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The media coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq has been just as schizophrenic. So far, the rising violence in Afghanistan is not quite front-page news as Iraq once was. Most in the media seem reluctant to tar Mr. Obama with a messy quagmire - at least not yet - in the way the reporting from Iraq helped bring down Mr. Bush.

Many in the media (not to mention Congress) once were delighted that retired high-ranking officers - in a “revolt of the generals” moment - came forward to criticize Mr. Bush and our conduct in Iraq.

Now, though, we hear all kinds of concern that Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal once publicly expressed impatience with the decision-making of the Obama administration. Whether it is good or bad for officers to wade into politics, or whether surges are doomed or logical, apparently depends on who is in the White House.

What are we to make of all these flip-flops?

Iraq was never lost, and Afghanistan was never quite the easy good war. Those in the media too often pile on and follow the polls rather than offer independent analysis. Campaign rhetoric and politics are one thing; the responsibility of governance is quite another.

And when wars break out, no one ever quite knows how things will finally end up.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.