Way back last year, I was thinking about ways to determine how the war was going in Iraq. This was a week or two before Rumsfeld's memo discussing the same problem was publicized. As a matter of fact, I asked people on a politically oriented board I frequent (or, rather, used to frequent, but that's another story) for help on coming up with ideas and data, but didn't get a single response to the post.
With the recent revelations about the al Qaida letter detailing the many problems that they are now having in Iraq (assuming it's genuine), the answer would seem to be that we are, in fact, doing quite well there. But is the letter genuine? If it is, then we seem to be well on the road to victory, barring a disaster.
However, this matter made me think of the original problem (how to measure our efforts in Iraq, especially given the abysmally poor job the news services were doing) in a somewhat different way. Originally I had thought to compare objective things like death rates over time, major Iraqi figures caught, money seized, etc. The real problem, I thought, was how to weigh the multitude of factors. Plus the problem of whether certain developments are positive or negative. For example, if we arrest and kill 20% more anti-US forces, is this good because we are decimating our foes' ranks, or is it bad because it indicates that their forces are swelling?
Now, it looks like we may be able to in a sense by-pass all of that, and instead do something akin to a meta-analysis.
What "studies" do we have to incorporate into this meta-analysis?
Obviously, the al Qaida letter would be a good starting point. They have made their own analysis that the peace is being won by the US. But again, is the letter genuine?
A second "study" would be the numerous statements by various American generals to the effect that we are winning, that we are capturing the heads of the various factions against us, that we are gaining better and better intelligence, that their funding is going down, etc. However, this has the obvious problem that it could be simply "feel good" propaganda, just designed to keep the people at home happy. Or at least not angry.
So we have two knowledgeable sources, both indicating that we are winning the peace, and seemingly by a comfortable margin. Unfortunately, they both have potential problems. Is there any other source of analysis free of any of these issues? Actually, there is. While this has, as far as I'm aware, been completely overlooked due to other (WMD) ramifications, Kaddafy's decision to come clean is another strong indication of how the peace is being won.
He's obviously knowledgeable regarding the Middle East. He is equally obviously not biased in favor of the US. So what was his judgement of the state of affairs? Do you thing that if he thought there was a reasonable chance that we would lose the peace that he would have taken the actions that he has? I don't. I think that he saw that not only were we winning, but that it was highly unlikely that we would not achieve our aims in Iraq.
So we have three independent and knowledgeable estimates of how things are going in Iraq. They ALL point to it going very well for American interests. It seems pretty conclusive to me.