First, any raw number presented as a measure of success doesn't have the context to explain its meaning. The number indicates something is being done, but that gives a potentially misleading picture, since "we measure progress retrospectively against what we've done. And of course since we've done some stuff, we've made progress."
That reminds me of a great Max Frisch story I read in an elementary German class in college, where a bureaucrat's day is detailed. The maxim of the man's action is "etwas muss geschehen" - something must be done. If that's your motto, then anything you do is an achievement, regardless of its effect.
But Perl makes another, more subtle point: what counts as a measure of success to the US government may count as a measure of failure to someone else - for instance, to an adversary. Is increasing defense spending a success? Is removing Saddam Hussein from power and reducing Iraq from tyranny to chaos a success?
What this points out, on a deeper level, is the unexamined, unquestioned perspective of US media presentations of the events called "the war on terrorism" (or, in Bushspeak, "the war on terror"). Reporting on "insurgency" in Iraq, for instance, as part of the ongoing "war on terrorism," only makes coherent sense under the assumption of the same set of beliefs about US motivations and interests that are presented by officials. The Iraq-terrorism connection is presumed, not demonstrated, and the constellation of these notions, repeated in media, cloaks them in "objectivity" and all the other virtues of contemporary journalism. It's a currency without credit.
Another item: Rep. Cunningham (R-Calif.) resigned after pleading guilty to accepting bribes. Cunningham said he was sorry, and that he was resigning because he "compromised the trust of [his] constituents." I hate to be picky, but since he had proclaimed his innnocence as recently as July, what Cunningham really means here is that he's resigning because he got caught compromising the trust of his constituents.