Sources of the Instapundit’s knowledge about Iraq — analysis or cartoons?

War bloggers are the foundation of one chain providing information and analysis of the Iraq War to American citizens. The previous posts in this series provided evidence indicating that their view often tends to be both skewed and inaccurate. This post looks at websites higher in this chain, again using the recent events in Basra as a test case to evaluate their accuracy.

For example, see The Instapundit— one of the most influential American bloggers — who has consistently focused on reporting of the war bloggers instead of actual experts on Middle Eastern affairs (e.g., note his many references to Michael Totten’s reports about Iraq during 2003 – 2005). This is, of course, and exception to the careful selection of sources that built his impressive reputation — seen, for example, in his linking on legal issues.

Today the Instapundit refers his readers to Austin Bay (Colonel, US Army Reserve, retired) for analysis of the Basra fighting. Here are links to his bio, published books and blog.

Whittling Away at Sadr“, Austin Bay (2 April 2008) – (here is the original source for his syndicated columns) Excerpt:

After his outlaw militiamen raised white flags and skedaddled from their latest round of combat with the Iraqi Army, radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared victory.

He always does. He understands media bravado. He wagers that survival bandaged by bombast and swathed in sensational headlines is a short-term triumph. Survive long enough, and Sadr bets he will prevail.

This time, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a contrarian press release, however, calling the Iraqi Army’s anti-militia operations in southern Iraq a “success.”

… Numbers, however, are a very limited gauge. The firefights, white flags, media debate and, for that matter, the Iraqi-led anti-militia offensive itself are the visible manifestations of a slow, opaque and occasionally violent political and psychological struggle that in the long term is likely democratic Iraq’s most decisive: the control, reduction and eventual elimination of Shia gangs and terrorists strongly influenced if not directly supported by Iran.

Other Shia militia and gangs confront Iraq, but Sadr is the most vexing case. His father, a leading Shia cleric, was murdered — many Iraqis believe at the order of Saddam Hussein. That makes his father a political and religious symbol.

… In southern Iraq and east Baghdad, Sadr once again lost street face. Despite the predictable media umbrage, this translates into political deterioration.

Think of the Iraqi anti-Sadr method as a form of suffocation, a political war waged with the blessing of Ayatollah Sistani that requires daily economic and political action, persistent police efforts and occasional military thrusts.

Austin Bay’s analysis broadly matches the reports of the Long War Journal {update} — but far more flamboyantly.  It largely contracts those of most area experts.  It reads more like a cartoon or propaganda tract than actual analysis.

In a few days or weeks we will see whose analysis proved more accurate. The two distinct and opposing views — experts vs. war bloggers (and their allies) make this a useful test case.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information about the War Bloggers and the Iraq War

  1. Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant (6 February 2008)
  2. The oddity of reports about the Iraq War (13 March 2008) — Some theories why after 5 years we still debate basic things about the Iraq War.
  3. War porn (25 March 2008) – Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the war-bloggers’ reporting in Iraq.
  4. More views of the events at Basra (2) — bloggers and war-bloggers (28 March 2008) – Contrast the war bloggers’ reports with those of some experts.
  5. A rebuttal to “War Porn” (it takes 2 sides to have a discussion)(29 March 2008) — Someone writes a defense of the war bloggers, and my reply.
  6. A look at the writings of “war blogger” Michael J. Totten (31 March 2008) – extracts of his posts from 2003 – 2005.
  7. An email discussion with Michael Totten (31 March 2008)
  8. Evidence of the war bloggers’ growing influence (2 April 2008)
  9. Basra, a test case: war blogger’s vs. experts (2 April 2008)
  10. Experts’ views about the recent fighting in Basra (2 April 2008)
  11. Some comments by Bill Roggio (3 April 2008)
  12. Archive of links to articles about the Iraq War — My articles, and links to several by Niall Ferguson.
  13. Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq

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