I ran across a commentary of Sowell's from last December titled "The Media's War" that epitomizes his techniques. The title of the article itself sends the subliminal message that the media, not the administration or the military, were responsible for launching the invasion of Iraq and its subsequent mishandling. The first two paragraphs expand on this this theme.
The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses.
Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy's declining strength.
As we mentioned at the top, Sowell knows a thing or two about "formulas," and accusing his opposition of having a formula is a key component of his. He states that enemy losses are not "news" when in fact they are reported regularly, and as the events of the last two years in Iraq plainly illustrate, the enemy's strength has done anything but "decline."
Sowell moves on to the reporting of casualties.
Has anyone ever believed that any war could be fought without deaths on both sides? Every death is a tragedy to the individual killed and to his loved ones. But is there anything about American casualty rates in Iraq that makes them more severe than casualty rates in any other war we have fought?
… The Marines lost more than 5,000 men taking one island in the Pacific during a three-month period in World War II. In the Civil War, the Confederates lost 5,000 men in one battle in one day…
…The two-thousandth death [in Iraq] was similarly anticipated almost impatiently in the media and then made another big splash. But does media hype make 2,000 wartime fatalities in more than two years unusual?
No, Tom, no one ever believed any war could be fought without deaths on both sides. That's why we shouldn't engage in war without sufficient reason and necessity. Without reason and necessity for a war, the deaths it causes are neither necessary nor reasonable. And high casualty numbers in previous wars don't make lower casualty numbers in a later war "okay." Especially when that war was initiated on fuzzy pretexts.
But to hear Sowell tell it, real men who fight real wars take real casualties. URRAH! What's with all this sissified hand wringing over 2,000 measly war deaths?
On the objectives of the Iraq War, Sowell writes:
Neither our troops nor the terrorists are in Iraq just to be killed. Both have objectives. But any objectives we achieve get short shrift in the mainstream media, if they are mentioned at all.
Maybe the mainstream media doesn't mention our objectives in Iraq because the political and military leaders running it have never plainly stated what they actually are. What are the media supposed to do? Make up war aims? If the media tells the truth, that we invaded Iraq in order to protect "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil," and that, as the Project for the New America Century stated in September of 2000, "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the regime of Saddam Hussein," Sowell would simply turn around and do what he's doing now. Blame the media for making the war "unwinnable and unbearable."
Sowell has an interesting take on attrition in warfare.
Our troops can kill ten times as many of the enemy as they kill and it just isn't news worth featuring, if it is mentioned at all, in much of the media. No matter how many towns are wrested from the control of the terrorists by American or Iraqi troops, it just isn't front-page news like the casualty reports or even the doom-saying of some politicians.
This news is featured in the media. What Sowell doesn't mention is that it is marginally relevant. Killing ten of the enemy for every one of your losses is a counterproductive measure of effectiveness when the very act of killing terrorists aids the enemy in recruiting more of them. Wresting a town from the terrorists doesn't do a rat's whisker worth of good when we leave and turn it back over to them. But according to Sowell, recognizing these things isn't facing reality, it's "doom-saying."
And here's Sowell's take on the false Iraq/World War II analogy:
Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.
Even after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities.
But nobody suggested that we abandon the country. Nobody was foolish enough to think that you could say in advance when you would pull out or that you should encourage your enemies by announcing a timetable.
It takes an utter ignorance of history not to know that Sowell is utterly rewriting it. In World War II, unlike Iraq, the U.S. and its allies actually had a comprehensive post-hostilities plan. Post war Nazi resistance was nowhere near the magnitude of the insurgency and civil strife we have seen in Iraq, and the reason nobody suggested we abandon Germany was the Soviet Union.
Sowell has a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, and is a senior fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University. You'd think someone of his academic credentials would have outgrown name calling by now, but no. He likes some derisive labels so much that he uses them more than once.
Doom-saying politicians. Doom sayers. Doom-saying politicians. Foolish. Irresponsible politicians and the media.
The irresponsible politicians Sowell refers to are the ones who want a timetable for pulling out of Iraq, not the irresponsible politicians who got us there in the first place. And the irresponsible media, well, they're the media who don't support the irresponsible war with cheap propaganda tricks the way the media Sowell works for do.
You know what I say to that, Tom? Same to you, only more of it!