There's nothing more frustrating than reading an article
which purports to answer a question that it really dodges. Take, for example,
"How to Measure the War," by inveterate Afghanistan and Iraq indexers Jason Campbell,
Jeremy Shapiro, and Michael O'Hanlon. One would expect to finish the piece with
a better understanding of the metrics that we will use to judge our progress in
Afghanistan than after reading, say, Taro Gomi's Everyone Poops. That
would be incorrect.
Instead, the piece meanders inoffensively through thirteen
pages, informing the reader that, yes, metrics are important in a
counterinsurgency campaign. Yes, they can be misused and suffer from a lack of
concrete data. And then there's this: "Unfortunately...metrics will not be up to
the job of diagnosing clear and incontrovertible proof of progress or lack
thereof in Afghanistan."
That's disturbing news, especially coming from the people
who have followed the numbers in Iraq closer than anyone not in a uniform. It's
also, thankfully, not particularly convincing. The authors argue that, because
the primary measure of success in Afghanistan will be the effectiveness of the
Afghan government, this presents a set of metrics which are hard to measure.
Well, here are a few metrics to gauge the capability of the government off the
top of my head: I would be interested in knowing in what parts of the country
the government can collect taxes; how many students regularly attend
government-run schools; and where the government can provide regular services,
from functioning courts to trash pickup.
Those are just the basics. You can read the Obama administration's metrics for measuring progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan here. I'm sure there are more
complicated metrics for a government's capabilities. So how about it, Passport
readers? What do you think are the important factors to measure in
Afghanistan to determine if the US war effort is worth the cost?