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Monday, May 24, 2004

By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 am

Writes Michael Barone

To the criticism that they report and overemphasize bad news, reporters say, correctly, that bad news is news. But in a country like Iraq, ruled by a vicious dictator for the last 35 years, good news is also news. Reporters readily fan out to find bad news. But they seldom seek the good news - readily available in Iraqi and military weblogs and confirmed in polls of Iraqis - that incomes, electricity, schools, water quality, medical care, religious freedom and security are improving in Iraq. Some reporters, as the Daily Telegraph’s Toby Harnden reports from Iraq, deliberately avoid good news because they think it might help George W. Bush win re-election.

When Bush speaks to the public, he might follow the example of one considerably below him in the chain of command, Marine Corps Maj. Ben Connable, who wrote is USA Today: “This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East. This is the third time I’ve heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal. This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. … Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the ‘Sunni Triangle’ was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt and the country was nearing civil war. As I write this, the supply lines are open, there’s plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.”

The president needs to put things in perspective. Iraq is not Vietnam. My Lai was a massacre; Abu Ghraib was abuse. Hundreds of thousands of enemy attacked in the Tet offensive; a few thousand fought for Moqtada al-Sadr, and they are being rejected by his fellow Shiites.

The gains to be won by persevering in Iraq are great - an example of decent government can change the Middle East. The losses to be suffered by not persevering are even greater: Vast gains by terrorists determined to attack everything we hold dear.

George W. Bush must set out our next steps and show, once again, that the media have got it wrong.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Filed under: Iraq

Click here to go to the main page.


  1. Contest, taking the fight to the moonbats: funniest Letter to the Editor ever composed and submitted.

    Comment by Jane — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 11:16 am

  2. I’m constantly baffled that people don’t seem to understand something very basic about human beings and control systems in general. You guys need to take a short course in cybernetics and the theory of control systems.

    Positive feedback is inherently unstable. Look it up. Negative feedback is the only stable way to provide a self correcting system.

    And so it is absolutely no surprise that the vast majority of news we see - Iraq or otherwise - is BAD news. It’s the negative feedback we require to get ourselves back on course.

    Perhaps your time would be better spent doing a little more investigation as to why instead of the constant whining about why we don’t have a system which is known to be unstable.

    Evolution isn’t stupid, you know.

    Comment by Hal — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 11:53 am

  3. Hal,

    The point isn’t that negative feedback should be ignored, or that positive feedback is better at evaluating a situation than negative feedback.

    The point is, as I have stated before, that a full evaluation of the situation does require looking at more than a few data points-which would be true in any field of inquiry. Indeed, one guess that if part of a robot is working, and another isn�t working, learning why the one part is working would be useful as would learning why the part that isn�t working isn�t.

    And, to risk matching your condescending tone (which permeates your commentary on this subject), I would point out that perhaps you should take some short courses in politics, where you will find that cybernetics is not a good analogy for human behavior.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 12:01 pm

  4. ??? Guess where the field came from.

    In any event, the assertion is that the negative reporting is done “deliberately avoid good news because they think it might help George W. Bush win re-election.”

    And as anyone who has done a “lessons learned” knows, the negative aspects are always more focussed on than the positive aspects. For the simple reason that the lessons are not in what you’ve done right, but what you’ve done wrong. Obviously, you know how to do the things you’ve done right. Why on earth would you waste valuable time and energy congratulating yourself?

    The only reason, of course, is to hide the problems and paper over them. Something extermely dangerous.

    And I would only point out that politics has little to do with people’s real behavior. Otherwise, why on earth do people pay so little attention to them? Isn’t the mantra of the right that politicians are worthless and the less politics and politicians we have the better?

    Just kidding.

    Comment by Hal — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 12:12 pm

  5. Reporting only good news and avoiding the bad is hiding problems. Who is suggesting that? Certainly not I.

    Why are you are always so vociferously opposed to the notion that there might be good news from Iraq that should be used in an overall evaluation of the status of the policy?

    Comment by Steven — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 12:38 pm

  6. I do think there is good news. However, just listening to Zinni, who knows a heck of a lot more about this than I or anyone else here out in the blogosphere does, shows that there’s been some fundamental mistakes that deserve our attention far more than whatever successes there have been.

    There are mistakes that can be mitigated - accomidated and equalized. There are other mistakes that are far more serious that no amount of hospital painting and toy distribution can mitigate.

    By trying to frame this as “one good thing cancels out one bad thing” does nothing but mask the fundamental issues.

    The question I have is why on earth aren’t you vociferously dealing with what Zinni has brought up. He’s certainly far more expert in the area than Barone. And his analysis is quite damning. And it’s not like he’s someone who’s an armchair general - he’s been there. And he’s not the only one, but one of the last three Centcom commanders who have said the same thing about the situation.

    But since it’s considered “bad news", it’s pushed aside by other things that, were we on solid footing would certainly be good news, are in fact irrelevant to the overall whole.

    Comment by Hal — Monday, May 24, 2004 @ 12:58 pm

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