January 26, 2005

The Unwinnable War

by Jeremy Brown

With that immensely important election coming this Sunday in Iraq, the optimist in me is feeling a strong urge to look back toward the frankly startling success of the recent election in Afghanistan.

I'm not pretending that Afghanistan's problems are all fixed now, nor am I expecting Iraq's election day to be anywhere near that peaceful (though genuine peace has not been on the table in Iraq for decades and won't ever be, unless of course the country starts down the road to democratization this Sunday).

There's at least one way, however, in which the war in Afghanistan tells us something that very much applies to Iraq. Let me bring you back a few years to a time when a great many people -- many of them very reasonable and reasonably intelligent (I was very briefly one of them way back then) -- predicted that a war in Afghanistan, whether justified or not, would result in a quagmire that would rival Viet Nam or, more to the point, Russia's Afghan war. Remember that? Here, by way of random example, is the Christian Science Monitor in October 2001:

"Afghanistan is a quagmire that is easy to enter and very hard to leave," says Irina Zvegelskaya, an Islamic expert and vice president of the independent Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow. "If the US commits itself to changing things there, or propping up a particular government, it will be the beginning of a long, painful and very costly story - just like it was for us."

[...]

Russian experts say that if the US is determined to engineer change in Afghanistan, it should make sure the United Nations is involved, and not commit American troops. "If the US acts unilaterally, it will look like a war on Islam, and all Afghans will unite behind the Taliban...

And that was just the well reasoned pessimism. Various fish in assorted barrels predicted far worse. Noam Chomsky, for example, would have had us believe that the U.S. was self evidently on the verge of a "silent genocide" that was going to kill several million afghan civilians.

As awful as any war inherently is, why didn't the Afghan war of 2001 go the route of Russia's atrocious war in that country?

I think the answer is clear: all those warnings about the impossibility of successfully invading and conquering Afghanistan presupposed an invading army attempting to defeat the will of the entire Afghan people. But the U.S. goal of toppling the Taliban regime, it should be perfectly obvious, was entirely in concert with the will of the majority of Afghans.

An important question to ask about the war in Iraq, then, is: which side, if any, is struggling to achieve an end that reflects the will of the majority of Iraqi people. Anyone who denies, however much many Iraqis may dislike being occupied by Coalition troops, that the majority of people in Iraq want democratization to succeed and the 'insurgency' to fail, is just not paying attention.

So it's important to remember, in the face of the brutal bombings and kidnappings that will probably continue for some time, that the Coalition troops not only represent the superior military power in this war but more importantly, because they are advancing the interests of the Iraqi people, they are on the winning side. You are probably aware that 80 percent of the Iraqi people are planning to vote. Which side of that equation would you rather be on?

The Baathist and Islamist 'insurgents' know what hurts Iraqis and how, if it can be done, to spark a civil war. But the inescapable fact is that, because they are fighting against the majority of the Iraqi populace, they are struggling hopelessly on the losing side of this war.

Once Iraqis have had this first taste of their democratic future, it will be damned difficult for anyone to steal it back from them.

Though the struggle to stop the killing will continue, in other words, the 'insurgency' is screwed.

I can think of no better rallying cry for this Iraqi election than Zarqawi's own words as reported just two days ago:

''We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,'' the speaker said in an audiotape posted Sunday on an Islamic Web site. ''Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.''

Let me repeat that last line for emphasis:

"Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it." That's an offer the Iraqi people cannot afford to pass up.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at January 26, 2005 09:50 PM
Comments

Welcome, and wow, Jeremy.

Michael, did you tell these folks to show up with both barrels loaded with buck???

Two fine essays out the gate.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 26, 2005 07:09 PM

Excellent.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2005 07:19 PM

Great post Jeremy,and welcome back.

Just as an aside,I found a great photo montage,honouring the troops, linked on the 'Liberating Iraq website.
Rather than post the direct link here,I am just going to link to Lib Iraq and you can then go to the photos from there.It's very much worth the trip and Patrick runs a must read Iraqi related blog.

http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com/

Posted by: dougf at January 26, 2005 07:30 PM

Great post, Jeremy.

One quibble:

Once Iraqis have had this first taste of their democratic future, it will be damned difficult for anyone to steal it back from them.

Unfortunately in the ME that has never been true. Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Syria (perhaps others that I am unaware of) have all seen democracy slip into autocracy within the past forty years. Turkey has held onto a form of democracy but the military is always at the ready in the shadows.

I do believe that it will be very hard to steal democracy from the Iraqis as long as the US is willing to act as guarantor for at least a generation. Short of that I am not at all sanguine about the Iraqi's ability to maintain democracy.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 26, 2005 07:37 PM

From today's Presidential press conference:

"Because our own freedom is enhanced by the expansion of freedom in other nations, I set out the long-term goal of ending tyranny in our world. This will require the commitment of generations, but we're seeing much progress in our time."

Bush ain't thinking small here. So Rick, I have hope.

I also hope Bush makes Condi Vice President right after the midterms, and I REALLY hope Barbara Boxer makes a determined run at her party's nomination. The choices need to be as clear as Zarqawi wants the to be. Maybe then the Democratic Party will wake up.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 26, 2005 08:02 PM

"So Rick, I have hope."

And I, no less than you. If we could arrange for a decimation of journalists (pour encourager les autres) I would have a much greater hope. A generational effort requires a clarity of aims and means that we will not see explicated in the current Fifth Column masquerading as a Fourth Estate. Maintaining and strengthening national resolve is a rather large task for a new medium. But, with talk radio tossed in, there is a possibility of success.

The Democratic Party will not wake up until about six or eight more of those tired cliches in the Senate move on to a warmer clime. Either '08 or '10 will mark the turn.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 26, 2005 09:12 PM

Thanks, guys.

I do understand that things can fail in Iraq and that a number of things have gone wrong. But I have optimism buzzing around in my gut that none of the pills in my medicine cabinet will make go away. I think there's reason to believe that all this turmoil is happening because the Middle East is approaching a turning point toward, you know, the Enlightenment. But it's true that none of us can know how it's all going to unfold.

But I think that at some point that history of autocracy is what fuels the eventual democratization. The same process had to happen to Europe, as epitomized by the American revolution.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 26, 2005 09:46 PM

I think there's reason to believe that all this turmoil is happening because the Middle East is approaching a turning point toward, you know, the Enlightenment.

Ah yes, of course. Civilise the natives. Just like the Brits, huh?

You hubris filled Americans do make me laugh sometimes. One day you will learn irony.

Posted by: Benjamin at January 26, 2005 10:02 PM

You hubris filled Americans do make me laugh sometimes. One day you will learn irony--Benjamin

How wonderful it must be to live in 'post-modern-land'.Life is just so entertaining,is it not,what with the simpletons running around aimlessly, actually trying to do 'something.
How droll.

Posted by: dougf at January 26, 2005 10:08 PM

You ignore the uncomfortable fact that decades of big power meddling created this situation in the Middle East.

But no, sod that history, let's have a discussion about barbarians v enlightenment.

Good v Evil. Us v Them.

Oh my God! How did I miss it? I will throw all my history books away!

Posted by: Benjamin at January 26, 2005 10:08 PM

DougF

I live in Hong Kong... And yes, I guess it's very post-modern! :-)

Posted by: Benjamin at January 26, 2005 10:10 PM

Rick Ballard: If we could arrange for a decimation of journalists (pour encourager les autres) I would have a much greater hope.

What does this mean?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2005 10:10 PM

Jeremy

Great job, you again have drawn me out of my self-imposed ban on posting (due to time constraints), but as a former doubter myself, I also converted from one time naysayer (and actually Bush hater) to strong supporter. You have hit upon probably my biggest peeve today. There is no doubt to me that this is very simple, either we learn to see and accept truth even if found where we wish it had not been found, or we choose to compromise some very critical and important things through personal prejudice, plain and simple.

