While we stand in awe of the willingness of our troops in Iraq to sacrifice themselves for the Nation, the fewer that are required to do so, the better. And the news on that front is good. As can be seen in the chart below, our military deaths in December dropped to 23 from 37 in November.
December deaths are down over 80% (82%) from May's peak this year of 126. Assuming this reflects a permanent change in the correlation of forces in Iraq - and it is likely that it does, although we cannot be certain of it - it reflects a tremendous achievement on the part of General Petraeus, since this is the result not of retreating from our objectives in Iraq but of advancing toward them - of executing the mission.
What of Iraqi deaths? Iraqi security forces and civilian fatalities are also down in December from November.
Iraqi deaths are down only by a small amount - from 560 in November to 534 in December, although that difference is not small if you are one of the ones who are now still alive. And the decline from this year's peak in February of 3,014 is a drop of 82%(!).
Are we out of the woods in Iraq? It would seem not. We have General Odierno's estremely disturbing cri de coeur at the end of November, which we can assume was endorsed by his chief, General Petraeus. So far as we know, General Odierno's point
"A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but ‘it's unclear how long that window is going to be open.'"
has not been resolved. While some economic indicators, such as the Iraq Stock Exchange and the value of the Iraqi dinar, are showing real strength, the status of the estimated 4 million internal and external refugees remains open, as does the high unemployment rate, estimated at over 40%.
But the fatalities figures are good news on the war-fighting front and we don't want to miss them. Success doesn't always announce itself. It's important not to miss it when it is achieved.