Thursday, June 21, 2007

You’ve really put yourself on the wrong metric

Secretary of War Gates and the alliterative Peter Pace held a press conference today.

Gates, asked if ignoring (as he plans to do) the recommendation of a Pentagon study on the mental health of combat soldiers that soldiers who go through 90 days of heavy fighting then be rotated off the front-lines for 30 days won’t increase the number of serious mental-health problems, said, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.” Won’t we just. He then added that we’ll just have to have to have more resources to treat them.

Asked about the possibility of seeing violence in Iraq actually go down, Gates said, “Well, I think, first of all if you try to define this in terms of level of violence, you’ve really put yourself on the wrong metric. It isn’t about X number today, Y number tomorrow, because the enemy gets a chance to vote in that. And he will take a look at what you’re measuring and try to defeat that measurement, so to speak.” So the reason violence is the wrong “metric” is that the enemy can commit as much violence as they want. Isn’t the point supposed to be to stop them doing that?

So what’s the right metric? “The metric really should be for Iraqi citizens, do they feel better about their lives today than they did yesterday? ... If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?” Alive?

So it’s about perceptions. It’s also about denying perceptions. Gates says that “the security environment is providing what it should be providing” if Iraqis “see that their country is moving forward without regard to the specific instances of violence”. You know, progress, except for all the killing and explosions and shit. How are they supposed to look at the state of Iraq without regard to specific instances of violence? Repression. Earlier in the Q&A, Gates showed how it’s done:
Q: Yes. Mr. Secretary and General Pace, it’s been a pretty bad couple of days in terms of losses -- American losses in Iraq. I think it’s 12 in the last two days killed. Is this something we’re going to expect and to be bracing for in the coming weeks and months as we have the tempo of operations increase and we have the surge forces on the ground?

And if I could also, just picking up on the question about the 1920s Brigade, do you have some concern or pause about working and joining forces with groups that so recently had been aiming some of their fire power or affiliated with those that have been aiming their fire power at American forces?

SEC. GATES: Remind me again what your first question was.

Q: It was about the 12 deaths in the last few days.
See? It only takes him 12 seconds to forget all about 12 deaths. Oh, he’s good.

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