Thursday, October 23, 2003

Pro-war bloggers have been dealing with all the things going poorly in Iraq by pretending that they're going well -- that Rumsfeld is right that most of the news is good, and that the Western press has been largely ignoring all the wonderful good news. (Never mind that, as Josh Marshall notes, a lot of the "good news" seems to be that we haven't shut down schools and hospitals which Saddam Hussein, at his worst, managed to keep open. In other words, the good news isn't news).

Now comes a memo from Rumsfeld himself which suggests that we may need to seriously rethink our strategy, and ends up its review by saying that -- in Rumsfeld's own words --

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.

Well, what ever will we say about this? Instapundit has a post linking to many, many responses. James Lileks, for instance, suggests that

you could take it to mean “okay, we’ve conquered Afghanistan and Iraq; is there anything else we should be doing?” -- a sentiment which would have seemed quite reassuring to some after 9/11.

Indeed. You could also take it to mean that Rumsfeld doesn't like broccoli. But what it actually says, in Rumsfeld's own words, is that "the coalition" has not yet won in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that winning, while still possible, "will be a long, hard slog".

A more serious and thorough take on the matter is this, from Ogged at Unfogged, who sees "no surprises" in the memo itself, but is shocked, shocked at the way it got spun by USA Today in their first story on it. The complaints (which, in Dave Barry fashion, I am not making up):

  • Rumsfeld wrote we have "no metrics" to judge progress, which USA Today glossed by saying that we have no "yardstick". Says Ogged: "That is not the same thing: lack of a "yardstick" implies that we don't know what progress or victory would be; lacking a "metric to know," means that we know what we want, but don't know whether we've got it. One implies lack of a plan, the other acknowledges the difficulty of the task." A yardstick sounds like a metric to me.
  • Rumsfeld wrote, "My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?" USA Today summarizes by saying that "we have not made any truly bold moves", quoting Rumsfeld directly -- and Ogged pretends that's a sneaky way for them to distort the memo into a claim we've done nothing. It isn't. The real news here is that Rumsfeld doesn't seem to think that deposing two governments, both supposedly in the service of the War on Terror, are "bold moves"... but I digress.
  • Rumsfeld wrote the bit above about "a long, hard slog", and USA Today put that in the lead; no surprise, considering that it gives the lie to all his public happy talk. Ogged thinks that's bad. He doesn't say why; it's just bad.

And so forth. Insty links to quite a few others, and it's not worth going through all of them. There is one line of argument that occurs in several, though, which is worth a bit of comment. It's that the memo asks probing questions, and asking probing questions is good, so the memo is good, therefore everything's still all good. Um... no. Rumsfeld has been trying to make you believe things are good, but the memo says that things are bad, and asks probing questions about why they're bad. That means even Rumsfeld thinks things are bad, no matter how much he'd like you to believe something else. Please make a note of it.


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