Monday, September 10, 2007

Measuring Success in Iraq

General David Petraeus testifies before the House of Representatives.

General David Petraeus is currently testifying before the House of Representatives, providing details of his long-awaited report on progress in Iraq.

And, judging by the data compiled in his report, substantial, no stunning progress is being made. has a link to General Petraeus' briefing slides. We've done some trend analysis on the numbers from the PowerPoint presentation; it reveals favorable trends virtually across-the-board, achieved in remarkably short order. A few highlights are provided below:


--Peaked in Jun '07 at 1750/month (nationwide); now at 1000 a month (Aug '07)


--Peaked at 3000 in Dec '06 (nationwide); now running 1550 a month (Aug '07)

--In Baghdad, reached 2100/month (Dec '06); Aug '07 total was 550


--Nationwide, hit 2100/month (Dec '06); most recent total (Aug '07) was 900
--In the 10 Baghdad districts, ethno-sectarian deaths have dropped from a peak of 1600 (Dec '06) to roughly 400 in Aug '07


-- Across the country, 2726 were discovered and cleared in 2006; the total for this year (with almost four months remaining) is 4409
--Anbar Province; 1222 found and cleared last year; the 2007 total (so far) is 2111

IEDs (Includes Those Found and Cleared, and Those Detonated by the Enemy)

--Nationwide: Peaked at 3500 in Mar '07; dropped to 2100 by Aug '07
--Baghdad: Highest monthly total was 1200 in May '07; declined to 600 by August of this year
--Anbar: Hit 600/month in March of this year; dropped to 200/month by August


--Decreased from 1350 in Oct '07, to only 200 last month.

Lest we forget, General Petraeus has already been accused by Congressional Democrats of "cooking the books," and his assessment derided as the "Bush-Petraeus" report. That's why he made it a point to remind Congressmen that the testimony is his own, written by the general himself.

Reading early press accounts of General Petraeus's testimony, it's clear that the MSM doesn't want to get into the specifics of his presentation. Instead, they (predictably) focused on criticism by House Democrats, which preceded his remarks. And no wonder; any objective analysis of the data affirms General Petraeus's assertion that the military objectives of the surge are "in large measure being met."

For military (and political) reasons, the general is soft-peddling the surge's success. In his testimony today, Petraeus warned against a pre-mature withdrawal of U.S. forces, warning that such a move could have devastating consequences. If favorable trends continue, General Petraeus suggested that our military presence could return to pre-surge levels--about 130,000 troops--by next summer.

It's a very prudent plan, laid out by a man who has proved his mettle on the battlefields of Iraq. Again, it's worth noting that the "surge" strategy wasn't implemented until February of this year; the bulk of additional ground forces didn't start arriving until the late spring, and the surge won't hit its peak until next month. That makes our military progress even more impressive; as depicted on General Petraeus's first slide, the number of enemy attacks actually peaked in early June, just he launched multiple offenses against the enemy. Since then, the number of terrorist strikes (in all categories) has dropped by more than 40%.

That's quantifiable progress. Not that the Democrats are paying attention; they were too busy trying to transform today's testimony into farce. Hmmm....we wonder how Cindy Sheehan and the Code Pink folks managed to make their way into the hearing room, and wasn't it a coincidence that General Petraeus's microphone didn't work for almost 10 minutes.

But the Petraeus presentation is also aimed at another audience, beyond the Beltway. And, for Americans who bother to actually read his testimony and review those briefing slides, the report will be an eye-opener. By any objective standard, we are making significant gains in Iraq, they have been achieved in a relatively short time, and current trends are likely to continue. And no amount of Democratic criticism, distortions or political stunts can change that.


ADDENDUM: Critics of the Petraeus-Crocker Report keep yapping about the lack of "political progress" in Iraq, and we'll hear more of that refrain in the coming days. But their critique ignores a critical point: political progress depends on improvement in the security situation. As conditions on the ground continue to improve, so will the environment for real political progress.


molon said...


Frank said...

Here in the NYC area, none of the MSM radio or TV that I've seen has mentioned the General's remarks concerning Iran. I though that his remarks that Iran's aim was to create a proxy militia inside Iraq, just as it had in Lebanon with Hizbollah, were quite newsworthy. But then again, I think it's newsworthy when military personnel are given medals for tremendous acts of heroism. Don't see those in the MSM either.

molon said...

Sorry, above was a test post.

About General Petraeus, he does not understand the nature of the enemy, nor does he understand he may not be the best tool to battle Islam (not radical Islam or a misunderstood Islam hijacked by extremists).

The general should read the qur'an, sunnah & hadiths. Afterward he should be briefed by Robert Spencer every day until command handover and retirement. Frustrating as all hell it is when an architect talks like a plumber.

We have done all we could in Iraq and it has long been time to go. Of course it was right to overthrow Saddam. I supported the President. That support was never dependent on WMD intelligence assessments, because intelligence is often off the mark.

No need to have guessed at what Saddam was capable of doing; we know what he did. For the survival of his regime, Saddam made many surrender pledges; he broke every single one of them. For 10 long years, Saddam ceaselessly attacked the coalition in his attempt to defeat the no-fly zone provisions.

