Sunday, November 16, 2003

Media again spins a tale of failure

Reading a story in the Washington Post this morning, I had to wonder if I'd been in suspended animation somewhere. It speaks of European vindication that the US has failed miserably in post-war Iraq. The story goes on about the widespread agreement of what went wrong - went wrong, past tense - and how the Europeans don't really know where to go from here. One of our wonderful European friends is quoted as saying that we Americans have really broken things in Iraq and that he frankly doesn't know how Europe will go about fixing it.

Excuse me, Francois, who asked you to fix anything? Six months after the major combat role has been completed, 6 months after we started to repair the damage caused by decades of brutal abuse at the hands of Hussein's regime we have made real progress. The USAID weekly report details improvement in nearly every category of the reconstruction plan. This week's glitch? We found out that the members of the Governing Council aren't paying enough attention to the people's needs and are, instead, spending their time improving their own economic situation. The media has heroically uncovered that some politicians are, in fact, corrupt!

Oh, my God. Can it be?

Iraqi bloggers at Healing Iraq and elsewhere have made the observation already. To be honest, listening to them isn't so different than listening to people here in the US talk about their elected officials. (And I'm really, really sorry about that, guys. That's an export I'd not wish on anyone.) And let's not forget that the US also noticed the problem and started doing something about it. In business, not every project works the 1st time and exactly as planned. Most don't. OK, almost none do - you get the point. You try to follow the plan and things don't work. Good business demands that you evaluate the results and adjust the plan. You replace what's not working with something that has a good chance of getting the job done. That's what Paul Bremer was here in DC for last week. He was getting the new plans and working out how to implement them. That's not the hallmark of a failure, that's a good manager. And that's what Bremer is supposed to be.

Reading that story by the Washington Post would lead you to believe that no such thing has occurred. The story operates as though the premise that the US has botched things up horribly in Iraq is the written-in-stone truth, completely impervious to question or debate. From there, they go happily along quoting all manner of people who start out making sure you understand that the war should never have been started in the first place and now that the ruthless, savage, bloodthirsty Americans have come in destroying the peaceful nation of Iraq, well, it's their mess to fix. Oh, but Europe doesn't want America to fail.

Sure they do. Big time. They'd love dearly for America to get beat up badly and become convinced that we can't do anything out in the big, bad world without Europe's guidance and assistance. Note that they don't want America to pull back within its own borders, though. Talk about having American force suddenly vacate and they start going all palsy on you. I love the part of the story that says Europe wants the "American attack dog" safely leashed but not put down. I notice they didn't expound too much on who's leash they want America on. I'll give 3 guesses. I'm guessing you won't need 3.

The fact of the matter is that America hasn't done the perfect job in post-war Iraq. No kidding. We can't seem to do a perfect job here, why should it surpise anyone that we haven't done it there? But not doing the perfect job and failing are 2 very different things and while I'll concede the former, we're no where near the latter yet. I believe strongly that with all the problems we have in there today, we're still in a better place than we would have been had we not acted. That Europe lacks the will to take the risk in changing things is their problem, not ours. Our approach in Iraq will take time. If they don't want to wait, fine. It's not like you were helping much there anyway.