Today’s worst column

One candidate has got to be this piece in the Washington Post by Marc Kaufman. Kaufman contends that our position in Iraq is comparable to that of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He starts his piece with what the Post’s humorist Gene Wiengarten has called “the oldest journalistic trick in the book, the ironic time-frame switcheroo.” It goes downhill from there. At the end of the piece, Kaufman acknowledges that, yes, there are some differences in the two situations — the Afghan guerrilla fighters had the support of powerful nations; the Soviet Union was far weaker than the U.S. is now; the terrain in Afghanistan was favorable to the guerrillas. Kaufman overlooks another obvious distinction — the Soviets did not liberate Afghanistan from the likes of Saddam Hussein. One can, I think, dismiss Kaufman’s analogy without being all that sanguine about how things will turn out in Iraq.
Actually, what interested me most about this piece was Kaufman’s comparison between the situation in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan today. Kaufman views our presents efforts in Afghanistan as reasonably successful. This now seems to be the conventional wisdom. But before the war in Iraq, Bush administration critics and their newspaper cronies were routinely claiming that things were spinning out of control in Afghanistan. Why the reversal? Perhaps the situation in Afghanistan has improved. If so, this suggests that a bit more patience might be in order when it comes to Iraq. But, more likely, the situation is about the same as it was, and only the “spin” dynamics have changed. When Afghanistan is discussed these days, it is treated as an object lesson in the virtues of intenationalizing our occupation (Kaufman’s piece is a good example). We are told that things are going relatively well in Afghanistan primarily because our presence is seen as part of an international effort, and thus the population doesn’t resent us. Alternative explanations (Saddam Hussein was more entrenched than the Taliban; we haven’t had as much time in Iraq yet, etc.) are not considered. Nor is any effort made to reconcile the present rosy assessment of the situation in Afghanistan with the darker one of half a year ago.
The mainstream media has an agenda in its reporting of President Bush’s foreign policy, and that agenda isn’t fairness, balance, or accuracy.

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