The right-wing of the blogosphere has become apoplectic about this post from All Things Conservative. The Corner, Powerline, Polipundit, Instapundit, and the inimitable Mickey Kaus have all seen fit to link. The cause for celebration is the latest Brookings Institution Iraq Index. To the naked eye, this Iraq Index is more or less identical to all of the others, but Bill Crawford, being the insightful type, lists eighteen points of progress.
1. Per Capita GDP (USD) for 2005 is forecast to increase from the previous year to $1,051. In 2002 it was $802.
Super. Glad to see that we can successfully increase the per capita GDP of country under crippling sanctions by 25% in four years.
2. Increases in GDP for the next five years: 16.8, 13.6, 12.5, 7.8, and 7.2.
Again, super. That is, of course, if those projected GDP gains actually pan out; I wouldn’t actually count this as progress until there’s, like progress…
3. Actionable tips from Iraqis have increased every month this year. In January, 4,025 tips were received; February, 4,235; and March, 4,578.
Great… Does this actually mean anything? Is this part of a trend? Did this lead to any, you know, action? Does this correlate in any fashion whatsoever with anything positive about Iraq? From a glance at civilian casualty numbers, the answer is clearly no…
4. On an index of political freedom for countries in the Middle East, Iraq now ranks fourth, just below Israel, Lebanon, and Morocco.
Super. Ranking below Morocco isn’t really a positive, and, in any case, this question hardly touches on what remains the most critical question in Iraqi life, which is basic security.
5. Crude oil production reached 2.14 million barrels a day (MBD) in April of this year. It had dropped to 0.3 MBD in May of 2003.
Yes, that’s quite the comparison. Surely, if you want to demonstrate progress, the best base metric is to refer to production the month after the war started.
6. Revenues from oil export have only slightly increased from pre-war levels of $0.2 billion, to $0.62 billion in April.
Just out of curiosity, what were oil prices like before the war, and what do they look like now? Oh, yeah.
7. Electrical output is almost at the pre-war level of 3,958 megawatts. April’s production was 3,600 megawatts. In May of 2003, production was only 500 megawatts. The goal is to reach 6,000 megawatts.
8. The unemployment rate in June of 2003 was 50-60%, and in April of this year it had dropped to 25-40%.
9. The number of U.S. military wounded has declined significantly from a high of 1,397 in November 2004 to 430 in April of this year.
Why, yes, every single month that the war has been fought does look good in comparison to the worst month of the war.
10. Iraqi military casualties were 201 in April of 2006, after peaking at 304 in July of 2005.
11. As of December 2005, countries other than the U.S., plus the World Bank and IMF, have pledged almost $14 billion in reconstruction aid to Iraq.
And how, precisely, does that compare to pre-war estimates? Moreover, how much of that money has actually been delivered and spent?
12. Significant progress has also been made towards the rule of law. In May 2003 there were no trained judges, but as of October 2005 there were 351.
13. As of January 2006, 64% of Iraqis polled said that the country was headed in the right direction.
14. Also as of January 2006, 77% said that removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.
Both great, but the numbers look radically different if broken down along sectarian lines. Given that the insurgency is largely sectarian, all the great poll numbers in the world aren’t going to make it go away.
15. In May of 2003, Iraqi Security Forces were estimated at between 7,000-9,000. They numbered 250,500 in March of this year.
And, er, how many of those are actually operating? How many exist on anything but paper? And what noticeable effect have they had on the course of the insurgency, in terms of coalition casualties or civilian casualties?
16. The breakdown of foreign terrorists by country of origin is interesting. The largest number come from Algeria, at 20%. The next two countries are Syria and Yemen, at 18% and 17%, respectively.
17. The number of foreign terrorists fighting in Iraq was estimated at between 300 and 500 in January 2004. That number increased in April of this year, to between 700 and 2,000.
Also interesting, although I’m curious as to the methodology.
18. From May 2003 and April 2006, between 1,000 and 3,000 anti-Iraqi forces have been killed each month.
Which doesn’t, you know, indicate progress. If you keep killing the same number of insurgents every month for three years and the insurgency doesn’t end, then you have a problem, not a solution.
Reynolds summarizes the point of this little operation; there are good things happening in Iraq, and the mainstream media doesn’t report them. But take a moment to think about it; the best that four or five of the premier warbloggers in the country can do is link to piece that cherry picks (and poorly cherry picks, I might add) a few data points from one of the many Brookings Institute Iraq Indexes since the war began. And they insist, banging furiously on their keyboards, that it is the fault of the mainstream media that none of the “good” news can get out about Iraq.
I think it’s great that we’re training judges, and I deeply hope that that economic growth in Iraq continues, and it is my dearest wish that the insurgency could be defeated. This is fantasy, though, and it’s what passes for analysis on the right side of the blogosphere.