The Belmont Club on Iraq, Part II

Yesterday, I posted a piece from The Belmont Club that looked at the question of whether unrest is spreading dramatically in Iraq, by examining where American fatalities are occurring. Finding that the fatalities continue to occur mostly in the same areas, the author stated that his analysis did not support the view that unrest is spreading.
Andrew Sullivan has responded that the figures cited by Belmont could be due to the White House ordering the withdrawal of troops from sensitive areas in order to minimize casualties in the run-up to elections (perhaps prior to an attack on Fallujah in November). This suggestion has also been made, in characteristically less tentative fashion, by Chris Matthews who tried unsuccessfully last night to get Richard Holbrooke and Lindsay Graham to endorse his theory that President Bush is shying away from engagements for political purposes.
Belmont responds by noting that, if we were shying away from danger, we would likely see fewer fatalities in precisely the danger areas where we have long been incurring the heaviest losses. It also points out that most fatalities are occurring in connection with aggressive operations that belie any notion that our behavior has become “gun shy.”
It is possible, of course, that we are shying away from sending our troops into new danger areas. For this reason, one can’t conclude for sure that unrest isn’t spreading, nor did Belmont do so. But the more nefarious notion that we are retreating for crass political purposes can pretty much be dismissed.

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