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Monday, August 13, 2007

Credibility on the ground in Iraq

The following paragraph, from one of war correspondent Michael Yon's latest dispatches, vividly and directly states a theme that has been implicit in much of his writing:

Large numbers of Iraqis detested us after the prisoner abuse stories, and some over-the-top attacks on Fallujah, for example. But through time, somehow the American military has managed to establish a moral authority in Iraq. It’s not the only authority, but the military has serious and increasing moral clout. In the beginning, our influence flowed from guns, or dropped from the wings of jets. Later it was the money. Today, the clout still is partially from the gun, and definitely the money is key, but there is an intangible and growing moral clout and it flows from an increasing respect among Iraqis for our military. Washington has no moral clout in Iraq. Washington looks like a circus act. The authority is coming from our military. The importance of this fact would be difficult to understate.

There's much anticipation among pundits and, perhaps, the public to hear what Gen. Petraeus will have to say in his promised status report in September, and I don't mean to suggest that it's going to be unimportant. But the reason I value Yon's writing so much is that he gives us rolling, on-going first-person observations, along with status reports, from the captains and the majors and the lieutenant colonels in the field. It's not sugar-coated, and it's not larger than life reporting; to the contrary, it is usually very granular and specific. But it aggregates.

I'm reasonably sure that the best single thing I can do to "support the war effort" is to encourage people back here to read Yon's reports regularly. Cumulatively, and along with reports from a handful of similar (mostly nontraditional) correspondents and military bloggers, they give the most credible answers I'm aware of to key questions like, "What the hell are we still doing over there, and is it worth it?" And those answers come not from Yon's mouth — he works hard to stay in the roles of observer and photographer and scribe and messenger — but from the mouths of those American captains and majors and lieutenant colonels, and from the mouths of the Iraqi officers and policemen and civilians with whom Yon watches them interact daily.

My point in this post is that for me, Yon's reports on the ground in Iraq have credibility. The point of his reports, though, is that our military forces, through both words and deeds, have earned and continue to earn large and growing amounts of credibility among the Iraqis.

If we are to have a political society that is as morally worthy as the military forces that we've fielded to protect that society from a hostile world, then members of that political society ought to be aware of the facts about our military forces' credibility and authority among Iraqis, as part of our becoming more broadly aware of what's actually happening on the ground in Iraq in addition to the weekly casualty and expenditure reports (on which the mainstream media relentlessly focuses).

Posted by Beldar at 05:30 PM in Global War on Terror | Permalink


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(1) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 13, 2007 7:19:37 PM | Permalink

Michael Yon writes of the profound disrespect Iraqis have for Washington politicians. Polls show the American people feel the same way. Maybe Iraqis and Americans have more in common than the media thinks.

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