Talking About the Surge

TALKING ABOUT THE SURGE….Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to this exchange today on Reliable Sources:

HOWARD KURTZ: Pam Hess, has the sending of 20,000 additional troops gotten a fair hearing in the media or has it gotten caught up in this wrenching, emotional debate about whether the war itself was a mistake?

PAM HESS: I think it’s gotten caught up….What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question. If we lose, how are we going to mitigate the consequences of this?

It’s so much easier for us to cover this as a political horse race. It’s on the cover of “The New York Times” today, what this means for the ’08 election. But we’re not asking the central national security question, because it seems that if as a reporter you do ask the national security question, all of a sudden you’re carrying Bush’s water. There are national security questions at stake, and we’re ignoring them and the country is getting screwed.

I’m genuinely stumped here. I don’t know for sure what Chris Matthews and the rest of the bobbleheads have been saying, but the vast, vast majority of the coverage I’ve seen has been precisely the opposite of what Pam Hess says. Sure, there’s been some political analysis of the surge, but it’s been dwarfed by acres and acres of newsprint given over to substantive analysis of whether the surge can work, what the military justification is, whether the Maliki government will cooperate, and what the consequences are likely to be for the surrounding region. It’s true that there hasn’t been a lot of conversation about what we should do when the surge fails, but it’s laughable to suggest that this is because doing so would be seen as taking George Bush’s side. It’s mostly because people don’t want to be tarred as defeatists by people like Pam Hess and Glenn Reynolds.

That said, I agree completely with Hess about one thing: there are national security questions involved here, and I wish the national media would spend more time seriously talking about them. The big one is: once we leave Iraq — as we will — and decide that invading other countries is not generally the right way to fight jihadist terrorism, what strategy will take its place? Conservatives really, really don’t want to talk about what a non-war-based foreign policy would look like, and it seems to scare off all but the hardiest mainstream pundits too. It just seems so dovish, doesn’t it? But it’s time to start anyway.