Just a short note from DQ. I saw a headline the other day which informed me that 14 people had died in a rebel attack in Afganistan. Sounds like a really successful attack until you read the article, which reveals that 12 of the 14 were the rebels themselves. Now, it's pretty well understood that the main point of these attacks is to drive up the body count to levels that death-abhorent Americans will not tolerate. The rebels are dying for headlines like the one I saw. But should their deaths count in the totals? It's one thing to report how many of our soldiers and allies died. It's another thing to report how many of the enemy we have killed. It is still another thing entirely to report on how many of our enemies killed themselves.
What offends me is that the headline written saw nothing wrong with lumping all deaths together and printing the total, as if there was no important difference between the deaths of the attackers and the defenders. Our enemies are losing the war on the ground but winning the war in the press. As long as all that matters is the body count, and we're not even very concerned about whose bodies we are counting, we have no chance of winning the war for the hearts and mind of Americans. We badly need to reframe the debate into one about what, if anything, these deaths are accomplishing. To do any kind of cost-benefit analysis, we really need to understand the benefits, as well as the costs.
So the obvious question is — what are we accomplishing, both in Afganistan and in Iraq? And how do we spread the word?