A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

From Discontent to Revolution ... and Back To Discontent

Reading or watching most of the major news outlets from March through May could have led virtually anyone to believe all was lost in Iraq. There was CNN's psychotically excessive coverage of the Abu Grhaib prison abuse ... and their seemingly complete ignorance of Nick Berg's grisly murder. There were Shiite Fundamentalists in Najaf and Sunni Insurgents in Falujah. The press started muttering "Tet! Tet! All is lost!", with Rather and Blitzer positively salivating to be the first to echo Cronkite's dubious and immortal polemic "The war is now unwinnable."

And now in June we find ourselves in a situation similar to the one in February: Localized chaos and violence but with the majority of Iraq engaged in a slow and steady march towards peace and prosperity. Hell, with the passing of the new UN resolution (we'll see if that's worth anything more than the paper it's written on soon enough) and the interim government shaping up one could almost call the outlook positive.

What happened? How did we go from good, to bad, to good again?

Our soldiers and diplomats and spies did their jobs, that's how. It amazes me that people are so surprised when things get tough, as if President Bush promised them personally that ousting Saddam and bringing secular democracy to Arabia would be easy, cheap, and quick. No such promises we ever made, folks; on the contrary, we were told early on that there would be a steep price to pay in blood and treasure to complete this task. We didn't undertake it because it looked fun and easy, but because it was difficult and necessary.

The misery of the past three months sucked, but it was expected that something would go wrong somewhere, at some point. Did we know specifically that it was going to be prison abuse and a Shiite militia? No, of course not. But the law of averages says you're going to miss a play sometimes and make bad calls every now and again. That's part of the process. That's part of war.

What makes us the right country to do this job is that we stick it out through the rough spots. Anyone else would have run screaming from Iraq months ago - if not sooner. As Steven den Beste is fond on saying (and as I'm fond of quoting), the standard is not perfection, the standard is the alternative.

We've made mistakes, some of them costly. We'll probably do so again before this is over. But now everyone knows we're staying the course, insurgency and shrill media doomcrying be damned. We're not perfect, but we're better than the alternative by so large a degree it makes comparison unnecessary - the Kurds of Halabja will attest to that.