When the left and other anti-War ranters decide to bring forth proclamations and predictions of doom, Baghdad = Stalingrad, Afghanistan = Vietnam etc., and then decide to call Condi Rice and President Bush "deceivers" or "liars" concerning WMD's even when Bush was only bringing forward evidence that Conventional Wisdom confirmed as true... Is it not lost on them that they undermine their own credibility? They are unwilling to own up to their own true failures of "reading the tea leaves" and worse continue to make the same predictions over and over again. Sure maybe one day they may be right but it will also go over their heads I'm sure that to many of us who have memories we will view it more the lucky guess or akin to a "stopped clock being correct twice a day".

The biggest frustration to me is what they are doing to me politically. In this I mean a formerly liberal Jew that has come to believe in freedom and strength and more importantly that America is the cure not the blame for what ills this world. In a sense it has caused me to back-burner many other issues I would tend to go against the GOP on. I mean what does anything the Democrats believe in mean to me if collectively as a party I perceive them to disdain American sovereignty and lack the will to defend the nation? Do I really want to waste my vote on a person who argues more to my liking the margins of taxes and certain social issues and yet risk putting in a Democrat that will risk chairmanships going to the likes of Charlie Rangel, Pat Leahy or Barbara Boxer? There aren't enough Democratic Joe's around to soothe me that's for sure. (Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden).

It has literally come down to me seeing one party as a collective party of grown-ups, and the other as a collective party of adolescents. Maybe one day these adolescents will grow up, but until then I have little choice. I will vote for a moderate Republican over a moderate Democrat and simply because I trust the the Party behind the former on life and death issues. To Mark Warner (D), who is my Governer in Virginia I say... yes you have been a moderate Governer, I voted for you and approve of your performance, but if you run for the Senate you must run as a moderate Republican or you can't have my vote. Running as a Democrat is just too much of a risk and until I am positive grown-ups are securely in charge I just have no such luxury.

MJT

Good luck on the Iraqi Election Coverage.

Posted by: Samuel at January 26, 2005 10:16 PM

Here, "decimation" means a vast reduction, presumably by force.

"The term decimation more commonly means any reduction (usually of forces) by one tenth, although it has currently taken a much less literal meaning in which losses of much greater than one tenth are referred to as "decimation". In common parlance the term will more likely be used to describe an occurance in which closer to one tenth of the original amount remains, rather than was lost." Wikipedia.

A total rout of journalsts. A final solution to all those annoying critics!

We have a good satirical publication in the UK called Private Eye.

Rick Ballard's amusing outburst would be filed under a section in it called "Warballs".

Posted by: Benjamin at January 26, 2005 10:22 PM

“The Baathist and Islamist 'insurgents' know what hurts Iraqis”

There is a huge difference between the secular Baathists and the Islamic nihilists. I am convinced that the former are close to throwing in the towel. The Baathists are not religious nut cases seeking death. They desire the good life, the very best whiskeys, fast women, and faster cars. Almost certainly, they realize that victory is not possible. Only by compromising will the Baathists get a seat at the table. Regrettably, the Muslim extremists seem to have no interest in abandoning their vile cause. They must be either killed or arrested---and this will not be easy to do.

Posted by: David Thomson at January 27, 2005 01:55 AM

Benjamin,
I seem to remember you once called yourself a 'realist'. I would call you a pessimist. Or maybe just a shit-stirrer!

Posted by: Fish at January 27, 2005 01:55 AM

By the way, welcome back Jeremy. I liked your line about the optimism buzzing in your gut that no pill can quell. You very nicely put into words how I'm feeling.
And I'm not even a hubris-filled American!

Posted by: Fish at January 27, 2005 02:01 AM

Yeah, you're a bloody Australian?! ;-)

Worse!

(only kidding)

Posted by: Benjamin at January 27, 2005 03:20 AM

Benjamin isn't a pessimist - he's just doing the Graham Greene Thing. You know, tool around the former colonies, pick up some Asian cuties, rant about the Bloody Yanks - when will they ever learn? The Graham Greene Thing is tres chic. The ladies love it.

He's enjoying every minute of this. After all, if we weren't in Iraq he wouldn't have anything to act cynical and world weary about.

;-)

Posted by: Hylas at January 27, 2005 05:06 AM

Here is a question: Who believed Iraq had WMD in April 2002? August 2002? October 2002? and February 2003?

And is it just me or are all of the ant-war people smug over the Iraqi situation? It almost sounds like they are happy that soldiers and people are dying.

Posted by: Rachel at January 27, 2005 05:08 AM

"Ah yes, of course. Civilise the natives. Just like the Brits, huh?"

Benjamin: do you use some kind of reductio ad absurdum decoder ring?

"The Middle East, the Enlightenment" ... turn the outer ring...ah yes! "Civilise the natives."

England was plenty civilized in the 18th century. But the American colonists were ready to join the Elightenment as far as political structure was concerned. That didn't mean European history was backward and to be despised. It meant the Enlightenment, if you accept that term as referring in part to what made the progress from feudalism to democracy possible, had not yet taken hold in terms of that basic transformation of the structure of society.

(Karl Marx, of course, did not map history this way. But Marx himself was the product of the Enlightenment.)

What I'm saying is that the ruling elites in the Middle East are trying to prevent democratization. Both fascism and Islamist fundamentalism are forces trying to prevent the completion of the Arab world's democratization. But I think that progress reflects the will of a growing number of people in the Middle East.

The U.S. has been an obstacle to this progress in the past. We're not the authors of their liberalization. But I'm glad we're now on the right side of it.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 27, 2005 05:37 AM

Hi again Jeremy, fine addition. You might recall my own optimistic hope: A World Without Dictators. In my lifetime!

Even in Slovakia, I WANT to be a part of setting up an Iraq democracy; but with a wife and 3 kids we're NOT moving; not yet.

The Bush-hating Left doesn't realize the "real" choices: gov't by democracy, or gov't by Death Squads.

The media implicitly supports gov't by death squads. I won't give the details of one of my "pleasant nightmares", but it involves a mass invitation to journalists and representatives of all the news media who have been covering Saddam and Iraq over the last two decades, in Baghdad after the election.

And then the Iraqis putting them all under arrest for supporting Saddam and his "crimes against humanity", through their coverage and support of the Death Squads ... [snip]

The media are and have been despicable. Blogs are helping to change things, for the better. The "other" democratic revolution.

Thanks Michael, for your contributions here and to Friends of Democracy. May the Spirit of America expand throughout the Middle East!

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 27, 2005 06:33 AM

Jeremy,
Great article, when you get the bit between your teeth you dont let up do you?

Tom Grey,
"You might recall my own optimistic hope: A World Without Dictators. In my lifetime!"

That's really optimistic, I'm in my 20s and I dont often seriously expect to live to see a world without dicators. I am hoping to see a serious reduction in their numbers though.

Posted by: sam at January 27, 2005 06:49 AM

My judgement model for Democrat foreign policy wisdom is pretty simple:

Paraphrased, the Democrats believed that "The Soviets are just another kind of government,will always be here, and we'll always have to get along with them."

In a mind centered on governments and not on people, the status is always quo.

They still damn Reagan. Not for being conservative or an old actor, or even for spending all that money on defense and not welfare, but for proving them wrong. Wrong by chapter, verse, phrase, and even word.

They haven't changed in my lifetime. Just gotten more shrill as the years have rolled by.

Samuel -

Nice to see you around. Adults and adolescents is what I've come to believe, too.

I don't think Biden rates the respect you seem to hold for him; he's as much a dinosaur as Kennedy or Byrd in my book.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 27, 2005 07:05 AM

Benjamin: Ah yes, of course. Civilise the natives. Just like the Brits, huh?

You hubris filled Americans do make me laugh sometimes. One day you will learn irony.

Ah ha ha ha ha!!!! I love when Brit's say ignorant shit like that. Orwell had you pegged dead on! Thanks Benji, you made me smile today; everytime I begin to think Brits like you are more of a caricature than reality, one of you just pops right up and makes himself known.

In the words of Samuel Johnson, "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 07:30 AM

Mike,
"everytime I begin to think Brits like you are more of a caricature than reality, one of you just pops right up and makes himself known."

