November 21, 2016
Metrics are never a substitute for narratives or detailed analysis. They can, however, reveal broad patterns in the course of war, and key uncertainties in the nature of how a war is being analyzed and reported. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a selective comparison of the key metrics available on the “wars” in Iraq and Syria that help to illustrate both the patterns in the conflict and some of the key uncertainties—or “fog of war”—that shape efforts to portray and to understand it.
This analysis is entitled The Uncertain Metrics of the “War” Against ISIS, and is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/161121_ISIS_War_Iraq_Syria_r.pdf.
The Institute for the Study of War (http://www.understandingwar.org/) is a particularly outstanding example of efforts to provide such analytic rigor and address the inevitable limits to summary metrics. IHS Janes and Stratfor have also made important contributions to such mapping and graphics and the BBC, New York Times, and Washington Post have provided consistently good attempts to provide reporting in graphic and map form.