WASHINGTON -- Have you noticed that during the past few days, Britney Spears has vanished completely from the news? For that matter, Paris Hilton has, too, and she has been absent for an even longer period than the intriguing Spears. Possibly their significance to our nation was not as great as the media space accorded them would suggest.
For that matter, perhaps the significance of our war in Iraq has been exaggerated, also. It, too, has vanished from the news. There was a wire story on Nov. 27 that the Bush administration is planning negotiations with the Iraqi government for withdrawing the bulk of U.S. forces by the end of 2008, but that story only made it into the indispensable New York Sun and The Kansas City Star. Otherwise the story appeared nowhere else, and on the next day, of the four newspapers I read matutinally in Washington, only The New York Times had any news at all about the Iraq war. That report said nothing about our impending withdrawal or even the success of our current "surge." Rather the Times reported one of our increasingly rare military blunders. Five civilians were shot accidentally by our military. It would have been a bigger story if the civilians had been shot by State Department contractors. That might have made the Times' front page.
For the most part, it appears the nation's highly trained editors have concluded that nothing particularly newsworthy is happening in Iraq, where we have about 164,000 troops imposing, with increasing success, some sort of law and order on a country where anarchistic fanatics still are free to blow themselves up in crowded markets or other public places. Thanks to the combination of our troops and U.S.-trained Iraqis, these suicidal lunatics are less active. Apparently there is no news in that turn of events.
Just a few months back, Iraq was aboil in "sectarian violence" and "civil war." Those were the terms used by Democratic critics of the war. According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the war was "lost." Consequently he insisted that we retire from Iraq, which would, incidentally, confirm his judgment that it was a lost war. I suppose back in 1942 there were Americans who insisted that the war was lost when the going was tough for American forces in North Africa. They, too, doubtless insisted that the president bring our troops home. History has not recorded the names of these defeatists and surely history soon will forget Reid's name.
It appears military force will prevail in Iraq. It remains for the politicians to return the country to some form of governance or to screw things up. Iraq could become a stable regime grateful to the United States for its liberty or it could become anti-Western. If it were to become pro-Western, you can be sure that our nation's highly trained editors would find no news there. If it became anti-Western, every complaint against Washington and every bloodcurdling threat uttered by a Baghdad potentate would be in the news. For some reason, our media are fascinated by stories that appear to harm American national interests.
Yet what do the media see in Britney and Paris? Why are they news? They rarely say anything threatening against the United States. Neither is a threat to American national interests. Admittedly their tawdriness and general stupidity does not speak very well for American popular culture. Perhaps that explains their fame. They put America in a bad light, and that makes them newsworthy. But how do we explain their sudden absence from the headlines? Like the Iraq war, they have vanished. Maybe they have become Republicans.