Tuesday, September 4, 2007

There You Go Again: Liberal Media Ask A Stupid Question And Give A Stupid Answer

Shankar Vedantam of the Washington Post tries to work out what will happen in Iraq, or tries to confuse the issue, or maybe he simply has trouble differentiating between "where" and "when".

In The Insurgency's Psychological Component, he's trying to answer
one simple question: Can an increased number of U.S. troops subdue the Iraqi insurgency?
and he gets two different opinions. From one expert, he gets this:
Alex Braithwaite of Colorado State University tracked insurgent attacks across Iraq's provinces over a six-month period from January to June 2005. On average, there were 16 attempted attacks in each province each week. Braithwaite found an inverse relationship between insurgent attacks and the presence of U.S. troops.

"The insurgency is most severe where U.S. troop presence is low," Braithwaite said, as he presented his findings last week at the American Political Science Association meeting in Chicago. "U.S. troops dampen the effects of the insurgency."
Another "expert" tells him this:
[Robert] Pape [photo] has found that 824 of [the 870 suicide attacks he has studied over the past 25 years], or 95 percent, have come from groups that are fighting against military occupations of their homeland. Pape found that 85 percent of all the suicide attacks in the last quarter-century have come about in response to U.S. combat operations. There were eight times as many suicide attacks in Iraq in 2006 as there were in 2003.

While suicide attacks account for only a part of the overall Iraqi insurgency, Pape argues that these attacks provide the most reliable measure of the state of the insurgency. Furthermore, they are among the deadliest sources of mayhem in Iraq today. Every case that Pape counts has been corroborated by at least two independent sources. Pape's figures are considered so rigorous that U.S. government officials now use his database, and he gets funding from the Defense Department.

"If you look at the chart [of suicide attacks] from 2004 to 2006, you see Iraq and Afghanistan exploding," Pape said. "American combat operations are directly associated with suicide terrorism. There was no suicide terrorism, and we go in and now there is suicide terrorism."

Pape believes his findings offer empirical proof that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not lowered the risk of suicide attacks. Contrary to President Bush's argument that those wars provided the best way to lower the risk of suicide terrorism, Pape says the data show that launching overseas wars appears to be a way to increase the risk of suicide attacks.
And what do we learn from this? According to Shankar Vedantam,
the outcome of the troop increase hinges on whether the insurgency is primarily a mathematical phenomenon or a psychological phenomenon.

If the insurgency follows the rules of conventional mathematics, increasing the number of U.S. troops should produce a greater counterinsurgency effort and a more peaceful Iraq.
Did you get that? It's a fact that the insurgent attacks are mostly happening where the troops are weakest. This fact becomes "conventional mathematics". It's a fact that the attacks are most numerous when the attackers are fighting against foreign -- especially American -- occupation. This fact becomes "a psychological phenomenon". Now the question becomes "whether the insurgency is primarily a mathematical phenomenon or a psychological phenomenon".


Isn't it clear yet? The experts' data didn't disagree, even though their opinions did. They were talking about two different things, so there was need to propose an either/or explanation.

It can be both. In fact it is both.

Insurgent attacks happen as a result of foreign occupation and they are targeted at the occupier's weakest spots.

What the heck was so hard about that?

But if you pull a little "false binary" out of the bag of tricks, cast this definite conclusion as an either/or question, and if you implicitly assume that both possibilities are equally likely, then you can theoretically wind up on "if it's this rather than that" and base your conclusions on a flip of a coin, or a predetermined outlook perchance.

And in the meantime you can disregard the data from both experts as well as the opinion of the expert that makes sense, and accept the spin of the expert whose data don't really apply to your question, which should have been whether an increased and continued surge would stop the insurgency, rather than where the insurgents would attack.

It's the damned liberal media all over again, and to top it all off, Shankar Vedantam outlines a murderous test to see whether the doomed surge can possibly "succeed":
Unlike many of the other theories circulating in Washington, his theory can be put to a simple test, Pape said. For the first time, Pape said in an interview at the political science convention in Chicago, the troop buildup in Iraq has aggressively targeted Shiite groups, such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Until now, suicide attackers have been largely limited to Iraq's minority Sunni population. Pape believes that U.S. operations against Shiite groups will cause increasing numbers of Shiites to see the Americans the way many Iraqi Sunnis do -- as occupiers, rather than liberators.

If foreign occupations do indeed provide the strategic fuel for insurgencies, Pape said, Americans should expect to see a spate of Shiite suicide attacks. He said he could not predict when the insurgency would take that disturbing turn but said it would be soon: "We're heading toward the cocktail of conditions that favor suicide terrorism from the Shia."
The entire vicious liberal media lie is archived here.