Saddam lied to us, tried to kill us, and never stopped trying to kill us; thus we had to stop cold him and his regime. With the arrest of the deck of cards and the Iraq-wide WMD scouring, United States forces accomplished this by 01 January 2005. Action after that date was a bad case of altruism and mission creep.

We have bright general officer Ph.Ds who like Dr. Rice are each a living Ishi, the irrelevant last of his tribe who wished to learn no more.

We have self-interested general officers who refuse to tell the President the truth about the enemy we all face for fear of loss of prospects and pension.

We have dull general officers who parrot the easily disproved nonsense of Islamic agents of influence [CAIR's 3 Abrahamic faiths and "religion of peace"].

We have jaded field officers who have belliesful of practical knowledge about muslims, about insha'llah, about the everyday violence, cruelty, corruption and hopelessness of life in Islam,

We have confused, career damaged, family damaged, angry, fretting, frustrated reservists and National Guardsmen who upon return state side and completion of their obligations will shun and scorn the military.

We have soldiers who, for lack of (proper) guidance, when asked why we are still in "Iraq" give a version of Jack Kennedy's inaugural address { any price, bear any burden...]

We have regulars, reservists and Guardsmen who senselessly will never again taste their wives' kisses or hear their children's squeals and shouts of joy.

We have a President who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to say the phrase, "world-wide Islamic caliphate", and he has never again said it.

Now, more than 2 years of foolishness, we are in the midst of a 1400 year old conflict we did not cause and cannot end.

rob said...

Tossing around numbers to convince the people you're winning is a clear sign you're losing. Numbers are an account's game. Numbers can be picked and chosen. Numbers can be manipulated. Numbers tell one story. The blood on the streets, the pain in their hearts tells another. The good men that will never return home, the broken ones who are able to limp home, the terrible loss for all involved tell another story.

AV-O said...

(RE: yuu and ...follow-on comments.) The comments of 'molon', while a weak, quasi-poetic attempt to teach merely ends up as a diatribe against all things he/she feels powerless against: very sad. molon's comments reflect a failure of faith (if indeed faith ever existed) in our country and reveal a full sense of alienation from influencing and/or participating in a healthy civic life. With regard to the "generalizations" on our nations military (careerist...) leaders, it is instructive to remember the Spanish, British, Germans, Turks, Japanese et al viewed American military prowess in the same manner yet now stand with us as the modern world continues to uproot from past tragedies. While not always successful in full measure, not always perfectly thought out, not always in the optimal interest of every part of the nation, Americans do continue to write history from the perspective of victory. It is also instructive to hold firm to a thirty-thousand ft. view (the long view, per se) on the lessons of history--even as they unfold like a massive construction scene. General Petraeus has done a remarkable thing. The General has done his soldierly duty: he went to see (as he was instructed)--to reconnoiter--then report what he saw and now must place the responsibility for action in the hands of his Commander. That said, what will actually happen will be an immediate and predictable outcry by the Democrat candidates, predictable squealing, rejecting anything General Petraeus reported ...simply because he reported. All the bruising demagoguery will be of course for the benefit of the fifth estate and the polity (as well as other demagogues who will unwisely pile on), contributing nothing to productive national discourse. I suggest the Democrats proceed carefully (in Congress, and at the microphones) as they are already labeled as the 'losers' of China, Laos, they want also to be the party to "lose" Iraq? Cutting off funding and demanding troop withdrawal is a cowering proposition. However, redefining why we are in Iraq (certainly no longer the same reason we went there in 2003), refining policies and actions through a lens of victory, accordingly, is the logical next step. Disclaimer: my son kicked down doors for 18 months in the worst areas in Iraq. I served 28 years (retired 2007) and will always serve to continue the fight for the defense and survival of liberty. Anyone seriously claiming to be an American must make the same goal their singular focus, their personal mission statement. Paul D.

Galrahn said...


You are incorrect, empirical data matters. How does someone measure "blood on the streets, the pain in their hearts."

While it is popular myth that everyone on the right wants war to last forever, and everyone on the left wants to leave Iraq today, the truth is those people represent the minority. While neo-cons may measure success by "blood in the streets" and anti-war types measure failure by "pain in their hearts," the rest of us want raw data to measure success and failure in Iraq.

If 10,000 people die resulting in blood in the streets, the makeup of those 10,000 can only be accounted for statistically. 9,000 dead civilians and 1,000 dead insurgents tells a different story than 9,000 dead insurgents and 1,000 dead civilians. Statistics are part of the story, not the story, but part of the story, and to ignore trends in statistics would be to ignore part of the story.

Maybe you think measuring "pain in their hearts" is an empirical measurement of substance, but I am unaware of any aspect of the real world where such a benchmark carried any substance in critical decision making.

Spook86 said...

Rob--Let me join the chorus. You can't have it both ways. Before the surge was implemented, we received a daily diet of bombings and mayhem from Iraq, accompanied by "numbers" (civilian casualties, U.S. troop deaths) that proved we were losing the war. Now, as some of the key indicators move in the opposite direction, the numbers don't matter.

