passing one, rather than your central point -- which is what I now (tentatively) understand to be your position.

In the reply post you did not describe your "black reference" in terms of media distortion at all, but rather that reference constituted the short concluding para. in a post whose several preceding paragraphs discussed/critiqued the Bacevich essay. Under such circumstances, perhaps I may be forgiven for failing to appreciate that your concluding comments in that reply of yours had absolutely nothing to do with Bacevich's piece which you had just finished addressing.

Re: your complaint:

I don't mind having a discussion but I'm not interested in "refuting" things I did not say, nor in continually pointing out what I DID say. A perfect example is this:

I have no reason, however, to believe that Bacevich misrepresented that K&S study.

Had I said that he did, this might make some sense. But since I didn't say that, I am not going to spend any more time responding to your inaccurate characterizations of my post . . .

I did not assert that you had claimed Bacevich misrepresented that study, nor did I intend to imply that you had.

Finally (almost), while it is far from clear to me from your latest comments, I (very tentatively) take it that you agree that you were inaccurate when you wrote (& upon which I commented in my last post to you) that:

In refutation of the author's repeated assertions that war unfairly burdens the poorest and least well educated sector, I presented not one but several sources: casualty data from Vietnam, casualty data from OIF/OEF, and recruiting data from OIF/OEF (these would be the group of folks who make up our armed forces, pond. Combat casualties are a subset of this group.)

(Inter alia, I have no clue who you might have been referring to as "the author" in the above passage, if not Bacevich; and see my preceding post to you with respect to that passage ("apples & oranges", .etc.,; and see your remarks on refutation in your last post)

¿?

Re: insults, my apologies if you were offended by my phraseology re: "refutation". My grandmother used to say if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. It's often good advice, but most all of us fall short in that respect (as elsewhere). While I needn't have responded in quite that fashion, in my defense, you showed no hesitation to label portions of Bacevich's article "blather", nor to hesitate to convey that you "understood" that I found all that blather to be "tremendously compelling" (etc.). If we were not swimming in the same stream, our streams were not too awfully far apart.

Cheers.

Posted by: pond at September 23, 2010 08:10 PM

BillT -

Are you suggesting we should only kill Al-Q and the Taliban a little bit?

My first reaction was to simply write "No." here. Upon reflection, however, I think the answer is a qualified "Yes." If a "little bit" is enough, then that's good. If it isn't, then "enough". In a perfect world, we would be killing "enough".

How is the Taliban not our enemy? Not our natural enemy is what I wrote. Common, Bill; surely you know the argument(s) from "the other side" on Afghanistan? If not, read/listen to some Bacevich, Luttwak . . .that'll be a start.

Your concern that I am ignorant of Bacevich's position is touching, but how did you arrive at that assumption based on my question: "And fighting . . ."

I don't believe I made that assumption. But if I did, the answer is "[Assuming the predicate to be fulfilled,] I don't recall."

Posted by: pond at September 23, 2010 08:45 PM

How is the Taliban not our enemy? Not our natural enemy is what I wrote. Common, Bill; surely you know the argument(s) from "the other side" on Afghanistan? If not, read/listen to some Bacevich, Luttwak . . .that'll be a start.

Prior to 7 December, 1941, the Japanese were not our natural enemy, yet they attacked us and we fought them. The USSR *was* our natural enemy, yet we allied with them to fight a common enemy. I know the argument from "the other side" -- it looks great in theory and fails in reality.

And for your information and edification, I've been reading Luttwak since 1983.

I don't believe I made that assumption.

Then why did you suggest that I "google him (for example) and quickly educate yourself, via some his writings or via audio recordings, etc. readily available on the net."

You assume that I'm ignorant of the arguments, merely because I disagree with your position.

You are in error.

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2010 04:11 AM

Pond-
You are clearly ignorant when you claim our Host is ignorant, or you are the most pathetic troll on the face of the Earth. (that's a title of some great renown-- why don't you head off to 4chan and show it off?)

She doesn't speak of "other studies" when she refuted stuff here, she's speaking of the hard data. That would be, to prove wrong by data or evidence.

Our host showed that, from bare bones facts, minorities and the poor sacrifice LESS than the rest. This is clearly counter to the claims of the media.

Posted by: Foxfier at September 24, 2010 06:41 AM

Post a comment

To reduce comment spam, comments on older posts are put into moderation 5 days after the last activity. Comments with more than one link also go into moderation. If you don't see your comment after posting it, try refreshing the screen. If you still don't see it, your comment is probably in the moderation queue.




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)