Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Australian Academic Atrocities

Over at The Australian, there's an Op-Ed piece by David Day, an Australian Academic, that's breathtaking in its moral and logical bankrupcy, as well as being (to put it politely) "factually challenged" in many places, though incisive and accurate in others.

Some quotes:
Looking ahead, history suggests that the outlook for Iraq and its people will be grim for many years to come. After all, the Vietnam War took 30 years and millions of deaths before the French and then the Americans acknowledged defeat. Iraq could take just as long for the US to concede that its grand plan for forcibly remaking the Middle East and securing its resources is incapable of achievement.
Re-read that last line. "It's all about Oil", at least according to David Day. An armed robbery writ large. Nothing about 9/11, or the proposition that to do nothing and tolerate the Middle East's long history of anti-Democratic regimes is no longer an option, as they won't leave us alone if we ignore them.
In the meantime, the towns and cities of Iraq will continue to be laid waste by the devastating firepower of the US air force and artillery while the deadly bombings of the insurgents take a similarly indiscriminating toll on the inhabitants.
Yes, he is equating the military actions of the US armed forces with the "insurgents" who are deliberately blowing up schools, decapitating aid workers etc.
Even presuming that a meaningful election can be held during an ongoing war, the outcome of an election held under US auspices is sure to be rejected by the insurgents.
Especially Al Qaeda, who have stated quite clearly that nothing short of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate will stop them from taking up arms. Oh, and it has to be the *right* form of Islam, none of those heretical Shi'as need apply.
Moreover, as long as US forces remain in effective occupation, the insurgency will continue. What will it take then for the war to end and one side or the other to admit defeat? If history is any guide, it will take many more lives than the nearly 1 per cent of the population who have been killed since the toppling of Saddam.
One percent? That would be 250,000 deaths. Not even the discredited Lancet study claimed quite that much. Their results said that there were 19 chances in 20 of the number of deaths being anywhere between 8,000 and 192,000. This was reported as "100,000 dead" by people who didn't read it, or read it and didn't care what it said, as long as it could be used to Bash Bush. From the Lancet study, a figure of 200,000 is as likely as a figure of 2000. The true figure is most likely between 5,000 and 20,000.
...the British denied defeat following the collapse of their forces in France in 1940. Instead of agreeing to a compromise peace with Germany, the intervening English Channel allowed them to adopt a defiant stance when a cool assessment of the opposing forces might have dictated otherwise. Eighteen months later, the balance of forces shifted in Britain's favour and the defeat of Dunkirk was gradually transformed into eventual victory, although at the cost of many millions of lives that might otherwise have been saved.
Yes, he really is implying that had Britain surrendered in 1940 "millions of lives might have been saved". Not many of them Jewish though. Or Russian. In fact, thinking about it, a longer and more bloody conflict than that of the Eastern Front would have resulted in more, not less lives lost, regardless of the eventual winner. Just as to have Iraq still under Saddam's (and later, Uday and/or Orsay's) heels would have resulted in far more deaths. Plus, of course, in both cases a National Socialist regime still operating as a going concern. But that doesn't figure in any of David Day's "cool" calculations.
So there will be further heavy forfeits to be paid by the soldiers on the ground and by the Iraqi people before the Americans eventually announce, perhaps after a revolt by their own hard-pressed forces and under the pretext of handing over control to the Iraqis, that they are going to exit the country. And you can be sure that their departure will not be described as a defeat.
By the same logic, the Allies were "defeated" in WW2 as neither Germany nor Japan are still under Russian and American occupation. As for his hypothetical US "revolt of their hard-pressed forces", it would be difficult to find a more Fantastic hypothesis. If he truly believes this, his contact with reality is tenuous at best.
David Day, [is] an honorary associate of the history program at LaTrobe University in Melbourne
And a paragon par excellence of the Academic Idiotarian.


Pixy Misa said...

At least he admits the British were right not to surrender. Shame he can't get his brain around generalising that the concept of not surrendering to fascist scumbags.

And as a little bonus, he calls Vietnam a military defeat for the U.S. General Giap would be surprised.

Tim Lambert said...

