Some months ago, before the Surge brigades were in place, I had a lengthy discussion by email with a left-leaning thinker on this question: how could we measure the success of the Surge? We had several ideas about things we would like to see in order to say that the Surge was (or was not) working. The discussion isn't free for me to reproduce here, but we thought of many of the same measures under debate in the media now: death rates for Iraqi civilians, number of attacks, and so forth.
Those projected MOE have all, I think it's fair to say, gone directions that would suggest the Surge has worked. The debate now is why it worked, and whether the positive trends will continue as brigades start to stand down.
That said, I want to note one last MOE that I thought was especially insightful. During that discussion of last summer, the left-leaning thinker I mentioned suggested we should track the use of air support. When the insurgency has been hot -- say in Fallujah of 2004 -- we have used a lot of CAS. When the insurgency has subsided, say in Fallujah this summer, we find that a squad of Marines is adequate most outstanding threats. So, at any rate, our Col. Simcock told us in the Roundtable with him.
A "significant" fall in US air raids in Iraq has been recorded over the past few weeks, a top US air force officer told reporters on Sunday."Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, we dropped no ammunitions," said Major General David Edgington, a coordination director for the US-led multinational forces.
"We were called several times, but we dropped no ammunitions. This is an indication of an improved security situation."
Edgington also reported a drop in air raids in the past few weeks. "For the last three to four weeks, we saw a significant decrease of our interventions," he said.
"We are having less calls for kinetic operations. We are still there, but we have less calls."
That being the case, we can move on to the next question: whether and how to sustain and advance the successes of the Surge. I'll start by noting that the London Times is right: the Surge wasn't just about extra bodies, but a new strategy.
UPDATE: Ezra Klein's site has noted the post, and some additional good news. The author also notes some context:
But just two weeks ago, USA Today reported that the numbebr of air strikes has increased four times in the past year; if Eddington is just comparing numbers from September and October to those from earlier months in 2007, then it doesn't really demonstrate that there's been any progress. Likewise, a drop to late 2003-levels of close air support would be real progress. Once again we find ourselves lacking enough data to know the whole story.
Elsewhere the (pro-war) Brookings Iraq index shows a few bright-ish spots in the Iraq economy, and not just in new cell phone subscribers. Electricty production has stayed above pre-war levels for several months for the half of the country that doesn't live in Baghdad. Oil production is just a shade below pre-war estimates. And the currency has appreciated (see the State Department update), though that may be more a sign of the falling dollar than anything else.