Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't complicate the story

An article by Jules Crittenden asking the question I've been asking, why is the media not explaining what Petreaus is doing in Iraq? Obviously, he concentrates on American media, but the situation seems the same as here.

One reason may be that it would complicate their story-telling. At the moment, the basic narrative is built on the number of our soldiers killed in action or the number of Iraqis killed in a suicide attack. Concerning the first, the strategy entails far more 'contact' between the American troops and the Iraqi public as well as intense operations of clearance. The number of American casualties has to rise in these conditions.

But it is the second of these measures that really stands out. After every bombing, the BBC archly poses the question, is the surge failing? On the face of it, it seems a reasonable question. After all, isn't that the whole point, to stop the bombers?

Yes, and no (said Blackadder to Baldrick). Al-Queda is not the target of this operation; the Iraqi neighbourhoods are. The aim is to replace insurgents/al-Queda/militias as the main force in each neighbourhood of Baghdad and the surrounding area and then to hold them and to establish the law of the state for good. The nasties may well escape and mount an operation a bit further out of town; that, for the moment, is inevitable. The point is to stop them coming back. To gradually narrow their field of action.

It is slow. It is uneven. There will still be bombings and killings for some time to come, if for no other reason than to get on American network news. But if most of these areas can be held (first by Americans, then by Iraqis), the nasties will be marginalised more and more and the rule of law will have time to take root.

However, this is a difficult story to tell and it doesn't have nice, easy markers so that you can say, it is (not) working. So the media just ignore it.

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