Max Bergman and Fred Kaplan both note that the Army’s increased reliance on air power in Iraq is probably helping to produce the welcome decrease in American casualties. The only problem, as they both note, is that this seems to imply a shift away from a counterinsurgency strategy, which requires more risk-taking on the part of soldiers (i.e., dead Americans) in order to rely less on firepower (i.e., fewer dead Iraqis), back toward the failed force protection policies of 2005-2006.
Not, however, that I think we should go back to high casualty counterinsurgency tactics. Rather, the tendency of our commanders in Iraq to keep shifting back to low casualty strategies reflects politicians’ perfectly accurate view that there’s nothing left in Iraq such that it’s both actually achievable and worth asking lots of people to die for. That, though, means we should adopt the ultimate casualty-reduction strategy of ending the war. Remaining in force while saving lives by adopting immorally destructive and ultimately counterproductive strategies is a very bad idea.