Are Things Getting Better in Iraq? Two Changed Minds

Carroll Andrew Morse has done a nice job of summarizing and analyzing the piece in today’s New York Times by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Insitute. There’s not much that I can add. But NRO has asked me to contribute to a symposium on the piece that will appear tomorrow. Here’s what I wrote:

What is most interesting about this article is not what it says—I have been making the same points now for some time—but who is saying it. If Bill Kristol or Fred Kagan—or even our own Tom Smith—were to write such an article, the skeptics most assuredly would immediately dismiss it as repeating White House talking points. But the fact that two severe critics of the Bush administration’s management of the war—from a think tank usually described as liberal to boot—have published such a piece in the New York Times of all places might, under normal circumstances, give opponents of the war pause.
The security situation in Iraq is clearly improving. The worn-out cliché that an insurgency cannot be defeated by military means alone is true as far as it goes, but security is sine qua non of stability in a counterinsurgency. The fact that the Sunni sheiks have been turning against al Qaeda and the other Salafi groups and the Shia have, to a lesser extent, rejected Sadr’s Mahdi army bodes well for security in the long run.
But does it matter at this point? Time is running out, not in Iraq but in Washington DC where, as more than one commentator has pointed out, the Democratic majority in Congress and the party’s presidential candidates all seem to have opted for defeat. Thanks to these geniuses and the Republican girly-men who enable them, we may be on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff Grybowski
Jeff Grybowski
14 years ago

“Severe critics of the Bush administration’s management of the war”?
Not exactly. It is well known that O’Hanlon has been one of the left’s biggest supporters of the war for quite some time. He supported the invasion and the surge. He has remarked approvingly about the war’s progress for years. Has he criticized the administration from time to time? Sure, but he essentially has supported our strategy.
That someone who went so far out on the limb concludes that he was indeed right all along is hardly noteworthy. I suppose it would be easier for him to abandon his position and claim today that he was duped by the administration. But to pretend that he is some anti-war stalwart is just not accurate.

Andrew
Editor
14 years ago

Jeff Grybowski said…

[Michael O’Hanlon] has remarked approvingly about the war’s progress for years.

On the other hand, Michael O’Hanlon said (to the Associated Press in 2005)…

‘You have to ask: Why are the casualty levels of U.S. and Iraqi forces as high as ever?…I’m not convinced the insurgency is weakening. I feel like I’ve been hearing that story for about two years and it’s never been right yet.”

So exactly which years would those be where O’Hanlon has remarked approvingly about the war’s progress?
And no one said that O’Hanlon was an anti-war stalwart, or even anti-war at all. Mac was clear that the authors of the NYT op-ed took issue with “the Bush administration’s management of the war” not its justification or purpose. Just because anti-war ideologues fit the facts on the ground around whatever their pre-conceived ideas are (“Bush’s mismanagement has lost the war for us, so we should immediately withdraw” when things are going badly to “well, even if things might be getting better for average Iraqis, they’re not worth helping anyway, so we should immediately withdraw” when things are going well) doesn’t mean that everyone does the same.

Jeff Grybowski
Jeff Grybowski
14 years ago

Which years has O’Hanlon remarked approvingly about the progress of the war? Try 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007. (http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/index.html).
It is obvious that Mac was doing what every other supporter of the war was doing yesterday: holding out O’Hanlon, Pollack, and Brookings as entities who aren’t usually in the thrall of the administration and saying “See! Even those liberals agree that the war is going well!”
In fact, O’Hanlon urged a “surge” before even the president announced it. Surprise, surprise! O’Hanlon now concludes that his idea is working!

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“O’Hanlon urged a “surge” before even the president announced it. Surprise, surprise! O’Hanlon now concludes that his idea is working!”
… maybe because it was the right thing to do, regardless of who proposes it?

Andrew
Editor
14 years ago

Jeff,
O’Hanlon’s assessments of Iraq are a heckuva lot more accurate that Greenwald’s assessments of O’Hanlon.
Greenwald calls the article that contains this a “rosy overall assessment”…

Central Iraq is still very troubled, and President Bush went too far on April 13 when he said that “most of Iraq is relatively stable”….President Bush may have again been too optimistic in his May 1 radio address when he said that life in Iraq is now “a world away” from what it was under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And Greenwald says that “As the failure of the war became manifest in late 2004 and into 2005, O’Hanlon began acknowledging the problems in Iraq”. Yet O’Hanlon was writing things like this as early as May 2004…

American policy in Iraq faces a crisis….The success of our mission has depended from the outset on the perception by the Iraqi people that our presence is necessary to secure their own future. Today that premise is increasingly in doubt.
Unless we restore the Iraqi people’s confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood.

Greenwald references the above article in the link you suggested, showing he can’t get a basic timeline straight, even when he’s got all of the documents sitting right in front of him, when it conflicts with his “because America is strong, it must be wrong” agenda.
To Greenwald, if you express any hope whatsoever that the insurgency in Iraq can be defeated, you’re a cheerleader. That’s the position that is indicative of partisan hackery, much more than anything O’Hanlon has written.

Andrew
Editor
14 years ago

Jeff,
O’Hanlon’s assessments of Iraq are a heckuva lot more accurate that Greenwald’s assessments of O’Hanlon.
Greenwald calls the article that contains this a “rosy overall assessment”…

Central Iraq is still very troubled, and President Bush went too far on April 13 when he said that “most of Iraq is relatively stable”….President Bush may have again been too optimistic in his May 1 radio address when he said that life in Iraq is now “a world away” from what it was under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And Greenwald says that “As the failure of the war became manifest in late 2004 and into 2005, O’Hanlon began acknowledging the problems in Iraq”. Yet O’Hanlon was writing things like this as early as May 2004…

American policy in Iraq faces a crisis….The success of our mission has depended from the outset on the perception by the Iraqi people that our presence is necessary to secure their own future. Today that premise is increasingly in doubt.
Unless we restore the Iraqi people’s confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood.

Greenwald references the above article in the link you suggested, showing he can’t get a basic timeline straight, even when he’s got all of the documents sitting right in front of him, when it conflicts with his “because America is strong, it must be wrong” agenda.
To Greenwald, if you express any hope whatsoever that the insurgency in Iraq can be defeated, you’re a cheerleader. That’s the position that is indicative of partisan hackery, much more than anything O’Hanlon has written.
*Misplaced blockquote corrected from the previous comment

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.