Commentary Magazine


Topic: Karen DeYoung

Obama’s War

Ever since President Obama came to office, conservatives have been expressing concern about his level of commitment to the war in Afghanistan. The deadline he announced last fall to begin a troop drawdown in the summer of 2011 only added to doubts about his staying power. But at every decision point, he has consistently opted to double down in Afghanistan rather than pull out, as many of his supporters urge.

Now, courtesy of the Washington Post, comes further confirmation, if any were needed, that no bug-out is imminent. “Despite discouraging news from Afghanistan and growing doubts in Congress and among the American public,” writes reporter Karen DeYoung, “the Obama administration has concluded that its war strategy is sound and that a December review, once seen as a pivotal moment, is unlikely to yield any major changes.”

This comes after a New York Times report on the extent to which Obama, once skeptical of General David Petraeus, has come to rely on him. My former boss, Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted as saying: “They are joined at the hip, but the leverage lies with Petraeus. And Petraeus has made plain, publicly, that after July 2011, he doesn’t think there should be a rapid pullout.” I think that’s right, and what it means is that Petraeus will have the time necessary to try to turn around a very difficult situation.

Whether he has enough troops, notwithstanding the recent surge, remains an open question. In the new Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt makes a strong case, based on traditional counterinsurgency metrics, for sending three more brigades. “Adding three Army combat brigades, some 10,000 troops,” he writes, “would give commanders more flexibility to act with the kind of resoluteness that marked the surge in Iraq in 2007 and that allowed it to succeed.” Petraeus himself has made no such request (as far as I know), and it is far from clear if Obama would grant such a request. But it is hardly outside the realm of possibility. Increasingly, this is being seen as “Obama’s War,” and that means that Obama had better win it — or suffer the consequences.

Ever since President Obama came to office, conservatives have been expressing concern about his level of commitment to the war in Afghanistan. The deadline he announced last fall to begin a troop drawdown in the summer of 2011 only added to doubts about his staying power. But at every decision point, he has consistently opted to double down in Afghanistan rather than pull out, as many of his supporters urge.

Now, courtesy of the Washington Post, comes further confirmation, if any were needed, that no bug-out is imminent. “Despite discouraging news from Afghanistan and growing doubts in Congress and among the American public,” writes reporter Karen DeYoung, “the Obama administration has concluded that its war strategy is sound and that a December review, once seen as a pivotal moment, is unlikely to yield any major changes.”

This comes after a New York Times report on the extent to which Obama, once skeptical of General David Petraeus, has come to rely on him. My former boss, Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted as saying: “They are joined at the hip, but the leverage lies with Petraeus. And Petraeus has made plain, publicly, that after July 2011, he doesn’t think there should be a rapid pullout.” I think that’s right, and what it means is that Petraeus will have the time necessary to try to turn around a very difficult situation.

Whether he has enough troops, notwithstanding the recent surge, remains an open question. In the new Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt makes a strong case, based on traditional counterinsurgency metrics, for sending three more brigades. “Adding three Army combat brigades, some 10,000 troops,” he writes, “would give commanders more flexibility to act with the kind of resoluteness that marked the surge in Iraq in 2007 and that allowed it to succeed.” Petraeus himself has made no such request (as far as I know), and it is far from clear if Obama would grant such a request. But it is hardly outside the realm of possibility. Increasingly, this is being seen as “Obama’s War,” and that means that Obama had better win it — or suffer the consequences.

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Good News From Sadr City

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

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Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

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The Right Man, The Right Post

In recent days we’ve seen two significant Iraq-related pieces in the Washington Post. The first is a front-page story today by Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled.” The second is a Post editorial from Sunday, “Better Numbers: The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute.”

The Ricks-DeYoung article begins this way:

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months . . .

The Post editorial concludes this way:

[I]t’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were—to put it simply—wrong.

These two pieces underscore the military progress we’ve seen this year in Iraq since General David Petraeus took command and began implementing what is clearly, and at this point almost inarguably, the right strategy in Iraq. And it makes one wonder what complicated set of factors was driving the recent remarks of retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commanding general Iraq in 2003-2004, when he said about Iraq that the United States is “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

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In recent days we’ve seen two significant Iraq-related pieces in the Washington Post. The first is a front-page story today by Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled.” The second is a Post editorial from Sunday, “Better Numbers: The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute.”

The Ricks-DeYoung article begins this way:

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months . . .

The Post editorial concludes this way:

[I]t’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were—to put it simply—wrong.

These two pieces underscore the military progress we’ve seen this year in Iraq since General David Petraeus took command and began implementing what is clearly, and at this point almost inarguably, the right strategy in Iraq. And it makes one wonder what complicated set of factors was driving the recent remarks of retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commanding general Iraq in 2003-2004, when he said about Iraq that the United States is “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

That may have been true a year ago, but it is no longer the case. Iraq remains a traumatized society, and progress that has been made can be lost. Victory is hardly assured, and much more needs to be done on the political side of things. Yet all we can do is judge where we are right now—and if, in January, we had been told this is where we’d be in October, any of us would have taken it. In a heartbeat.

