Smokey Diamond was in the Mediterranean this week, just north of Tripoli, aboard the U.S.S. Cutty Shark—a super secret missile launching frigate. The frigate had spent some fifteen minutes launching 100 cruise missiles at a cost of roughly 1.5 million a pop.
Smokey was able to land an exclusive interview with Dr. Melvin Cipher, head of the Pentagon’s Index of Intervention Office, which is under the direct command of the Secretary of Defense. When asked about intervention in North Africa, specifically why intervene in country A and not in Country B, Mel was forthcoming. “People think that these decisions are somehow arbitrary,” Mel said, “but they are anything but.” “In the U.S., and increasingly in the rest of the world,” he continued, “we use the Index of Intervention to decide not only whether or not to intervene, but at what level as well.” The calculation of the index is quite complex, but in layman’s terms it may be simply thought of as the ratio of the cost of the intervention divided by the number of human hours of misery—that is, dollars per hour.
“In North Africa, the number of hours of human misery, which we usually simplify to 24 times the population, is not a driving factor, and it may appear to the public that we are not factoring that in.” “We are.” “The cost calculation is what keeps the computers busy,” said Dr. Cipher. “What is the cost of losing our military presence in Bahrain,” he asked? “What is the value—a negative cost— of shoring up a increasingly unpopular ally in France?”
“Sometime we don’t get it quite right,” Melvin admitted. “Vietnam was largely driven by the value to Democrats in appearing strong against communism, after Truman lost China.” “Pakghanistan was largely driven by the cost of 9/11.” “Unfortunately,” Mel said sadly, “the Index is what it is, and we cannot factor in potentially useful information—like the likelihood of a favorable outcome, or the existence of an exit strategy.”
“What about Iraq,” Smokey ventured. “No,” Mel responded, “that was just a spelling error by W.” “Nobody—not the military, not the media, nor the public, caught it,” he said.