True, General Petraeus's report of progress may ring hollow for a family who's lost a son or daughter in Iraq. As the father of four, I can't imagine the pain that comes with that sort of loss. Yet, by your standard, no war is worth fighting because it brings death, destruction and lasting pain to its participants. If that's the case, we should have never attacked Iwo Jima, where 7000 Marines died in less than two months, or Normandy, where 26,000 brave Americans were killed in less than 100 days of fighting.

Some things are worth fighting and dying for, and that includes the central front in the War on Terror. The past and future consequences of failing to address that threat can be readily seen in lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers once stood.

rob said...

galran and spook,
I am an engineer and believe in science, numbers, and cold hard facts. My point was that we can coldly toss around numbers all day long, but we must not forget about the real human pain. It is very hard to quantify, but is none the less real. I believe the sacrifices of WWII were needed. I think if anyone of those in the White House had ever been on the ground, held his buddy as his guts spilled out on to the ground, or seen a child get his legs blown off,
they would have thought differently about going into Iraq, because it was not necessary in the way WWII was.

The War On Terror. Terror is a tactic, not an enemy. How can you declare war on a tactic? What does putting our fine young men and women in the middle of a civil war have to do with fighting a "war on terror"?

Anyway, peace. I read your blog every day, even though I don't always agree with it....


molon said...

av-o, thank you for taking time to respond.

I accept you love our Western civilization; our one common country and you are deeply concerned for their fates.

I promise this reply will not be "a weak quasi-poetic attempt to teach" or an expression of "failure...of faith". Perhaps with your military [relevance?] experience [combat arms? CGSC? intelligence?] you could answer certain questions you did not address in your post, questions the President and General Petraeus have not answered.

Who is the enemy in "Iraq"?
Who are our friends in "Iraq"?
What is Shi'a Islam?
What is Sunni Islam?
What is a "rafidite dog"?
Why do Sunnis when beleaguered by Shiites beg US Forces to stay but when beating Shiites demand we go?
Why do Shiites when beleaguered by Sunnis beg US Forces to stay but when beating Sunnis demand we go?
Compare and contrast current US action and US action in the Iran-Iraq War.
Why are muslim Kurds alienated from muslim Arabs? Can we take advantage of this?
Why did Kemal Ataturk respond to Arab supremacism with 'the myth of the Turk'?
Why is it so important to the Sunni arabs to be masters in "Iraq"?
Why are we interested in the survival of "Iraq"?
If our "Iraqi friends" for whom we spill our blood and spend our treasure hold the same underlying beliefs as our avowed al-Qaida enemies, where does that leave us?
If our "allies" of Egypt and Saudi Arabia for whom we risk our blood and spend our treasure hold the same underlying beliefs as our avowed al-Qaida enemies, where does that leave us?
If our "allies" of Egypt and Saudi Arabia for whom we risk our blood and spend our treasure hold the same underlying beliefs as our avowed al-Qaida enemies, where does that leave our real ally, Israel?
Why was the Israeli failure against Hezbollah not a failure of arms but of ideas?
What is Eurabia?
What is dhimmitude?
Compare and contrast the concepts taqiyya and kitman.
What is jizya?
What is jihad?
Why is jihad an imperative for all good muslims?
For all good muslims, is Mohammed "al-insan al-kamil, uswa hasana"?
Was Mohamed Atta a good muslim, or an al-Qaida or Wahhabist hijacker of a religion of peace?
Six years after 9/11, has the President read the Qur'an?*
Six years after 9/11, has Secretary Rice, an academic, Soviet expert and US chief foreign affairs officer, shown the slightest interest in reading the Qur'an?
Six years after 9/11, has Secretary Chertoff read the Qur'an?
Six years after 9/11. has Director Mueller read the Qur'an?
Six years after 9/11, has General Hayden read the Qur'an?
Six years after 9/11, has General Petraeus read the Qur'an?
What are the five pillars of Islam?
As victory over Saddam and muslims tearing at and weakening each other does not satisfy you, what does total victory in "Iraq" entail?
Reccep Erdogan's "Islamists" now dominate the Turkish polity. What do we do?
Vladimir Putin's flirtation with Shi'ite Iran can mean another muslim nuclear polity. What do we do?
The Muslim Brotherhood is challenging an aged Hosni Mubarak? What do we do?

Those are enough questions to tackle, and should you do so, you will have done better than our leadership to date.

Let me make this clear. I believe you when you write "I ... will always... fight for the defense and survival of liberty." It is that you will fail when you like the President, Dr. Rice and Director Mueller refuse to identify the foe - Islam [not al-Qaida, Wahhabiism or mistaken hijackers of a religion of peace] - then having failed to identify the foe, blunder about with the instruments of state power.

* - Yes, I have.

Robin Storm - In Search of Severe Weather. said...

Sheesh spooks got to lov'em.... The surge is only as good as long as its maintained. After that its back to square one....

It way to late in the game and until the iraqi parliment starts playing ball then we are wasting our time and american lives...

BTW for any one to think we are going to pull totally out of Iraq. Please stop watching the news or listening to the dumbies on talk radio...