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Brookings Benchmarks: An (Incomplete, Kinda-Sorta-Not Really) Explanation

After bloggers criticized Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon for cooking up his own private benchmarks for Iraqi political progress, he elaborated on Brookings’ State-of-Iraq website. Here goes. You’ve got to scroll down.

On a scale of 0 to 1 for each category, we accord a 1 for the pensions law, and for the 2008 budget. We then estimate half points for six categories: passing of the reformed de-Baathification law (which may or may not work out as well as intended in the actual implementation), purging extremists from the government (which is going fairly well but largely at U.S. insistence and cajoling), hiring Sons of Iraq into the security forces (again, going well, but there is some interest from the Shia-led government in limiting the number of Sons of Iraq who can join security forces as opposed to gaining other types of government jobs), passing of the amnesty law (again, the law is promising, but implementation is key), central government sharing of money with the provinces (far better than before, but still needing to progress further), and passing of the provincial powers act (recently passed, but also recently vetoed, leaving it in some limbo). We accord the Iraqis 0 for resolving Kirkuk, for creating a permanent hydrocarbons law, and for passing a provincial election law.

Notice this explanation tells you… absolutely nothing about how O’Hanlon derived the rankings. Like, integrating the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi Security Forces is “going well.” How? What’s “well” here? How many hires, over how much time, paid how much money is “well”? How much is “not well”? How much is “excellent”? What does this actually tell us about progress in Iraq? Why does this methodology (to be generous) compare favorably to other methodologies? If this is transparency, I’d hate to see opacity.

More later. I still have calls out to O’Hanlon and Talbott.

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