Parting Thoughts on Idiotic War Coverage

A friend of mine, a comedian, e-mailed last week seeking the stupidest questions being asked by journalists of American military leaders. Two tower above the rest.

At the top of the "Moron List:" Are we getting bogged down? A variant of the question is: Wasn't this supposed to be over already?

This question is a mark not of wisdom or curiosity, but of boredom. The scribes are tired of getting cooped up in briefing rooms, so they act as if the military were on the verge of failure.

To recap the war so far: More troops have occupied more land more quickly than ever before in human history. We had dropped more bombs on more targets more precisely with fewer civilian casualties than ever before -- and have suffered fewer combat casualties than in any comparable engagement ever. This is not failure.

Idiocy No. 2: Did we underestimate Saddam, the Fedayeen, or any other animate object within the borders of Iraq? The proper question is: Did gullible reporters underestimate all of the above?

Saddam Hussein and his armies are fighting harder than ever before because they know death awaits them if and when they fail. That wasn't the case in the Gulf war, when they merely had to leave Kuwait.

Our planners probably did underestimate the understandable skepticism of Iraqi citizens, who rose up in revolt a dozen years ago, at our urging, only to have allies abandon them in their times of need.

Wars are incredibly complex things, and reporters probably have less actual military experience on average than, say, florists. This is why journalists ought to get out of the second-guessing business.

Ours is not to reason why, do or die, or vainly declaim our views of what generals ought to do. Our charge is simple: Just the facts. Once those become clear -- so do the conclusions about who was right, who was wrong, and what our mistakes and triumphs teach us.