Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wars, Facts on the Ground, and Interpretations

I came across two descriptions of what's going on in Iraq at the moment. An article featuring numerous interviews with marines and soldiers in Iraq offers a pessimistic assessment in the Washington Post (free registration required -- the article is from Oct. 10 and may not be available forever) and was featured in the most recent issue of Scott Holleran's Concord Crier. Here's a few revealing excerpts from the article:

"Sometimes I see no reason why we're here," [Lance Cpl. Carlos] Perez said. "First of all, you cannot engage as many times as we want to. Second of all, we're looking for an enemy that's not there. The only way to do it is go house to house
until we get out of here."
...
"Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,' " said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day."
...
Lance Cpl. Jeremy Kyrk, 21, of Chicago, said the insurgents took advantage of the limitations imposed on U.S. troops. "They don't give us any leeway, they don't give us any quarter," he said. "They catch people and cut their heads off. They know our limits, but they have no limits. We can't compete with that."

Read the whole article -- it will not make you optimistic about the future in Iraq. Still, I also came across a commentary written by Joe Kane, who is with the US Navy and stationed in Baghdad, his blog Able Kane Adventures. Ironically, Joe was commenting on another article in similar vein to the WP article mentioned above. Joe grants that the facts do not look particularly great at the moment but he writes:

I don’t think this is going to be a pretty or clean victory. Nor will it be a short battle. There is a lot of complexity and very little understanding. We, the Americans will do things bit by bit, stepping forward and back, and making our way through this seeming minefield of confusion and some great things will be done while some great opportunities will be missed. In the end, I can point you to one of my earliest blog entries about my outlook for Iraq. Whenever I get confused or discouraged by things this refreshes me and puts me back on track.

“This will be primarily a war of ideologies, and it is inevitable that we win. I just flew over the rooftops of downtown Baghdad and what do you think I saw? A lot of poverty, overheated heaps of garbage, small herds of goats and sheep among dried vegetation, burned and bombed out cars and half-naked children gazing up from mud-brick walls.

I also saw cell phone towers, and most importantly I saw satellite dishes. Shining disks, perfectly round, straining like great aluminum flowers toward an unseen sun of free-flowing information orbiting the equator, bringing light into minds as surely as the other sun brings daylight into the cold of the desert night. These are the weapons of freedom. These are the destroyers of tyranny.

No amount of tyranny can stand against people who are free to engage in the trafficking of ideas. That is why our first amendment is protected and fought over so fiercely at home, and ultimately, if you want to understand the American soul you can look back over our history of arguing and fighting and dying for that very thing - the right to speak your mind regardless of what anyone else might think of it.

Again, read the whole entry in Joe's blog -- it is instructive and will give you some hope for the future. I'm not sure which is right. Generally speaking I lean more to the pessimistic side as can be seen by some of my previous posts but it's good, in this case, to know that there's a chance I'm wrong.

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