Thursday, June 16, 2005

ARGUING IRAQ. Today's Boston Herald includes an op-ed piece by Mackubin T. Owens - a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport - arguing that the mainstream media in general and the Boston Globe in particular are taking too pessimistic a view of the Iraqi insurgency.

Media Log aims to please, so here is the Globe story to which Owens refers - a June 10 piece by Bryan Bender, who quoted sources claiming that the insurgency has degenerated into a classic guerrilla war that isn't going to end anytime soon.

Owens's piece - which originally appeared in the New York Post - includes this statement:

[T]he Globe is wrong. Coalition operations in Iraq have killed hundreds of insurgents and led to the capture of many hundreds more, including two dozen of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's top lieutenants. Intelligence from captured insurgents, as well as from Zarqawi's computer, has had a cascading effect, permitting the Coalition to maintain pressure on the insurgency.

But Owens isn't arguing so much with the Globe as he is with folks like Paul Hughes, a retired Army colonel who served in Iraq. Hughes told Bender:

"We are not going to win the unconditional surrender from the insurgents and have no choice but to somehow bring them into society," said retired Army Colonel Paul Hughes, an Iraq war veteran who is now at the government-funded US Institute for Peace. "To think there will be one climactic military event to end this is foolish. Those who cling to that don't understand."

Caveat: I understand that Hughes's comments do not directly refute Owens's point. But they indirectly refute it, no?

Here is more on Owens.

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman - still free until September! - offered the most obvious response to Owens's optimism. Friedman wrote:

Our core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous decision - endorsed by President Bush - to invade Iraq on the cheap. From the day the looting started, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops there. We have never fully controlled the terrain. Almost every problem we face in Iraq today - the rise of ethnic militias, the weakness of the economy, the shortages of gas and electricity, the kidnappings, the flight of middle-class professionals - flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force.

Friedman supported the war, and I didn't. Still, the evidence would suggest that Friedman is absolutely correct in his assessment of why the Iraq adventure keeps going from bad to worse - and why the American death toll now tops 1700.

HARD TIMES AT SPARE CHANGE NEWS. The Herald's Jay Fitzgerald has the details. I wrote about Spare Change a year ago, when the homeless-empowerment paper was trying to expand. Unfortunately, it didn't work - at least not as well as it needed to.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Don't read it on the Web - pick up a copy of the newly designed print edition, which the Globe and the Herald report on today. If you grabbed a copy from me at Oak Grove this morning, thank you.

I've got a piece on why the Democrats would be crazy to nominate Hillary Clinton for president.


John Farrell said...

There's an obvious side to this, though, that always seems to get overlooked and is not trivial. And I can only give you my wife, who works full time, and my sisters, as an example. They think she's a fraud. For all her alleged liberalism and feminism, the woman has nothing to show for her life that wasn't made possible by her husband. Plain and simple.

Having said that, better her than John Kerry redux....

sco said...

Isn't Clinton Hating old news, though? It didn't stop Bill from being elected and re-elected and I'm not convinced that "Republicans Hate Her A Lot" is a good enough reason to discount Hillary as a nominee.

I will say, however, that I don't particularly support her candidacy, not because she is divisive, but because in 2008, we will have been ruled by 20 uninterrupted years of Bushes and Clintons. I am really reluctant to have the country add another four or eight on top of that, whether it be Hillary or John Ellis "Jeb" Bush. Didn't they used to fight wars to break free from ruling families?

Anonymous said...

Has the Phoenix now been reduced to just a 24-page "Music and Bands" paper?

That's all I saw in the Davis Square newsbox this morning -- piles and piles of just this one section, no news, no classifieds, no movie ads.

Anonymous said...

Dan, there is little by way of evidence to suggest more troops = more security. There are relatively few troops in the North of Iraq, but it is {relatively} secure because the population has more to lose from the insurgency than from a long-term American occupation. More troops and weapons on the ground provide more targets, more complex logistics, and more chances for killing civilians. We opted to use the troops we had without calling up inactive reserves or a draft - to the extent we got ourselves into an ill-advised war, using fewer troops more precisely probably makes more sense, particularly when you hope to 'exit' in the next few years.

