The nation rejoiced as one of the last redoubts of resistance in the war fell. In a sudden and unexpected collapse, the New York Times finally conceded Saddam Hussein's regime had disintegrated, with none of the dire prewar predictions borne out.
While there is still some mopping-up action required, with occasional bursts of negative news coverage of power and water outages and exhortations of anti-Americanism by imported Iranian mullahs, and continuing complaints about the coalition's inability to prevent Iraqis from despoiling their own country and national treasures, the national coverage of the war has finally been reporting a successful battle plan in a relatively uniform manner.
After the fall of Baghdad with little resistance, and the shock and awe of the precision "bunkum-busting" weaponry from the blogosphere, the wind went out of the sails of the elite anti-Republican Guard at the Gray Lady and the Los Angeles Times, and other left-liberal screeds.
Morale had been low ever since the tragic battle in which reporters outnumbered the protestors at the Masters. Everyone lived in constant terror of the regime, with continual threats to have columns savagely spiked, or amputations of access, in the face of even the slightest deviation from the party line. At the end, there was little will to fight.
As a result, when the course of the war became clear, several reporters left their posts to join the opposition, and most of them simply dropped their keyboards without a word, often as a result of pre-arranged cell-phone communications with special-forces correspondents from the National Review, the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal.
Foreign correspondents, many of whom had rushed to the editorial aid of what they thought would be welcoming journalistic brethren across the water, were surprised to be attacked and denounced in many quarters of the American press (particularly the blogosphere) as people with no interest in the journalistic integrity of the American media, instead propping up dictatorial regimes in Atlanta and on West 43rd Street in New York. They were picked off, one by one, by blogger snipers, and few of them survived with credibility intact.
Despite the apparent war success, however, many remain concerned that the weapons of mass distraction haven't yet been found, despite the abundant evidence of them. There is also frustration among some that much of the leadership remains at large. Of course, no one sensible expresses such concerns.
The whereabouts of "Commandante Howell" do, of course, remain uncertain. Many still believe that he was taken out early in the war, with a devastatingly accurate and precise description of him (using foul French words — the only even-slightly effective weapons available from that nation) — as a poseur and journalistic dilettante, more concerned with the admission of women in a men-only golf club than any serious issues. There have been rumored sightings of him in Catskills retreats and upper-West-Side Semillon-and-brie receptions, but they are unsubstantiated, and he is known to have many doubles in his blinkered and antiquated "progressive" outlook.
Regardless of his disposition, the links between his former regime and the anti-war left haven't been conclusively proven, but now that many are defecting, there is little doubt that they will be found and verified beyond any doubt. With the recent capture of key henchmen R. W. Apple, P. Krugman, A. Clymer and M. Dowd, revelations should come quickly now.
But the importance of actually finding the supreme leader at this point is denigrated, given his diminished, even insubstantial power.
"We don't really care where he is," said a spokesman for the New York Sun. "His credibility, and that of his regime, is shattered, and the people are finally free to read and believe as they wish."
Happy Debris From the Dot-Com Bubble
Despite (or perhaps aided by) the Columbia catastrophe, 2003 is turning out to be a very interesting and encouraging year for those interested in our progress in opening up the space frontier.
All of the progress that I refer to is on the private space front, which is why the impact of Columbia is unclear. It could be that the public and investors are finally realizing that NASA is neither omniscient nor omnipotent on matters regarding space, and are now paying more attention to alternative voices, particularly when they have the track record of a Burt Rutan.
Throughout the '90s, everyone in the space entrepreneurial community looking for money had a great deal of difficulty raising it because, even if they had a good business plan, it couldn't compete with dot-coms that were promising almost-instant high returns, and they couldn't even get the attention of the investment community, which tends to run in fads, rather than on a rational basis. After the dot-com bubble burst, it wasn't possible to raise money because once-burned investors weren't investing in anything.
But now, slowly, they're starting to come back to the table. Moreover, some of the people who managed to make money, and keep it, from that era, are launching their own space ventures. John Carmack (search), writer of the Doom and Quake video games, is building his own X-Prize contender with his own money. Paypal founder Elon Musk (search) cashed out of his business, and is building cheap expendable rockets, with the ultimate goal of going to Mars. And last weekend, it was revealed that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has been secretly funding an effort to build a suborbital tourist vehicle for the past two years.
If any, or all of these ventures are successful, they'll prove that what NASA (search) has been telling us for all these years, that space is hard and expensive and only they can do it, is untrue. It may set off a wave of innovation from the private sector reminiscent of the aviation industry in the 1920s and 1930s. More importantly, if they're financially successful, it might set off a new round of investment frenzy in a truly 21st century industry. Let us wish them well, and gentlemen and gentlewomen, get your business plans ready.
Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his Web log, Transterrestrial Musings.