I've noticed a tremendous range in assessments of the various events in Iraq. One one hand, you have the military gung-ho types like Austin Bay, Ralph Peters of the New York Post, and Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution. On the other hand, there's the more negative reporting and analysis by the New York Times and several other mainstream newspapers and magazines. There's also even more extreme opinion on both sides, but I won't even go there.
We're either doing swimmingly well or civilization in Iraq and around the world is about to collapse, depending on who you read. When confronted with a situation like this one, where there is clearly huge uncertainty, I look at the predictions and analysis of the various media and then remember those predictions and see how well they hold up as more data becomes available.
Nobody has anywhere near a perfect score. But when I look across all of the media and pundits, one has really stood out in being more accurate than the rest in his predictions and analysis: a writer who goes by the pseudonym of "Wretchard the Cat" at the The Belmont Club. I think his track record has been quite impressive.
Wretchard has been generally more positive about our involvement in Iraq and the war on terror than most of the media sources but has recently "gone gloomy" and that has me worried. His commenters pointed this out and here is his response:
I'm somewhat bemused by reports that Wretchard has gone "gloomy". I think it's important not to understate what the Coalition has achieved so far. It's been historic and probably unprecedented. But it's also important never to underrate the difficulties and to describe them as accurately as possible. Analysis should be persuasive on the basis of facts and reasoning and not on emotions.
Some time back there was a shift from the "insurgency" theme to the "civil war" theme. All the old names -- remember Fallujah? Tal Afar? Mosul? -- have gone to page 2. My guess is that we have gone into a new kind of game or endgame. It's important to recognize this. For some people it's always 2004 and everything is an undifferentiated soup, without phases and without developments. It's important to look at the new situation closely precisely because Act I may have ended and Act II Scene I about to begin.
A realistic assessment should include what has already been gained and what is left to gain. Some people think the Belmont Club is guilty of unwonted optimism simply because it is willing to accept what Zarqawi has practically admitted: that the Sunni insurgency is militarily beaten -- and that the struggle for the political outcome is now underway. And some readers may believe that I've gone all "gloomy" because I think the political outcome still hangs in the balance. But that is nothing more than stating a fact.A rather unfortunate fact if it can't be made to work. It's certainly been a lot of effort wasted if we can't succeed in the final step of creating a workable political system in Iraq. Nonetheless, I'm not anywhere near thinking we should bail. We simply owe continuing support to the Iraqis, without which, the odds of civil war escalate. We shouldn't leave until it's clear that most of them want us too. David Ignatius of the Washington Post summarized my sentiments when he wrote:
As Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, remarked this week: "America came to Iraq uninvited. You should not leave uninvited."