... it’s a little surprising that Simon went for this material at all. If you watched TV during the first two weeks of the war, you’ll remember that it was covered exhaustively and enthusiastically, as if it were a hot, sandy pep rally. Troop movements, weather conditions, equipment, terminology, and geography—reporters practically got drunk on it all, egged on, presumably, by the networks, some of which sported American-flag graphics during their war coverage. However you judge the response of American news organizations during the early days of the war, they certainly made those days vivid to viewers, and they helped us understand the terrible significance of the resistance the Marines faced in southern Iraq as they made their way from Kuwait to Baghdad. Wright’s pieces, coming out so soon after the invasion, brought the same kind of reality home—even more so, since he had greater control over his narrative than the TV reporters did: they were literally blown about by the wind while they were on camera and sometimes were made almost invisible by all-encompassing sandstorms. But that unforgettable time was more than five years ago, and I don’t see anything to be gained by retracing the path from Kuwait to Baghdad. Tell us, as they say, something we don’t know.
Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.