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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Interview: Meese: With Iraqis' Help, Security Is Improving

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Col. Michael J. Meese, Professor of Social Sciences, West Point, and Adviser to Gen. David Petraeus
Interviewer: Greg Bruno

September 6, 2007

Col. Michael J. Meese, a member of Gen. David Petraeus’ team drafting the Iraq benchmark report to be delivered to Congress next week, says violence in Iraq is down due to cooperation between U.S. soldiers and local tribes. But security gains would be lost in the event of a “non-conditions-based withdrawal.”

Conditions on the ground in Iraq are changing at a blistering pace, ‘fluid’ in military terminology. How is Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) assessing conditions given the rapidly evolving environment?

In an old-fashioned linear battlefield it was pretty simple to measure how far you advanced or how far the enemy advanced, and when objectives were taken or not taken. That’s not the case when you’re fighting the kind of war that we have in Iraq, probably best characterized as a counterinsurgency, although it’s even more complex than that.

For a fair amount of time, starting by the beginning of 2006, we have developed a very robust set of metrics that went into large databases. There are army operations research folks who literally spend all their time doing daily reports, weekly reports, monthly reports, so when the benchmark reports were put on top of that, that was a different slicing of the data that was already being fairly robustly collected by the command.

In July, when the White House issued its initial benchmark assessment, the message from the administration was “Give us more time, we’re making progress.” That seems to be the same message we are hearing now. What will we hear from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker next week that will differ from what we heard just a few months ago?

We’ve given suggested ideas in drafts of both of their testimonies to them, and both of them are doing it personally and individually.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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