Here are some media quotes with one detail removed. Can you guess to what they refer?
“Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word ‘quagmire’ has begun to haunt conversation among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad …. Could [unnamed country] become another Vietnam? Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world?”
“Despite the insistence of President Bush and members of his cabinet that all is well, the war in [unnamed country] has gone less smoothly than many had hoped. Signs of progress are sparse.”
Both quotes are from the New York Times, but are representative of the media template at the time they were printed. What is the unnamed country? Not it’s not Iraq, it’s Afghanistan, and it’s not October 2003, but October 2001.
A month and a half after 9/11 and less than a month after we began combat operations against the Taliban, already the press had become impatient and began its usual case of predicting gloom and doom. They were saying that the Taliban were going to hold out for years and send us packing like they sent the Soviets packing in the 1980s. But look where we are 2 years later: the Taliban are reduced to hiding in caves like animals, Afghanistan is at relative peace (compared to a thousand years of warfare and banditry, what is going on in the country is peace), and a new pluralistic and democratic government is being born.
Less than two weeks into the war in Iraq (and less than a week into ground operations), the press was saying the war had stagnated, that it was becoming a—you guessed it—quagmire. But it was only an operational pause while our guys caught their breath and then they pressed on to Baghdad to liberate the Iraqi people. It was an unprecedented victory in its speed and efficiency. So the press waited for something else to complain about.
Now, six months later, we’re hearing the ‘Q’ word again. We’re bogged down. Troops are dying. It’s another—yep—Vietnam. (Do these guys play any other tune?) But they won’t bother reporting the accomplishments of our servicemen in Iraq. Many of them got access to international media only recently and were appalled at what they read and saw or rather what they didn’t see. They know what they’re accomplishing: hundreds of civil affairs projects, opening schools, assisting new small businesses, rebuilding schools and bridges and roads.
But to report that would be to deny the liberal elite’s own pessimism. And any success in Iraq would reflect well on Bush and we can’t have that, can we?