Sunday, November 20, 2005

There's More Going On in Iraq Than a Media Event

From StrategyPage, a great perspective on the war in Iraq. Excerpts:

If it weren't for Internet access to troops, expatriates and Iraqis in Iraq, you would think that coalition military operations in Iraq were a major disaster, and that prompt withdrawal was the only reasonable course of action.

So what do the troops and Iraqis say? First, there is definitely a terrorism problem. Not an insurgency, not a guerilla war, not a resistance. A portion of the Sunni Arab population refuses to recognize the Sunni Arab loss of power in early 2003. They are supporting a campaign of terror to either get back power or, more pragmatically, to get immunity for most Sunni Arabs for crimes committed during Saddams decades in power. The majority of support the terrorists get is from the amnesty crowd. Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arab families have one or more members who did Saddam's dirty work. That has left millions of Kurds and Shia Arabs looking for revenge.

Second, there is a cultural crises, in the Arab world in particular, and the Moslem world in general. The crises is expressed by a lack of economic, educational and political performance. By whatever measure you wish to use, Nobel prizes, patents awarded, GDP growth, the Arabs have fallen behind the rest of the world. Part of the problem is the Arab tendency to blame outsiders, and to avoid taking responsibility. Tolerating tyranny and resistance to change doesn't help either. That is changing, and the war in Iraq has become the center of this cultural battle.

Third, the bad guys are really, really bad, but they have many prominent allies around the world. Most Iraqis cannot understand how so many media outlets in the West can keep giving favorable coverage to the Sunni Arab terrorists. These guys are butchers, and many used to work for Saddam, committing the same kind of mayhem. Yet these European reporters come looking for Sunni Arab "victims" of "American imperialism." How strange is that?

And, lastly, we have the major differences between the media version of what's going on, and the military one. The media are looking for newsworthy events (bad news preferred, good news does not sell, and news is a business). The military sees it as a process, a campaign, a series of battles that will lead to a desired conclusion. The event driven media have a hard time comprehending this process stuff, but it doesn't really matter to them, since the media lives from headline to headline. For the military, the campaign in Iraq has been a success.

But in the end, process usually wins. News events are often turned into obstacles. Journalists understand that their audience generally has no memory for past reporting that was inaccurate. What is of the moment takes precedence in peoples minds. Politicians play the same game, rewriting history freely, secure in the knowledge that their followers will go along with the revisions, and their opponents will have to play the news event game to score any points with the undecided.

How all this will play out is as yet unknown, which is what makes it so interesting. There's more going on in Iraq than a war.

Don't miss it.


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