Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sectarian Violence measures: Sunni-on-Sunni, Shiite-on-Shiite?

The leftist web is all abuzz over an article written by Paul Krugman in the New York Times on 09/07 called "Time to Take a Stand". (I know this because while trying to find the source of Krugman's claim via Google all I was overwhelmed by references to the column by lefty blogs. I've yet to locate the source.)

What they're mostly abuzz about is this particular sentence:

Here’s what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he’ll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq - as long as you don’t count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.
Now since I can't find the source of Krugman's assertation, I can't be sure of this. But smell something rotten, and I have a sneaking hunch that there's at least as much bait and switch going on here as he claims Petraeus used.

See, it all boils down to context, as usual. Paul says that Petraeus will "assert that the surge has reduced violence." But what Petraeus asserted that the surge has reduced sectarian violence, which is a specific goal in counterinsurgency -- where his expertise lies.

Al Queda violence, contrary to the MSM & Democrats' (but I largely repeat myself) constant efforts at blurring or erasing the line between the two, is not sectarian violence. AQ is forigners trying to start sectarian violence, or keep it going. And no, we don't want that, either. But that's not what Petraeus is addressing here.

If your mission is to reduce sectarian violence, you first of all will want to try to measure what violence is sectarian and which is not. And since most murderers don't leave a little card or note on the scene specifying their motives, the military had to come up with some way to figure out what "sectarian" violence looked like.

It looks to me like they decided that Sunni-on-Sunni violence or Shiite-on-Shiite violence is not sectarian. Seems like a pretty reasonable assumption to me.

They further decided that car bombs are not a signature tactic of sect-A vs sect-B.... it's more a signature of Al Queda, perhaps. I don't know. I'm not an expert on it and I doubt Mr. Krugman is. Apparently they also decided that most sectarian killings were carried out execution style -- ie, shots through the back of the head. Not the front. I don't have trouble buying this. Is it always true? Maybe not. But when you're trying to get a general idea, I can see it being a good indicator.

The implication being spread all over the web is that the Military is not telling the truth about "the violence" because they are excluding some of it from their statistics. I seriously doubt this is true. It's in the overall numbers, and all of that was presented.

When the military talks about drops in sectarian violence, they are talking about certain kinds of killings. When they talk about overall violence, the numbers are different. What the left is cleverly doing here is taking the General's words out of context and putting them in a context where they would not be true, and then claiming it is he that is lying.

Here's the deal. As long as the same formula is used for all the periods being compared, we're comparing apples to apples. And if the fruit you want to look at is apples, then excluding oranges makes no difference as to how many fewer apples rotted. It doesn't matter that just as many or more oranges and overall fruit rotted. Not when your priority is apples. Part of Petraeus' mission was to reduce sectarian violence to foster better trust between the two major Iraqi Muslim groups. Petraeus didn't say that "violence" had been reduced. He said sectarian violence had been reduced. That was a specific mission goal.

Would we like it if all violence had been reduced? Of course we would have. And hopefully as Al Queda fades and the government gets stronger, it will. But Petraeus is reporting on his mission, not on the headlines.

To say the man is lying because you assert that he is saying something he is not, in fact, saying at all -- is disingeneous.

Sunnis, who used to support Al Queda before the surge, now have a better idea who the real enemy is, and Al Queda is being run out. Might a major drop in Shiite-Sunni killings possibly have something to do with this?

The truth is no amount of progress in Iraq would be enough for the Left. As a matter of fact, it has become very clear that they don't want progress in Iraq at all. What they want is vindication. They want to be able to point at Bush and say "he failed. Bad. Bad Bush! Bad Voters! You should have elected our guy." Well they say it every day, but until "everyone" agrees with them they will not stop. What that failure would mean to the country is not important. As a matter of fact, success would be disaster for them, and a few of them have said as much. They claim they're all about peace, but while peace can be patriotic (to paraphrase a leftist slogan to bring it more into line with the truth), vindictiveness is not.

Hence, Krugman et. al are constantly looking for "lies" to catch anyone related to the Bush administration in. When you're looking that hard, you're liable to see things that aren't there because that's what you want to see.

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