Monday, January 30, 2006

Rummy's Metrics: "We're Certainly Not Losing" in Iraq

On October 23, 2003, a leaked memo out of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office revealed a shocking lack of measurements, known as "metrics" at the Pentagon, to determine success or failure in the war in Iraq and on terrorism.

"Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," Rumsfeld said in the memo.

Now, more than two years later, Rumsfeld appears on conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt's program and metrics is a subject of their conversation.

Excerpted from their January 25 talk:

> HEWITT: In your press conference today you were trying to instruct some members of the press on how metrics have changed, especially in deployability of forces with the Navy. I'm not sure they were getting it. But it brought back your October 16, 2003 memo in which you said today we lack metrics to know whether we're winning or losing the global war on terror.

>Have we got those metrics now, Secretary Rumsfeld?

> SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think we're developing some metrics in that area. For example, the Pakistanis are providing money to try to send home foreign students in their Madrasa schools that are extremists. They're using money to take the schools and convert them from schools that teach only extremist ideology, to schools that teach the kinds of things that people need if they're going to function effectively in the world. So there are things happening like that.

> There are other metrics that are taking place. The numbers of countries that are cooperating and sharing intelligence, the numbers of countries that we're assisting with training and equipping their forces to go after terrorists. The numbers of countries that are increasing security over their borders, for example, making it more difficult for terrorists to move from one place to another, making it more difficult to communicate with each other.

> HEWITT: So does that lead you to conclude we are winning now according to measurable statistics?

> SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well we're certainly not losing. I do not have a comfort level that the metrics are sufficiently precise and the data sufficiently ample that I could prove what's happening.

> I do know that in some cities, I could name a city in Iraq, where they are now on their 12th al-Qaida terrorist leader. The reason they're on their 12th is because the first 11 are either captured or dead.

> HEWITT: That's a good metric.

> [Laughter].

A few reactions. First of all, two years after the memo came to light and America passed the grim milestone of suffering more than 2000 soldiers' deaths, Rumsfeld isn't comfortable with the precision of whatever metrics he's developed to measure the war. One might expect for all the billions of dollars spent on the war, the U.S. would have sufficient metrics, but that appears to be too demanding on our Department of Defense.

Secondly, if all Rumsfeld can say about the effort is that "we're certainly not losing," I believe it doesn't speak well to our strategy of winning if at this point since the Iraq and terrorism wars began, our defense secretary can claim we're not losing as real progress. We should be winning at this stage of the wars, yes?

And thirdly, in several Iraqi cities, U.S. forces have taken out a dozen Al-Qaida leaders, something Rumsfeld believes is a good thing, which it is on a certain level.

However, let's examine this success from different angles:

1. Before the U.S. invasion, Al-Qaida operative were not active in Iraq.

2. Since the invasion, and the U.S. failure to adequately secure the borders, Al-Qaida terrorists have established footholds.

3. There presumably is local support in the cities with the operatives.

4. Every one of the previous eleven Al-Qaida terrorists was quickly replaced.

5. No signs that more replacements wait in the wings to step in when the 12th or 13th operatives are neutralized by U.S. forces.

That's five metrics of failures, in my opinion, the Pentagon should take into consideration when creating its latest metrics.

And I'm not sure why Hewitt thinks the metric Rumsfeld boasts of is really all that good, but it certainly gave him and his guest a good laugh.

With some Iraqi cities giving aid and comfort to Al-Qaida leaders, with no shortage of other operatives apparent, it sure doesn't seem as though this is an insurgency in it's "last throes" as claimed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

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