Monday, October 15, 2007

What does good news in Iraq really mean?

David Reinhard bemoans the fact that the news media isn't making good news in Iraq, the levels of violence that have gone down in the 4th straight month since the surge began, isn't a front page topic of newspapers or trumpeted on broadcast or cable networks. Well, it would be nice if those levels of violence have really gone down. It would be a plus that not as many troops were being killed that civilian deaths have been cut in half. That it was indeed a trend that 4 years after the invasion, Iraq might finally become a stable country. Here is what Reinhard fails to mention:

  1. If good news in Iraq were made front page news with banner headlines and above the fold, people in large majorities now opposed to our staying in Iraq longer than we need to would be clamoring to bring the troops home. The pressure on Congress and the administration would be unbearable.
  2. Democrats could point to such good news to undermine the GOP claim of cut and run and making Iraq the new safe haven for Al Qaeda.
  3. It would undercut Rush Limbaugh's justification for calling a fellow who asked about how long we should stay in Iraq, when in fact do we leave, etc. a phony soldier.
  4. If we no longer had to fear a civil war because violence is decreasing, the question on the public's lips would certainly be, why are we still there?
  5. It would undermine the rationale of political cartoonists who see the majority of the American public opposed to the war as waving the white flag of surrender.
So yes, Reinhard can put on a set of blinders to see only one side of how the news media handles Iraq. The bad news it brings to the front pages, helps the GOP calculus on why we are still in Iraq and fuels GW's stubbornness about why we need to stay there. The good news not covered Would give the public reason to ask why we still occupy what is after all supposed to be a sovereign nation when really, shouldn't these people now be tending to their own affairs. So beyond Reinhard's sunny optimism about Iraq, there is another story, the political calculus of how the debate about Iraq should be handled.

At one point, GW's supporters saw any successes in Iraq as something that could only hurt the Democrats because history would show GW to be a "great Commander in Chief." Most recent history has already shown that GW is anything but. It was GW and his administration that set up a timetable for an invasion and a timetable for reconstruction. A timetable was set up for installing an instant democracy and a timetable when troops would be sent home. Along the way, GW and co. managed to bungle very badly the road map they put together to make Iraq a democratic and terror free state. We stayed longer in Iraq than we should have because of the political mess GW had made in that country. So, how could good news help him? On the other hand, Congressional GOP capitalized on all the bad news that was out there to attack what they saw as Democratic vulnerabilities circa Vietnam. That if you think it is so bad now, so the argument was trumpeted, it will be umpteen times worse if we leave too soon.

Good news means that we don't have to fund the current troop levels. Good news means, we begin withdrawing the troops and sending them back stateside. The problem is, GW doesn't want any of the preceding to happen. Since he wants 190 billion more for the war effort and doesn't want the troop surge cut until "next year. David Reinhard's "good news" becomes very questionable under the circumstances.

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