Peters: Iraq Transition is Working

Ralph Peters offers easily the cheeriest analysis of the current situation in Iraq that I have encountered from a knowledgable observer:

THE reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.

Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?

Yesterday, I crisscrossed Baghdad, visiting communities on both banks of the Tigris and logging at least 25 miles on the streets. With the weekend curfew lifted, I saw traffic jams, booming business — and everyday life in abundance.

Yes, there were bombings yesterday. The terrorists won’t give up on their dream of sectional strife, and know they can count on allies in the media as long as they keep the images of carnage coming. They’ll keep on bombing. But Baghdad isn’t London during the Blitz, and certainly not New York on 9/11.

It’s more like a city suffering a minor, but deadly epidemic. As in an epidemic, no one knows who will be stricken. Rich or poor, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or foreigner. But life goes on. No one’s fleeing the Black Death — or the plague of terror.

And the people here have been impressed that their government reacted effectively to last week’s strife, that their soldiers and police brought order to the streets. The transition is working.

While his underlying observations are likely right — most Iraqis just want to go on with their lives and each attack just makes them hate the terrorists more — this conclusion does not necessarily follow.

Still, Austin Bay notes that he wrote something similar himself back in March 2005:

Collect relatively isolated events in a chronological list and presto: the impression of uninterrupted, widespread violence destroying Iraq. But that was a false impression. Every day, coalition forces were moving thousands of 18-wheelers from Kuwait and Turkey into Iraq, and if the “insurgents” were lucky they blew up one. However, flash the flames of that one rig on CNN and, “Oh my God, America can’t stop these guys,” is the impression left in Boise and Beijing.

It is certainly the case that isolated attacks by guerrillas and terrorists can give the impression of a situation much worse than it is. After all, no one claims that the Israeli experiment with democracy is failing when they have a run of suicide bombers.

Still, if the violence in the streets can discourage Bill Buckley and Bill Kristol from the safety of their living rooms, one imagines that it is much harder to keep the faith in the streets of Baghdad.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Terrorism, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Peters has hardly been unbiased in his writings of late. Face it, he’s an unabashed, unapologetic cheerleader for the war. I agree it isn’t as bad as the doom and gloom assessments I’ve seen elsewhere, but to pretend everything is just hunky dory is intellectually dishonest.

  2. Stevely says:

    A propos of intellectually dishonest… Peters isn’t “pretending everything is hunkey dory,” DC Loser. He acknowledges that there is terrorism, he simply refutes the claim that there is a civil war going on, and goes on to note that the press coverage of Iraq has been dishonest (fact).

  3. DC Loser says:

    Guess it’s all in how you define terrorism. When shadowy groups acting under the color of the current government which we are backing start killing political and religious opponents, is that terrorism or civil war?

  4. LJD says:

    How is it that you can have Terror attacks claimed by Al Qaeda, messages transmitted by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and some still downplay or outright ignore the existence of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    Then, you have a few isolated instances of corrupt military or police in Iraq, and you have a Civil War!

    Talk about picking and choosing your headlines!

  5. Andy Vance says:

    our fellow human beings won’t have to live with sewage in their streets and shanties

    Why does this sound vaguely familiar?

  6. akjklja says:

    Driving through Baghdad’s Kerada Peninsula District, my humvee passed long gas lines as people waited to fill their tanks in the wake of the curfew. I commented to the officer giving me a lift…

    You missed the above quote from Peters’ column. We need to ask what kind of reporting is this guy doing? He is never clear and honest about it, but from this tidbit, it seems as if his journey around the 25 miles of Baghdad was porbably: a) embedded with the US military and b) in Kerada–the most wealthy part of Baghdad.

    Since he fails to tell his readers the circumstances of his reporting, I would be a bit suspect at taking his analysis at face value. Reports from non-embedded journalists give you very different impressions.

  7. Jack Ehrlich says:

    DC Loser, good name, you picked up that line “depends on what is is” and ran with it. It did not work well for its originator and will not for you. Please explain why you laud negative news as truth in spite of the fact it is from a bias media yet when news suggest a sauces by our side, you cast aspersions on the character of the writer. It is a shame there are Americans who so hate the President that they say and do anything to disparage this man. It is little wonder you do not win elections.

  8. DC Loser says:

    What planet are you from, Jack? Where do you get this “lauding negative news?” And to throw in an ad hominum attack to top it off. Let’s just wait and see what happens in a week or a month before you stick your other foot in your mouth.