They do exist, as Benjamin so excellently proves, but they do not represent the entire British nation on Iraq, or on anything else come to that. The setting up of a functional democracy in Iraq is the most important thing going on in the world right now. If we can beat the fascists and fundametalists here, that sets a good precedent for fighting them in other locations around the world.

BTW Is there a specific bit from Orwells work that your thinking of in your post, or are you talking about the general sweep of his writing?

Posted by: sam at January 27, 2005 08:10 AM

Rachel: Here is a question: Who believed Iraq had WMD in April 2002? August 2002? October 2002? and February 2003?

Since no one else seems to have answered your question I will; I believed from the beginning up until very recently. As much as I revile conspiracy theorists, I cannot still quite give up the notion that the weapons, or what remained of them, were "relocated" with the assistance of the Russians and the Syrians. (Yes I know it sounds hysterical, and no I can't back up that assertion)

I will say this; I did then and still do support our Commander-in-Chief, but I felt we were rushing into a situation which we didn't truly understand. I wanted very badly to take down Saddam, and I lent my support to the pre-emptive invasion on the basis that my Gov't knew something dire that I did not.

I actually expected as we neared artillary range of Baghdad, that we would lose as many as 25,000 troops on that day. Now, 2 years later, many of my fears regarding how the occupation would turn out have been realized. Much of that insight was drawn from the book "Iraq: Eye of the Storm" by Dilip Hiro.

As a result my vote for GWB in 2004 was not a Mandate or an endorsement of his Iraq policy, more so a reprieve. If I had a better choice than he, I would have made it. John McCain '08.

And yes the media elite does seem to delight in our failures, however I can't tell which is more nauseating, their "I told you so" drivel, or Fox News' cheerleading.

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 08:11 AM

Benjamin in Hongkong can treasure his exquisite sense of irony as if it were a delicate jade carving from the Ming Period and sneer all he wants at Yank effrontery and naivete but the choice is clear between democracy and tyranny with medieval roots. I believe it is the left that is trapped in a quagmire of its own making.

Posted by: Zacek at January 27, 2005 08:14 AM

Great post, Jeremy. Thanks for reminding us of the opposition to the Afghan war that came both from reasonable and rabid (ie. Chomsky) sources.

My clearest memory from that time was the anti-war Left’s claim that we were engaging in a ‘racist’, genocidal war, with plans to starve the Afghans because they were browner than us. (a concept that was promoted by the Egyptian press)

I also remember endless quotes from the Benjamin-types of Kipling’s:

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a SOLDIER."

As in Iraq, the anti-war Left ignored the atrocities committed by the Taliban, claimed that the US was to blame for all evils because we responsible for millions of deaths in Iraq under UN sanctions (because we control the UN, at least when they do bad things.)

According to the anti-war Left, the situation was ‘under control’ before 9/11. They omitted any mention of the starvation, the murder of thousands of Afghans who opposed the Taliban, and the horrific repression that had generated the Afghan refugee problem.

October 2001 was when I realized that the anti-war Left was about as humanitarian as the Soviets were. They’re also less imaginative, still recycling the same old propaganda and lies.

Posted by: mary at January 27, 2005 08:17 AM

Jeremy,

Loved the article. Yeah, Afghanistan was supposed to be an eternal bloody hell. Heck, even I thought it would be. Funny how quickly that country dropped off the radar when things didn't quite turn out as planned for the eternal Prophets of Doom. The "uncivilised natives" of Afghanistan didn't fulfill their expected role as bloodthirsty savages after all.

Without any sense of irony we now have the same morons who predicted disaster in Afghanistan (and for that matter the first Gulf war, Kosovo, the major combat phase in the second Gulf war, etc.), predicting disaster in Iraq. I suppose the doomsayers are playing a numbers game, hoping that one day they will be right about their predictions so they can reclaim their relevance. Poor sods.

Iraq is going to take time to stabalise (thanks in part to all the idiots who are rooting for Iraq to fail), but stabilise it will. They have enough going for them to pull it off. It's going to be a rough ride though, so hold on to your hats folks.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 27, 2005 08:23 AM

Sam,

I in no way meant to generalize. Actually, what was unsaid in my post was the reason I begin to believe people like Benjamin are more caricatures than reality. That reason is b/c I have met, and read material from so many Brits I admire and I start to forget the Benjamin's still exist. Kind of like American Hillbillies, they seem more like cartoons until you actually travel to Burkettsville, MD. and find out otherwise.

Orwell made reference to the British mentality towards Americans on many an occasion, however specifically he alluded ot it in "Notes on Nationalism", and in a few of his published letters. He was also fairly prejudiced towards Americans himself, however not all of it was unfounded. Christopher Hitchens references some of this in his book "Why Orwell Matters", in the chapter 'Orwell and America' (pgs. 103-113).

He felt it was more an attitude of the older intelligentsia, and in Benjamins case "pseudo-intelligentsia".

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 08:41 AM

Michael,

The reference to decimation refers to WWI and the French generals decision to decimate (shoot one in ten by lot) a company that refused orders to advance. Perhaps my conflation of cowards with traitors was a bit confusing given that traitors suffered a fate a bit more drastic than decimation.

Given that Jeremy's subject was hope for freedom, I have no difficulty whatsoever in labeling most of the M$M as traitors to that hope. They are currently proudly carrying the torch of tyranny and peddling despair by the truckload. Old habits die hard and there is no habit more deeply ingrained within the M$M than the love and support of autocracy.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 27, 2005 08:48 AM

I like the poppies in Afghanistan. The price now is way better than under the Taliban. And the warlords are way easier to get along with.
There is probably no better character in Afghanistan now than the Kabul's Mayor Karsai too.
Allawi will make a good elected mayor of the Green Zone as well.

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 08:58 AM

Rick,

You're seriously talking about decimating journalists and suggesting that they "love" and "support" autocracy?

You've gone way beyong "liberal bias" now. Just so we're clear: liberal ain't autocratic.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2005 09:00 AM

Isn't it funny that every side appeals to historical precedent to support their argument. Usually, they only bring up the bits that are similar, and disregard the differences.

For example, Afganistan is very much like Iraq, in that both were predicted to be quagmires. Afganistan is very much like Iraq in that the US hoped to hold elections and leave.

However, if we think back to those momentous elections, we will recall two very important differences, which don't get mentioned. Difference one, is that there was no insurgency of the scale we have now in Iraq. There was not organized resistance by the natives, only by a specific political/religious group (The Taliban).

Another key difference was that in Afganistan, we delayed the elections twice, because we felt the need to 'get it right'.

Now, I'm all for elections in Iraq. I'm all for Iraqis taking personal responsibility for their country and thanking us with some nice parting gifts. I think that politically, Bush has to move forward with elections, I think that the nutjobs on the left (and his own stubborness) are forcing his hand. That is a key difference.

I don't agree with any policy that involves entangling aliances or nation-building (or rebuilding). However, I think Bush did a great job in Afganistan (note that I also supported going into Afganistan, as we were after a mass murderer and his supporters).

In Iraq, we shall wait and see. Perhaps it will go well, perhaps it will not, but being naïve or ignoring the differences is good for morale... but not for reality.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 27, 2005 09:02 AM

"Here, "decimation" means a vast reduction, presumably by force."

Not quite. The original meaning was to select by lot every tenth soldier and kill him (the most draconian punishment in the Roman army--typically applied to a mutinous legion). "Pour Encourager Les Autres" is from Voltaire: "In this country it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others." (Referring to the execution of English Admiral John Byng who, after failing to relieve the siege of Minorca in 1756, was court-martialed and executed for "failure to do his utmost."

Adding in the "fifth column" remark, it's fairly clearly an accusation of collaboration (or worse) among the MSM--and a "modest proposal" for rectifying it. Fairly witty, actually.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at January 27, 2005 09:14 AM

Erin, are you actually making a snarky argument that the situation vis-a-vis Afghanistan was better when it was under Taliban/al-Queda rule?

