Last "Friedman" in Iraq Was the Worst So Far

A "Friedman," you will recall, is a unit of time. It is the "decisive" six month period during which the United States either wins or loses in Iraq.

Made famous - or infamous - by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the decisive six month period has confronted us many times, according to a tally by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which back in May 2006 counted no less than 14 instances between November, 2003 and May, 2006 in which Friedman predicted the next 6 months would be decisive.

Of course, such predictions flourish best in an environment where no-one looks back on them.

The jury is in on the last "Friedman," McClatchy News reports, and for U.S. troops, it's the worst so far:

"Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began, an indication that the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. forces even after more than four years of fighting.

From October 2006 through last month, 532 American soldiers were killed, the most during any six-month period of the war. March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces.

Senior American military officials attribute much of the increase to the Baghdad security crackdown, now in its third month. But the rate of fatalities was increasing even before a more aggressive strategy began moving U.S. troops from heavily fortified bases into smaller neighborhood outposts throughout the capital, placing them at greater risk of roadside bombings and small-arms attacks."

The word "benchmarks" comes to mind. When you pour resources into an enterprise, and you become suspicious about whether the enterprise is actually getting anywhere, and all you get are vague assertions of "progress" and requests for more resources, it makes sense to lay down some concrete goals before the next expenditure of resources - goals that you can measure, and say, these were met or they weren't. And, if you conclude that the benchmarks weren't met, then you can say: we therefore conclude that this enterprise isn't getting anywhere, and therefore we're not going to put any more resources into it.

Congress has made a beginning in putting down benchmarks for the Iraqi government in the supplemental. But how about some benchmarks for the U.S. government, like reducing the number of U.S. soldiers killed, or reducing the number of Iraqi civilian casualties caused by the U.S.? No harm in asking.

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