We now have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq, something few thought was possible ten months ago. It is a reminder that having the right man in the right post—in this instance, having David Howell Petraeus as the commanding general in Iraq—can make a world of difference. See Lincoln and the Civil War for more.

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The World Is Watching

There is a fascinating tidbit buried deep in this Washington Post story on America’s troubled relations with Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraf. After explaining why U.S. officials are bothered by Musharraf’s lackadaisical response to the Islamist extremists who have found a refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Post reporters Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick write:

Musharraf also had a complaint of his own: His leverage over the tribal militants had slipped because of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Foreign fear of the might of the U.S. military, felt throughout the Muslim world immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was dissipating as U.S. troops became increasingly bogged down in Iraq. Now, he said, tribal leaders who had once cooperated with Musharraf because of his alliance with the Americans saw little reason to be afraid.

This confirms an essential and important point: that it was not the decision to invade Iraq per se that is causing an increase in terrorism, but our failure to secure victory, at least so far. And it contradicts one of the most common talking points used by Democrats such as Barack Obama, who argue for a pullout from Iraq: that a decision to leave Iraq will enable us to fight more effectively in Afghanistan. What this paragraph suggests—correctly I think—is that a pullout from Iraq would hurt us considerably in Afghanistan and other battlefields by heightening an impression, which already exists, of American weakness. It is that impression, as much as anything else, that emboldens our enemies, whether the Taliban or al Qaeda, to keep attacking us.

There is a fascinating tidbit buried deep in this Washington Post story on America’s troubled relations with Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraf. After explaining why U.S. officials are bothered by Musharraf’s lackadaisical response to the Islamist extremists who have found a refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Post reporters Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick write:

Musharraf also had a complaint of his own: His leverage over the tribal militants had slipped because of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Foreign fear of the might of the U.S. military, felt throughout the Muslim world immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was dissipating as U.S. troops became increasingly bogged down in Iraq. Now, he said, tribal leaders who had once cooperated with Musharraf because of his alliance with the Americans saw little reason to be afraid.

This confirms an essential and important point: that it was not the decision to invade Iraq per se that is causing an increase in terrorism, but our failure to secure victory, at least so far. And it contradicts one of the most common talking points used by Democrats such as Barack Obama, who argue for a pullout from Iraq: that a decision to leave Iraq will enable us to fight more effectively in Afghanistan. What this paragraph suggests—correctly I think—is that a pullout from Iraq would hurt us considerably in Afghanistan and other battlefields by heightening an impression, which already exists, of American weakness. It is that impression, as much as anything else, that emboldens our enemies, whether the Taliban or al Qaeda, to keep attacking us.

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Crunching Freedom’s Numbers

Yesterday I reported on how the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung managed to spin the release of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2007 as an anti-Bush story. Here are some of the interesting points that the survey highlights when read without DeYoung’s intensely ideological spectacles.

Freedom House notes that 90 countries qualify as “free,” which is 47 percent of the world’s 193 independent states. As for the remainder, 30 percent are “partly free” and 23 percent are “not free.” The percentage of “free” countries has not increased appreciably over nine years, leading Freedom House to comment that the progress of freedom is “stagnating.”

Perhaps. But Freedom House also reports that 30 years ago the number of “free” countries was a mere 42, or 26 percent of the total, and that the number of “not free” countries stood at 68, or 43 percent of the total. Compare these two sets of numbers, and the degree of transformation is startling. The number of “free” countries has more than doubled, while the number of “not free” has decreased by more than one-third. To put it another way, a mere 30 years ago, “not free” countries outnumbered the “free” ones by more than 50 percent. Today, there are fully twice as many “free” countries as “not free” ones.

In addition to its freedom scale, Freedom House also counts “electoral democracies.” This number includes all of the “free” countries plus some of those ranked “partly free,” i.e., countries where the government has been elected in an honest multiparty contest but where some of the other attributes of freedom, like a reliable court system, are lacking. The number of countries governed by rulers chosen by the people has reached 123, or 64 percent. We have, in sum, witnessed a revolution in the norms of governance in the past thirty years. Most (but not all) of this is due to the West’s triumph in the cold war. That this steep curve has flattened out over the last few years might be called “stagnation.” But it might just as well be termed a period of consolidation amidst rapid, epochal change.

A noteworthy P.S.: Only eight countries scored a worst-possible 7 on Freedom House’s numerical scores. These are Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. (Iraq was not, as DeYoung erroneously claimed, among them.)

Yesterday I reported on how the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung managed to spin the release of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2007 as an anti-Bush story. Here are some of the interesting points that the survey highlights when read without DeYoung’s intensely ideological spectacles.

