Juan Cole's metric for an informed opinion on Iraq:
(insert name here)…knows absolutely nothing about Iraq. I
wonder if he has even ever read a single book on Iraq, much less
written one. He knows no Arabic. He has never lived in an Arab country.
He can't read Iraqi newspapers or those of Iraq's neighbors. He knows
nothing whatsoever about Shiite Islam, the branch of the religion to
which a majority of Iraqis adheres.
I would add some more, and these are qualifications that without a
majority of which, an informed opinion on Iraq (and the GWOT) cannot be
made: 1) a deep understanding (reading and writing) of the theoretical
nature of warfare (particularly guerrilla warfare), 2) experience in
war, 3) global mission experience in special operations (covert and
clandestine), and 4) experience in counter-terrorism.
Much of our continued difficultly (in the GWOT) is due to area
experts (and their poor relations: pundits) that treat warfare as a
simple/crude exercise. It isn't. Of course, this won't halt the parade
of experts on major media that say the most inane things. To the extent
that warfare experts do appear, they are in most cases experts in
conventional warfare (in which they have made their careers). [John Robb's Weblog]