How very Chomsky.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 09:26 AM

Michael,

No, not seriously. I need irony tags. "Liberal ain't autocratic." You've added something that I did not write but I would gently suggest that you consider "hate speech" codes, support of gun control, various enviro takings of private property without compensation and sundry other proscriptive measures that limit personal autonomy to be the essence of autocracy. All done in the cheerful belief that a "greater collective good" is being achieved to be sure but in general what passes for liberal thought in these times would be best classified as autocratic. There remain a number of true liberals (I would number you among them) but there are very, very true liberals in the MSM. If that were not true one might expect a bit more positive coverage of the actual situation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 27, 2005 09:34 AM

I don't see it happening right away, but I expect that within the next decade the media (the whole of it, including this new-fangled suburb) will pass through a tipping point. The current fashion of nihilistic narcicism (all the bad in all the world has at the root our own bad selves) will be seen as unsophisticated. (And there is nothing a group of self-identified elites likes less than being considered unsophisticated.) You can see the shape of it emerging from mary's takedown on Benjamin. More, please.

Samuel, if you're still reading, thanks for posting again. It's great reading your words, but I certainly hope you don't start going party line for national elections. The point is to mend the Democratic Party, not to end it. :)

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 09:38 AM

very, very few true liberals.

PIM very distant acquaintance. Never my friend.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 27, 2005 09:38 AM

You've gone way beyong "liberal bias" now. Just so we're clear: liberal ain't autocratic--MJT

If I don't exactly 'mean'to run you down with my car,but fail to take account of the fact that my foot is on the gas,and it happens to be pointed at you,the end result is that you still end up pasted against the wall.
'Liberal ain't autocratic'is clearly a truism,but completely fails to address the 'objective'role the media is playing in this conflict.You know how I feel about these creatures so I won't belabour the point,but our glorious media has clearly degenerated over the years.The 'position'(and yes it is a position),of the media can I feel be explained only in 1 of 3 ways,namely:
A.They oppose Bush's plan for victory and are deliberately attempting to portray it as negatively as possible.Hence the bias argument.
B.They have 'no position'on the right-wrong continuum,and believe that their 'role'is to be nothing more than a camera upon reality.This would be the same as being dropped into Dachau and simply relating 'facts'without differentiating between opposing viewpoints.All reality is the same and is to be equally respected.I find this attitude suspect at best,but I'm a tad judgemental.
C.The simply don't have the intelligence,imagination,or decency to report anything other than events falling into the 'if it bleeds,it leads'category.
As far as I am concerned,none of the above reflects well on the MSM,and it is perfectly legitimate to question what historical role they are playing and whose interests they are 'objectively'serving with their clearly tilted coverage.Basically either they won't or can't see the forest for the trees,and they deserve all the contempt and derision directed at them.Decimation seems harsh however,and perhaps might better have been left unsaid.

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 09:52 AM

Give the 'liberal' journalists credit and a little humility is due Mr. Totten, at least they have the courage to actually go to Iraq and risk their lives to report on the US occupation of Iraq at the moment. When you dare to do that, or other supporters of the war at, say, FoX News dare to do the same, then...

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 10:11 AM

Erin, I have a conference call to Baghdad in 20 minutes. Yeah, yeah, I'm taking that call from my house, not the hotel bar, but I'm a lot "closer" to Baghdad than you are. And I just got back from Libya, which is no big deal except that my liberal friends thought I was reckless and stupid to go there.

I hope to go to Iran this summer. You going anywhere? Or are you just going to mouth off about cowardly journalists in your rumpus room?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2005 10:42 AM

Mr. Totten, You can't be serious, I'm sorry, there was nothing risky about going to Libya, nothing. You were a money carrying American tourist and treated as such. Bravery is Anne Garrells reporting from Iraq directly, many times even though the risks are great. Or even the occupation supporting John Burns at the NYT, whose article you would do well to read today. There is no comparison between your bravery in Libya to these brave and real journalists who are not nearly as supportive of the present US occupation as you are. I am as close to Iraq and as much in risk of dying from 'reporting' on Iraq at the moment as you are. And I don't pretend otherwise, even though I have travelled and done things in China that were far far riskier than your American tourist journey. and go ahead and kick me off from your comments if what i say is too sensitive or politically incorrect.

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 10:55 AM

Smmmack!

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 10:56 AM

Iran is also a pretty safe country for a tourist or 'journalist'

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 10:56 AM

very safe actually

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 10:57 AM

Yeah Michael!!! They don't really mean it when they chant "Death to America", and Ghadafi's just a teddy bear. That little Pan Am thing was just a Zionist plot. Thats why Libyan and Iranian tourism is booming right now...

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 11:02 AM

erin, peddle that "iran is safe for journalists" line to Zahra Kazemi.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 11:04 AM

i see, that's why the US and Britain are falling over themselves trying to set up relations with Libya...because they so 'mean it' when they shouted "Death to America" in past years...wake up Mike, read Totten's own travelogues, he was in no real danger, not even close. maybe in your fantasies he was in danger...but anyone who knows anything about Libya or Iran would find your fantasy that tourists are in danger or unwelcome there as nothing less than wierd paranoia.

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 11:06 AM

one rather unusual case in the last several years is proof for you that a tourist like Totten would be in danger in Iran? gimme a break, go travel to a foreign country, see the world...then get back to me.
In Iraq about one journalist every few weeks dies or is injured...THAT is real risk. Blogging or touring is not risky, not even close.

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 11:09 AM

Yeah you're right Erin. I'm gonna call Liberty Travel right now and book my holiday in Tehran. If I'm lucky I might be able to burn my own American flag, or maybe even Bush in effigy!

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 11:23 AM

During a trip to Singapore I bought for my girlfriend a very chic Chairman Mao cap (black wool, red star, goes great with her overall urban latin ninja look) which she wears on a pretty regular basis.

Somehow, if I went to Iran, I don't think I'd be comfortable wearing my tee shirt with the American flag.

Black march shows Islamic revolution in U.S.-Iran Tehran, Oct. 18 (Reuter) - Iran's parliament speaker said on Wednesday a black rally in Washington showed the Islamic revolution of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was spreading to the United States. "(Islamic) chants of Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)...by more than a million people exposed the United States,"
Nateq-Nouri, a Shi'ite Moslem clergyman, said at the start of Wednesday's session which was broadcast live by the radio.
Deputies responded with the traditional "Death to
America" chant -- the trademark of late Khomeini's
revolution.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Washington's rally was "a slap in the face of America's government by Islam," Tehran radio reported.

But maybe I'm just weirdly paranoid.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 11:27 AM

Why would you go to most countries wearing a shirt with an american flag? why do you feel it so necessary to stand out? get in people's face? why not just go and travel like most normal people do and leave it at that? if you ever have travelled outside the US to begin with, it sounds like you haven't, aside from maybe a tour of Cancun...

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 11:29 AM

Erin: Mr. Totten, You can't be serious, I'm sorry, there was nothing risky about going to Libya, nothing.

I didn't say there was. But most people think it's dangerous, including most liberals. I spent months trying to convince my liberal friends that Libya isn't actually dangerous to visit.

Your suggestion that liberal journalists are braver than conservative (or hawkish) journalists strikes me as pretty ridiculous.

I just got off the phone with writers in Iraq who are risking their lives by working with me on the Friends of Democracy election coverage project. Those who work with Americans are having their names and photos published on terrorist Web sites. And they're getting killed. They don't have to work on this project, but they're doing it anyway. So don't give me a bunch of crap about "cowardly" journalists who "support the war." I may be in my house at the moment, but my friends and colleagues are on the front line. And unlike foreign journalists, they can't go home if things get scarier. They live there.

I'm not going to kick you out of here, but I am going to ask you to find something else to complain about at this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2005 11:30 AM

I see what you mean by Iran being so unfriendly to tourists:

http://www.traveldailynews.com/new.asp?newid=18758&subcategory_id=109

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 11:31 AM

"But most people think it's dangerous, including most liberals."

