The dog is barking

As you may recall, a couple of days ago I asked why there had been no comment whatsoever in the conservative blogosphere about a New York Times op-ed piece in which seven active duty soldiers criticized the Iraq War. In updates to that same post, I was able to point to a couple of bloggers who had commented upon the article, but their numbers were definitely limited.

I’m beginning to think the silence was because the article’s authors were soldiers on the ground opining about policy based on their personal observations. This meant that ordinary civilian bloggers (like me) were out of their league analyzing either the facts or the conclusions drawn from those facts. It was no coincidence, in retrospect, that the two bloggers I found who discussed the article are current and ex-military.

As more vets get the chance to process the article, I think we’ll get more insights into its strengths and weaknesses. Today, in The Weekly Standard, several Iraq Vets have analyzed and (politely) critiqued the article:

ON SUNDAY, seven soldiers from the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Iraq penned a passionate opinion piece in the New York Times that further illustrates the complexity of what is “really” happening in Iraq. Of the almost 3,000 soldiers from the Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division currently serving in the hottest of Iraqi neighborhoods, seven felt confident enough in their misgivings to sign an opinion piece. They should not be surprised that many of their comrades–including the seven undersigned here–find their work to be misguided.

The 2nd Brigade is responsible for two dangerous areas of Baghdad: Adihamiyah and Sadr City. Airborne troopers there have seen the worst al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army can throw at them and the Iraqi people. But the whole story is that the Iraqis and soldiers in their sector have not yet been fully affected by the surge of troops and operations, which have barely been in place two months.

Currently, American and Iraqi Forces are clearing sections of southern Baghdad before turning north to the 82nd Airborne’s neighborhoods. As such, the portrait these soldiers painted, while surely accurate and honest, is more representative of pre-surge Baghdad: sectarian strife, lawlessness, and indiscriminate slaughter.

This is not, however, the picture elsewhere in Iraq, or even most of Baghdad. Additional American combat brigades first surged to the outlying areas around the capital, disrupting the flow of suicide bombers and car bombs and denying haven to al Qaeda.

Read the rest here.

UPDATEPhibian explains that the only thing newsworthy about the New York Times Op-Ed is that it is in the New York Times.  As Mike Devx pointed out in a comment, out of more than a hundred thousand people, you’ll always find some with one opinion or another, and you’ll always find an audience for that opinion.

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The dog that didn’t bark in the night….

On August 19, the New York Times ran an op-ed by seven military personnel, who were described as follows:

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

These seven slam the surge, saying that military victories really count for nothing against an insurgency, and that any American self-praise simply represents American self-centeredness. Here’s a sampling:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

***

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

I’m not there (“there” being Iraq), so I don’t know if their facts are right. As I understand it, these soldiers are saying, in part, that the situation on the ground in Iraq is confusing, and if everything’s not going our way, then nothing is going our way. The story is also already a little dated, because it looks as if one of the major disgruntled insurgent groups just decided to give up. If that’s the case, the fog of battle, with divergent factions all over Iraq, may just have cleared up a bit. That’s just deconstructing the writing though and comparing three day old conclusions to today’s facts. For all I know, everything in the article could, in fact, be dead-on correct. (And if it is dead-on correct, why in the world is the Army letting its guys undercut it this way in a major American publication? But that’s a question for another blog post.)

What really intrigues me right now is the dead silence in the conservative blogosphere about this one. I don’t recall any of my favorite conservative sites discussing this article. That’s really unusual. And for those of you who count yourselves among my liberal readers, and are inclined to think badly of conservatives, let me assure you right away that the reason for that silence isn’t simply because this story goes against the prevailing wisdom in the conservative blogosphere — namely, that that the War can still be won and that the surge is working. One of the things I’ve loved about the conservative blogosphere is its willingness to tackle all fact and opinion articles, whether the bloggers see the articles as occasions for celebration, deconstruction or despair. No matter the article, if it’s about a hot topic, as this one is, silence is never the response.

Given the reality of the conservative blogosphere, I have to ask if I’ve missed the response to this article or if, for a reason unclear to me, this article has been met with resounding silence? And if the latter is true, why is that?

UPDATE: Blackfive has respectfully challenged some of the authors’ conclusions. Has anyone else of the big guys?

