Michael O'Hanlon in today's Washington Post points out a sharp and widening difference of opinion about the US adventure in Iraq. Military types are looking through rose-colored glasses, and a growing number of civilian types are growing more gloomy. The writer says both sides of the debate need to be checked.
...military leaders...point to some good news on the economic front: growing gross domestic product, bustle on the streets, creation of small businesses, adequate availability of most household fuels, gradually improving national infrastructure for water and sewage, more children in school, more Internet usage, and lots more telephone service. They also note the gradual improvement in Iraqi security forces, with 30,000 or more now capable of largely independent operations. And they rightly observe the remarkable progress made in drafting the Iraqi constitution. A can-do military officer aware of such information, and also tactically succeeding day in and day out in finding and killing insurgents, is likely to see a trajectory toward victory.
But is that really what is happening? Growing GDP is good for those with access to the twin golden rivers flowing through Iraq -- not the Tigris and Euphrates, but oil revenue and foreign aid. The rest of the economy is, on the whole, weak. Unemployment remains in the 30 to 40 percent range, and the psychologically most critical type of infrastructure -- electricity -- has barely improved since Saddam Hussein fell. Iraqi security forces are getting better, but they are also losing more than 200 men a month to the insurgency. Civilian casualties in Iraq from the war are as high as ever; combine that with the region's highest crime rates, and Iraq has clearly become a much more violent society since Hussein fell. Tactically, the resistance appears to be outmaneuvering the best military in the world in its use of improvised explosive devices. And politically, every move forward toward greater Sunni Arab participation in the political process seems to be accompanied by at least one step back.
Solid observations. Too bad the public is so polarized that neither side wants to contemplate the less dramatic but more realistic view of this writer.
Open-minded readers are urged to read the whole thing.
There won't be much attention paid because the writer is not extreme enough. Too bad. The blogosphere, reflecting the public at large, is getting to be like the evening news: if it bleeds, it leads.