Friday, June 03, 2005

Progress in Iraq is Not Black and White

What is the state of Iraq? Have things improved even as the violence has continued? The New York Times has a fascinating chart detailing the changes in Iraq from oil production to the number of media outlets to people’s opinions about the nation’s future.

We wrote just yesterday that the media is overly focused on reporting the body count. But this chart shows the situation is much more complicated than how many have died and how intense the terrorist attacks have been. Through the eyes of the media, we back in America often see a bloodly war and little else. But there is also a nation rising amidst the violence.

Yes, more civilians are dying, but more Iraqis, even more Sunnis, think their nation is headed in the right direction. Electricity is still sporadic, but over 3 million Iraqis now have telephones and many now have Internet access. Media choices have also greatly expanded as numerous TV and radio stations combine with 170 newspapers to deliver news and opinion.

There are more judges, more Iraqi security forces and fewer top insurgent leaders at large. But insurgent/terrorist attacks are on the rise and more civilians, Iraqi security forces and American soldiers are being wounded or killed each month.

No honest assessment can say things are going very well. But no honest assessment can say things are going horribly wrong either. The situation is complicated. Those who seek to support the war unconditionally and those who seek to declare the war a total failure would both do well to recognize that their absolutist views do not stand up to scrutiny of the evidence.

Hopefully, the Iraqis and American troops can get the violence under control and the positive steps towards building a stable nation will continue to advance. And hopefully both the American media and the American people can begin to see the situation in Iraq in broader terms.


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