UPDATE II: In addition to Blackfive, I’ve got a couple more links. Greyhawk, writing at Milblogs, which is part of the Mudville Gazette, takes some time out from getting the job done in Iraq to comment on the op-ed’s perspective. His major point is that, while the op-ed’s authors have their facts right, he disagrees with their conclusions. Here’s a sampling:

We are indeed working to straighten out a hell of a mess in Baghdad, and any number of things can foil our objectives. In fact, failure is easier and quicker than success, our failure can bring success to others (is, in fact, prerequisite to their success as they currently envision it) and not all of these “others” are ready to develop new definitions of personal or group success more compatible with ours. (Or at least, definitions of “success” that can be achieved following our success rather than only after our failure).

But, in fact, that’s exactly what’s happened in most of al Anbar, and during the bloody campaign to get there such an outcome was far from obvious. (Such an outcome is far from a done deal now, too, but at least it can be mentioned without drawing sneers.) It’s entirely possible that all hell may still break lose there. But it seems (at best) that the general population has had enough of al Qaeda and their ilk and are willing to cast their lot with us, or (at worst) have finally realized that the best way to get rid of us is to let us finish and leave – after gaining whatever edge they can against their future rivals from us before our departure. (Said edge being training, money, weapons, and perhaps a bit of thinning of the rival herd before we depart.) One can’t rule out some middle ground between those two possibilities.

That being the case, our best hope is that prosperity (or at least being on a recognizable path thereto) will prove incentive to keep the peace without the presence of American guns. Said peace being more conducive to such prosperity, a positive spiral can develop, and we’re beginning to see the early indications of that spiral now in Anbar as months of positive developments have at least resulted in people noticing the positive developments and in turn developing at least some semblance of hope.

This seems to be a more lucid statement of the bone I had to pick, which was my comment that the op-ed seemed to say that, since all things aren’t going right in Iraq, than everything must be going wrong. I incline by nature to Greyhawk’s view that, if enough is going right, that can change the momentum — and you certainly don’t abandon the fight just as you’ve got a policy in place that is tilting more and more things in the winning direction.

Bill at Bill’s Bites has touched on this issue, since he hunted down the articles mentioned above and well as this one — posts I wouldn’t have found without his help.

The internet’s power

If any of you bloggers are getting disheartened, don’t. The internet does matter, even if gains are slow and grudging. Case in point: the bombed out mosques in Baghdad.

The story began in November when the AP reported that Shiite fights had destroyed four Sunni mosques in Baghdad and burned six men alive. Curt, at Flopping Aces, looked at the story with a jaundiced eye, asked some questions, and opened a huge Pandora’s box of journalistic malfeasance, with AP right in the middle of it all.

Now, after much blogging on the subject, after Michelle Malkin went to Iraq to check it out, and after the Confederate Yankee fired off a letter to the AP Board of Directors, the AP is grudgingly, gracelessly, half-heartedly backing down, although it’s still trying very hard to spin a major story where it’s apparent that none exists:

Four Sunni mosques attacked in late November in the embattled Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad still bear scars from the attacks and all are now either under Shiite Muslim control or closed.

Immediately after the Nov. 24 incidents, an Associated Press story quoted an Iraqi police captain saying the four mosques had been attacked and six men doused with fuel and burned alive at one of them. In some early versions of the AP story, which was updated several times as more information became available, the police officer referred to the mosques being burned or blown up.

The report was challenged a day later, when a U.S. military spokesman said it could only confirm an attack on one mosque.

Since then, the AP has confirmed damage at three of the four mosques, including burn damage at two and slight damage at a third.

Today, all four mosques are either clearly under the control of Shiites or closed and nonfunctioning, guarded by Iraqi army troops. The Iraqi army increased its presence in Hurriyah after the November attacks, which drove many Sunnis out of the neighborhood and put it firmly under Shiite control.

The loss of the Sunni mosques is a powerful symbol of how the formerly mixed neighborhood has changed to one where only Shiites are welcome.

You can read the rest of AP’s spin and retrofitting here.

I know that sometimes conservative members of the blogosphere get frustrated with the reach the MSM has. That is, even though there isn’t a vast Left wing conspiracy (a belief that would put us on the same level as Billary), the fact remains that MSM reporters have a tone and worldview that leans left, and they have the world’s biggest bully pulpit. I know that I often feel like Dame Partington, about whom the wonderful Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845) wrote:

In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm [at Sidmouth], Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea-water, and vigorously pushing away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused; Mrs. Partington’s spirit was up. But I need not tell you that the contest was unequal; the Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington.

