The Numbers Aren't There

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In the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations makes a point I have long wanted to make. But he has done what I haven't bothered to do, which is to gather the numbers that make the case.

The point is this: There aren't that many military troops in the world to provide much help to the United States when we choose to take military action. All through the Iraq conflict, Democrats and the mainstream media have been bemoaning the fact that American troops are bearing most of the burden. We should get our allies to help, they say–ignoring that something like 32 other nations have sent troops to Iraq. The problem is that they don't have all that many troops to send. Any large military operation is inevitably going to be mostly American. Citizens questioned in public opinion polls can perhaps be forgiven for assuming that there's all kinds of help we can get out there if we only say pretty please and in something other than a Texas accent.

But serious public officials and serious people in mainstream media should know better.

And if they think that the relative paucity of available foreign troops is a problem, they should direct their complaints to those who can do something about it and call on our NATO allies to increase their military budgets.

Here is another reason to do so. In a Washington Post column, Angelina Jolie, who I believe is some kind of actress, describes what she witnessed on trips to and near Darfur in her capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. It's a well-written column and a disturbing one. Jolie hails the International Criminal Court's statement that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader for crimes against humanity; she also presents fair-mindedly an argument that this might not be a good idea and her reasons for rejecting the argument. But beyond these prosecutions, what should be done? Here's her answer:

"As the prosecutions unfold, I hope the international community will intervene, right away, to protect the people of Darfur and prevent further violence. The refugees don't need more resolutions or statements of concern. They need follow-through on past promises of action.

There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene–airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment–but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice."

All well and good. But airstrikes require air forces and sending troops is possible only if there are troops to send. The United States military is pretty busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The African Union troops available have proved pretty ineffective. Jolie does not come out either for or against military action. But ICC prosecutions, even if they are as effective as Jolie seems to believe (and as I hope) they will be, will probably not eliminate the violations of human rights that are occurring. Here's a suggestion for Jolie and others in show business and other lines of work who for the best of reasons want to see the killings in Darfur end: Call on our allies to increase their military forces and to intervene to prevent bloodshed, as they did effectively when some of them were colonial rulers in Africa.

Here Are Some Numbers

I took a look at the Real Clear Politics national poll numbers today to check on my impression that Rudy Giuliani has been gaining of late. For both the Republican field and the Democratic field, I calculated the average for each of the leading candidates for the months of November, December, January, and February (we'll probably see a few more February results over the next several days). Here are the results, with the number of polls per month.

Month No. Polls Giuliani McCain Romney Gingrich
February 9 35 20 8 11
January 8 30 24 7 12
December 3 31 24 6 11
November 6 27 26 6 7

Comments: a clear Giuliani rise in February and a corresponding fall for McCain. Comparing February with November, Giuliani is up 8 percentage points, McCain down 6–both, I think, significant movements. No significant movement on Romney or, at least since the first of the year, on Gingrich.

Month No. Polls Clinton Obama Edwards Gore
February 10 36 21.5 12 11* *tested in only seven polls
January 9 34 19 12 9
December 5 36 16 10 12* *tested in only one poll
November 6 33 18 11 -* *not tested in any poll

Comments: very little movement here, even though the press spotlight, at least over the past month, has been much more on the Democrats (had you ever heard of David Geffen before?) than on the Republicans. Each candidate's numbers are in the same range, with the most movement in Obama's numbers, and only 5 or 6 points there. If you compare February and November, both Clinton and Obama are up 3 points; if you compare February and December, she's even and he's up 5.5 points. No significant movement for Edwards or Gore.

Bottom line: The Republican race had two leaders in November. Now it's got only one. The Democratic race, even though Obama's name and substantive recognition have been rising, is pretty much where it was after the November elections (none of these polls was taken before November 7).