Several hearings this week In Brussels, having a terrible day
Jun 272007

Look at these headlines or first sentences from the past few days in Colombia:

Meanwhile Colombia’s Defense Ministry reminds us (PDF) that 9,508 guerrillas have been killed since President Uribe took office in August 2002.

Do these body-count statistics tell us anything about whether Colombia’s government is weakening armed groups and regaining control of territory? Keep in mind:

Large numbers of dead FARC guerrillas is not an indicator of a successful strategy. In too much of Colombia today, the FARC has shown itself enormously capable of replacing lost rank-and-file members by drawing from the country’s vast pool of poor and unemployed, especially in rural areas. For too many Colombians, the FARC is a jobs program, a surrogate family and a poor substitute for an absent government.

Instead of body counts, far more interesting would be measurements of the Colombian government’s progress in reducing the conditions that still make guerrilla membership attractive to so many poor young Colombians.

One Response to “The futility of “body counts””

  1. Alejandro Pelaez Says:

    Large numbers of dead FARC guerrillas is not a military indicator of a successful strategy, instead, it should be used the number of combats that where started by the colombian military (iniciative) and the number of combats started by the guerrillas. If you take a look at this numbers you could see that the colombian army has taken the iniciative.

    On another side, the FARC guerrillas do not atract poor young colombians into their ranks, they force them.

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