Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
The word is that George W. Bush is about to announce an escalation of our forces in Iraq by 20,000 soldiers. But the original Keane-Kagan-Kristol "surge" plan proposed last fall said that we needed not 20,000 but 50,000 additional combat troops were needed to break the vicious circle of insurgency in Iraq. 50,000 is a "surge." 20,000 is more like a "wave":
Kagan and Kristol: Time for a Heavier Footprint: [A]s long as the Sunni Arab insurgency continues... the Shiite community [will not] abandon the [militia and death squad] forces it sees as essential for its self-defense. And as long as the Shiite militias.. victimize Sunni Arabs... Sunni Arab insurgent leaders [will stay away from]... the negotiating table.... The question of troop levels in Iraq is fundamental.... [S]erious people... concede we need more troops.... [S]urging 50,000... will strain a strained military further. But... we can do it--if we think success in Iraq is a national priority...
Keane, Kagan, and Kristol appear to have scrubbed the American Enterprise Institute website of their original 50,000 number.
Nevertheless, I am astonished that I cannot find a single mainstream news reporter who finds the cutback of the proposed "surge" from 50,000 to 20,000 worth mentioning, even in passing, except for Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times:
Kagan and Keane argued on December 27 that: "It is difficult to imagine a responsible plan for getting the violence in and around Baghdad under control that could succeed with fewer than 30,000 combat troops beyond the forces already in Iraq." But British diplomats reckon that Bush is going to announce a surge of just 20,000 extra troops. And - as I pointed out in my column last week - in November Fred Kagan was arguing that at least 50,000 extra troops would be needed to improve the security situation in Baghdad alone...
For example, searching the Washington Post for "surge AND Iraq AND 50,000" produces nothing relevant since a December 19, 2006 article by Robin Wright and Peter Baker, and a December 19, 2006 op-ed column from Eugene Robinson.
Since then, Robin Wright and Peter Baker have forgotten--or remembered but tried hard to make their readers forget--the size the "surge" was originally supposed to be. And others like Michael Abramowitz, Sally Quinn, Richard Cohen, Howard Kurtz, Jonathan Weisman, Bill Brubaker, Joel Achenbach, Joshua Partlow, Shailagh Murray, Al Kamen, Ann Scott Tyson, George F. Will, Jim Hoagland, Rick Atkinson, Dana Priest, David Ignatius, Robert D. Novak, and a host of wire service reporters have all managed to write about the forthcoming surge of troops into Iraq without finding space to mention that the original "surge" of 50,000 has been cut back to a much smaller "wave" of 20,000. Now I wouldn't have expected everyone writing over the past nine days to notice the cutback from surge to wave. But somebody should have. That's 0-for-19 of those drawing paychecks from the Washington Post.
The New York Times does no better: searching for "surge and Iraq" produces 21 hits since January 1 (some spurious), none of which mention the original 50,000 size of the surge. The last mention of the 50,000 number appears to be by David Sanger and Michael Gordon on December 16.
My recommendation? If you aren't now taking the Financial Times (and surfing to its excellent website) and are taking the Washington Post or the New York Times, stop doing so: redirect your newspaper dollars to an organization that is actually doing its job--like the FT--and away from those that are not.
And continue to get your news and analysis from reputable weblogs that regard informing and educating their readers as job #1.