Sunday, December 18, 2005

Karl Zinsmeister --- Dawn over Baghdad

What I basically saw was that the massive middle in Iraq - in other words, the Shiite majority - is much more moderate than anyone was giving them credit for. Many times when there a dreadful impasse, a sticking point or a scandal that would break, there would be predictions that the Shiites were going to desert us or go on a rampage and that we were going to have a true popular revolt on our hands. Every time this was predicted it failed to happen.

The most recent example is Muqtada Sadr. Sadr is a splinter figure with real followers - several thousand of them - but he is by no means a popular figure in Iraq. He’s kind of an Al Sharpton-type figure in Iraq, in the sense that he is real and does need to be listened to and taken seriously. But is he anybody who could become a leader of all of Iraq or all of the US? Of course not.

I don’t mean to make a comparison that is too direct, because obviously Sadr is a violent figure and Sharpton is not. But I’m just trying to give an analogy that Sadr is not someone who could ever become a real broadly accepted leader in Iraq, and a lot of the press reports gave the impression that he could and that he was really leading the masses against us. That’s not the case.

(How many times have we heard that?)

The actual story is very much more different than that. Two things have gone into those continuing blackouts. The first is that when Saddam was in power, he blatantly hogged all the electricity for his capital city. 57% of the electricity generated in Iraq used to go to Baghdad. When the Coalition came in they said, "that’s not fair. All Iraqis deserve to have access to power, they deserve to share the use that’s available in the country equally." So they redistributed it on a fair, per-capita basis.

As a result, Baghdad only gets 28% of the electricity right now.That means a lot of previously privileged neighborhoods in Baghdad are now in a less privileged position. You could present that as bad news, and be in a factual sense accurate, but you’re ignoring the fact that millions of other Iraqis in other parts of Iraq are in a much better position than they’ve ever been. So it’s not like the media story is wrong, it’s just incomplete and misleading in its totality. [That one sounds familiar too, somehow....--ed.]

The other aspect of the electricity story that’s interesting is the generation has actually has been increased and now exceeds what it was when the war started. So you say, "well why isn’t there enough?" The reason there isn’t enough electricity is because there’s a consumer boom going on in Iraq! There is an explosion of cell phones and washing machines and televisions. Something like a third of the country now has satellite TV, which is higher than in America.

There are all kinds of electronics being imported and bought by Iraqis who are beginning to have some kind of economic success. That is a very good thing. However, one of its side effects is that you have a sharply growing demand for electricity, which means that even with supply up, there is not enough to meet a growing demand.

Again, I will grant you there is a downside to this consumer explosion, but is it really sensible and accurate to talk about the downside without mentioning the very positive elements that are involved in creating that downside? I don’t think so. I blame the media for that, I don’t blame the Bush administration. That’s just crappy reporting. I don’t think there’s anything to be said about it other than that it’s something the media ought to be ashamed of.

Read it all. Now. We'll wait.

RealClear Politics - Commentary


ex-democrat said...

somewhat OT, but here's an interesting site for those concerned about the media and its reform.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

I'm afraid I don't understand. Somebody remind me. What's the downside to the consumer boom again?

Syl said...

On another blog one of the usual suspects asserted Iraqi's don't even dare leave their homes.

I figure the drivers in the daily traffic jams, the patrons at all those full cafes, the shoppers at all those stores have to be Iranians then. :)