The latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq was released today. (NYTimes story) It probably won’t surprise anyone to hear that things are bad; Iraqi casualties went up 50% relative to last quarter. One number that particularly struck me is that total Iraqi casualties have reached 120 per day.
Think about this for a moment. If a terrorist action, or set of terrorist actions, were to kill 120 people in the United States, consider what the news would be like, what the inquests would be like, how long it would be remembered for. This has now reached the level of daily occurrence.
Technical aside: When trying to interpret the impact of this, we really need to scale things to the size of the population. The real number that affects the public as a whole in a mass casualty event is the average number of degrees of separation between a random person and a person affected. Simply scaling the number of people affected linearly — the US has ten times the population of Iraq, it’s as if 1200 people were killed here — is incorrect, since as groups get smaller you’re more likely to know someone else in it. Does someone know a good result on mean distance in very large social networks?