The insurgency is not a monolith, however, to the extent it is finite in manpower and material, to assume that it is omnipotent is not only pessimistic, it is absurd. It is plain that the U.S. media have not been interested in publicizing strikes against the insurgency with the vigor with which it reports idnappings and pot-shots which achieve no military target. One can be against the war as an initiall matter, and still think journalists are being ideologically driven in what they cover.

Everyone loses in war, and this war is a filthy mess. Still, free people can not countenance the nation or the world Islamic fundamentalists wish to bring about, and the insurgency is losing more tactical efficiency than we are.

In many countries defiling a book, the Koran, can get you put to death. To a large extent, those are the people our troops are contending with now, and while they cause terrible harm, history seems to suggest that not facing a menace now merely leads to a greater menace later.

The real shame of all this is that war has become politicized, for which the initial blame lays with Karl Rove and Bush, but is perpetuated by doom-and-gloom pundits who downplay achievements, and who can only generate supercilious smirks when those on the Right point out that much of the evil of the insurgency is, well - evil.

Dan Kennedy said...

Ron - I'm not sure what happened in Davis Square, but the Phoenix continues to be a four-section paper. This week's News and Features section has approximately the same amount of content it always has.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, anon. Couldn't have said it any better myself.(I know I'm getting old when The Phoenix has to change to appeal to a younger, edgier demographic!)

Anonymous said...

Can you forward my message to someone in circulation, then, or tell me who to contact?

The box in question is on Holland Street, near the Somerville Theatre and the T entrance. It contained hundreds of copies of this one section, and nothing else. I knew the Phoenix was undergoing a radical redesign, but I didn't expect this.

Dan Kennedy said...

Circulation tells me that it sounds like a mistake was made. In any case, Davis Square (and a bunch of other areas) are going to be restocked tonight.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how long we'll have to wait to see Dan comment on Senator Dick Durbin's outrageous comments. Dan's fair right folks.

Anonymous said...

Durbin compares Marines in Cuba to Hitler and these limousine liberal frauds wonder why they're riding the bench.

Anonymous said...

Dan wrote: "Yet Condoleezza Rice, to name one example, doesn’t seem to rub folks the same way."

I would argue that Rice would rub people the wrong way if we actually saw her. Regardless of how the media occasionally talk up The Ghost of Condi, after five+ years in DC she is pretty much an unknown. And those of us who know her from Stanford would like it to stay that way.

On the other hand, the goods are Hillary are already known. With her entire life already strewn in the public eye, what more can the Right do to her? Because of that -- and the fact that she has 8 years experience dealing with it (and more, if we include her Senate years) -- she's in a much better position than anyone new to the arena because the worst is already behind her. Not to mention that she has the connections to folks like Carville who can rachet up the attacks themselves. Only John Kerry could take a certifiable war hero record and let it be turned into something dishonorable. Couple Bill Clinton's brain and smile with Kerry's record and we'd have our nation's first king.


AnthonyG said...

Iraq is Worse-off by Every Objective Measure.

Mack Owens is a Bush apologist. By every objective measure, Iraq is worse-off than it was before the US-led invasion:

* Infant mortality is higher
* Deformities among infants is higher
* Access to professional health services and clean drinking water is lower
* Unemployment is higher
* Oil production is lower
* Electricity levels are lower
* Sexual assaults are higher
* Kidnapping is higher
* Armed robbery and other violent crime is higher
* Assassinations of judges, professors and governemnt officials is higher
* Rates for communicable diseases like TB, typhoid, measles, mumps, jaundice, and cholera are higher
* 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed
* thousands of Iraqi children have been maimed and orphaned
* over 200,000 residents of Fallujah were displaced and unknown numbers killed
* hundreds of Iraqi police and security personnel have been murdered
* the environment is littered with depleted uranium ordinance

All of this was achieved at a mere cost of allowing Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora, 1,700 dead and over 13,000 wounded US troops, a couple hundred billion taxpayer dollars, the total loss of our government's credibility in the world community, super-charged recruitment for al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorits groups, and over-commitment of our armed forces.

We spent billions to blow-up Iraq's infrastructure, then billions more to rebuild it and billions more to keep Iraqis from blowing it up again.

The only political development has been to move Iraq toward becoming a de-facto southern province of Iran aligned with the Ayatollahs.

Gee, what's there to be pessimistic about?

Anonymous said...


you're funny, in a pol pot groupie type of way.

