Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Danger of Statistics

One of the metrics of the war is attacks on our troops.

Attacks rose over the years. This has been an indication to foes of the war that we are losing. This is false, as I explained in this post. Wars tend to expand as time goes on as each side brings in more resources to finally beat the enemy. Even as the enemy has thrown more resources into the war, we have beaten back the threats in Iraq.

Anyway, the statistics on attacks are both accurate and misleading. The "attacks" show hostile actions against us. This is accurate.

But what these attacks include has a misleading component:

GEN. GASKIN: Okay. The first question. If you talk about incidents, I'll give you an example. From 13 through 19 July of 2006, there were 428 incidents in Anbar, and July 12th through the 18th of 2007 there were 98 incidents. The incidents are defined as small arms fire, indirect fire, RPGs attack, and IED finds and IED attacks. So there is quite a difference, as I talked about earlier, about the level of violence and the ability for us to find IEDs.

The misleading aspect is the IED finds. As time has passed, the enemy has reduced direct attacks on our forces and has relied on IED attacks. These have multiplied over the years. But so too has our ability to find them before they go off. We find the vast majority of the IEDs emplaced (80% in Anbar according the Max Boot in this article). Yet finding them is an "incident."

Perhaps next I'll examine the really stupid idea that fighting the enemy in Iraq is a mistake because jihadis learn to use IEDs and other weapons by fighting in Iraq. It's kind of like saying that fighting the Nazis in World War II was an error because in 1945 the Germans had Me-262 jet fighers while in 1941 they just had basic Me-109 fighters.

But there is much idiocy out there. It is a target-rich environment.