At the end of last year, there were about 34 million people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. While that is a slight rise from previous years, experts say that’s due to people surviving longer. Last year, there were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths, down from 1.9 million in 2009.Now my fellow liberals associate George W. Bush with the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Depending on how you view his decisions that's true enough. Estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq have been in the 100,000 range; that's cumulative over the years 2003-2008.
So when you compare the 1 year reduction in AIDS deaths, it's roughly equal to the deaths GW could be considered responsible for. Clearly, though, one should compare the declining death rate with the death rate which would have been experienced if there were no intervention. By that measure, the effects of foreign aid over 1 year have greatly exceeded the tolls of war.
It's true enough that GW doesn't deserve sole credit for the interventions in Africa. But under the influence of Bono he did take the lead, both in ensuring our contributions and in getting help from other countries. [Updated: here's a Bono op-ed in the Times on the gains. I can buy everything he says, but thanking Jesse Helms is really, really, really hard to swallow.]
So maybe we should give thanks for GW?