I don't, not even a little.
I do think you are rather unhumble attacking liberal journalists, when they are risking their lives to do some important work. a lot more important than just playing stenographers for the marketing department of the Pentagon.

Posted by: erin at January 27, 2005 11:33 AM

Folks, Erin is right about Iran. It's not dangerous to visit. Most places in the Middle East are perfectly safe. Just stay out of Iraq, Algeria, and Gaza on holiday.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2005 11:34 AM

Erin: I do think you are rather unhumble attacking liberal journalists

Where did I attack liberal journalists? Did I forget about one of my comments? I only remember defending them, sorry.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2005 11:36 AM

David, Hobgoblin, TmjUtah, where are you when we need you?

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2005 11:39 AM

erin, here's my ports of call over the last 3 years:

Geneva
Amsterdam
Rotterdam
Paris
Tokyo
Johannesburg
Singapore
Hong Kong
Bangkok
Bogota
Brussels
Milan

And I'm probably forgetting a city or two. The only times I felt anything less than safe were while I was in Columbia and South Africa, but that's because I was in both places as an Evil White Capitalist, not because I'm a journalist or anything.

I have the greatest respect for on-the-ground journalists like Burns. On the other hand, I've got zero respect for condescending apologists for totalitarians.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 11:56 AM

Anyone who denies, however much many Iraqis may dislike being occupied by Coalition troops, that the majority of people in Iraq want democratization to succeed and the 'insurgency' to fail, is just not paying attention.

Given that one of the stated goals of the insurgency is to end US occupation, I don't think this makes a lot of sense.

One of the things we have to keep in mind about the insurgency is that it has, so far, been successful in one very important way: before the insurgency, we were planning on planting a half-dozen major military bases across Iraq and passing out oilfields to American and allied companies like candy. Because the insurgency, we are not. In a painfully ironic way, given most of the insurgents' dictatorial or theocratic leanings, Iraq only has a chance to be independent and fully free because of them.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 27, 2005 12:02 PM
One of the things we have to keep in mind about the insurgency is that it has, so far, been successful in one very important way: before the insurgency, we were planning on planting a half-dozen major military bases across Iraq and passing out oilfields to American and allied companies like candy.

Oh jeez, Kimmit, do us a favor if you're going to throw stinkbombs like these and at least provide some of those great <a href= thingies. We can then at least know where you're buying your Kool-Aid.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 12:07 PM

"at least they have the courage to actually go to Iraq and risk their lives to report on the US occupation of Iraq at the moment. When you dare to do that, or other supporters of the war at, say, FoX News dare to do the same, then..."

Unconvincing. That chickenhawk accusation is a just cute way of limiting "legitimate" pro-war voices to the small minority of the populace that have been there. The logical retort is that if you have to've been there in order to understand the situation, the chicken-chicken position is no more valid than the chickenhawks'.

BTW, Fox had several embeds during the assault, including a friend of mine, and still has several reporters on location. Those in Iraq (including the troops) are disproportionately war supporters, not the other way 'round.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at January 27, 2005 12:23 PM

We can then at least know where you're buying your Kool-Aid.

You've got to be kidding; this is basic common knowledge here. Cheney's Energy Task Force back in 2001 had a map of Iraq with oil fields divided into little zones. And relocation of bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq was one of the stated geopolitical benefits of the war.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 27, 2005 12:36 PM

Any time someone starts talking about "common knowledge" I get suspicious.

Links please.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 12:59 PM

erin - When I was traveling in Vietnam a couple years ago, I noticed lots of the Vietnamese people wearing American flag T-shirts, bandanas, etc. Seemed to be pretty hip there as they generally like Americans now. Are you suggesting we shouldn't display cultural pride by wearing something like that overseas?

Posted by: d-rod at January 27, 2005 01:09 PM

Benjamin in HK threw away a few too many history books -- e.g. the one where Hong Kong and India did end up functioning quite well, thank you very much.

He's also mired in the paternalist-lefty mental quagmire where they insist on believing that the poor dusky natives are doomed by their nature to have screwed-up governments forever. Change is impossible! Well, it was possible for Europe, of course (anybody seen Hitler in power lately? No? How about General Franco?) -- but that, presumably, is because Europeans are inherently superior to the rest of the world. They've always thought that. They're still trying desperately to believe it. That's what pisses them off so much about the US.

Europeans love third-world dictators in part because third-world dictators are a living excuse to go on believing that only Europe can get things right. Europe gets to go on playing Benevolent White Father via development aid and other such usless but theoretically well-intentioned wheel-spinning.

Naturally, those dictators are profitable, too. Can't forget that.

Posted by: ha at January 27, 2005 01:24 PM

Erin: respecting people for bravery has nothing to do with whether we accept that what they are reporting is objectively accurate. You belittle Karzai and Allawi though they hold office at great personal risk. By your logic you would have no right to doubt them, since they are targets. If this is a contest to see who risks more in Iraq then we should be listening to the reporting of people who live in Iraq, whose families live in Iraq.

But it's not a contest of bravery. The truth is the truth. So yes, we should read what's written by reporters there, but then we have to apply our critical thinking skills to what we read. Burns, whose NYT piece you encourage us to read, reports that Iraq is a very dangerous place, that Coalition troops have done terrible things, that the 'insurgents' are killing as many people as they can kill. He has also reported that Saddam's Iraq was a monstrously violent regime and that the war was justified on humanitarian grounds, and that too many journalists made a calculated decision to look the other way along with most of the world.

So what is Burns trying to tell us? He's giving us factual information, opinions, omitting factual information...and we've got to draw our own conclusions about what's true. That's the way it works.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 27, 2005 01:37 PM

An important thing to keep in mind is that many those people who predicted a US quagmire in Afghanistan were basing that belief on a very faulty premise - the premise that Russia had gotten its ass kicked. As a matter of fact the USSR was winning the war militarily right up to the end. The Soviets had greater control of the major urban centers of Afghanistan than the US does today in Iraq. The Mujaheddin were never a very credible or well-trained fighting force. The reason Afghanistan was "unconqerable" over the previous 19 centuries was that it was geographically remote and offered very little of real value to a potential conqueror, hence no one could really be bothered. The Soviets left Afghanistan simply because once Communist ideology became exposed as a fraud it made no sense to keep sending troops to die to prop up a Communist government. The rationale for the war was undermined by the time Gorbachev came to power, but by every basic military metric the Soviets were indeed "winning." The Russians are doing much worse in Chechnya.

Posted by: Vanya at January 27, 2005 01:47 PM

Jeremy, you're good.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 01:51 PM

I guess Walter Duranty risked his life to report from Russia. No surprise that his career at the Times was a success.

An odd fact: According to the FBI, the rates of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in Iraq (14 - 20/100,000 population per year) is less than the rate in New Orleans (25.5 per 100,000)

I went to New Orleans a few weeks ago, walked around in some bad neighborhoods, talked to a psychic, toured a graveyard in the dark, ate too much food and survived. I did see some scary nutria, though.

Posted by: mary at January 27, 2005 02:03 PM

New Orleans cuisine is by itself a dangerous thing.

Great city. Could easily retire there, just to be near all the jazz clubs (and aforementioned cuisine). Did you get out to the Audobon Zoo? If not, and if you like zoos at all, you have to go next time you're there. Easy to get to from downtown via the streetcar.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 02:45 PM

Erin - I've seen your comments on several threads now. You appear to be somewhat pessimistic about the elections and you have obvious disdain for armchair bloggers who impune the integrity of MSM journalists in Iraq. But I think I may have missed your overall take on the war itself and your impressions of the prospects for Iraq's future. I.e. I see alot of potshots but no coherent picture of where you stand on the Iraq war as well as what alternative course of action you would have favored for dealing with Saddam.

Care to share your thoughts? Cause sometimes the choice is between bad and worse. If you had a "good" option, I for one, certainly want to know about it.

