Unless some means is found for delinking the process of fighting terrorism from the process of radicalizing Western Muslims, there is no particular gain from abandoning Iraq, unless one were prepared to abandon every other active battlefield. What is the sense of removing one load of grist if the mill keeps on running? Consequently the one thing the Press left out of discussing the NIE, which heavily emphasizes the role of perception, is the role of the Press itself. Iraq the battlefield -- with its success and failures -- is largely what the combatants have made it. Iraq the symbol is largely the manufacture of observers. Both are factors in the War on Terror.
In judging the effects of perception versus reality the key issue is which is controlling, perception or reality? Because if perceptions can be formed independent of reality, then it really doesn't matter what you do: the only thing that matters is what people present. In this specific case, Osama bin Laden explicitly accuses American-enforced UN sanctions in the nostalgic era of containment of killing 600,000 Iraqi children. Whatever one may think of Kofi Annan, the Oil for Food Program or the sagacity of President Bill Clinton, it is doubtful whether those sanctions caused the death of 600,000 children. Because if that were true, then obviously OIF, if it achieved nothing else, stopped a genocide of historic proportions. But despite the fact that nothing of those sort of deaths happened, reality didn't matter. (emphasis mine)
This all brought to mind something The Anchoress said the other day:
This is where things stand, September 2006, in the world of information dissemination. Blogs have made inroads, but not enough, and all of their fact-checking amounts (in the eyes of the MSM) to little more than soundwaves in the echo chamber. “One side” of the partisan chasm has the whole story and sits nearly impotent with it, while the other has the “preferred story,” accredited and promoted by the “mediating intelligences,” who still (and will for the foreseeable future) hold the largest sway over public opinion, by sheer dint of their control of public knowledge.
And if that doesn’t demonstrate, more than anything, that we are living in an age of diabolical disorientation, where up is down (the excellent economic news is bad) and right is wrong (men who served with John Kerry know nothing about him) and truths are lies, (US policy from 1998 on was regime change in Iraq, but only until we did it) I don’t know what can.
I feel no great thrill here to see Clinton in a purple rage, nor to see how brilliantly some parts of the blogosphere responded, because in the end our limited audience is still been trumped by the vast and attention-span-challenged audience of the MSM, who click on, absorb a thirty second “Clinton good, others bad” sound bite and click out, certain they’ve got the information they need. (emphasis mine)
In this postmodern world where perception trumps reality, the media have an important role to play, and they have been taking their job seriously. Their role is to make sure that reality does not factor into people's perception of that "higher truth" that they are attempting to get across.
Postmodern thought (discussed here , here and here. But the best source for understanding the full implications of postmodernism , and which I highly recommend is Stephen Hicks' book) has a built-in defense for the BS it continually promulgates, since, when it is convenient for its adherents to archly reply that truth or reality are "relative" and one person's "truth" is not better than anyone else's, they do so--except, of course, the "truth" that they are promoting is always considered pure and absolute.
Nowhere is this attitude more clearly highlighted than in journalism today, particularly in the war in Iraq (and now again in recent articles about Afghanistan) and in their reporting on the war on terror. The media--with their overtly biased article; their subtly slanted articles; their fauxtograhpy; their uncritical playback of all the enemy's talking points, while simultaneously angrily critiquing everything our own administration says--has become the primary source shaping people's perceptions around the world.
That the perceptions they are shaping have little to do with reality is a matter of complete indifference to them. Those of us who do care about the truth must recognize, as The Anchoress depressing points out, that for the time being, we seem to be relatively impotent as the MSM steamrolls over reality in order to accomplish the postmodern agenda.
And yet, as I have said many times before, while the feelings of one side or the other in this conflict may alter people's perceptions for a time, they cannot ultimately change the facts or truth; nor can they change reality itself.
Like the race of the tortoise and hare, reality will plod along, quietly undeterred and relentless; even as the hare-brained postmodernists attempt to distort it again and again for short-term manipulation of perception.
But they will never be able to make it go away; and in the end, reality and truth will quietly but assuredly make their presence known. Because reality and truth matter-- terribly.
UPDATE: Hamid Karzai weighs in on the issue.
UPDATE II: Memo to the NY TIMES: Conservatism is caused by fighting it.