Friday, June 8, 2007

Washington Post. Forecast on Iraq

Today's Washington Post featured this story with quotes from Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the new White House War coordinator (previously know as War Czar):

Nominee to Coordinate War Offers Grim Forecast on Iraq -

Here are some quotes relating to assessment of current trends and the direction we are heading. Bold emphasis has been added.

Lute said:
Iraqi factions have shown so far very little progress ... we're not likely to see much difference in the security situation" a year from now.
A CIA expert on radical Islam was quoted by Senator Bayh saying:
our presence in Iraq is creating more members of al-Qaeda than we are killing in Iraq.
The Post noted that the recently passed supplemental funding legislation
requires progress reports from the administration in July and September.
Here are some trend related quotes.
While insisting that incremental progress is being made, administration officials acknowledge that the benchmarks will be all but impossible to meet by the time progress reports are due to Congress.
"If the test is peace and reconciliation and flowers blooming by September, that will be hard to meet," said a senior administration official.
At the least, the administration hopes to be able to demonstrate movement in the right direction.
There has been little progress in four key political areas
At his hearing yesterday, Lute acknowledged that during a review of U.S. policy on Iraq last winter, he had privately expressed skepticism of Bush's "surge" proposal unless matched with more robust efforts by the Iraqis and other U.S. agencies.
"Where are we today?" he [Lute] asked. "Not where any of us would like."
Notice anything here?

Or rather do you notice anything missing here?

There's nary a single number and all the key factors and indicators referenced with regard to progress are not the kind that can normally be quantified. There's also no sense of any of these indicators changing step by step over time.

Let's list them so you can see what I mean.

Here are the metrics discussed in the article
  1. "progress"
  2. "the security situation"
  3. number of members of al-Qaeda created
  4. number of members of al-Qaeda killed in Iraq
  5. "peace"
  6. "reconciliation"
  7. "flowers blooming"
  8. "movement in the right direction"
  9. more robust efforts by the Iraqis
  10. more robust efforts by other US agencies
  11. progress in four key political areas"
  • Revisit constitution to better balance power sharing
  • Oil revenue sharing
  • provincial elections
  • de-Baathifcation
And equally challenging to actually being able to use these trends to help steer our course forward is the mushy nature of the current "values" of these important indicators:
  1. very little
  2. not much difference
  3. incremental
  4. hard to meet
  5. movement
  6. little
  7. more
Contrast the lack of quantification and therefore the lack of clarity with the numerical metrics we discussed in our series of posts yesterday such as:
  • peak megawatt hours
  • millions of barrels of oil per day
  • Iraqi prison population
The one bit of good news mentioned is that a progress report from the administration is due in July so at least we won't have to wait for September for that. How much we learn in July will depend an awful lot on whether the progress is report is based on hard metrics with clear quantification or on the kind of mushy, mostly unquantifiable indicators we find the WaPo report.

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