March 23, 2005

A WAR WE ARE WINNING: Austin Bay has a very interesting column today. He also notes how the press got it wrong, and by doing so played into the terrorists' hands:

Collect relatively isolated events in a chronological list and presto: the impression of uninterrupted, widespread violence destroying Iraq. But that was a false impression. Every day, coalition forces were moving thousands of 18-wheelers from Kuwait and Turkey into Iraq, and if the "insurgents" were lucky they blew up one. However, flash the flames of that one rig on CNN and, "Oh my God, America can't stop these guys," is the impression left in Boise and Beijing.

Saddam's thugs and Zarqawi's klan were actually weak enemies -- "brittle" is the word I used to describe them at a senior planning meeting. Their local power was based on intimidation -- killing by car bomb, murdering in the street. Their strategic power was based solely on selling the false impression of nationwide quagmire -- selling post-Saddam Iraq as a dysfunctional failed-state, rather than an emerging democracy.

The good news is that the press's diminishing credibility, and the availability of alternative channels of communication, kept this strategy from working. But read the whole thing, to see how Austin, in Iraq, was able to see things that the journalists there missed.

UPDATE: Bay has more background on his blog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Beckwith emails:

Your post regarding the latest Austin Bay column got me thinking about what would have happened in Iraq if there had been no blogs from Iraq and no emails from soldiers back home to circulate around the Internet.

I think the 'quagmire narrative' might have become a self fulfilling prophesy. Rather than completing the 'long hard slog' the administration might have cut and run with the looming presidential election. Key tactics and strategies, developed through trial and error in the battlefield, may have been abandoned just before they began to bear fruit. Or, Bush may have soldiered on in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence that his policies were a 'collossol mistake guaranteeing a Kerry victory that may -- rightly or wrongly -- have emboldened the insurgents (Baathists and imported Jihadis) to hang on a bit longer.

As it is, we came pretty close as a society and electorate to giving up last year. If we had, it's hard to see how the Jan 30 elections and and nascent democracy movement in the Middle East would have happened. If blog readers are as influential as some polls indicate, they may have done just enough to turn the tide.

I ask because, by last fall, I was getting 90% of my Iraq news from blogs that provided an on the ground perspective from soldiers and Iraqis in theater instead of the major media outlets. This led me to be cautiously optimistic despite the problems we have there. Certainly this affected my vote on Nov 2. I doubt I was alone and I think this was a consequential election.

Success has a thousand fathers, and we'll see Ted Kennedy taking credit for Iraq before it's all over. But I'd like to think that blogs played a part in neutralizing psychological warfare on the part of the terrorists.