One of the blogosphere's best feature analysis writers Mudville Gazette's Greyhawk takes a look at trend-spotting in Iraq.
(Part one in a series)
Through the duration of the war in Iraq I've identified key indicators of important trends in the conflict on this web site. These indicators take the form of discrete events of variable duration, the trends are larger scale and longer term, and generally identifiable to the observer only as a series of events. The key to understanding what's happening in Iraq is to be able to identify a trend by it's indicators (and conversely to be able to determine which events are part of a trend) and to recognize which trends or events matter (in long or short term) and which don't. Identifying events and trends (or even distinguishing events from brief trends) is exceptionally difficult without the benefit of hindsight and demonstrably challenging even after the fact. And any attempt at forecasting - extending those trends into the future - compounds that challenge by an unknown degree, and at some point is an exercise in futility.
Those who attempt to accomplish any of those tasks without constant monitoring of the situation or first hand experience therein do so at a distinct disadvantage. Identifying trends from outside Iraq can be impossible - the observer is dependent upon reports from others (from traditional and new media, if no other contact are available), and must be aware of the bias of those few reporters whose work reaches the outside world. If I've had any success at all in the attempt (and I will humbly demonstrate shortly I've had some success, at least) much of that is due to my lack of those disadvantages that burden so many others. Further, while those of a certain partisan stripe might find my conclusions more appealing than others, another key to understanding is to be able to view the scene without partisan prejudice of any sort - at least as far as that is humanly possible - separate facts from feelings, and limit motives to truth over a desired outcome.