What keeps me going is that I’m not a lone figure with a mop. I’m part of Glenn Reynold’s “ Army of Davids.” Even if I fall back temporarily from fatigue, or miss something altogether, there’s someone else (and usually someone with greater insight, more accurate information, and a bigger audience) to take up the standard.

UPDATE: Here’s Michelle Malkin’s post explaining all the spin still existing in the story. Obviously, the AP is never going to cave in on this one, because to do so would admit how deep the institutional rot runs. Nevertheless, I thinks it’s a stellar blogosphere victory that they conceded, however obliquely and grudgingly, that their first report was just plain wrong.

UPDATE II:  For another MSM story that is seeing blogosphere pressure, check this out.  I suspect that, while CBS is currently trying to defend its reporter it, too, will grudgingly, half-heartedly, and gracelessly start backing down in the face of blogosphere-assembled evidence.

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Who are the blog visitors?

One of the nice things about having a bit more traffic is that people sometimes find me to deliver interesting information.  I got an email today from someone who owns (manages?) a search engine called Compete.com, which also runs a blog about blog usage.  As far as I can tell, their blog culls computer generated information to help gain information about bloggers, and then uses that information to figure out who bloggers are and what they’ll do.  Today, they have a post about voting information they’ve gleaned from frequent visitors to two conservative and two liberal websites.  So far, their results are predictable (as they themselves admit), but it’s a site that deserves watching, since its growing database will be capable of providing more and more information about bloggers and what they mean to the political process.

The Left wing blogs and Israel

I started a series of posts aimed at examining what the Left side of the blogosphere had to say about what I think is one of the biggest stories of our day: Israel’s major military initiative against Hezbollah. What I discovered, and why I’ve sort of dried up on checking out those blogs, is that they have absolutely nothing to say on the subject — and Dean Barnett explains why. Barnett starts with a discussion about the Jews’ reliable support for the Democratic party, which has Democratic political leaders careful, in public at least, to support Israel. That’s the “one hand.” The other hand is the Daily Kos community. Barnett explains what this community is, what drives its thinking, and how it has responded to the Israel/Hezbollah War, both on the front page and behind the scenes. I’m going to include a fairly long quotation here, but the article has lots more, and I think it’s well worth reading:

On the other hand, there is the Daily Kos community. As proprietor Markos Moulitsas frequently notes, the Kos community is representative of the “people-powered movement.” They are not led by one person; indeed, they are not led at all.

The miracle of the Kossacks is that they are tens of thousands of like-minded people who have used the site to find one another. Although they differ on many details, they tend to monolithically detest George W. Bush and American conservatives. They also tend to distrust or loathe anything or anyone that winds up in Bush’s literal or metaphorical embrace. Like Joe Lieberman. Or Israel.

THE CONFLAGRATION in Lebanon has provided an example of the people-powered movement’s potential to be a liability for the politicians who have tried to curry favor with it.

Perhaps sensing that this issue could highlight just how far removed the Kos community is from the American mainstream, Moulitsas and his other front-page bloggers have opted to ignore Israel’s war. Combined, the half dozen front-pagers have written exactly one post on the subject. And that post, authored by Moulitsas, simply declared that he wouldn’t write anything further on the subject. So while the most important story of the year develops, the nation’s leading progressive blog has chosen to focus on the Indiana second district House race between Chris Chocola and Joe Donnelly. Nothing wrong with that; it’s their prerogative to blog about whatever they like.

But inside the Kos diaries, it’s been a different story. The conversation in the diaries has been overwhelmingly anti-Israel–and potentially disastrous for the Democratic party.

Barnett then follows up by simply quoting from the diaries, a stomach churning journey into old-fashioned Jew-hatred.

