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September 20, 2003
THIS MICHAEL BARONE COLUMN notes a lack of media perspective on Iraq:
Those inclined to make straight-line extrapolations from the events of a few news cycles should read some history. Margaret Mac- Millan's Paris 1919 shows how the Allied leaders who gathered at the peace conference in Paris were largely clueless about how to reconstruct the defeated nations after World War I. Jean Edward Smith's biography of Gen. Lucius Clay reveals that the first time he read the government's plans for post-World War II Germany was on the flight over there to take charge. William Manchester's American Caesar shows that Douglas MacArthur, however knowledgeable about the Far East, did not have clear ideas on how to rule postwar Japan. Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951. . . .
Reports from soldiers on the ground, circulating widely on the Internet but seldom if ever appearing in old media, indicate that the large majority of Iraqis are friendly and helpful and glad that American troops are there. Those may be anecdotes; data come from a poll conducted in August by American Enterprise in four major cities, including one in the so-called Sunni triangle. No one should dwell on the precise percentages, which are subject to error, but by wide margins the results show that Iraqis are optimistic about the future and unfavorably disposed to Osama bin Laden, the Iranian mullahs, and, especially, the Baathist remnants. We cannot be sure exactly how Iraqis' minds are changing. But the evidence suggests they are receptive to representative democracy and hostile to Palestinians and other Arabs who supported their oppressor.
As Barone notes, the media have a "zero-defect standard" regarding operations in Iraq. Would that they applied such a critical view to their own reporting.