Saturday, September 6, 2014

Annals of derp: Kissinger arithmetic

The old vampire Professor Kissinger was on the NPR this morning sharing his fascinating views. He seems to be a little challenged with respect to the arithmetic thing.
Dr. Henry Kissinger:
I think we would find, if you study the conduct of [the military], that the Obama administration has hit more targets on a broader scale than the Nixon administration ever did. And, of course, B-52s have a different bombing pattern.

On the other hand, drones are far more deadly because they are much more accurate. And I think the principle is essentially the same. You attack locations where you believe people operate who are killing you. You do it in the most limited way possible. And I bet if one did an honest account, there were fewer civilian casualties in Cambodia than there have been from American drone attacks.
I'm not aware of any statistics about number of targets or clear why anybody would be interested in making a comparison since, as Dr. Kissinger acknowledges, what constitutes a target for a B-52 is different from what constitutes a target for a Predator drone. The numbers of deaths, on the other hand, have been studied, if not very completely.

Ku Bia at The Vietnam War:
The exact number of civilian casualties during the Vietnam War is also uncertain. Estimates of Vietnamese civilian casualties were only conducted under pressure of Senate committees led by Senator Edward Kennedy7.
The estimate, based on alternative extrapolations from the number of hospital admissions of war casualties, ranges between 195,000 and 430,000 civilian war deaths in South Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. According to R. J. Rummel’s estimate, some 164,000 South Vietnamese civilians were killed by NVA/Viet Cong forces, including 17,000 South Vietnamese civil servants2. As for the allied forces, the ARVN and U.S. Army committed around 60,000 democidal killings2. In addition, around 2,500 South Vietnamese civilians who were suspected to be Communists fell victim to massacres conducted by South Korean Army.
According to Lewy’s estimate, the number of North Vietnamese civilians killed by Americans bombing was 65,0001. This figure is more than twice as many as the U.S. government estimate of 30,000 people killed in North Vietnam4. However, according to the official estimate of Hanoi in 1995, the number of civilian deaths in the entire war were almost 2 million people8, which is four times higher than other estimates
Although information is sparse, American bombing in Cambodia is estimated to have killed between 40,000 and 150,000 civilians and combatants.[19][20][21]
Huffington Post, January 2014:
The U.S. drone program under President Barack Obama reached its fifth anniversary on Thursday having tallied up an estimated death toll of at least 2,400 people.
We don't have respectable numbers distinguishing civilian from combatant fatalities, or for that matter an agreed way of distinguishing civilians from combatants in these types of conflict, but if Dr. Kissinger is correct in claiming that drone operations are more accurate than carpet bombing, which seems likely on the face of it, then the percentage of civilians among the minimum 40,000 deaths in Cambodia is probably considerably higher than the percentage of civilians among the minimum 2,400 killed in the Overseas Contigency Operations of 2009 to 2014.

Thus, since the Cambodian bombing killed at least six times as many people total (in one small country outside the official theater of operations) as the OsCOps (that's my own acronym, by the way) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and wherever else, the number of civilians it killed must have been more than six times as many, and probably a great deal more.*

A hint on this is given in the numbers provided by the New America Foundation for Pakistan bombing, which yield a proportion of civilian to total deaths in Pakistan ranging from 25 to 30% under Bush 2004-2008, and  5 to 8% under the greatly expanded but much more professionally conducted drone operations of Obama 2009–August 2014. That would suggest that the number of all the civilians killed in the Obama-era OsCOps could be no more than 8% of 2,400, or 192, or even as little as 5%, or 120; while the number of civilians killed in the Cambodian bombings is clearly 50 to 100 or many more times as many, at the very least more than 10,000 (25% of 40,000).

Dr. Kissinger is lying so hard I'm surprised his tongue doesn't fall out.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog. My take on drone warfare in general, from February 2013, is here.

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