Which Numbers Should Be Counted?

Rep. Ike Shelton, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, raised a good question about the upcoming recommendations to be submitted by Petraeus–“What standards should we look at?” In the past week several studies have identified results and made recommendations ranging from remain on course to make changes. The White House claims a decline in sectarian violence, but the General Accountability Office’s report says otherwise. David Walker who helped author the GAO report says: “there’s a difference of opinion– a strong difference of opinion– as to whether or not sectarian violence as decreased.”

Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University, and a retired Army colonel, said to gauge success against an insurgency on daily events “is to set yourself up for a surprise.” You may be misinterpreting short term success as translating into long term success argues Bacevich. What are the criteria to evaluate success? Are we examining short or long term trends? Unless Petraeus can offer proof his view of success is long term, there is little doubt opponents will argue for changes in policy.