I'm sure you want to deny the findings of the Lancet study, ut calling it "discredited" does not make it so.

Cybrludite said...

I'm not sure I can comment on this... this... person without resorting to crude Saxon oaths.(Yiddish doesn't have words enough to describe what an annoying git David Day appears to be.) Up until the bit about how the UK should have surrendered after Dunkirk, he seemed to be just a normal leftist putz. Advocating surrender to the Nazis though? He takes it to a whole 'nother level!

Zoe Brain said...

Pixy Mixa:
I'm not at all sure that D.Day said that the UK was "right to fight on". He said that they won - but that had they surrendered, millions of deaths might have been avoided. Your point about General Giap is well made though : Tet was a military disaster for the VC, for example. The 1975 North Vietnamese offensive, with more Tanks than Hitler used against the USSR in 1941, would have been a disaster too if the US had honoured its commitment to provide Saigon with air support.
But to some extent, that's less relevant, as the US - and Australia - were decisively defeated on the Home Front, while winning militarily. Few Vietnamese now living in Australia or the US would say that this was a good thing.

Zoe Brain said...

Tim Lambert:

Your blog is an excellent source of academic argument about the issue. It's filled with informative links, some of which were news to me. I recommend anyone interested in the subject to read it. (p.s. Tim Lambert defends the study both rationally and enthusiastically - I disagree with his conclusion, but his methods are first rate, all too rare on any side these days).

The problem is, the 100,000 figure (or 192,000, or 500,000) doesn't pass a sanity check: where are all the reports of the hundreds of people being killed every day by US air attacks, thousands on some days, and tens of thousands on special occasions (assuming a random distribution)? Where are all the graves? We're talking WW2 strategic bombing efforts here, a Blitz of highly discriminate deliberate targetting of women and children that puts the Luftwaffe's efforts in London to shame. The Fallujah figures, taken on their own, by the same methodology as used elsewhere indicate that 67,000 of the population of Fallujah (300,000) had been killed, with the rest all maimed, many twice over. 30% plus mortality of women and children, assuming a reasonable Middle East demographic. This was before the recent offensive, of course, I remind you, and was emphatically not inclusive of deaths in childbirth or malnutrition, but ascribed mainly to US Air attacks. No wonder the authors quietly ignored it as an 'outlier', a valid and reasonable action using some methodologies, but extremely dubious with this one, and under these circumstances. It would have inflated the figure to a mind-boggling 500,000, and that one even the authors thought was incredible, as in 'not capable of being believed'.

Furthermore, the Lancet study was published under most unusual conditions, was it not, and with signs indicating a highly politicised agenda. Not a valid argument against good Science, but it does remove any entitlement to 'benefit of the doubt' when it comes to less-than-rigorous results and interpretation of ambiguity. Or removing of figures from the dataset that don't pass the giggle test.

Now I happen to believe (along with the authors) that more data needs gathering about war-related deaths, and even that it's our moral duty to do so. On a more practical level, we need to do this so we can ameliorate the situation as much as we can, and predict patterns of need and casualties should future similar situations arise. I even said so when Salam Pax's friend started such an effort, nearly 18 months ago. It's their figures which I consider more reliable.

As it is though, the Lancet study, with its admitted 2-order-of-magnitude level of result uncertainty, and only to a 95% confidence level, is best described by Jay Manifold (IIRC): "That's not a result, that's a dartboard." Their methodology might have been the best available to them, and you do what you can, not what you'd like to do. But it sucketh bigge thyme as a useful estimate, except for purposes of political argument.

Discredited enough for you yet? Probably not. Time will tell.

Tim Lambert said...

To go through your points.

1. The graves are in Iraq. I don't know why you think that the air strikes were targetting women and children -- the study shows no such thing. You are wrong to claim that there is something dubious aout excluding an outlier in this study and wrong to say that the estimate is 500,000 if Falluja is included.

2. The study was published quickly, but the subject matter is surely topical. The people complaining about this just make themselves look desperate.

3. I'm glad you want to get a better estimate, but most complaining about the uncertainty in the estimate don't want a better estimate. They don't want to count civilian casualties because as long as their are no estimates they can ignore them.

rog said...

Is the writers name really D Day?