Measuring Success

Marketplace: Let’s be objective about pulling out of Iraq

What is true is that the General Accountability Office has had an unassailable record as a disinterested assessor of the country’s affairs. The GAO is usually media shy for reasons that are well understood. They carry studies and investigations, and they release the results to the government and the public at large, and they let their findings speak for themselvs. This low-profile behavior is entirely consistent with the mission of a non-partisan body. This is why the GAO is venerated.

So, you know things are bad when the head of the GAO, the Comptroller General, feels the need to publicly warn against drawing any conclusions about how the Iraqi conflict is unraveling. It should be alarming when Mr. David Walker (our Comptroller General) asserts that we are dispensing with the process of gauging success altogether. In other words, although metrics exist for assessing the situation, the US government is either ignoring them or refusing to apply the metrics. Therefore, we cannot know whether what we are doing in Iraq will ever meet success.

Ignorance is bliss, as they say, but this bliss will be short-lived. As William Sloan Coffin said, “Hell is truth seen too late.” If we can measure our progress to success, then we can move forward confidently. If we insist on blindly working toward failure, then our standing as a global power will be lost forever. The former scenario is logical, essential. The latter scenario is unthinkable. Absent good metrics, as Mr. Walker states, we don’t know the scenario in which we live.

Is ignorance bliss?

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