Why is it that all these Democratic senators trash Bush on Iraq, then go over to Baghdad, talk to the Iraqi reformers trying to craft democracy, then come back, tone down their campaign mode for a week or two, and sound as if we should offer them more time? The themes of all these exposes such as Cobra II, Fiasco, and State of Denial are that a supposedly sorry cast of characters-Franks, Sanchez, Bremmer, Feith, etc.-screwed up the occupation, and did not listen to a purportedly more realistic, gifted, humble, and insightful group at all levels, e.g., Petraeus, Casey, Abizaid, Khalilzad, McMaster, etc. But if this simplistic exegesis is right (and it could well be), what do the pundits say now that the former are gone, and the latter are either in Iraq, on their way back, or playing leading roles in strategy and tactics? ‘We finally got it right’? ‘Too little, too late’? ‘They waited too long to listen to us’? etc.
Another journalistic trait besides the rise of the passive voice to deflect culpability is the new virtual footnote that references nothing. You flip to the back in the endnotes section, only to see cited, “Senior official” or “Unnamed Pentagon planner.” These pseudo-footnotes are increasingly popular in the post-Jason Blair era, as if they can give a veneer of credibility to use of the old sensational, unnamed (and sometimes dubious) source.
Re: the recent comments of the British Army chief Sir Dannat on the need to get out of Iraq, and the Shiite response that he is absolutely right. But if true, what happened to the thematic story of 2003-5? Namely, that in the then quieter Shiite south, the more sophisticated, less cowbowish British, with berets and without Ray-bans, walked the beat and quieted the area down through kindness and colonial savvy, while our tanned Kevlar Rambos to the north in the Sunni Triangle flared things up with hot-rodding Humvees, aggravating shades, and muscle-beach party camouflage? At the time, a few tried to explain that while there may have been some elements of truth in that caricature, the south was vastly different (read initially less hostile) from the north, and the Americans were a diverse group that had tried all sorts of different hearts-and-minds strategies.