Here is a pretty good example of the stark differences in how the Iraq war is covered between most mainstream media outlets and what I would consider more sophisticated internet sources. Wretchard, quoting Austin Bay, describes a failing and increasingly desperate insurgency, adopting tactics which can only hasten its demise:
Austin Bay describes an unusual and tactically nonsensical attack on Abu Ghraib. He believes the insurgents are “desperate for headlines … With support dwindling day by day, the Sunni thugs are once more seeking ‘freedom fighter’ media status by ‘playing the Abu Ghraib’ card”.
Wretchard also quotes James Robbins:
James Robbins wrote in CBS News that the recent tactical developments reveal a kind of desperation in the insurgent’s ranks.
Last Saturday’s attack on Abu Ghraib in particular is a case study in how not to conduct guerilla warfare. Al Qaeda assaulted the prison complex from several directions with rockets, mortars, car bombs and small arms. The battle raged for two hours. No Americans were killed; 16 were slightly wounded, seven others hurt more seriously. Between 40 and 60 terrorists took part, and they admitted to ten killed, a KIA rate of 17-25 percent. The overall enemy casualty rate including wounded was probably over 50 percent.
And Bill Roggio:
If al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorists want to engage in large scale assaults on US and Iraqi forces, this is their choice. But it will be a bad one. Every large scale engagement against American forces has been a miserable failure for the terrorists, as they cannot match the firepower or flexibility of American forces.
All of which seems plainly right to me. It can’t possibly be a good idea for the terrorists to try to engage openly with American troops, and their efforts to do so can only be the result of desperation. Doesn’t it seem likely that the terrorists chose to attack Abu Ghraib because it was the scene of their greatest (propaganda) victory? Propaganda victories are the only ones the terrorists can hope for now.
Contrast that blogosphere coverage with this mainstream story in the Christian Science Monitor:
After the lowest monthly US casualties in a year, insurgents have come back this week with widespread strikes, killing several Americans and pulling off a sophisticated attack on Abu Ghraib that showed an evolution in planning and tactics.
[T]his week, four soldiers and a marine were killed – and Saturday’s well-organized attack on Abu Ghraib prison, in which 40 US troops and 12 prisoners were injured, suggests that fighters may be shifting to fewer but better executed operations, including ones that directly engage US forces.
The attack on Abu Graib was “well-organized” and “better executed”? It was a disaster for the terrorists. But note how the CSM spins the casualty numbers: while Robbins notes that no Americans were killed and only seven injured more than slightly, while the attackers suffered ten dead (by their own admission) and a casualty rate in excess of 50%, the CSM never mentions the dead or wounded terrorists, and refers to 12 injured prisoners, as though the purpose of the terrorists’ raid had been to shoot the prisoners, rather than liberate them.
The CSM continues:
[T]he insurgency’s trends indicate that even at an average pace, the tough guerrilla warfare seen today is likely to continue for many years.
Overall, analysts point to what seems like a classic insurgency, one that is expected to increase in sophistication by learning from past mistakes and less capable fighters are killed off[sic].
Give me a break! The insurgency is growing stronger because its “less capable fighters” are being killed off? Even Zarqawi has admitted that there is a dismaying shortage of jihadists. He takes, apparently, a more realistic view of the conflict than America’s mainstream media.
I’m no expert, but it seems clear to me that people who get their news from the blogosphere are getting a much more balanced and sophisticated picture of the war’s progress than those who rely on the mainstream press.