The Surge

As Petraues goes through his song and dance today– surprise, surprise, we need more time– there's just no denying that in the big picture, the surge is just not working.  Yesterday's McClatchy article calls reality like it is.  The lede says it all:

BAGHDAD ? When President Bush announced in January what the White
House called a ?New Way Forward? in Iraq, he said that Iraqi and
American troops would improve security while the Iraqi government
improved services. Responsibility for security in most of Iraq would be
turned over to Iraqi security forces by November.

With better security would come the breathing room needed for political reconciliation, Bush said.

less than a week to go before the White House delivers a
congressionally mandated report on that plan, none of this has happened.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, are scheduled to appear on
Monday before two House of Representatives committees to discuss
security and politics in Iraq. The White House assessment, which must
be delivered by Sept. 15, is expected to hail security gains and hold
out hope for improvement ? if U.S. troops are given more time.

interviews with Iraqis, statistics on violence gathered independently
by McClatchy Newspapers and a review of developments in the country
since the U.S. began increasing troop strength here last February
provide little reason for optimism.

This is exactly what newspapers are supposed to do– provide an honest, objective assessment of reality (which, in this case is very much at odds with all the surge happy talk from Petraeus and the administration).  Too often, our leading national dailies (yes, the New York Times, sadly), are little more than stenographers for the White House.  If you are just going to report what the administration says and then maybe throw in a quote from the Democrats, what value are you really providing?

As for the bizarre bit of political theater happening in DC as I type, what I love is that Glenn Greenwald got it all dead right back in the May:

The single greatest and most transparent delusion in our public
discourse right now — and that is a distinction for which there is
always an intense competition — is that Something Weighty and
Significant is Going to Happen In September with regard to the Iraq

September, you see, is the real turning point, the real Day of
Reckoning. Finally, our political elites are going to face the cold,
hard truth in an unvarnished and hard-nosed way about The Facts on the
Ground. That is the read deadline for George W. Bush. No more leniency
for him come September. Republicans, Democrats and their pundit and
opinion-making comrades alike have all banded together — strength in
numbers — and boldly decreed: “No More.” Either we have Real Progress
in September, or that is the end of the line…

But all that is going to happen In September is that we are going
to await with bated breath for General David Petraeus — he of
infallible wisdom, judgment and honesty, and unquestionable objectivity
— to descend upon Washington and reveal whether there is Real Progress
being made (by him) in Iraq. We are all going to leave partisanship and
politics to the side and turn to the source who resides above all of
that, the one who can be counted on to speak the Real Truth — General
David Petraeus.

And, needless to say, General Petraeus will, cautiously though
emphatically, declare that progress is being made, though there is much
work that remains to be done. And therefore we must redouble our
resolve and stay until The Job is Done.

Just six more months and we'll clearly be on the road to victory.  Right??

My brain is better than your brain

Well, that is one presumption I could make if you are politically conservative and reading this post (hello, Doug!).  The link to the nice LA Times story is here (and definitely worth a read), but Slate's William Saletan has a great executive summary:

A study says liberal brains “are more responsive to informational complexity.”
Test: You sit in front of a computer screen and wait for a letter to
appear on it. You're supposed to tap your keyboard if it's an M, but
not if it's a W. The experimenters mix it up but give you more M's than
W's to see whether you get lulled into tapping when you shouldn't. Results:
1) On M's, liberals and conservatives responded equally well. 2) On
W's, liberals were twice as likely to be among the more accurate
responders. 3) On electrical measurements of the brain area that
monitors conflict “between a habitual tendency ? and a more appropriate
response,” liberals were five times more likely to show brain activity.
Unofficial scientist/media spin: Liberals are smarter. Official scientist/media spin:
Liberals are smarter, except when circumstances call for a knee-jerk
ideologue. Knee-jerk liberal spin: We're smarter because we have more
agile brains. Thoughtful liberal spin: Then again, maybe we have more
agile brains because we're smarter. (Human Nature's view: Liberals are smart, except when their knees jerk.)

In defense of Conservatives, we get this quote:

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New
York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of
human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one
political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to
block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the
situation, he said.

Perhaps, true, but for now, I think I'll take comfort in my “more responsive to informational complexity” brain. 

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