Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Iraq

A University of Tennessee law professor:

In Vietnam, the brass talked happy-talk, the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told. But now it's Americans who are talking to the grunts, and, as StrategyPage noted last year, getting a different picture of how the war is going:


It's not surprising, then, that the more connection people have to the war, the better they think things are going. That's precisely the opposite of what we saw in Vietnam, of course.

A liberal hawk who supported -- and still supports -- the war, from March 2005:

The Vietnam analogy is at work in a more pernicious sense as well. Simply put, U.S. officials in Baghdad have in the past tended not to tell the whole truth. It is of course in their interest to convey good news. They've performed their job so well, however, that no one believes them anymore. The public's exposure to this has mostly been confined to shifting reports about the numbers of Iraqi forces and other upbeat but hollow assessments put out by U.S. officials. Embassy and military officials in Iraq have told me and others, with a straight face, that the airport road is the safest road in Iraq, that Iyad Allawi will win the election by a landslide, that U.S. forces have killed more insurgents than the same officials have said even exist, and other tales too numerous to list. Dedication to the mission, career advancement, an impulse to spin--whatever the motive, the public face of the U.S. mission in Iraq has been so disconnected from reality for so long that were its assessments eventually to jibe with the whole truth, it would have no more persuasive power than the boy who cried wolf. For if the Baghdad press corps has a bias, it is a bias against bullshit.

I've always wondered about the Happy Iraqers. The ones who continue to note how dispatches from the front lines tell a supremely positive (and more factually accurate) story compared to what is reported in the hideous, anti-American mainstream press, who apparently want us all to fail. Personally, I think the milblogs are a fanatastic thing, and I want more of it.

But let's be serious. In Happy Iraq, things are going super. And who doesn't want to see us succeed? Who doesn't want a peaceful, democratic Iraq? But what are you really getting from a front-line grunt: We killed some insurgents. We painted some schools. We did some good. And good for them, we need more of that. But a soldier -- or anyone involved in Iraq -- wants to believe that what they are doing is succeeding. I would want to succeed. So, of course, I would play up what went right. I would hope for that to be true. But, ultimately, the real unanswered question, is are they really winning us the war?

That, of course, is an an altogether different matter, and difficult for anyone to answer. Are we stopping sectarian strife? Are we stopping torture and honor killings and assassinations? Are we not already in the midst of a civil war? It would be a hard thing for anyone -- let alone a single soldier in, say, Mosul, to argue otherwise.

And before we go, Prof. Reynolds reminds us again why it is wrong -- so very wrong -- to criticize anything President Kerry would have done in Iraq:

UPDATE: This seems different, too:

Seventy percent of people sursaying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale. . . Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage." It's just not 1969, however much some people might wish otherwise.veyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent.

Thanks, professor. We'll file this post under: Nascent Fascism

UPDATE: Missed this previously, but Ezra Klein links to this great post by right-of-center blogger John Cole (which includes an email from an Iraq veteran). Some of the best analysis of the media coverage I've seen yet. And, for the record, I agree. The broadcast -- and to a certain extent print -- media do sensationalize the bad, an occurence that happens in every media market from Topeka to Tampa to Timbuktu. I think it's reasonable to critique the coverage on that basis. But to automatically conclude that the reporters there are rooting for us to fail is, I think, childish and unhelpful, a point I've made several times in the past.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:53 PM

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