Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a “comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security” two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
If and when it comes in, it could do much more than the president’s Tuesday night speech at Fort Bragg to provide a factual basis for judging how close we may be toward reaching our goals in Iraq.
In that address, Bush once again demolished a straw man, denouncing any talk of a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces and any timetable for phasing them out. While public support for a pullout has grown, almost no one in Congress is advocating such a step.
What serious people are asking of the administration is a set of yardsticks by which the situation is Iraq can be realistically measured — and accountability established for a strategy to reach those goals. That is something the president has refused to provide.
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The information required is specific and detailed. It includes measures of the security environment, including the number of engagements per day, the count of trained Iraqi forces and more. It orders up indicators of economic activity. It directs Rumsfeld to provide — either in public or in classified annexes — an estimate of U.S. military forces needed in Iraq through the end of calendar 2006 and the criteria the administration will use to determine when it is safe to begin withdrawing forces.
It should be reiterated that the failure to provide this information is a federal crime. That is, assuming that the Congress is serious about ensuring that the Bush Administration keeps their promise to provide metrics by which we can judge their performance. Considering the partisan irresponsibility of the current leaders of the legislative branch, I think its safe to assume that this deadline will pass without notice. After all, we’re still waiting for them to start Phase II of the pre-war intelligence investigation.