This spot has repeatedly noted that the U.S. media can cover only two aspects of the Iraq war: deaths of American soldiers and recruiting problems of the U.S. military.

But as Mackubin Owens, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, shows in today’s New York Post, the media hasn?t bothered to understand what the recent increase in casualties means:

“The recent spike in U.S. casualties in Iraq, although tragic, needs to be placed in strategic context. As usual, the press has not done so, focusing on the loss of life without any apparent effort to understand what the fighting that led to these casualties means.

“But the answer is there for anyone who wishes to probe beneath the surface. In fact, the intense fighting indicates that Coalition forces have stepped up their campaign in Al Anbar province to destroy the insurgency by depriving it of its base in the Sunni Triangle and its ?rat lines? — the infiltration routes that run from the Syrian border into the heart of Iraq.

“One ratline follows the Euphrates River corridor — running from Syria to Husayba on the Syrian border and then through Qaim, Rawa, Haditha, Asad, Hit and Fallujah to Baghdad. The other follows the course of the Tigris — from the north through Mosul-Tel Afar to Tikrit and on to Baghdad.

“The main difference between this operation, dubbed Operation Quick Strike, and Operations Matador and New Market earlier this year is that the ongoing action is substantially larger in both scope and magnitude, enabling the Coalition to apply force simultaneously against a number of insurgent strongholds.”

The entire piece is well-worth reading, but here is the most important idea:

“[W]e mourn the loss of these Marines, as we do the loss of all service members fighting in this war. But the recent uptick in casualties indicates not so much that the enemy is becoming more aggressive, but that *we* are.”

I’ve argued several times that the defeatist reporting from Iraq reflects the desire of an anti-war press to be proven right.

Christopher Hitchens addresses this all-important matter today in a piece headlined “Losing the Iraq War: Can the Left Really Want Us To?”

Unfortunately, I think that the answer is yes.

Hitchens writes:

“How can so many people watch this as if they were spectators, handicapping and rating the successes and failures from some imagined position of neutrality? Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration? The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of ‘missing’ Iraqis, to support Iraqi women’s battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?”

Hitchens, who supports the war, has cast a cold eye on what might be the results of failure in Iraq:

“It never seemed to me that there was any alternative to confronting the reality of Iraq, which was already on the verge of implosion and might, if left to rot and crash, have become to the region what the Congo is to Central Africa: a vortex of chaos and misery that would draw in opportunistic interventions from Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Bad as Iraq may look now, it is nothing to what it would have become without the steadying influence of coalition forces. None of the many blunders in postwar planning make any essential difference to that conclusion. Indeed, by drawing attention to the ruined condition of the Iraqi society and its infrastructure, they serve to reinforce the point.”