Posted by: Caroline at January 27, 2005 04:40 PM

Oh,Oh.My favourite theme.Reviewing the greatness of the MSM,and its stellar affect upon the lives of its victims.I have said enough about these creatures in my previous posts so without further ado,a word from another satisfied customer.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/blog_1_27_05_1300.html

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 04:53 PM

Dougf-

great link - and it features our host no less!

Michael - it appears that you have a preponderance of posters who don't know how to create a bona fide link (myself included).
Rogerlsimon has a "magical" link creator. All you do is copy and paste the URL and PRESTO - link! Please ask him his secret!

Back to Dougf's post:

Anyone watching this MSM coverage has got to be scratching their heads. Since when did it become an evil thing to defend one's own interests overtly?

I have done it before on this site and I will do it again - bring up the legal analogy - the court of law. No matter how guilty we assume a person to be, we consider it vital to mount a strong defense for the defendant. Even Ramsey Clarke is willing to go out on a limb to do that favor for Saddam Hussein. Surveying the current geopolitical landscape, it seems that there is no shortage of "prosecutors" for pressing the anti-American and anti-Israeli case. Our own press has clearly taken that role or rather is it that they view themselves as the "defense attorneys" for the "non-white" people of the world?

Before I get accused of racism - I hope that a smack in the face to the "politically correct" - the defenders of certain behaviors (theocracy, misogyny, homophobia, anti-semitism and so on) that would be utterly abhorent were they committed by the white, male, western, Christian, constituency of the world - would minimally force these people to confront reality. Is that the world they actually want themselves, their wives, their children, and their friends to live in? Is OJ's defense attorney and the jury that acquittted him willing to live next door to OJ? Agreeable to having their kids spend the night at his house? No? Then isn't it an intellectual exercise in bullshit? There appears to be an utter suspension of reality and common sense and even honesty from the MSM. I can only think that it stems from the affluent cocoon in which they actually live. If this were truly a matter of life and death for them - if they actually had to live under the system that they apologize for and in some cases even embrace in their coverage - we'd be seeing a whole different story. Their coverage is just fundamentally dishonest for that reason.

Posted by: Caroline at January 27, 2005 05:58 PM

That was long-winded but my point is simply that anyone playing the apologist role for the Iraqi insurgents (say in Fallujah), the Palestinians and so on - should just put their money where their mouth is and MOVE there! Go live there and stay there! Otherwise this is total and complete BS! Are any westerners (MSM journalists to start with) choosing to move to the ME permanently? No. Rather the reverse. Millions of ME'erners are moving to the west! Meanwhile there is this ridiculous canard about getting the infidels out of the Muslim lands. One is entitled to cut off their heads for even being there. And the MSM tiptoes around that. Shall I assume that if westerners adopted the same policy towards the millions of Muslim ME'ers living in the west that this would be OK to the western press? No - of course not. Why not? That is the question I would really like to see the MSM answer at a press conference. Of course these are utterly ridiculous questions. I only raise them to illustrate how utterly ridiculous the MSM has become.

Posted by: Caroline at January 27, 2005 06:14 PM

OK. Rant over. It just sometimes seems that the world has gone mad though, you know?

Plus - I'm a "Dead Thread Head". Sort of a take-off on the Grateful Dead fans, get it? Har Har. Thinking about changing my moniker though...

Posted by: Caroline at January 27, 2005 06:32 PM

Maps of Iraq from the Cheney energy task force:

Judicial Watch.

A passing reference to the plan to build bases was found here; most of the information has disappeared behind newspaper archive walls. But you were here for this; you must recall that the decrease of tensions due to a movement of bases from near Mecca to a secular Iraq was mentioned repeatedly as a realpolitik benefit of the war.

The NYT reported on April 20th, 2003 (no permalink available) in "Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access To Key Iraq Bases" by Shanker and Schmitt) that we were still seeking permanent basing rights in Iraq.

And now we're not. The insurgency has changed our plans.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 27, 2005 07:12 PM

If Erin's contention that only liberal journalists risk their live to go to Iraq is true, does that mean we have finally settled the "liberal bias in the media" debate then?

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 27, 2005 07:14 PM

New Orleans cuisine is by itself a dangerous thing.

I know. I eat too much of it, and it's so rich. Then there are the pralines..

Great city. Could easily retire there, just to be near all the jazz clubs (and aforementioned cuisine). Did you get out to the Audobon Zoo?

I've been to the city a few times and I've toured the swamps, but I've never been to the zoo. Hopefully, next time.

Posted by: mary at January 27, 2005 07:30 PM

Kimmet, you're bait-and-switching here. The US had been moving its bases out of S.A. and into Kuwait (and I believe Bahrain) before we even invaded Iraq. (Look at a map: both alternatives are better than S.A., even if not as good as some Iraqi possibilities.) Were there contingencies drawn up assuming we could have bases in Iraq? I'm sure there were. Did we map out where the oil fields were, and how to defend them if necessary? I'd hope we did.

You can't have it both ways. You can't scream about inadequate planning and intel AND scream when you find evidence of planning and intel. (But the only reason to draw a picture of something is if you want to screw it, right? Sort of the Titanic theory of practical graphics production.)

Did we also come up with the idea of an oil trust for Iraqi citizens, on the Alaskan model? Yep.

Do we plan to act as Iraq's Imperial Overlords? That's not what I'm seeing, but hey, there's a school of thought that says any election with less than 100% approval for The Man In Charge obviously indicates an out-of-control situation, right?

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 27, 2005 07:54 PM

Kimmit, in my opinion the insurgency makes it easier to justify permanent bases. If those bases are located in relatively safe areas in northern and southern Iraq, with a force of roughly 20 000 or less, I believe most Americans would accept that.

As far as permanent bases as a policy matter is concerned, I would suspect that it was on the table. Why not? I also suspect that a complete withdrawel was on the table. Neither would surprise me. The Pentagon is paid to make those recommendations, and provide contingency plans.

As it is, that decision will ultimately be the new Iraqi government's to make. I don't see permanent bases having great support with the new Iraqi government, but then again the middle east has always been full of surprises. Kuwait is a much better proposition anyway.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 27, 2005 08:03 PM

Guys, the link thing?

(1) Type in the word or phrase you want to act as the hot link: EG

dougf's favorite theme

(2) Then just before it, type the following:

<a href=" ">

So now we have:
<a href=" ">dougf's favorite theme

(3) ...and then directly after it:

</a>

So now we have -

<a href=" ">dougf's favorite theme</a>

(4) Then between the two quotes right after the href=, dump in the entire URL (I won't display it, as it line-wraps and confuses people). When you do, you get the following:

dougf's favorite theme

(5) Sit back and have a beer, you've earned it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 27, 2005 08:26 PM

MisterPundit,

Think NAS UmQasr and Camp Arbil. Camp Arbil is just 2 days by Abrams from Teheran or Damascus and NAS UmQasr is one hour by or F-14 or F-16 from anywhere in the ME that one might want visit expeditiously.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 27, 2005 08:29 PM

It is time for people to take their heads out of the sand, and see what actually is going on in Iraq, and what our policies have created. I suggest reading Lawrence Kaplan's piece in this week's New Republic at :
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050207&s=kaplan020705

Posted by: miriam at January 27, 2005 08:35 PM

DPU,

Nice job. This HTML Primer can also be bookmarked by the "HTML is hard" crowd. It's advisable to remember that not all HTML commands work in all comments sections.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 27, 2005 08:38 PM

DPU--- Thanks for the primer.I think you very graciously did this before ,but I can never remember when it comes time to actually do it.
If I could find some way to have this lesson sort of floating in front of me,it would be off to the races.
Thanks again.

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 09:04 PM

DPU, Nice job.

Thanks. For my next trick, I explain how to get the '<' and '>' characters to appear in the comment without messing things up :-)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 27, 2005 09:05 PM

If I could find some way to have this lesson sort of floating in front of me,it would be off to the races.

Sticky note on the screen?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 27, 2005 09:06 PM

Killing two birds with one stone,I am testing out my new 'DPU'derived HTML skills and also re-posting a great photo essay from Iraq.If the link fails ----- I blame DPU :-)

Tribute Photo Montage.

