Monday, September 10, 2007

Classified Analysis

Ok, exactly how clear does it have to be made that the administrations case for the "surge" is absurd, without actually saying it in so many words. Nearly every analysis of the security situation in Iraq generally and even Baghdad specifically, indicates that the situation is no better and probably getting worse since the start of the surge. In fact every analysis except one. The lone exception, the White House report about to be talked about by Gen. Patraeus. This one report has two distinctive qualities, however:
  1. The analysis indicates that the situation is distinctly improving.
  2. The method of analysis and the numbers used are all classified.

Not only are the raw numbers classified, but everything is classified except the final claim, according to Josh Marshall:

The best we can tell the methodology Petraeus's staff is using to tabulate the numbers also remains classified.

In other words, it's not just a matter of getting the numbers from Petraeus and his staff and deciding whether you believe them or not. They won't even tell us what the numbers are -- let alone how they came up with them. All they'll say is that they're very good. Or in some cases that there's X percentage drop over the course of the surge. Or an isolated number here or there.

But actual hard numbers? Going back over the last couple years? For some reason we're not allowed to see those.

Now this is ridiculous. One basic principal of drawing conclusions from data is that independent agents be able to look at what the data are and how they are analyzed. This is not just some elevated scientific principal, it is just common sense. Look, if your stock broker told you that you weren't able to look at any of the number involved with the investments he'd made, but that his analysis (which you aren't allowed to look at) shows it growing by leaps and bounds, you'd be a fool to just accept this. If he's honest he must show you something that can confirm his claims. The same applies to Patraeus and the White House.

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