Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In the Sandbox...

Interpreting the Grunts
-By Nathaniel Fick, Former Marine Capt. Nathaniel Fick served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"THERE WAS A RUNNING joke in my Marine units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each grunt thought he was the best, the platoon above him was good, the company above that was mediocre and the overarching battalion was actively trying to get him killed. So it is with most organizations. People near the bottom wear blinders, and their diligent attention to the task at hand is precisely what makes them less qualified to assess the bigger picture.

This phenomenon helps explain Zogby International's recent survey of U.S. troops in Iraq, which reported that 72% of them think the U.S. should withdraw within a year. Of course they do. The troops have no control over the broader strategy directing U.S. policy in Iraq, so they are suspicious of it. U.S. soldiers in Normandy in 1944 probably felt the same way.

Some newspapers and blogs across the country trumpeted the findings of the Zogby poll, which was conducted from mid-January to mid-February. They said the survey portended disaster for the U.S. in Iraq, as if the loss of faith of the common soldier on the ground reflected some kind of turning point in the war.

But the uncomfortable reality of polls is that you can't cherry-pick their results. Conclusions that don't support our preconceived notions must be taken along with those that do.

A less-heralded finding in the Zogby poll was that only 30% of the troops said they'd been inadequately supplied with body armor and armored vehicles, a low figure given that media coverage has suggested that the complaint is widespread among soldiers. Nearly two-thirds reported that basic infrastructure and services in Iraq — electricity, water, healthcare and so on — have improved in the last year. Ironically, the troops' opinions on these topics, which run against the grain of popular perception, have a much stronger foundation in their daily experience.

As critics of the Iraq war rallied around that 72% figure on withdrawal, defenders of the policy trashed Zogby's methods and questioned the poll's motives. The firm has been tight-lipped about its methodology, citing "security purposes."

There is, however, one telling hint: A quarter of those surveyed were female, but only about 15% of U.S. forces in Iraq are female. This indicates that the sample was skewed toward logistical support troops as opposed to front-line combat forces." (READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE)
(H/T: KP)

...girls of the Army...
One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six

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