Information Age media -- swamped with ideological and political Sturm und Drang -- are a key battlefield in this war.
In America's open society, people constantly take public counsel of the fears. Sowing doubt about current leadership is a fundamental opposition tactic in every democratic election.
Thus America's "narrative of doubt" tends to dominate the global media -- with a corrosive effect on America's ability to wage ideological and political war.
Though war's doubt and uncertainty affect all sides, dictators and terrorists can control their "message." As a result, there is no balance to media portrayal of American doubt.
The American "narrative of doubt" plays into the business model of sensationalist media, which rely on hyperbolic and emotional display to attract an audience. (CNN's Anderson Cooper, with his "show rage" coverage of Hurricane Katrina, is an example.)
Which is why the rare glimpse, like Atiyah's letter to Zarqawi, is truly big news.
Bay's analysis is important because if one follows the MSM one could easily lose track of the bigger picture. That bigger picture has been pretty much obscured since 9/11 by our own media, whose ideological agenda ever more desperately attempts to control the narrative about Iraq and the war on terror.
Personally I fail to see why a book like Bob Woodward's, which was specifically written and whose release was deliberately timed precisely to maintain control of this "narrative" at a critical time in American politics, should trump either reality or reason when it comes to assessing the status of the overall war on terror or the battlefield of Iraq in that war.
Ruben Nararrette in this op-ed piece points out the mistakes a secretive Bush Administration has made, as well as the opportunism of the Democrats who care little about winning either in Iraq or the GWOT,and appear to only be concerned about winning elections (read the whole thing):
The NIE report seems to confirm that Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists from around the world who are flocking there to lock horns with U.S. troops.
But what do we do now? It's the responsibility of those troops to eliminate the terrorists, and, if many of those terrorists are gathered in one spot, then so much the better. Regardless of how we arrived at this point, or the politics involved, this may yet prove to be an effective military strategy for defeating the insurgency -- provided, of course, we have adequate troop strength.
Yet it's not clear that Democrats care about weakening the insurgency in Iraq. They seem more interested in using the war to weaken Bush and the Republican Party here at home.
Bush was right to remind the opposition last week that they can't have it both ways. They constantly insist that the Iraq War is a distraction from the war on terror. And yet, the minute it serves their purposes, they seize upon intelligence information that says the war has been a boost to terrorism. Which is it?
I can't decide which is worse -- that Bush made his own reality in Iraq, or that Democrats are ignoring reality altogether.
Undoubtedly there is psychological denial in the Bush Administration. It does not take a Bob Woodward to tell us this. Within the Administration people (gasp) actually disagree on the best way to do things in this war. How unusual! How unbelievable! Or, as Woodward would have us believe, how sinister! We are, after all, dealing with human beings and human beings are flawed.
What matters more than the fact that mistakes are being made is that efforts are ongoing to correct identified errors and stay on a path toward victory. The best evidence we have that we are on the correct track are the words of the enemy themselves--not the propaganda videos of Zawahiri, timed like Woodward's propaganda to have an effect on the opposition--but the memos they write to each other that reveal for all to see the enemy's own "narrative of doubt" and weaknesses.
The situation in Iraq is far from optimal. Obviously the fact that innocent Iraqis are dying daily in the brutal violence there is not a good thing and the blood and chaos we are witnessing should prod us to refine and continue to improve our plan for victory. We must pay attention to the reality of that chaos, just as we must factor in the reality of the enemy's propaganda narrative versus it's real narrative.
Navarette can't decide which type of denial is worse in the quote cited above. Hands down, I would have to reply that ignoring reality altogether is the greater problem here. Which side is denying that we are even in a war and continually downplays terror as a threat; which side has taken the ridiculous position of pretending that if we hadn't gone to Iraq the terrorists would not have attacked us on 9/11?
I'm sorry, but the fact is that the Bush Administration has acknowledged an extreely unpleasant reality and taken steps to address it, and it is even possible to disagree with the implementation of their strategy. But it is the Democrats and the left who have a lock on psychological denial, and are glancing in the rear view mirror at reality, even as they hustle away from it as quickly as possible.
What we have are dueling narratives. What we need is a healthy appreciation of reality; and a willingness to face it and act accordingly. Austin Bay reminds us that "five years of continual defeat (and that is what the record is) have shaken the 9-11 certitude of al-Qaida's senior fanatics". It is really too bad that those five years of success on our part have not also shaken the Bush-hating, perpetual doom and gloom of senior Democratic Party fanatics.
Instead of convincing them that they should be working together with the administration--and not implaccably against it--to enable a final victory in Iraq and ultimately the war on terror for the sake of the American people, it has only made them more determined than ever to lose and abandon Iraq; and to even deny the existence of a war on Islamic totalitarianism (not a legal battle), all so that they may defeat what they incorrectly perceive as the "real" enemy--George Bush.
But then, rhetoric has always trumped reality for the Democrats. And that is a true state of denial.
UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson takes on the "narratives" of the Iraq war that are currently being presented as some sort of historical fact:
But when you write history, and especially history of a contentious nature about Iraq, in which so much is at stake, it is incumbent to identify primary sources. The last three books about the supposed mess in Iraq—Cobra II, Fiasco, and now State of Denial—violate every canon of intellectual courtesy. Check who said what in Cobra II and you find the following: “Interview, former senior military officer”, “Interview, former senior officer”, “Interview, former Centcom planner,” Interview, Pentagon Officials,” “Interview, U.S. State Department Official,” or “notes of a participant.”
When the readers encounter the most controversial and damning of verbatim quotes in Fiasco, they are presented with “said a Bush administration official” or “recalled one officer.” Woodward is ever more derelict, in imagining not just the conversations, but even the thoughts of characters. And lest one think I am unduly critical in questioning the veracity of these unnamed sources—whose authenticity can never be checked by anyone other than the journalists who now write out popular histories—examine the recent record of journalists at the New York Times and Washington Post, and more recent stories such as the Koran flushing at Guantanamo or the photshopped pictures from Lebanon.
He then goes on to observe:
Finally, note the silence from the numerous critics of the “Path to 9/11” who objected to the film’s adaptation of the 9/11 report. But that docu-drama clearly identified itself as a fictionalized rendition of a document, and made no claims as history. In contrast, this new genre of journalistic exposé purports to give us the real story of Iraq, but denies us the very tools of determining whether what we are reading is true, half-true, or simply made up.
Please read it all.