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 09:36 PM

Mike -

I'm here - but pressed mightily for time due to family concerns (details on my sig).

A pretty neat discussion, even allowing for the cynicism and alt history input that litters the last half, I'd say.

Decimation? For journalists?

I bet that's one sentence you might want to never to have happened, Rick. Words mean things.

The problem we face with journalists exists, yes, but it's not necessarily malevolence writ large as it is when you look at the actions of say the french, the U.N., or our Democrat friends.

They are bright, articulate, good at what they do, and breathtakingly clueless about the real world they supposedly arbitrate into bite sized chunks for the proles. They are a tribe.

A story breaks. Somebody covers it first. Other somebodies travel or are dispatched - the face, the producers, the videographer, and the unkempt surly guy who humps boxes, drives, and makes all the gadgets work. They arrive on the spot, talk with the guy whose family just died, interview the headman of the village that blew away in the hurricane, or discuss the finer points of quantum physics with a man whose socks don't match.

They shoot two hours of tape. The producer pitches the story to her VP, who decides how much time he'll ask for. At this time, if the producer isn't Mary Mapes and the network isn't CBS, there will be a rote readback of sources, facts, and possible ledes between the two. Another producer may be called to do research (maybe to see if the Face's "So you do stuff like on Star Trek?" question to the scientist is marketable, or just a window into profound ignorance). It's all just business.

The story ends up to be two minutes of airtime stuffed between a story about how the Bush administration isn't doing enough to alleviate foot odor in junior high school gym lockers (no bodies, but they got tape of Howard Dean delivering OdorEeaters ™insoles in South Central L.A., dammit), and a heartfelt essay on the bitter partisan divide read by some old liberal bastard who got swept out of office back when the Soviet Union was getting ready to annex South America and interest rates were six points higher than unemployment.

Bang. They did their job. They go back to their hotel where they talk to other people about what stories they covered that day. People just like them, important and informed and cool. They work about fourteen hours a day when the blood is flowing (literally) and as soon as the last cable is tossed back in the van or the last phone call is made, they have nothing to do but wait for the next call to come.

Do they listen to themselves? Or the people they talk to? How big a picture do they really have? They have all sorts of data. Why can't they pour water out of a boot?

Why have they so badly fucked up their part in this war? They aren't spectators. The attack isn't aimed at WASP fundies and a cowboy president. Media delivers information. They define the package. They don't define the meaning. They certainly don't define the importance of any particular event to any particular individual, though they strive mightily to that end for marketting purposes... and that certain arrogance that comes in various amounts with being the hand on the tap.

I have two media images that I carry in my mental wallet where this war is concerned. Okay, three -
First is a brown and faded newspaper clipping from 1983. A flag-covered, sealed, plain pine casket sits perched on a table inside a Virginia VFW post. The table is planks across two saw horses, covered with a drape from the back office of the post building. You can see a uniformed arm in the right of the frame; the corporal stripes are clear in the grainy black and white.

You can't see it in the picture, but the road into town is dirt, and it ends in the town.

The second image is much more recent and I have no direct connection with the subject. Some nameless man wearing dark slacks and a white shirt is falling, framed by the soulless rectangular windows of the WTC behind him. His crimes? He showed up for work on a sweet fall day and he wasn't like the people that flew an airplane into the building below his office. I'm sure he shot the shit with his friends around the water cooler or break table or train platform. Chances are he had somebody who cared for him or who he cared for: wife, kids, buddies at the bar or country club, parents. He was terrified out of his mind first, then turned into paste, and then air pollution by men who had no higher goal in life than to destroy the world. Not our world. THE world. Because the hopelessness that is their world is not a life any free man would tolerate longer than it would take to storm the palaces or the mosques.

Pissed me off.

We are dealing with tribesmen. No societal mechanism higher than clan, family, or common enemies... and we've allowed the state of affairs to build since the first Saud was installed. History cannot be rewritten, and the cold war didn't help, but by allowing the pinpricks to swell to blows and then culminate in the string of overt attacks directly on us in the nineties, we set a standard or a routine. And our media, bless their little informed hearts, are in their own way as tribal as our enemy when it comes to absorbing the big ideas - the ones that don't fit in a two minute clip or even a multi-part documentary.

It doesn't help that the media's picked faves in actual power positions refuse to acknowledge the stakes, either. Oh, there's Miller, and I guess Lieberman gets a short nod, too, but the rest of them? No relativism? No way to avoid judging right or wrong? A problem that transcends a fat highway project or a post office or possibly even a glowing editorial in the New York Times?

The Democrats, as a party, are done. They have screwed up everything they touched in my lifetime by making it an ideological pissing contest first, then failing and blaming it on anyone else but themselves second. Bill Clinton had a great economy; hard not to at the dawn of the information age and after the third world war had been put to bed. The party spent eight years talking up a third way and fundraising and left us without socialist healthcare, with conservative- prodded welfare reform, and a military jaded from chasing feel- good lunch run missions around the world.

That third picture? OBL in his jammies in a cave, declaring his war on America. Taken by a media guy.

I got the message. And I wasn't even there.

We are all on a side in this fight. Declining to support, or even to align, on the part of the individual is a moot point.

If Christine Ammanapour was to someday find herself with the last fireteam of U.S. soldiers in the last firefight of a lost war for western civilization, I have no doubt in my mind that she'd be genuinely surprised when after the last man fell, a bullet slammed into her, too.

They don't process it beyond the event. They don't see themselves as a part - they see themselves as observers; observers with an interest in shaping the story their way. Real people know the difference between spectating and observing - and we aren't on the sidelines anymore.

Ernie Pyle would puke in his helmet if he could watch TV today. So would Willie and Joe.

I saw the Lancet report cited up above. The Slate article referenced in rebuttal covered that point.

Benjamin trotted out "hubris" way back up there. I guess talking points take a day or two to make it out to HK.

It's not bragging if you can do it. It's a war to save a world. It's not like we haven't been here before.

Will that do it for tonight, Mike?

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 27, 2005 10:04 PM

If at first you don't succeed,find someone to blame,and then try ,try, again.

Iraqi Election Fever --- Catch It.

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 10:15 PM

If at first you don't succeed,find someone to blame,and then try ,try, again.

Iraqi Election Fever --- Catch It.

Posted by: dougf at January 27, 2005 10:16 PM

Mr. Kaplan ends his piece in TNR:

"I wonder whether I should offer my opinion that it is the less educated Iraqis who will decide the country's fate."

All I can say to him is that we don't require a PhD to vote here, and we've done o.k. I understand where Mr. Kaplan is coming from. I can respect his opinion. He may well end up being right.

If we can't end this war via democratization, which I consider a pretty noble pursuit, we'll just end it the old fashioned way. Eventually. It's only time and blood in the end. We've been there, too.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 27, 2005 10:23 PM

"And now we're not. The insurgency has changed our plans."

I have seen no evidence that we are not planning to establish permanent bases.

Posted by: Yehudit at January 27, 2005 10:34 PM

You posed one question,

why didn't the Afghan war of 2001 go the route of Russia's atrocious war in that country?

Here's another one.

Why hasn't the Iraqi War Gone the route of the Russian war in Chechnya?

In one 72 hour period the Russian Army lost almost as many men in Grosny as we have in the entire time we have been in country.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at January 28, 2005 12:18 AM

TmjUtah,

You are an absolute gem!

Posted by: Fish at January 28, 2005 01:22 AM

Actually, it won't be the US to "end" the Iraqi War for Democracy (Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom).

It will be Iraqis, Iraqis who decide to "stop" the anti-democratic Sunni Death Squads. And most of the future Death Squad captures will be turned in by other Sunnis, who begin to stand up against the Death Squad folk.

And the Iraqis who survive Death Squad attacks won't be using the Geneva Convention on terrorists they capture.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 28, 2005 04:10 AM

TMJUtah

Thanks and I agree about Joe Biden. I just thought "there aren't enough Joe's" sounded catchy. ;) Actually I worry about both parties losing their moderates, polarization becomes so debilitating at times.

