I increasingly think that the quality of our public commentary on Iraq is really bad. Matthew Yglesias notes that today’s violence is about as bad as it was in 2005, and that we’re saying that the surge worked because violence is down from 2006-2007 levels. But this meandering level of violence has been accompanied by an abrupt change in our rhetoric about conditions in Iraq. Yglesias means for us to draw the conclusion that since we were saying conditions in Iraq were really bad in 2005, they’re ipso facto very bad right now. However the conclusion that I draw is that a lot of people need to shut up because even quasi-expert commentary is shot through with the effects of framing and anchoring.
I’m not sure what that means, since voters still have to decide who to trust, pundits have to decide whose case to argue, and political and military leaders have to decide to do something. Still, as time goes by, I put Iraq further and further into the category of topics where I should distrust my opinions.