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July 25, 2014

Mein Gott im Himmel! How Can This Be????

This morning, Thomas Ricks (who, in 2006, bravely announced that Anbar province was "irretrievably lost" just as the Anbar Awakening was picking up speed) informs us that he is "moving leftward".

In the fullness of time, it turned out that Mr. Ricks hadn't actually read the classified report that so deliciously confirmed what he already believed to be true. But that didn't stop him from reporting its supposed contents.

Alas. If only the Obama White House had been there to warn him how unreliable those pesky anonymous sources can be:


What we knew of the report, by Marine intelligence office Col. Peter Devlin, and which instantly became “the conventional wisdom” on al Anbar, came via essentially a single source. That was Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks, in a Sept. 2006 article “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq: Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says,” and a follow-up in late November, “Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker.” It’s obvious now that either the report itself or the Ricks’ presentation of it missed the mark worse than an F-16 bombing Baghdad and hitting Basra.

Yet even at the time, articles from Al Anbar itself (not Ricks’ roost in D.C.) contradicted the Post’s presentation.

...As to Ricks, he admitted to NPR “I haven’t actually read [the report],” rather “I’ve had many people describe it to me.” You’d hardly guess that from his articles though, such that supporters of the war effort were just as likely to claim the report was “leaked” to Ricks as were opponents.

Instead what we got was a report as seen through two filters: First, Ricks selected his interviewees who, since by definition they agreed to discuss a classified document, probably held a grudge against current military actions. The second filter was Ricks himself, hardly the epitome of even-handedness as author of the best-selling book about Iraq whose title says it all: Fiasco.

...Perhaps Ricks was trying to pull off an Iraq version of the media’s Tet Offensive offensive, a battle that crushed the Viet Cong and yet the media declared it a terrible U.S. defeat. Life imitated art as portrayal sucked the life out of our war effort. In any case, others in the mainstream media seemed to have that idea.

NPR relied on Ricks to pronounce “we’ve lost the fight” in Anbar. “The message is, stay the course,” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declared, “But in the huge Anbar Province, word from our military is that we’ve already lost there politically.” Jim Miklaszewski told NBC Nightly News viewers that "The top secret report . . . says there’s no chance the U.S. military can end insurgent violence in al Anbar” and “the U.S. is preparing to eventually concede a large piece of Iraq to the enemy . . . ” CNN’s Michael Ware used Ricks’ “revelations” to opine “we only have a third of the troops there that are needed to even begin to make a dent in al Qaeda.” (Incidentally, some pundits have said success in Anbar was a direct result of “The Surge.” In fact, “The Awakening,” in which fed-up local Iraqi tribes turned against AQI and other terrorist groups, began a year before “The Surge” did.) So much for needing three times the troops to “make a dent.”

This is shocking news to those of us who have followed Ricks' journalistic exploits with leg-tingling anticipation. Drifting leftward???? Who could have predicted such a stunning volte face?

But perhaps more importantly, what caused this titanic shift in polarity? To hear Mr. Ricks tell it, the answer is simple. During the Evil Bush Years, he lost faith in government due to its corrupt, inept, and bumbling ways. Natürlich, meine Damen und Herren, the only rational response to incompetent governance is - apparently - more government.

Surely things will be different, this time. Admit it, knuckle draggers. The logic is well nigh irrefutable.

Update: Oh for Pete's sake... (CWCID)

Unmarried conscripts don’t need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less.

... The pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap labor available to states and cities. Imagine how many local parks could be cleaned and how much could be saved if a few hundred New York City school custodians were 19, energetic and making $15,000 plus room and board, instead of 50, tired and making $106,329, the top base salary for the city’s public school custodians, before overtime.

Amazing how often the road to lefty Utopia involves government taking away other people's basic freedoms.

Posted by Cassandra at July 25, 2014 07:42 AM

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The surest sign that someone never served in the military, if I have just one question to ask (other than the obvious "were you in the military") is "do you favor conscription?" It's not 100% accurate, but it's pretty damned good. Those in favor of conscription tend never to have served.

Posted by: MikeD at July 25, 2014 08:39 AM

Ricks is drifting leftward?

Dude, if you're moving upwind, you're not drifting. Drifting is moving downwind, and that's rightward now.

Maybe he meant he'd lost his anchor and is adrift. That happened a long time ago, glad he noticed.

Posted by: htom at July 25, 2014 08:56 AM

Confirmational bias.

Ricks found some twig of information that confirmed what he wanted to believe.

I thought he was misinformed at the time. It turns out that it was simpler than that. He's a liar.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 25, 2014 11:41 AM

I don't know which exasperates me more: employers who fantasize about paying workers less by inducing them to work with a gun to their heads (metaphorically, of course!), or workers who fantasize about getting paid more by inducing employers to hire them with a gun to their heads.

Wouldn't it be nice if we let employers and workers seal the deal on an employment agreement only if both sides were happy with the price, and neither had to be forced to accept it?

Posted by: Texan99 at July 25, 2014 12:52 PM

I thought he was misinformed at the time.

I remember thinking, "What a jerk". If the situation in Anbar had really been what he claimed it was, how do you justify doing something that encourages the enemy? What kind of idiot is so arrogant that they truly believe a single report, disclosed in summary form and not transparently provided to people so they can judge for themselves, should form the basis for wartime decision making or public opinion?

These are the folks who didn't want the President - who had far more comprehensive information than they did - to make decisions unilaterally because in the pre-Obama Era, "unilateral action" fundamentally threatened democracy :p

Now of course, we like our President to act unilaterally even if it involves kill lists and drone attacks on American citizens.

Obama was right - he really *was* The Change We Sought - 180 degrees worth of change.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2014 03:33 PM