Mark Poling

Don't worry about me becoming straight-line Republican. I said long ago I simply shifted politically to where close calls will go to the Republicans, hell they used to get no consideration before. I will still consider individual Democrats but the current state of their party creates a higher threshold. Executive positions on the other hand are open the best leader period. If you notice I said I voted for Mark Warner for Governor but would not for Senate because legislating is a whole other animal. In Virginia we have a Republican legislature so the balance is there. People tend to vote for the best leader for executive positions, Bush is the better leader, he won against the odds for that simple fact. The last thing we need are Democrats killing the funds to support the War like they did post Water-gate due to a slim political window created during that time. They are still paying for that and they seemed just pleased to continue in that spirit on matters of life and death ever since. They fought Reagan on confronting communism (I plead guilty), collectively voted against Gulf War I (again I plead guilty), cut intelligence gathering and military with glee (I plead guilty). Add that to their behavior today and that is how I see them. Believe me if I had felt they had truly learned then why would I condemn them? It would be much more self-validating to not have to do this as I could avoid condemning my own self couldn't I?

I am amazed at the depths of denial and self deceit people will go to validate themselves. I am sure people on the left may feel the same about the right, but where is their justification when weighed against history? It is laughable, they fall back to cries of Vietnam, which is sick because in a sense that is a War the left did win but unfortunately it was waged against our own nation while this nation fought a true enemy... they follow that same model again! But hey, they say they support the troops! At least they have learned to mask their disdain behind such sayings, It makes it all the more annoying to me. Been there done that nice try, I not buying that anymore. Anywhere I see a Joe Lieberman running he will have my vote, but then again if Joe were in Virginia he'd be a Republican wouldn't he?

Posted by: Samuel at January 28, 2005 04:46 AM

TmjUtah - wow. pretty cool. Christiane Amanpour was the perfect example. I'd add Jane Araf and Rym Brahini as well (The CNN she-devils). I can barely stand to watch the latter two when they deliver their field reports. Given the treatment of women in Islamic societies it makes it even more galling for me to endure that smirk on their faces.

DPU - thanks for the lesson! I have dutifully copied the instructions down and shall demonstrate my prowess at the next available opportunity!

Posted by: Caroline at January 28, 2005 05:15 AM

Thanks TmjUtah, that hit the spot. The sad thing is, even after the "Embed Project" I think the point about Christiann Amanpour is painfully accurate. Does anyone else percieve a slight feeling of shame from some journalists for taking part in that? Like they were duped into it or something and now they've had an awakening. More so the reality of what they saw through the soldier's eyes has faded in their minds and their preset views have once again taken hold.

And the point should be made that Fox News is a disappointment. They were the first ones to break away, and instead of taking the higher road, instead of truly taking advantage of the opportunity they created for themselves, they fell right into the same role as CNN, just on the other side of the ideological spectrum. It's all about the $$, and one of these days these people, Wolf Blitzer, Christiann Amanpour, Bill O' Reilly and the like will wake up and realize they are ALL dinosaurs.

Truth is the the roots of a tree in the cement sidewalk of opinionated murk. Given time it will find a way through the impenetrable barrier of spin.

Posted by: Mike at January 28, 2005 06:25 AM

I nominate TmjUtah for guest blogger till Michael comes back, along with Jeremy and Mary of course.

The point that the media is a tribe is very astute. I never thought of it that way, but now that I do, I'm amazed I never did. Given the media's enormous influence, they're probably also the most powerful tribe on the planet.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 28, 2005 07:13 AM

"And the point should be made that Fox News is a disappointment." (Mike)

At least Fox News is overtly on our side. And I see no problem whatsoever with that. The libs may decry Fox as a tool of the Bush administration but I just see them as being pro-American. They actually want us to win. Imagine that! Quelle horreur! Meanwhile if Al-Jazeera clearly wants the other side to win at least they're pretty straightforward about it. You wind up with 2 parties making a strong case for their own side. But when I watch the CNN she-devils I'm confused. Jane Araf's demeanor is just perplexing to me. She looks disgusted. I can't tell if she's trying to feign impartiality or if she completely dissapproves of OIF, or if she actually thinks it would be a good thing if we lost. Ditto for Rym Brahini. If this is supposed to be merely “impartiality”, then screw it. Give me impartiality when covering someone else’s war. This is our damn war. Where is the obligation for our press to treat our own interests as on par with the interests of our enemy? Let the enemy’s press make the case for them.

Posted by: Caroline at January 28, 2005 07:52 AM

Caroline,

About Ryn Brahimi... It amazes me that she is still allowed to report for CNN on Iraq, given all the conflicts of interest involved.

Ryn's father is Lakhdar Brahimi, the special UN envoy to Iraq. He used to be a Saddam apologist, and is a not-so-subtle anti-Semite. He called Israel the "poison" of the middle east, forcing Kofi Annan to publicly distance himself from those remarks. He also at point denied that Saddam gassed Kurds at Halabja. Some nutjob he is.

All of this makes it impossible for any reasonable person to believe that his daughter Ryn, now married to a Jordanian prince, can be impartial in her reporting in Iraq. And yet, there she is, smirk and all, telling us how the sky is falling. Many other reporters have been removed from reporting on various issues for far less.

Posted by: MisterPundit at January 28, 2005 09:31 AM

Misterpundit - actually she is married to the half-brother of King Abdullah. I confess to some curiosity as to how she is seen behind the scenes by folks like Aaron Brown and Paula Zahn.

Posted by: Caroline at January 28, 2005 10:24 AM

Did we map out where the oil fields were, and how to defend them if necessary? I'd hope we did.

Sure, but as part of a task force in 2001 that theoretically had nothing to do with war planning whatsoever, since we hadn't even begun to debate going to war with Iraq?

And I'm aware that we are trying to reduce our Middle Eastern footprint. My statement was that one of the stated realpolitik results of the war would be a nice set of permanent bases. I don't think we're planning on them quite so much, and it's because of the insurgency.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 28, 2005 12:55 PM

"Did we map out where the oil fields were, and how to defend them if necessary? I'd hope we did."

Kimmitt: "Sure, but as part of a task force in 2001 that theoretically had nothing to do with war planning whatsoever, since we hadn't even begun to debate going to war with Iraq?"

And you don't think it possible the US military would make contingency plans for a nation it was technically still at war with?

Posted by: Syd at January 28, 2005 02:20 PM

Actually, it is my understanding that the Pentagon has contingency plans for war with virtually every nation in the world - a set of plans that is constancy being revised in line with facts on the ground.

Kimmitt: "And I'm aware that we are trying to reduce our Middle Eastern footprint. My statement was that one of the stated realpolitik results of the war would be a nice set of permanent bases."

Excuse me for inquiring Kimmitt but why precisely should we feel some obligation to "decrease our ME footprint" while simultaneously the west (that's us) is being inundated with literally millions of ME'ers, some of whom state openly that their goal is to overwhelm us demographically and convert us all to Islam? If a "nice set of permanent bases" would permit us to defend ourselves to some degree, I am just curious as to whether you have some objections to that?

Dead Thread Head

Actually: Redhead Dead Thread Head

well - strawberry blonde - but close enough :)

Posted by: Caroline at January 28, 2005 04:03 PM

whoops - grammar lapse - redheaded dead thread head

(practicing my alliteration):)

Posted by: Caroline at January 28, 2005 04:08 PM

And you don't think it possible the US military would make contingency plans for a nation it was technically still at war with?

I was unaware that the US Department of Energy, not to mention a number of energy industry lobbyists, were under the banner of the US military.

while simultaneously the west (that's us) is being inundated with literally millions of ME'ers, some of whom state openly that their goal is to overwhelm us demographically and convert us all to Islam?

Meh, that's what the Mormons want, too, and they're still good neighbors.

Be that as it may, there may or not be anything wrong (in terms of US interests) with moving our bases to Iraq per se, but it's definitely something the insurgents don't want, and they're managing to prevent it.

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