Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thoughts on Victory

A quick perusal of the internet has not shown me anything I can link to, but I remember a few days ago seeing Michael Barone on a talk show, discussing what Bush needs to do to regain support for his presidency, in particular for his war in Iraq.

After some people suggested timetables , Barone's oh-so-helpful resposne was that Bus hought not to set any timetables (I don't recall if similar statements about benchmarks were brought up or not). But what Barone suggested Bush ought to do struck me as quite meaningless; although I suppose it might help Bush's poll numbers if we assume that large numbers of the American public are not particularly intelligent (which is probably accurate).

What Barone suggested is that Bush give regular (presumably weekly or monthly or somewhere in-between) progress reports on Iraq, mostly what we had accomplished since the last report, and, I suppose, some list of goals to be accomplished by the next one.

The problem with this, of course, is that in terms of revealing progress news like this is worthless without context; that is, it is not particularly useful to find out what has been accomplished unless we have an idea as to the parameters of the war and as to how this will bring us closer to the point at which we can reduce our military presence to a minimum without the country falling apart (which appears to be what victory means at this point - create an Iraq stable enough so that it can survive without the coalition providing active security - a small number of troops (<50,000) may be based in Iraq, but they ought not to be part of day-to-day domestic security).

That is why Arthur Chrenkoff's late, great, "Good News from Iraq" was so worthless. All it did was piece together a bunch of stories that showed isolated positive developments. It didn't show us what we wanted to know, which was, "how much longer? Are we any closer to Iraq being able to maintain its own security?"

That's why no one except the propagandists care about new schools being built or painted, why no one except the propagandists care about how many Iraqi newspapers open. That's why so many people don't really care about how many elections Iraq has. It doesn't tell us that the insurgency is dying, which is what we need to hear.

And talking about how many insurgents are being killed is not helpful unless you can show that the insurgents are not being regenerated from the ranks of disgruntled Sunnis and whatnot.

I don't watch episodes of South Park, but occasionally I linger a few seconds while flipping channels. I recall one episode where there were some gnomes who were stealing underwear as part of a three-part strategy:
1. Steal underwear
3. Profit

What step 2 was apparently eluded the gnomes. Likewise, the goal in Iraq is:
1. Hold elections
2. Uh...
3. Win

The "good news" that we keep being told that the media won't report amounts more or less to continually reiterating how well we are doing at step one of the plan. How that will be parlayed into victory (by which I mean the withdrawal of all coalition troops from active security without Iraq collapsing) has yet to be explained in any but the broadest terms (e.g. "as they stand up, we'll stand down).

That is all.

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