How do we know if we are winning or losing in Iraq?
We know that the MSM has a very dangerous model - "if it bleeds, it leads." The definition of "news" is biased toward the unpleasant and the bizarre. That may be understandable for domestic news. We all live in the U.S. and thus can judge for ourselves the "default condition" of day-to-day life. It is not necessary to report the cars that didn't crash or the babies that were born because in some sense we are aware of them.
But when we must rely on the MSM for our understanding of Iraq, knowledge of the default condition is absent. In Iraq, the U.S. is engaged in a great project. The real news is how we are faring in this project - are we succeeding or are we failing? To understand that, we need to understand the default condition of life in Iraq and the trend of that default condition - is it improving for most people or is it deteriorating?
Under the circumstance of our lack of context, while bad news is important, good news is even more important. We need to weigh both good and bad, not merely note the leading bleeding. The net amount of good news will determine the success of the venture.
But the MSM does not see it as its duty or role to report good news - the schools opened, the hospitals repaired, the water delivered. They do not want to be pollyannas - if the default condition of Iraq is indeed characterized by bad news, then we want to know that; but is it?
Fortunately, this is 2007, not 1967. We are no longer completely dependent on the MSM to assemble the mosaic of the default condition of the society for which we have gone to war. With some effort, we can assemble the mosaic ourselves - yes, imperfectly, yes inevitably requiring judgment, but also with sources who have no ax to grind, or much less of one than we now know that MSM did in the 1960's or does now.
In that spirit, Michelle Malkin is back from her imbed in Baghdad, and is now starting to report on her experiences, along with her colleague Bryan Preston, who contributes an essay covering several issues on the Iraq War. Not to be missed, Michelle's first report on Hot Air. Iraq The Model reports that the insurgents may already be skedaddling from Baghdad in anticipation of both the surge of American troops and the change in the rules of engagement. Yes, we all appreciate that this is mixed news as it signals that the bad guys may try to avoid engagement now and wait us out. But to the extent that it is true, it puts the lie to the criticism that the additional 20,000 troops is just a "drop in the bucket" and is a hopeless move that will only get more Americans killed. They may think that in Washington; apparently they don't think that "on the other side of the mountain" in Baghdad.
Are we winning or losing in Iraq? We are going to have to assemble the mosaic for ourselves. To do this, we need a model. It seems pretty clear that the Bush Administration had the wrong model for Iraq when we embarked on the war. It seems likely that the Administration believed that Iraq was a functioning society onto which had been grafted a terror regime - remove the regime and, within reason, the normal processes of the society would reassert themselves and we could go home. That turned out to be the wrong model. Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston help with this analysis, suggesting that the decades of terror have had the effect of disintegrating the society, making it impossible for people to take responsibility for themselves and to plan for the future. Which means rebuilding is really building. A tough, long term job.
But if that is the case, then it means that there may never be a climax or a climactic battle to this war. Perhaps what will happen is that various parts of Iraq - both geographically and then socially, politically and economically - will gradually come to life. Yes, the forces of destruction will try to prevent this for various reasons - ideological in the case of al-Qaeda, power and sectarianism in the case of the confessional communities - and progress may be difficult to see.
But it may be what is not bleeding is what should be leading - that the not bleeding will gradually exceed the bleeding and the normal processes of human nature assert themselves. Ollie North thinks we may be observing this in al-Anbar with the surge in volunteering for the Iraqi Police there. And, here at AT, we have been calling attention to the remarkable surge in the value of the Iraqi dinar, now up 13% since early September and on increasing dollar volume in recent days (scroll down to the bottom).
There's something happening here. It may not be bleeding, but it may be leading us somewhere.