Monday, December 22, 2003

Saddam Hussein may not have been the linchpin of the Iraqi resistance, but neither, it seems, was he out of the loop. A note in his briefcase apparently names Iraqi resistance spies inside the Coalition command center. That via Juan Cole, who notes that there is plenty of other evidence that the resistance has thoroughly compromised Coalition command structures. Which might be taken as a sign of how ill-served the military can be by an obsessive focus on gee-whiz, high-tech systems, when it comes at the expense of the basics. We've spent billions of dollars developing surveillance capabilities for listening in on radios and cell phone conversations, and because the resistance knows enough not to use those things, it hasn't ultimately bought us much. Meanwhile, their classic, low-tech spycraft -- simply placing informants -- is working quite well for them.

For these sorts of observations, and his dour outlook on goings-on in Iraq generally, Prof. Cole has been declared by Jeff Jarvis to be the leader of what he calls "the coalition of the pissy". It appears that Cole, whose years of study of Arab culture generally, and Iraqis in particular, have made him one of the foremost Western experts in the subject, has somehow gotten too close to it, obsessing about irrelevant details, while losing sight of what's really important. Well, at least according to Jeff Jarvis. Which is why, in the American press these days, knowing something about one's subject is seen as a handicap -- Cole, an expert in the topic, cannot by that very token be "objective", while Jarvis, who claims no particular expertise, has by that very token the broad perspective needed to tell what is important and what is not...


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