Right now, those Democratic politicians who wish to maintain their reliable Jewish base have only two forms of protection. The first is the fact that a large portion of Jewish voters are probably completely unaware of this sewer swirling at the Democrats’ feet. The second is the double think leaders on the Jewish left are currently using to insulate themselves from the hatred against them welling up on their side of the political spectrum. The most perfect, latest, and loudest example of this comes from Sheldon Drobny, who founded Air America, the Left’s “answer” to Rush [hat tip: American Thinker]:

I came to the conclusion that the hostile comments about Israel on these liberal blogs are not coming from true liberals. Most of the anti-Semitism comes from racism and most of the racism I have experienced has come from the far right, not the left. And history shows that the Christo-fascist policies of the right have been responsible for historical anti-Judaism. It is only lately that the extreme evangelical groups have conveniently aligned with Israel now to validate their biblical beliefs. These extreme evangelicals were the most anti-Jewish because of the Passion Narratives of the New Testament. And for my friends in AIPAC, they should be aware that short-term alliances with people who have endemic hatred of you could be disastrous. The early Zionists found this out when they signed a trade agreement with Germany hoping that Germany would deport the Jews to Palestine.

To those who believe that Palestine historically belonged to either the Jews or the Arabs I say read my previous post. Palestine and Iraq were all part of the Ottoman Empire and were made up countries by decree. After the First World War, the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire gave us artificial countries such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and neither country exists today. Iraq is still a horrible remnant of artificial combinations of disparate ethnic regions. The fact is that the U.N. as did the League of Nations before set up countries by decree without much foresight and washed their hands of the consequences. Had the U.N. been responsible in 1948, they had the power to make a difference in that region. Unfortunately, they did not.

I have no easy solutions for the Israel/Palestine issue but I will say that one must evaluate which of the combatants benefit from the conflict. And I can easily exclude Israel from that group. After Israel signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 it experienced its greatest economic and technological advancement. Whether or not Israel was wise in rejecting the 2000 proposal that was advanced by Arafat at Camp David is subject to historical evaluation. But, Israel has suffered economically since the last intifada and has no benefit to its people by having perpetual war. On the other hand, the militant Arab leaders have a lot to gain by perpetual war with Israel to divert their people’s attention from the harsh treatment of their own citizens. And the armaments industries in the nations comprising the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have lots of reasons to fuel the fires. I suggest seeing the motion picture Lord of War with Nicholas Cage if anyone has any doubts.

So my conclusion is that the bloggers who violently hate Israel and see it in black and white terms are not really liberals. They may even be anti-Semites, but they are not representative of the liberal community that was so active in achieving racial and ethnic equality. It is a contradiction for a true liberal to be an anti-Semite. Furthermore, I would not put it past the right wing to flood the liberal blogs with hateful criticisms of Israel to advance a perception that liberals are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. And I see Karl Rove’s fingerprints all over this.

If you wade through this convoluted argument, you discover that Drobny simply can’t believe that the Left, which has always been anti-Semitic and anti-Israel (witness, for example, the National Socialist Movement, aka the Nazis; the Russian Communists; and Hugh Chavez, who is probably not Rove’s puppet), is actually — gasp! — anti-Israel. And since this historical truism can’t be true, it must be Rove’s fault (or it’s fluoride in the water — one or the other). As Charles Thompson, of Little Green Footballs, said to Dennis Prager when discussing Drobny’s bizarre conclusion, this is serious “cognitive dissonance.” Thinking about it, Thompson is being kind. It’s delusional thinking, pure and simple, and in another age would have landed Drobny in an asylum, walking around with the other crazy Napoleon and Elvis wannabees.

UPDATE:  Dennis Prager is speaking to Sheldon Drobny even as we speak.  Drobny, aside from suffering from severe verbal diarrhea, is woefully ill-informed.  His statements about Evangelical Christians rely solely on canards and have nothing to do with reality.  It’s amazing that someone so narrow-minded and unaware of the reality of the world — as opposed to his imaginary world construct — can have carved himself such a prominent niche.

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Do we make a difference?

I'm betting that, by now, most of you have already heard of Maryscott O'Connor, the fulminating Left wing blogger profiled in the Washington Post a few days ago.  This is one seriously angry lady:

In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?

