The liberal media are having a field day reporting on the continuing instability and turmoil in post-war Iraq. More than 30 U.S. soldiers have already been killed and there are almost daily reports of bloody guerrilla attacks on coalition forces. The New York Times has editorialized that the Bush administration “lacks a realistic and workable plan” to deal with what it characterizes as a “badly deteriorating situation.”
For the most part, conservative commentators have dismissed these fears. Writing in the Washington Times, Donald Lambro, charges that the media fixation on these attacks is obscuring the real progress being made in bringing democracy to Iraq. As evidence of this progress, he points to the establishment of civic institutions like municipal councils throughout the country to manage local affairs. He likens all this to the American revolution and concludes that the media are ignoring this story altogether.
But elsewhere in the conservative media serious concerns about our planning and management of post-war Iraq have emerged. A recent lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal, for example, concluded that victory in Iraq remains incomplete. It warned that remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime have been joined by jihadists from outside Iraq in a counterattack. Sabotage of oil pipelines and electric plants and terrorist bombings of young Iraqis are all intended to deter local people from cooperating with Americans. The objective, the Journal argued, is to “deal the U.S. war on terror a dispiriting defeat.”
The Journal also warned that the Bush administration has yet to effectively characterize the nature of this threat for the American public. It accused the administration of repeatedly “understating the problem” and implies that it is running the risk of creating its own “credibility gap.” Casualties alone will not erode public support for the war, the Journal argued, but it worried that a lack of candor and honesty could undermine support. The editorial called upon President Bush to explain to the public “why Americans are still fighting and dying in Iraq.”
An even more scathing critique appeared on the commentary pages of the Washington Times. Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Times’ editor at large, wrote that the “post-war Iraq souffl? never rose.” He blamed bad planning, mismanagement, and inadequate resources. Improvements will come only after the coalition sends more troops, more money, and establishes better communications with the Iraqi people. He thinks this is all symptomatic of the administration’s failure to heed the law of unintended consequences.
The biggest mistake, he thinks, has been the demobilization of Iraq’s army. No arrangements were made to pay these troops after they were cashiered out. De Borchgrave thinks this action provided the Iraqi opposition with a well-trained volunteer force to kill coalition soldiers. Bounties have been placed on killed and captured American troopers. The going rate for two recently captured American soldiers and their Humvee was $1500.