A relatively quiet week, it seemed to me. I'm not sure whether I'd say that the Minnesota government shutdown mattered -- well, of course, it matters to the people affected, but I'm not sure whether or not it matters generally. I would love to see a good estimate, however, of the aggregated effect of state and local government budget cuts over the last two years, cuts which could have been avoided had Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress sent them money in late 2009.
The big thing that I've been tracking this week are the month-end numbers for Americans killed in Iraq, which have received a fair amount of attention, and for coalition troops killed in Afghanistan, which mostly hasn't. First, Iraq: 15 dead in June, highest in two years. 28 over three months, also close to a two-year high. On the other hand, 39 for the first half of the year is basically even with 41 through June in 2010 (and far below 2009). My guess is that, other than of course that every such death matters, it's not going to be especially important that deaths have spiked up a bit there. If anything, it may keep Barack Obama on course to pull the troops out...basically, it would of course be too bad if the last stages of leaving prove to be more costly than the earlier stages, but it isn't likely to change much.
In Afghanistan, the news continues to be that coalition deaths have leveled off. June 2010 was the record month for those casualties, so it's already good news that the record is a year old, and the 65 lives lost in June 2011 were far lower. But month-to-month numbers fluctuate a lot. More telling is that 2011 to date, through the end of June, the coalition death toll was at 281 (203 Americans), down from 2010 January through June when 323 coalition troops (201 Americans) died. As I've said before, to me the thing that really matters is whether Barack Obama (and, in this case, leaders of allied governments) are going to be tyrannized by the logic of the Friedman unit. It's always going to be the case that one can try just a little bit longer, one can try to avoid making previous losses "meaningless" by hanging on, one can always believe that victory is around the corner. That's the logic of the quagmire. And, as far as I can see, it's a logic that Obama has strongly resisted. That was the message of his Afghanistan decision last week, and I suspect from the casualty numbers that it's a decision that's been made and implemented in the field for as long as a year, now.
There's still no guarantee that Obama is going to ultimately follow through, in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya.
So that's what I'm watching for.
At any rate, I seem to be off track here -- what do you think mattered this week?