Saturday, December 25, 2004

The media become tiresome in their endless repeating of obvious points, such as that Iraqi elections are scheuled for the end of January, that the "Sunni Triangle" is a hotbed of insurgent activity, and that Abu Mussab Al-Zarkawi is an Al Quaida associate from Jordan. This endless repetition of meaningless facts is tiresome because equally important facts receive virtually no mention at all.

One such fact is that Islamic extremists are not trying to defeat the U. S. Military in Iraq. Their showy, indiscriminate use of explosives are of no tactical value; i.e. they have little chance of disrupting logistics, intelligence, command and control, or allowing the occupation of militarily valuable real estate. The enemy that the Islamists are trying to defeat are not the ones bearing arms against them in Baghdad, but the ones staring at etheir television screens in America and Europe. This is not a war of military strength, but rather one of will. It would be much to the benefit of everyone concerned if the media would repeat, ad infinitum as it does the date of elections, that the adversary that the insurgents seek to vanquish are the viewers of cable news, and subscribers to the New York Times, Newsweek and USA Today.

Another fact to which the media might pay more attention is the notion of asymmetric reporting. We are told frequently that we are engaged in "asymmetrical warfare" in which the rules are different for us and them. But the reporting is equally asymmetrical, and given that the real objective in this war is public opinion, this asymmetry is tactically important.

Every time there is some event that reflects negatively on the coalition, it is repeated endlessly on cable news. We are told what it means, how it effects the "plan" in Iraq, and why it is more evidence of chaos. But just today, two of Zarkawi's associates, supposedly leaders of terror cells, were captured. We receive this information unadorned by the angst, finger-wagging and gloom and doom analysis that accompanies news of Americal travails. We are not told how this might affect prospects for disrupting the planned elections, whether al Zarkawi will have to recruit new lieutenants, or whether organizational secrets of the insurgency might be compromised. We are left pretty much to own our imaginations in determining if this is a good thing or not.

Another fact that we should hear about at least as often as Zarkawi's nationality is how much the insurgency is affecting daily life in Iraq. Are people not working? Is there a mass exodus of refugees to escape the indiscriminant car-bombing? It seems that if Iraqis are resolved to going about their lives, the prospects that those who wish to participate in democracy will do so is pretty good.

Finally, the insurgents are fighting pretty vigorously. This tells us volumes. It tells us that they are threatened, and that they know they are threatened. They can't get on with building the next medeival caliphate, and cow the decadent West with chastising explosions in America, since they know that they will perish and be forgotten if the American enterprise in Iraq andAfghanistan succeeds. They can't be distracted from the mortal fight on their doorstep to pursue other projects abroad. They resort to bombing innocent Iraqis to coerce them because they know they have no hope of ever pursuading them.

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