September 22, 2004

TAPPED: September 2004 Archives: EPISTEMOLOGY AT THE TIMES. The New York Times' David Sanger demonstrates the blinkered perspective afflicting all-too-many of our nation's political reporters as he writes that the "diametrically opposed images [of Iraq] reflect diametrically opposed strategies for the final six weeks of the presidential campaign." The implication here is that the truth about Iraq is some unknowable quantity and each campaign is simply making up its own account of what's going on there in order to further their electoral plans. But let's look a little more closely at these "opposed images" of Iraq.

On the side of pessimism, you have John Kerry, of course, but also Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Dick Lugar, and Lindsey Graham, the Bush administration's own CIA, a bevy of conservative writers, the top analysts from leading American and British national security think tanks, and "assessments of diplomats and world leaders." On the other side you have George W. Bush and some people directly employed by Bush. On one side you've got plenty of chastened hawks, whether or not they now regret their decision to support the war in the first place, while if there are any chastened doves out there I haven't heard about it.

You've got, in other words, one "vision of Iraq" that reflects "strateg[y] for the final six weeks of the presidential campaign" and then you've got a strategy for the final six weeks of the presidential campaign that's based on the realities in Iraq. Unfortunately, the person whose vision is based on his campaign strategy rather than the other way around is currently sitting in the White House. That means that strategy on the ground in Iraq is based not on what needs to be done to make progress, but on what needs to be done in order to maintain the pretense of progress. The resulting strategy will get soldiers needlessly killed but, hey, it's campaign season and everyone's got to make sacrifices.

--Matthew Yglesias

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