UPDATE (21 Feb 2007): No, the numbers for 2005 and 2006 are not here. I don’t think they’re publicly available yet. Just remember that combat deaths declined in both 2005 and 2006. I wrote more about the recent interest in this at Comparing the military death rates.
Instapundit points out this post at Red State which notes that the increase in the total number of deaths in the US military isn’t all that much greater under GW Bush than it was under the previous three (plus) Presidents. Here’s the gist:
Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you wil find quite a few surpises. First of all, let’s compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.
George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)
Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton’s term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)
In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones).
I’m guessing that total deaths in 2005 are probably about the same as 2004. 2004 saw 848 deaths in Iraq, 2005 saw 846.
This is, of course very informative and counter to nearly everything you hear on a daily basis, but don’t forget that the militaries under Carter, Reagan, and Bush I were significantly larger than today’s force. Of course, you could also make the argument that the gutting of the military under Clinton set the stage for too few “boots on the ground” in 2003 and beyond, which critics often claim is a contributing factor to the struggle to get the violence under control in the aftermath of the invasion.
But let’s not get all hyped up over this. Yes, things aren’t nearly as doomy and gloomy as Legacy Media tries to tell us, but we should know this already. Here’s a couple of charts I threw together to illustrate the numbers:
So while it’s true that fewer are dying under Bush II than under Reagan or Carter, that total only tells part of the story. But the fact that the death rate is comparable to that while Reagan was President is a bit surprising to me, as is the fact that even the death rate in 2004 (0.110%) was lower than that in 1980 (0.111%).
UPDATE (05 Sep 2006): The original link to the PDF is dead, so I changed it to a local copy of what I believe to be the same numbers. Hat tip to the reader who pointed out the problem.
UPDATE 2: Be sure to check out the latest discussion on this subject.