Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Iraq "war:" What's the point?
Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for American servicemen, has completed the most extensive survey yet conducted of American troops stationed in Iraq. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration's glurgy picture of troops' morale is not entirely accurate. In fact, it could be fairly described as wholly lacking basis in fact. About one-half of respondents described their morale as low. Approximately one-third characterized their mission as having "little value" or "no value at all," and about the same number reported that they believed their mission(s) in Iraq were "not clearly defined" or "not at all defined." Furthermore, over 40% reported that they have no training for their present duties. Pain perdue, anyone?
True, the survey had serious methodoligical flaws. David Mazzarella, the newspaper's editorial director in Washington said, "We conducted a 'convenience survey,' meaning we gave it to those who happened to be available at the time rather than to a randomly selected cross section, so the results cannot necessarily be projected as representing the whole population." However, the results support what many already suspected. David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park, told the Washington Post that the new data bolster the conclusions he has drawn from other research. "I am getting a sense that there is a high and increasing level of demoralization and a growing sense of being in something they don't understand and aren't sure the American people understand," he said.
How will President Bush respond? His people will eviscerate the survey's methodology, as well they should. Big Media has already picked up this story, but the articles fail to mention the methodoligical flaws until 15-20 paragraphs in — long after the average reader has stopped reading. The White House will not, however, address the (admittedly limited) substance of the survey's findings. After France, German, and Russia abandoned demands for a greater U.N. role in the reconstruction of Iraq, President Bush's ego may be just large enough that he believes that painting a rosy picture enough times can make it smell like roses.