Friday, December 24

2004: The Year in Review

At the end of the year, it there seems to be a tidal pull on the pen, to both reflect on the year gone by and what might come in the upcoming year. Well, I can no longer resist. So, brace yourselves, for my unstructured thoughts on the year that was 2004.

2004 was certainly in large measure framed by the election. We started the year with a wild and woolly Democratic primary from which Mr Kerry emerged to assume the mantle of his party. Mr Bush was perceived to be vulnerable due to the ongoing war in Iraq. But that was without figuring on the incompetence of Mr Kerry in running a campaign. Through a series of bad strategic decisions (for example a man with a dishonorable discharge framing himself as a Vietnam war hero) and penchant for micromanagment, Mr Kerry managed to turn a winnable horse race, into a dismal failure. While the winners claim "mandate" as they always do, the real outcome of the race is the discovery that the cultural divisions hinted at in former elections are getting more and more pronounced. From my side of the cultural divide, I have difficulty in envisioning the reasoning (and stories) which drive those on the other side. It is my impression that the same failure to understand me occurs for those on the other side.

The two biggest losers, aside from the obvious candidate(s), were the MSM and campaign finance reform. The MSM has been under attack from alternative news sources and analysis for some time. Big blogs like Powerline and company as individuals have the readership and influence to rival many small papers. Collectively their influence by no means neglible and growing. The McCain/Feingold finance "reform" package, while arguably unconstitutional, certainly also proved to be completely unable to effect it's goals. Whether the knuckleheads in DC will act to change things again, we shall have to wait and see.

As for the war in Iraq, it is really hard to know what is happening. With the MSM firmly placing their hopes and dreams on the failure of the coalition to establish democracy in Iraq, it is hard to pierce the fog of their ideological dreams to find any hard strategic facts. Even though, as I claimed above, the MSM is on the wane those replacing them in fact do not have thousands of reporters scraping the planet for news. In fact it seems to me, the strategic picture is not being reported at all. But that may of course not be entirely the fault of the MSM. The strategic situation is indeed muddy because of the nature of the current situation, i.e., it's muddy because it's really muddy. Unlike in WWII there are no clear cut standing armies in the field with anything like defined areas of control. The insurgency is a weak, weakly organized group using guerrilla tactics. The former regime has left Iraq a playground of munitions and explosive supplies, so none in Iraq lack for the means to wage war.

Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, has been coming along more smoothly. Elections have been held, and their leader has been remarkably adept at bringing militant tribesmen to the table, to disarm, and join in building their nation.

Other items of note, the X-Prize was won by Mr Rutan and Spaceship one. That was really cool.