There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Moment of Truth In Iraq on the bus

Reading free-lance journalist Michael Yon's slim volume "Moment of Truth in Iraq" after reading Ahmed Rashid's richly sourced "Descent into Chaos" underscores the difference between professional journalism and blogging as news.

Michael Yon is a former Green Beret who boasts of having spent more time embedded with troops in Iraq than any other journalist. He has certainly walked the walk in order to tell the story of Iraq from the perspective of the boots on the ground. But reporting by anecdote isn't necessarily the same as journalism.

I picked this book because I wanted to read something about the Iraq occupation after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations.

Yon is critical of the original mistake of not bringing enough troops to Iraq, and the resulting failure to stop the spiraling chaos that allowed the insurgency to take hold.

As a former special forces soldier, Yon was trained in counterinsurgency tactics. This clearly influences his outspoken cheerleading for the current efforts of Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Much of Yon's anecdotes tell the story of soldiers who must switch from war-fighting to nation-building and back, often in the same day. These are the efforts, Yon explains, that could have won the war in 2003, when Petraeus first demonstrated in Mosul how to wage counterinsurgency warfare.

Yon sees the U.S. soldiers today pulling Iraq back from the abyss as the next "Greatest Generation." Our soldiers have done a masterful job. They deserve all of the praise Yon lavishes on them. But this war cannot be compared with the war fought by the "Greatest Generation." Yes, we may yet pull a victory of sorts from the jaws of defeat we nearly suffered at the hands of a terrorist insurgency, but to what end? The only real winner here is Iran, and that doesn't help anyone.

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I wanted to include some quotes from the book, but I'm afraid I left it on the No. 82 bus in my confusion after losing my job. I was within a few pages of the end, and I was looking forward to writing a fuller review. I've checked RT's lost and found, but apparently someone else is now reading the book. It's worth reading. I've ordered a signed copy to replace the one I lost.

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