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Well you are the one who brought up Randolph Hearst. You think that had nothing to do with the Spanish American War?

Not at all. The Hearst example is an illustration that the press will not always be on the same page as the government on foreign policy, and therefore any administration should plan for that.

The point I've been trying to make to you is one of causation: assuming as an hypothesis that the media has been inappropriately negative, has that actually affected the situation in Iraq? You haven't seen the same kinds of dynamic as with the Spanish-American War or the Vietnam war - even if the press is sending out a message, it has not (yet) affected the actual prosecution of foreign policy. Or at least, not to my eyes - I've been pressing you to explain how domestic news coverage has actually affected the Iraq war.

You've pointed out instances of wrongdoing, even malfeasance - but none of them are causally related to Iraq. Sandy Berger stuffing documents down his pants may be bad/morally culpable/treasonous - but any claim that a loss in Iraq is caused by that action would be very very tenuous.

I disagree that reporting that puts the administration in a bad light doesn't influence effect decisions. Rumsfeld has even come out and said, Americans need to decide right here and now if they have the resolve to see this thing through to the end. When you have a bunch of digruntled former old guard covering their own butts and undermining what is trying to be done, it effects the population's resolve. If your side has a legitimate STRONG argument and solutions they do not have to LIE.

The Administration is never going to be free from reporting that puts it in a bad light when there are setbacks on the ground. No administration would be. Whether Americans have the resolve to see this through "to the end" is not determined solely by media coverage - and I would submit to you that if the Sunnis and Shi'a withdraw from the political process and start engaging in direct civil war, no amount of positive news coverage over the last three years would be enough to keep Americans pushing resources and bodies into that conflict.

Although you're conflating media coverage with "sides" - presumably political opposition to the war - the fact remains that domestic public opinion has had, to date, only a very marginal effect on the prosecution of the war. Unlike Vietnam, the Administration has not had to materially change deployment of resources in response to domestic pressures (except perhaps to send some more body armor). The actual impact of the media coverage has been minimal compared to the societal revolt over Vietnam. At worst, you've got mild disgruntlement among part of the electorate - and that was going to happen when you enter Year Four of a conflict with the prospect of Civil War, positive media coverage or no.

What is your plan for Iraq? Is it perfect? Should it be allowed setbacks? Does it include the opinions of those in the oil for food scam and sold Iraq things it shouldn't have? We don't want to hurt their feelings afterall. Their feelings and bank accounts are much more important than a legitimate business that might build up the country to stand on its on two feet.

Plan for Iraq? Salongi, my opinion on Iraq is that whether we are going to win or lose (here, defined operationally as seeing the establishment of a stable democratic successor state to the Hussein regime) was largely determined even before the first shot was fired. The most important factor in whether civil war can be avoided had little to do with our actions, but whether the centuries of sectarian conflict and decades of repressive rule could be set aside by the various factions. U.S. media coverage has nothing to do with that.

Within the things that were within our control, most of the important decisions have already been made. We set out a specific path for the evolution of the post-Hussein society - CPA, transition of sovereignty to appointed Interim Government, interim election of National Assembly, Constitutional Referendum, permanent National Assembly. The idea was to draw the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'a into a political process. Whether that's successful has yet to be seen, but the die is largely cast.

If I had to identify something that could be done now, it would be simply to devote as many resources into getting a credible and effective Iraqi Security Force in place as quickly as possible. It would be helpful if we could disarm and disband the militias, but that probably would have had to be done two years ago - and would have probably required a larger force and a willingness to absorb larger casualties than we've ever had.

You see, salongi - I'm not arguing that I've got a better plan than the Administration does right now. I think the outcome of whether Iraq descends into civil war will be determined by decisions that have long since been made, not least the decision to go to war in the first place. But not by media coverage.

And that's why I think it's so unfortunate that you're seeing this meme pop up, because it all-but-ignores the role of all the folks who actually planned and participated in the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. They've made some very important decisions, and clearly the outcome of the Iraq conflict will depend on their decisions. If Iraq is lost, it will because it was really unwinnable from the start (a distinct possibility) or because the folks actually running the show made decisions that led to that outcome (although the decisions may have seemed like the right ones at the time). Claiming that it was the U.S. media that had a dispositive role in determining the outcome - to the exclusion of all those folks -strains any notion of causation, and I'd really need to see that explicated before I could accept that claim.

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