Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mind the metrics

I increasingly find myself listening to the metrics and analysis we hear from CENTCOM and the president. It is not that I invest a great deal of faith in the latter, but I do think that the generals in the former will do their best to preserve our military. As Sun Tzu said, "those who do not thoroughly comprehend the dangers inherent in employing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential advantages of military actions".

Most wisdom from the Art of War, which is infused with Taoism, can be inverted. Sun Tzu might have easily said, "those who do not thoroughly comprehend the benefits inherent in withdrawing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential harms of military actions".

It is for this reason that we should pay close attention to the analysis that appears in a recent CENTCOM slide, as reported in the New York Times:

There are four "key reads" in this peace to chaos spectrum.

1. Political/religious leaders increase public hostile rhetoric
2. Political/religious leaders lose moderating influence over constituents
3. Provocative sectarian attacks/assassinations
4. Unorganized spontaneous mass civil conflict

There are ten additional indicators.

1. Militias expand security role
2. Governance
3. Police ineffectual
4. Army ineffectual
5. Neighbors enable violence
6. Sectarian tensions/violence displace population
7. Sectarian conflicts between/within ISF forces
8. ISF refuse to take orders from central government, mass desertion
9. Kurdish accelerate moves toward secession/annexing Kirkuk
10. Low level violence motivated by sectarian differences

In the coming weeks, we should refer to these 14 points in our analysis of the state of affairs in Iraq.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This slide blew me away when I first saw it. What's amazing is that they are using such a diverse set of criteria for evaluating the situation in Iraq and all the empirical evidence points to one thing - we're descending rapidly into chaos. Our military can only respond to these metrics, however, if the civilian leadership removes the handcuffs and provides a strategy they can work with. "Victory" at this point point is ill-defined and thus not a realistic platform for shaping military tactics.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I suppose these metrics are better than the body counts of yore but what everybody seems to miss is that war is not static and insurgencies (guerrillas)is especially fluid. Conditions change daily and to try to do a trend analysis doesn't make a lot of sense.

If one were to take this chart and compare the same data sets to before Zarqawi (sp) was killed, they would indicate that Iraq was already in chaos. I don't think this chart is meaningful except as a snapshot.

4:47 PM  

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