The pace of transformation in the Middle East seems astonishing. In short succession Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and now Lebanon and Egypt have either gone democratic or are quickly heading towards democracy. There is no doubt this is unparalleled. I wonder though, just how astonishing this all would seem if the media showed a modicum of balance in their reporting and “analysis” of Afghanistan, Iraq and U.S. foreign policy in general.
From the outset of U.S. military intervention in the region, the media has almost exclusively focused on what was going wrong and what would go wrong in the future. A steady stream of experts and future tellers provided us with the skeptical downside. “Quagmire” was the catchword of the new millennium. Occasionally we would hear a press conference where Bush would tout the spread of democracy in the region. The media would give a collective condescending chuckle and go back to reporting from their hotel rooms, every car bomb story that came across the wires.
Imagine if the other side of the story would have been presented from the beginning. Imagine if the media had actually taken a serious look at the potential upside of U.S. foreign policy in the region. Imagine if Afghanistan had actually been covered after the shooting stopped. What’s happening now with Lebanon and Egypt would be no less history shaping. But it might have seemed a little less surprising.