Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Are we really losing???

An interesting article by Max Boot in the LA times. I think I believe the people who are there more than anybody else. Here is the text:

Iraq's a lost cause? Ask the real experts
WHEN IT COMES to the future of Iraq, there is a deep disconnect between those who have firsthand knowledge of the situation — Iraqis and U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq — and those whose impressions are shaped by doomsday press coverage and the imperatives of domestic politics.

A large majority of the American public is convinced that the liberation of Iraq was a mistake, while a smaller but growing number thinks that we are losing and that we need to pull out soon. Those sentiments are echoed by finger-in-the-wind politicians, including many — such as John Kerry, Harry Reid, John Edwards, John Murtha and Bill Clinton — who supported the invasion.

Yet in a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse.

American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits — no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq — reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.

Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the U.S. armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any.

FOR STARTERS, one can point to two successful elections this year, on Jan. 30 and Oct. 15, in which the majority of Iraqis braved insurgent threats to vote. The constitutional referendum in October was particularly significant because it marked the first wholesale engagement of Sunnis in the political process. Since then, Sunni political parties have made clear their determination to also participate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election. This is big news. The most disaffected group in Iraq is starting to realize that it must achieve its objectives through ballots, not bullets.

There are also positive economic indicators that receive little or no coverage in the Western media. For all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% next year. According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users.

The growth of the independent media — a prerequisite of liberal democracy — is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers.

But aren't bombs still going off at an alarming rate? Of course. It's almost impossible to stop a few thousand fanatics who are willing to commit suicide to slaughter others.

Yet there is hope on the security front. Since the Jan. 30 election, not a single Iraqi unit has crumbled in battle, according to Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who until September was in charge of their training. Iraqi soldiers are showing impressive determination in fighting the terrorists, notwithstanding the terrible casualties they have taken. Their increasing success is evident on "Route Irish," from Baghdad International Airport. Once the most dangerous road in Iraq, it is now one of the safest. The last coalition fatality there that was a result of enemy action occurred in March.

This is not meant to suggest that everything is wonderful in Iraq. The situation remains grim in many respects. But the most disheartening indicator of all is simply the American public's loss of confidence in the war effort. Abu Musab Zarqawi may be losing on the Arab street (his own family has disowned him), but he's winning on Main Street. And, as the Vietnam War showed, defeatism on the home front can become self-fulfilling.

2 Comments:

Blogger sexyretard said...

How about this for a military idea?

Say we're having problems with insurgents hanging out in Fallujah. We tell them that they (and everyone else in the city) have 4 hours to leave. We then level Fallujah.

I suppose the following cities would be a bit less welcoming of such miscrients.

I very much believe that bombing would have been more humane than occupying, and the civilian and soldier body counts would have been less. I think this war is being fought in the worst possible way, and that way guarenteed to please absolutely no one.

Now, hurtleg, I agree with you that I am far more likely to trust a soldier with reality than I am to trust a "journalist," but soldiers also can be selectively considered.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"I think I believe the people who are there more than anybody else."

Now there's a slippery slope. Paul Hackett came back from Iraq and said it's time to bring the troops home. How does that square with believing the people who are there more than anybody else? "Being there" doesn't seem to me to add any credibility to one's policy opinions, since the policy originated in Washington in the first place. Lots of things could happen to a person in Iraq that might make him more emotionally committed to one side or the other, but I don't see how that makes anyone necessarily more correct.

2:30 PM  

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