Freedom House notes that 90 countries qualify as “free,” which is 47 percent of the world’s 193 independent states. As for the remainder, 30 percent are “partly free” and 23 percent are “not free.” The percentage of “free” countries has not increased appreciably over nine years, leading Freedom House to comment that the progress of freedom is “stagnating.”

Perhaps. But Freedom House also reports that 30 years ago the number of “free” countries was a mere 42, or 26 percent of the total, and that the number of “not free” countries stood at 68, or 43 percent of the total. Compare these two sets of numbers, and the degree of transformation is startling. The number of “free” countries has more than doubled, while the number of “not free” has decreased by more than one-third. To put it another way, a mere 30 years ago, “not free” countries outnumbered the “free” ones by more than 50 percent. Today, there are fully twice as many “free” countries as “not free” ones.

In addition to its freedom scale, Freedom House also counts “electoral democracies.” This number includes all of the “free” countries plus some of those ranked “partly free,” i.e., countries where the government has been elected in an honest multiparty contest but where some of the other attributes of freedom, like a reliable court system, are lacking. The number of countries governed by rulers chosen by the people has reached 123, or 64 percent. We have, in sum, witnessed a revolution in the norms of governance in the past thirty years. Most (but not all) of this is due to the West’s triumph in the cold war. That this steep curve has flattened out over the last few years might be called “stagnation.” But it might just as well be termed a period of consolidation amidst rapid, epochal change.

A noteworthy P.S.: Only eight countries scored a worst-possible 7 on Freedom House’s numerical scores. These are Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. (Iraq was not, as DeYoung erroneously claimed, among them.)

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Freedom Stagnation?

Freedom House has just released Freedom in the World 2007, the latest installment of its annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide, covering the year 2006. These annual studies are the most essential resource we have for gauging the state of world politics. This year’s gloss is that the global progress of freedom has reached a plateau over the past decade. The new report calls this a potential “freedom stagnation.”

This was seized on by the Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung, a reporter long noted for letting her leftish ideological slip show. Assigned to report on the release of the survey, she spun the story as a rebuke to President Bush. DeYoung’s lead? “If ‘freedom is on the march,’ as President Bush often says, it reversed course or at least took a break last year, according to the administration’s favored arbiter of political rights and civil liberties.”

Note the snideness of the last phrase. Although Freedom House’s key officers are Democrats, the survey is “the administration’s favor[ite]” for the simple reason that it is the only comprehensive assessment of its kind. If you want to get a reading on the overall state of freedom in the world, there is simply nowhere else to go. As for DeYoung’s claim that the trajectory of freedom has “reversed course,” this is sheer concoction. The report says nothing of the kind. It does speak of a plateau stretching back over the past nine years, i.e., a plateau starting three years before Bush took office.

DeYoung is in such a rush to score debater’s points against Bush that she apparently didn’t stop to acquire even cursory familiarity with the data. “Iraq,” she writes tellingly, “garnered a worst possible rating of 6 (on a scale of 1 to 6).” As anyone who has ever glanced at the survey knows, its scale is 1 to 7, in which 7 is the worst. Iraq’s 6 was certainly a poor score, but there were seventeen other states that rated 6.5 or 7.

I’ll report on the real highlights of the 2007 survey in this space tomorrow.

Freedom House has just released Freedom in the World 2007, the latest installment of its annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide, covering the year 2006. These annual studies are the most essential resource we have for gauging the state of world politics. This year’s gloss is that the global progress of freedom has reached a plateau over the past decade. The new report calls this a potential “freedom stagnation.”

This was seized on by the Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung, a reporter long noted for letting her leftish ideological slip show. Assigned to report on the release of the survey, she spun the story as a rebuke to President Bush. DeYoung’s lead? “If ‘freedom is on the march,’ as President Bush often says, it reversed course or at least took a break last year, according to the administration’s favored arbiter of political rights and civil liberties.”

Note the snideness of the last phrase. Although Freedom House’s key officers are Democrats, the survey is “the administration’s favor[ite]” for the simple reason that it is the only comprehensive assessment of its kind. If you want to get a reading on the overall state of freedom in the world, there is simply nowhere else to go. As for DeYoung’s claim that the trajectory of freedom has “reversed course,” this is sheer concoction. The report says nothing of the kind. It does speak of a plateau stretching back over the past nine years, i.e., a plateau starting three years before Bush took office.

DeYoung is in such a rush to score debater’s points against Bush that she apparently didn’t stop to acquire even cursory familiarity with the data. “Iraq,” she writes tellingly, “garnered a worst possible rating of 6 (on a scale of 1 to 6).” As anyone who has ever glanced at the survey knows, its scale is 1 to 7, in which 7 is the worst. Iraq’s 6 was certainly a poor score, but there were seventeen other states that rated 6.5 or 7.

I’ll report on the real highlights of the 2007 survey in this space tomorrow.

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