Anonymous said...

The failure in Iraq is staggering even by GOP standards.

Anonymous said...

Why not give it a couple years before declaring it a disaster, Galt?

For that matter, why not mix in some philosophy with your Objectivism - it seems that existence exists as more than a binary. Seriously, check it out...

Anonymous said...

More troops! More troops! We need to send more American kids to guard Iraqi ATM machines, museums and the oil ministry!

Chairman v. 2.2 said...

Dan: It appears that Professor Owens, not the Boston Globe, is guilty of missing the big picture in Iraq.

He argues that the scores of Iraqi insurgents we've killed, the Zarqawi lietenants we've apprehended and the "ratlines" we've interrupted are signs of success. But we didn't invade Iraq to fight Iraqi insurgents or kill Shiite militias, we invaded to eliminate the threat of alleged WMDs and (peripherally) to liberate the majority Shiites from Saddam.

Zarqawi was a nobody before the occupation; his recruits and other Iraqis who comprise the insurgency signed-up to kill Americans in response to the US occupation.

The moment it became known that Saddam had no WMDs, the mission moved onto losing terrain.

Owens' argumant is comparable to gaining 150 lbs by eating junk food, then calling it a success to lose 40 lbs via liposuction surgery. Look at all the weight I lost in just one week!

Anonymous said...

Yes - and the USS Cole, a couple of embassies, and September 11th were in response to US troops attacking Iraq for its oil. And the Nazi rise to power was traceable to the neocons. You know Republicans, unlike the Dems they don't actually have long range world views. Why totalitarian regimes are just part of human nature! Market democracies are a silly fad. We need a new Stalin. He was very, very Progressive, wot?

Anonymous said...

"by every objective standard" Europe circa 1942 was worse off in every conveivable way than it was 10 years earlier - or after.

The war was a bad idea not because its bad politics, but it involved and involves killing lots and lots of people to affect change which could have been pursued through diplomacy, economic carrots and sticks, and bribery.

Still - liberals seem to take a myopic view of things [and conservatives seem to neglect the here and now for utopian gambles] and give no credit at all to the notion that Islamofascism is still fascism, and the world will be a better, safer place with fewer autocratic states.

As for the WMDs - it's fairly naive to think that Hussein could gas Kurds and Iranians in the 80s, then actually destroyed his WMDs because the UN told him to.

The Ba'athists rule Syria as well, and that's a long porous border...

Anonymous said...

Our fearless hero was at my beloved Oak Grove T stop yesterday!?!?!? DAMN...the ONE day I don't have coffee before heading into work and I'm such a fog that I miss a chance to get a Phoenix from the man himself! Oh well, the new design looks great anyway. :-)

BTW - my girlfriend, a dyed-in-the-wool Wesleyan grad, is convinced that the first black and first woman presidents will be Republicans. I think she's got a point - Republicans seem better at making symbolic gestures to minorities (while screwing over everyone in the real world) than Democrats do. But the presidency is way more than a symbolic gesture, at least I'd like to think it still is. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

To Anon above: the Syrian Ba'ath Party is not the same as the Iraqi ("Ba'ath" is just the Arabic word for "renaissance"). Syria supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq War and the joined the first Gulf War Coalition.

Anonymous said...

To anon right above:

My mistake, thanks for the gentle correction. I just assumed they were part of the same 'movement' - and you know what happens when I assume...

AnthonyG said...

Where's Mack Owens and the Murdoch Press on This?.

June 17, 2005

WASHINGTON -- During a terrible week for violence in Iraq, a senior administration official yesterday warned that the worst is yet to come.

"I think you'll see it continuing up, because the terrorists know what's coming," said the official...

..."We have a rough road ahead of us," the official said in an unusual moment of openness by the Bush administration on the war. His comments appeared aimed at preparing a public - that polls show is increasingly disillusioned by the war - for even more bad news.

I'll bet you a million Dinars that Mack Owens and the Murdoch Press aren't pushing any editorials attacking the Bush administration for being too pessimistic about the insurgency.

Ah, the more things change...

Anonymous said...

Maybe The Post & Herald will criticize Chuck Hagel for being too pessimistic:

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

"I got beat up pretty good by my own party and the White House that I was not a loyal Republican," he says. Today, he notes, things are changing: "More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned.

From US News & World Report.