On average, allied troops are coming under attack a dozen times a day, and the Operation Iraqi Freedom casualty list continues to increase at a rate of about 10 killed and 60 wounded per week. (Note: This actually underrepresents casualties, especially related to war fatigue and mental breakdowns. The number of war wounded is actually in excess of 90 per week.)
"If you do the math - with 150,000 US personnel each serving at least a 12 month tour of duty in Iraq - the chance for one of us being killed or wounded is a one in 50 possibility," said Sgt Chris Jones, a tank commander with the US First Armoured (Old Ironsides) Division in Baghdad.
Actually, the soldier is off on his math.
The US can expect about 650 casualties in Iraq for this year, with about 5850 wounded. 150,000 / 6500 = approximately one in 23 US servicemen coming home dead or wounded during their deployment, with those odds considerably worse for frontline soldiers who routinely go out on patrol, as opposed to those who provide support services. John Robb puts the tooth-to-tail ratio at 13 support personnel for every 'shooter' and estimates a fatality rate of around 7% a year for the frontline soldier, with obviously many more wounded. (Don't even ask what the odds are like if you're regularly put on patrol in one of the pro-Saddam hotspots...)
Under the circumstances, it's understandable why there has been a hunkering down of US personnel. As recently as July, it was considered normal for soldiers to walk the streets of Baghdad... and then things changed. Now, US soldiers are far less public, and far more likely to be barricaded away from (and out of touch with) the average Iraqi. Despite the fact that the military is more withdrawn and defensive, the rate of casualties hasn't fallen and still hovers at around 1.3 per day. This could potentially be seen as an increase in violence, given that soldiers are no longer dropping dead due to the intense summer heat.
This "hunkering down" is also seen to a greater extent with foriegn aid workers too. One of the more interesting accounts I read recently was from a director for CARE USA. You can clearly sense how under threat and out of touch these workers are with the people of Iraq.
As he says, "I leave the compound increasingly worried about its isolation from the real Iraq outside its security perimeter. CPA officials, as well as representatives of the U.S. government's aid agencies, find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. Security concerns have increasingly restricted their movements outside the compound since July; yet unless they are able to move more freely and interact with both ordinary Iraqis and government officials, their ability to do their jobs effectively will be compromised."
That, ultimately, is the difficulty all around. Iraq appears to be taking on the appearance of one big Catch-22, where the coalition are trapped in a "plastic bubble" existence, unable to really control anything for any meaningful amount of time, especially at the local level where it really matters. There will be no peace until Iraq is under control, and no control of Iraq until it is at peace... and for our soldiers who face stronger resistance despite the military's efforts to control the situation, that might be the cruelest Catch-22 of all.