Saturday, January 15, 2005

Actual Facts vs. Press Fiction

According to anti-war leftists, as well as a few frustrated conservatives, America's losing the war in Iraq. I've repeatedly shown this perception is wrong, and not shared by Iraqis.

Anyone genuinely interested in the facts should review three sorts of sources: military blogs (Glenn Reynolds lists some), Iraqi blogs (such as Iraq the Model), and Arthur Chrenkoff (whose weekly Extra round-up alternates between Iraq and Afghanistan and also appears on the WSJ's Opinion Journal).

A recent post from milblogger Blackfive is further confirmation. Blackfive, a former paratrooper now in Iraq, says the mainstream media's news is nonsense:

[I]magine being an American in Iraq right now. I just read yet another distorted and grossly exaggerated story from a major news organization about the "failures" in the war in Iraq. Print and video journalists are covering only a small fraction of the events in Iraq and more often than not, the events they cover are only the bad ones. Many of the journalists making public assessments about the progress of the war in Iraq are unqualified to do so, given their training and experience. The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the world view of the daily realities in Iraq. The result is a further erosion of international public support for the United States' efforts there, and a strengthening of the insurgents' resolve and recruiting efforts while weakening our own. Through their incomplete, uninformed and unbalanced reporting, many members of the media covering the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy.

The fact is the Coalition is making steady progress in Iraq, but not without ups and downs. War is a terrible thing and terrible things happen during wars, even when you are winning. In war, as in any contest of wills with capable opponents, things do not always go as planned; the guys with the white hats don't always come out on top in each engagement. That doesn't mean you are losing. Sure, there are some high profile and very spectacular enemy attacks taking place in Iraq these days, but the great majority of what is happening in Iraq is positive. So why is it that no matter what events unfold, good or bad, the media highlight mostly the negative aspects of the event? The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies in Iraq, but why only when it's American blood? . . .

Much of the problem is about perspective, putting things in scale and balance. From where I sit in my command post at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, things are not all bad right now. In fact, they are going quite well. We are not under attack by the enemy; on the contrary, we are taking the fight to him daily and have him on the ropes. In the distance, I can hear the repeated impacts of heavy artillery and five hundred-pound bombs hitting their targets in the city. The occasional tank main gun report and the staccato rhythm of a Marine Corps LAV or Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle's 25-millimeter cannon provide the bass line for a symphony of destruction. Right now, as elements from all four services complete the absolute annihilation of the insurgent forces remaining in Fallujah, the area around the former stronghold is more peaceful than it has been for more than a year. The number of attacks in the greater Al Anbar Province is down by at least 70-80% from late October -- before Operation Al Fajar began. The enemy in this area is completely defeated, but not completely gone. Final eradication of the pockets of insurgents will take some time, as it always does, but the fact remains that the central geographic stronghold of the insurgents is now under friendly control. That sounds a lot like success to me. . .

The fact is that most of those on whom we rely for complete and factual accounts have little or no experience or education in counter-insurgency operations or in nation-building to support their assessments. How would they really know if things are going well or not? War is an ugly thing with many unexpected twists and turns. Who among them is qualified to say if this one is worse than any other at this point? What would they have said in early 1942 about our chances of winning World War II? Was it a lost cause too? How much have these "experts" studied warfare and counter-insurgencies in particular? . . .

Worse yet, why in the world would they seek opinion from someone who probably knows even less than they do about the state of affairs in Iraq? It sells commercials, I suppose. But, I find it amazing that some people are more apt to listen to a movie star's or rock singer's view on how we should prosecute world affairs than to someone whose profession it is to know how these things should go. I play the guitar, but Bruce Springsteen doesn't listen to me play. Why should I be subjected to his views on the validity of the war? By profession, he's a guitar player. Someone remind me what it is that makes Sean Penn an expert on anything. It seems that anyone who has a dissenting view is first to get in front of the camera.
A similar unjustified pessimism dominates the business pages, as well, according to Glenn Yago and Don McCarthy in the Wall Street Journal:
The conventional wisdom about the Mideast is ubiquitous in the press, but largely unjustified from an economic perspective. A search of newspaper and magazine stories in 2004 reveals more than 3,338 articles including the words "Middle East" and "war and terrorism"; only 102 stories linking the "Middle East" with "growth" and "recovery" can be found.

Yet definitive policies to normalize the Middle East have made regional and global market investors bullish, repatriated capital exported (or that had fled) from the region, and encouraged a sea change in foreign direct investment. The end of Saddam's regime sent a major, unconfused market signal after the West's years of disinterest in the Middle East as a Levantine backwater. Subsequently, every major capital market index in the Middle East has risen.

Regionally, stock markets rose over 30% in 2004 and represent a market capitalization of $470 billion. This has been accompanied by a surge in regional property values and a higher number of tourists. The main Egyptian equity index has increased 165%, while that of Saudi Arabia has gone up by 158%. The Saudi market's stellar performance is especially striking given the great amount of attention paid at the moment to that country's security problems. Israel's leading index has risen by 32%, the benchmark index of Kuwait's exchange by 73%, Jordan's by almost 60%, and that of the United Arab Emirates by 110%.
Forget the mainstream media; listen to Chrenkoff:
I do believe that over time the situation in Iraq will continue to improve, but regardless of the short and medium term outcomes, it seems to me that the whole region has been shaken and stirred hard enough over the past three years - not just as a result of the intervention in Iraq, but also generally through the war on terror and America's increased political and military involvement - that the Middle East will never be the same again. To use the old local metaphor, the genie's out of the bottle now and the forces of reaction simply might not be able to put it back in and hammer in the cork. This is not to say that it's impossible for the proponents of the status quo and the guardians of various vested interests throughout the region to halt and turn back the push for reform, democracy, women's rights, freedom and peace - but that in this case a sort of a mental critical mass has been reached and the counter-revolution, despite momentary tactical successes, might prove to be too difficult to sustain. . .

The gates have been opened throughout the Arab world - and while I can't peer inside the minds of others, I have a distinct feeling that everyone, from the region's current rulers to fanatical jihadis knows that. The difference is that the former, the survivors and realists, are trying to ride the wave, while the latter think that only a giant conflagration might save the day for their dark vision.
(via Vercintgorix)


Chrenkoff's latest includes:
On the streets of Baghdad, democracy makes more converts:
Just months ago, Fattahlah Ghazi al-Esmaili was penning articles in support of Iraq's Shi'ite uprising as editor for Ishriqat, a newspaper for rebel cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi's Army militia.

Now the 38-year-old has abandoned his Arab head scarf for a neat beige suit and is out pumping the flesh in his run for parliament at the head of a 180-candidate list representing the impoverished Shi'ites of Sadr City.

"Before, we were men of the Mahdi's Army. Now we are men of politics," says the journalist, who goes by the pen name Fattah al-Sheikh. "Yesterday, we were out on the streets. Today, we are here campaigning, and hopefully tomorrow, we'll be in the presidential palace."
It has been a stunning transformation:
Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond of the 1st Cavalry Division, says Sadr City is the safest place in or around Baghdad. About 18,000 people have reconstruction jobs, he says, earning about $6 a day. "Sadr City is what the future of Iraq can look like," he says. Those who were once taking up arms are now talking democracy. 'Before, the men were buying black cloth for their (martyrs') banners. Now for the election, we are buying white cloths' for posters, says candidate Fatah al-Sheikh.
Even the Iraqi Islamic Party is now cracking:
Iraq's principal Sunni Muslim political party conceded . . . that its effort to delay Iraq's parliamentary election had failed and that it was preparing a strategy to influence the elected government following the vote on Jan. 30.

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