Two important documents about Iraq

1) From the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, the paper "Dereliction of Duty Redux?" by Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine officer and long-time military scholar, whom I know.

The paper's title refers, of course, to Col. H.R. McMaster's book from the 1990s Dereliction of Duty, which argued that the uniformed military leadership in the Vietnam era finally betrayed the military and the country by not more forcefully opposing policies in Vietnam it knew to be doomed. The book was extremely influential within today's officer corps -- and since McMaster himself, a youngish West Point grad when he wrote it, has been centrally involved in combat operations in Iraq (and now is part of Gen. David Petraeus's team), it has become a cliched joke that soon there will be "McMaster's McMaster" -- that is, some young officer who describes how even the person who saw what happened to the military in Vietnam was caught by a repetition of many of the same patterns.

Frank Hoffmann's essay goes into the similarities and differences in the military leadership's performance in Vietnam and Iraq -- and in particular the warring "narratives" inside the military about who will take the blame for what has gone wrong this time:

The nation’s leadership, civilian and military, need to come to grips with the emerging “stab in the back” thesis in the armed services and better define the social compact and code of conduct that governs the overall relationship between the masters of policy and the dedicated servants we ask to carry it out. Our collective failure to address the torn fabric and weave a stronger and more enduring relationship will only allow a sore to fester and ultimately undermine the nation’s security.

The essay is not not long and very much worth reading in its entirety.

2) A paper last week from the Pew Research Center* giving data to back up the general impression that Americans are thinking and talking less about the Iraq war than they did even a few months ago, and that the American media are paying less attention to the war. There's evidence in the paper for both sides of the chicken-and-egg question: less coverage because people don't care, or people don't care because of less coverage. Either way, here is the result:

Again the whole report is worth looking at.

* My wife works for the Pew Internet Project, which is part of Pew Research.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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