Friday, September 07, 2007

NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

Driving to work yesterday I heard this piece (full text) NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

The executive summary is that both sides are using various statistics to either to show progress in Iraq or that there isn't progress. It ends with the line:

"So is the surge working? The short answer is that no one can know for certain because statistics only tell a small part of the story."

I found that to be a very odd concluding statement. Every example given in the story followed the same pattern: [the White Hhouse/Pentagon says X, but if you look at things it's really !X] (where X is some measure of success). Every example in the story (success in Anbar, success in Baghdad, total attacks, troop casualties, etc.) was a narrow statistic by the White House/Pentagon and a wider, more contextually revealing statistic showing the opposite. How could the conclusion of the story be essentially, "gee, I dunno which side is right."

Um... the story pretty much says the White House/Pentagon are spinning things their way, and looking deeper reveals they're hiding things from you. Just say so.

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