Iraq: Confronting the Three Year Rule


November 4, 2005: The fighting in Iraq is changing, as the Sunni Arab homeland (central and western Iraq) are more aggressively patrolled by American and Iraqi forces. This has put more small U.S. bases in Sunni Arab neighborhoods, and made it more dangerous for the 75,000 civilian contractors working for the American military. These civilians drive trucks, cook food, clean and repair for the troops. Just about everywhere American troops are, these civilians are there as well. While the civilians don't fight (except, in self defense, some of those hired as security guards), they do get shot at. The civilians currently have a five percent chance (per year) of getting killed or wounded. That's about the same rateas the troops, who are taking more casualties this year as they attack into the Sunni Arab areas, and shut down the previously "safe zones" where terrorists could recruit, train and build bombs. Contractor civilians, however, suffer half the death rate of the troops.

These military developments are generally not reported in the media. In fact, very little militarily important news gets reported. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the military prefers discussions of their strategy and tactics stay out of the news (where the enemy can see it.) The enemy in Iraq often makes mistakes, employing ineffective tactics and the like. Because the communications between the various anti-government groups in Iraq is improvised, it takes a while for everyone to find out that some great new roadside bomb design, or other combat tactic no longer works. The reason is usually that the American and Iraqi troops have come up with a new gadget or tactic. The American and Iraqi troops have excellent communications, and can distribute information much more rapidly and completely than the terrorist and anti-government groups can. The good guys want to work their advantage as long as possible.

Another reason for not reporting military news is that it is often complex news, and it is often positive (for the Americans and Iraqis) news. These are two no-nos in the news business. Keep it simple, keep it negative, and you will grab the most eyeballs. The news business is a business, and what's best for business is bad news, the more negative, simple and sensational the better. That's why spectacular disasters always make the news. On a slow news day, you can keep people interested by reporting automobile accidents. There are many of them, most people can relate to such incidents, and some of them, each day, are spectacular.

There's another factor; the Three Year Rule. In all of America's wars, popular support for the war effort sharply declined after three years. Even though the government said, from late September, 2001 on, that the war on terror would be a long one, this has not changed the impact of the Three Year War. If you can't get it over with within three years, you are going to face more and more voter opposition to the war effort. Go back and look at the history of all of America's long (over three years) wars and you will see this play out. It's happening in the war on terror, and the various theaters of conflict (notably Afghanistan and Iraq.)


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