  9. DC Loser says:

    BTW, I knew Ralph Peters in his previous career. I have commented before about his transition to a talking head in other parts of this blog.

  10. DC Loser says:

    I’m really starting to think Jack and Herb are the same person.

  11. G A Phillips says:

    D.C., I’m starting to think ken and Alan Colmes are the same person, and if the media as a whole was worth two donkey turds they could find a 100 positive stories for every death or bombing they report on every 6-seconds, but as you see any one who even hints at something good happening over there is automatically attacked by 99.8% of the media and 100% of the liberals.

  12. G A Phillips says:

    …and no Ken that was not a complement.

  13. Christopher says:

    Of course the liberals hate FOX because they are fair and balanced. Liberals cannot compete with “fair and balanced” so they attack the entire network as biased. On the other hand, you have CBS who is counted as “unbiased” by liberals but has been 100% DISCREDITED over and over and over again. Dan Rather still defends his story! lol

    Now here is Ralph Peters reporting things as they really are (and how soldiers and coalition members actually THERE say it too), how everyday life in a country is contrary to what media outlets such as CBS report, and how do liberals such as DC Loser respond? They discredit the guy.

    You want the truth? Liberals can’t handle the truth! But if you really want the truth, get first hand accounts. That is what Peters has done and liberals STILL don’t want to hear it.

    Of course, the liberals want the terrorists to win (so democrats can win elections), and the USA (in an effort to get rid of Bush) to lose.

  14. anjin-san says:

    I suppose in LJD’s world, the people of Iraq should be thanking us for starting the war and opening the door for Al Queda to come to Iraq and kill them…

  15. LJD says:

    In MY WORLD (and every one else’s)

    Thanking us, yes, and they are.

    Starting the war? No. Saddam did that, as well as far more harm than we will ever do.

    Opening the door for Al Qaeda? Saddam again, and their enablers in the ME.

    Way to totally avoid any relevant points of debate, though. What’s plan ‘B’, name calling?

  16. DJ Elliott says:

    In the US we loose 45 per day to murder, that is our crime rate.

    Iraq has both an insurrection and terrorism.
    For it to be a civil war the incidents and death rate would have to be 30x what I am seeing reported.

    Also have you noticed that most of the incidents are targeted close enough to the PRESS bars to get their attention.

    This is the equivalent of what ’68 Tet was for the VC – desperation. After that one the VC was out of the fight and we faced NVA regulars.

    Unfortunately, we lost our nerve and that is what AQI and their allies are after.

  17. Andy Vance says:

    Take up the White Man’s burden,
    And reap his old reward–
    The blame of those ye better
    The hate of those ye guard–
    The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
    “Why brought ye us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?”

  18. Christopher says:

    Hey Andy: Huh??

    Oh and by the way, the intelligent thing is not to just quote other people’s work, but to give credit where credit is due: Rudyard Kipling, 1899

  19. Andy Vance says:

    Hey Andy: Huh??: Christopher, 2006

    Do you really want me to explain it?

  20. Christopher says:

    Andy, I’m positive that you’re not smart enough to.

  21. Andy Vance says:

    Ok, you explain it to me, then.

    Why are we so dad-blamed intent on extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brothers who Sit in Darkness?

  22. anjin-san says:

    Lets see LJD,

    You speak for the people of Iraq. If you say they are thanking us, they are. Oh yea, you also speak for “everyone else”. Interesting, have you always had this meglomania thing going?

    And of course Saddam opened the door for Al Queda. After all they are only Islamic fundamentalists who would have liked to seen Saddam removed from power and shot. Can’t think of any reason he would not have rolled out the red carpet. And I know you have documentation of Al Queda in Iraq before the war.

    And then there is your message of hope to the people of Iraq. “With us, you will be slaughtered a bit more slowly.” Can you feel the love?

  23. LJD says:

    I don’t speak for any one but myself. I live in the REAL WORLD, which is where I presumed every one else lived. Perhaps I give to much credit and don’t acknowledge the likes of you.

    Here’s a real mind-boggler for you: The problem in Iraq is due to extremists and terrorists. They are Middle Eastern, and have proven repeatedly that they are capable of blowing up other ME women and children. Following me so far? Where exactly does the ‘evil empire’ factor into this? This is THEIR problem. We are helping them deal with it.

    You make a lot of assumptions and generalizations. So far, you hve failed to refute the original post, or even manage to address it for that matter. What’s the matter, out of talking points? Never mind, I know you won’t directly answer, you haven’t got any.

  24. Andy Vance says:

    You speak big truths, Bwana.