It's actually a very sad article, in that one can only feel pity for O'Connor, who has to live bathed in that anger.  I'm also seriously concerned for her six year old son.  What kind of life awaits a child whose mother is in perpetual explosion mode?  It's probably a very good thing that she can get that anger out on the blog, rather than take it out an her child.  O'Connor's personal brand of anger has made her very popular amongst the generally angry on the Left:   

Since its debut last July, My Left Wing has had some 450,000 visits and is now averaging about 3,000 visits and 14,000 page views a day. At any given moment, several dozen people are looking at the site, and user data shows that they are all over the world — mostly from the United States, occasionally from overseas and often from Washington, D.C., where the log-on addresses sometimes end in senate.gov or house.gov.

Frankly, I'm jealous.  I'd love numbers like that.   But I'd love them because they'd stroke my ego, not because I think they'd effect any real change in the world.  And it's this last point that I really want to talk about in this post.
I adore blogging.  I love the chance to develop thoughts that swirl about in my head and that I can't normally voice (a) because they'd be inappropriate in the context of neighborhood block parties, school meetings, and business meetings or (b) because people within a ten foot radius of my voice would be bored out of their minds if forced to act as an audience to my opinings.

The great thing about the blog is freedom:  I have the freedom to write; you have the freedom to read.  And if I'm boring, you have the freedom to walk out, something you couldn't do during ordinary, polite face-to-face interactions.  Likewise, if you disagree with me, you feel free to state so in comments or in posts at your own blog.  Again, no matter how polite you are (and you, my dear blogfriends, are always polite), it's unlikely that, in face-to-face conversations, you'd take such adversarial (albeit civilized) stands.  Instead, you'd probably waffle and shuffle, and sort of slough off the whole conversational point. 

So I believe blogs are a very important forum for those who care. What I wonder, though, is whether those of us who care enough to blog — and to read blogs — matter in the political process.  I have a core group of about 350 readers (bless you all) who show up regularly to read what I have to say.  O'Connor, angrier but luckier in the numbers, has a core group about ten times mine.  Her numbers sound marvelous until you start thinking about the bigger numbers.  We have approximately 142 million registered voters in the United States (or, to spell it out with all its impressive zeroes, 142,000,000).  This means that, even assuming O'Connor's readers are all registered voters, her readership is equal to only a minute percentage of American voters. 

Also, just as I move primarily in circles of people who agree with my neo-conservative thinking, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of O'Connor's readers are hardcore angry Leftists.  Indeed, the WaPo article certainly supports that supposition.  That means that O'Connor's anger doesn't inform the uninformed.  Nor does it convert those who originally differed with her.  It merely reinforces thinking amongst those already committed to her angry world view.

Lest you think I'm simply fantasizing here about the echo chamber in which O'Connor operates, or that I'm extrapolating from my own limited experience, it's worthwhile to look at the effect that Markos Moulitsas Zúniga's Daily Kos has had on elections.  (There are, actually, two Daily Koses — one a diary format and one its flagship State of the Nation site, to which I've linked). 

The Kos sites are amongst the best read blogs in America and they're very, very angry.  They're also deeply involved in Democratic politics — which turns out to be a blessing for Republicans, since the candidates Daily Kos supports routinely lose.  Indeed, the only successful candidate the Daily Kos has supported has been Matt Santos — the fictional candidate on the West Wing (a show that whispered Markos's name and blog with reverential and bated breath a few episodes ago).  It shows, therefore, that despite its cyberspace popularity, the Daily Kos is not having a real world effect — or, perhaps, it's having one that favors Republicans, as real world people recoil from cyberspace anger.

I'm going to continue blogging.  I do think bloggers chip away at the monolithic MSM, especially in terms of pointing out its biases and errors.  That change is going to be infinitely more important than any one blog affecting any one election.  This means, I guess, that the answer to my title question — Do we make a difference? — is yes, we do.  Conservative bloggers, by forcing changes on the American press, will end up being more influential than angry Left wing bloggers who change nothing at all.

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Starting over….

Welcome! You found me. Blogger has been so difficult for me lately that I decided to switch to a new host. (I’m apparently not alone with having Blogger problems.) So, here I am, starting all over again, and trying to figure out how to get the word out. If you’ve been kind enough to have me in your blogroll, would you update my address? And, if it’s not too much trouble, would you get word out to others that I’ve got a new address?

UPDATE: I’m slowly, slowly updating my blogroll. It’s a manual process, since I decided to use WordPress’s categories, and not simply to transfer my links from BlogRolling. And since it’s manual, don’t be surprised if you don’t see yourself there for a few days. It’s going to take time!