America has "lost" the war in Iraq primarily because most people believe it has. And most people believe it has because the news media have said so.
If this sounds bizarre, consider this: Why is it widely believed that Israel lost its 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon? The answer is essentially the same -- people believe it because the media said so. In fact, there is no rational case for arguing that Israel lost its war against Hezbollah.
I have believed that Israel won, or at least that Hezbollah lost, since the end of the war in 2006. I was convinced of this by Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star. In an interview on my radio talk show, he made the compelling case that Hezbollah had lost.
I was reminded of this by a recent Thomas Friedman column. Echoing the Beirut editor, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist delineated six reasons why Hezbollah lost that war. In Friedman's words, they are:
1. "Mr. Nasrallah (the head of Hezbollah) demonstrated a total failure to anticipate Israel's response to his raid ... Some 1,200 Lebanese died because of this gross error in judgment."
2. "(Hezbollah) did grievous harm to Lebanon's fragile democracy and democratization in the Arab world. All the fears that if you let an Islamist party into government it will not respect the rules of the game were fulfilled by Hezbollah."
3. "By launching all these rockets prematurely, without strategic purpose, Hezbollah has diminished its capability and Syria's and Iran's."
4. "(Hezbollah) has lost its military infrastructure, and can't attack Israel now without getting embroiled with France and Italy (which have peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon) -- a huge strategic loss for Hezbollah."
5. "Israel has embarked on a broad upgrade of its military (thanks to the lessons learned from its poor performance). In any future war Arab armies will meet a much better trained and equipped Israeli force."
6. "Israel's response to Hezbollah's attack has resulted in billions of dollars of damage to Lebanese homes, factories and roads, with Shiite areas the worst hit and with zero security benefit to Lebanon."
So why does just about everyone believe that Israel "lost" the war in Lebanon?
For two primary reasons: