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The Metrics of War

July 18, 2011

A couple days ago a bunch of new “snowflakes” were released on the Rumsfeld Library. I almost want to put that library bit in quotes, but really it’s somewhat commendable such a controversial public figure would be willing to release so much of his own documentation and leave it open to public debate. I’ll let the former SecDef (DefSec?) tell you what a snowflake is:

The term “snowflake” covers a range of communications, from notes to myself on topics I found interesting, to extended instructions to my associates, to simple requests for a haircut. There was no set template; some are several pages and some just a few words. They were all conceived individually and I had never considered them as a set until I started work on the memoir. I then found that when reviewed together, they give a remarkable sense of the variety of topics that are confronted by a secretary of defense.

Paul McCleary over at the Ares blog at Aviation Week already did a very interesting post on these. How Rumsfeld was known as somewhat of a detail oriented micro manager. Yet these new memos show him as being out of touch, slow to respond, and forgetful in following up on issues.

Among some of the older, previously released memos I found this gem from Ryan Henry, the Principal Deputy for Policy under the Secretary of Defense (how do fit all that on a business card?) back in July 2004. He seems to be responding to Rumsfeld asking about certain metrics that a senator had asked be included in the Iraq Weekly Report. Henry states they were already using all of the metrics besides two: number of prisons and number of tv stations broadcasting.

He comes off fairly professional but you can almost hear his incredulous tone as he later explains that they could report number of prisons or number of prisoners but feel that reporting the number of prisons up to international standards would be a more valuable metric. I’ve certainly got a few politely worded emails under my belt that similarly dance around the “really? you want me to start doing what now?” issue.

If you were wondering what they did track here’s some of it:

  • MW of electricity produced, percentage of Iraqis with power
  • Numbers of schools open, percentage of boys and girls attending
  • Number of hospitals open, percentage of Iraqis receiving care
  • Timetable to democracy (hahaha)
  • Crude oil production
  • Number of militia and police, and number in training
  • Gallons of water available, number of Iraqis with fresh water access
  • Number of troops from other countries (you’d hope someone’s keeping track of this)
  • Number of US troops (again…)
  • Food available, number malnourished
  • Unemployment rate
My favorite part happens in the header of the next page:
I’m curious if 7 years later if we have finally “built justice”.
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