July 30, 2007

They've Got To Admit, It's Getting Better

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the center-left Brookings Institution take to the pages of the solidly-left New York Times with an unusual mission. The pair have recently returned from Iraq to study the military effort by the US, and they have some bad news for the Gray Lady's readers. We really have turned the corner in Iraq:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

O'Hanlon and Brookings point out the differences that created the shift in fortunes. The chief change comes at the top. General David Petraeus has transformed the mission, the strategy, and the tactics, which has transformed morale and set the US on track to building the Iraqi nation from the bottom up, instead of the top down. The men and women on the ground understand and appreciate the difference, and they have responded with enthusiasm.

The Iraqi Army has also greatly improved. While a few units remain "useless", the authors found this to be the exception rather than the rule, as they observed before. It also has integrated to a far greater degree. During previous visits, the armed forces were almost exclusively Kurdish, but now represents the rough proportions of the Iraqi nation. They operate much more effectively, as do the Americans, who have learned how to interact with the local populace and to guide the Iraqi security forces.

They also note the effectiveness of the EPRTs, which came up in our conference call on Friday. Col. Stephen Twitty called them a "great asset", and these authors agree. When fully staffed, these reconstruction teams coordinate with local Iraqis to restart their community economies effectively. This will have to happen quickly in order to put Iraqis back to work and give them a real stake in success -- and the administration should ensure that the EPRTs remain fully staffed.

In fact, O'Hanlon and Pollack recommend that Congress stop talking about withdrawal. They conclude with a near-heresy: they recommend sustaining the current effort until 2008. Now that we have found a formula for success, have brought the Iraqis on board with our focus on their worst enemy, and have figured out the nation-building process, it would be a tragedy to throw all of this success away.


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Comments (54)

Posted by Continuum | July 30, 2007 8:22 AM

Looks like getting rid of Rummy and replacing with Gates made a difference.

Got Petraeus who deals with reality rather than blue-skying and neocon wishful thinking.

Hope this is true and not another pipe-dream or dog-and-pony fabricated for the MSM.

Posted by roc ingersol | July 30, 2007 8:26 AM

We have only moved forward since we first stepped foot into Iraq. It was just not fast or clean enough for the critics and never will be. From 3 weeks to take Baghdad with relatively minimal losses (10,000 deaths had been an estimate in an urban battle) to the restoration of the Marshlands. In between we have installed the interim government, held two votes, written and debated a constitution, trained an Iraqi Army, established a police force and reduced the area of significant insurgent / terrorist activity. You don't hear about the Airport Road or Fallujah anymore. Not perfect but greatly improved. That goes for many other areas of improvements that we will never hear about after having had to listen to a barrage of doom when it wasn't so good.

I'm glad the some critics are now acknowledging progress though it has been there from the beginning.

Posted by ShochuJohn | July 30, 2007 8:43 AM

Come now, O'Hanlon and Pollack have always been hawks. It's not like you're wringing some sort of wild admission out of previous sceptics who have been won over by recent developments. O'Hanlon advocated the surge rather voicefously. What needs to be said about Pollack other than his 2002 book advocating the invasion of Iraq makes an awfully funny read in retrospect? If you can find people who weren't already pro-war and pro-surge to advocate for it, then they would "have to admit its getting better." Simply claiming the Brookings institution is center-left, and then acting somehow has if former critics are being convinced is fundamentally dishonest.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | July 30, 2007 8:58 AM

RE: roc ingersol (July 30, 2007 8:26 AM)
"That goes for many other areas of improvements that we will never hear about after having had to listen to a barrage of doom when it wasn't so good."


Need anyone be reminded that Saddam and his spawn are in proverbial Hell? Seems like a plus we so quickly dismiss and forget, worrying more in the spectacle of his death than the accomplishment of it.

It would be impossible to list all of the positives of the coalition and American efforts even though tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have invested their time and effort to improve a people's lot in life though that was not their main mission. Kudos and thank you.

As to the tragedy of throwing this success away, Ed, I'm afraid the Democrat leadership is far too invested at this point not to press that very action. It is the one area where this administration must fail and the Dems know it. To have the neocon vision succeed (if it really was a neocon one) after the Democrat's irrationally aggressive campaign against an administration, particularly a Bush one, would be an unfathomable blow to their politics, standing, and righteousness.

If progress continues, David Petraeus should be sainted. His leadership, with considerable help from his staff and those who serve under him, will have perhaps saved Iraq from collapse and, even more importantly, developed a strategy for dealing with foreign insurgencies, the modern asymmetric warfare that has dogged traditional armies for decades.

Posted by bio mom | July 30, 2007 9:12 AM

Michael O'Hanlon is a serious scholar and his opinion should be respected. When he points out weaknessess in Iraq he is hailed by the left. But now they want to discount his opinions because it doesn't fit their narrative. Along with John Burns, I will always give serious attention to anything O'Hanlon says, even if I don't like the message. Today, I like the message. John Burns, of course, is the number one person to listen to. A rare treasure who, astonishingly, reports for the New York Times.

Posted by vet66 | July 30, 2007 9:31 AM

Anyone else hear an eerie silence out of Washington from the defeatists? A sure sign that the lefties are trying to figure out how to jump on board the "we are winning band wagon."

I predict the Reid, Pelosi, Murtha, Durbin, et al, will state that their negativity was reverse psychology designed to achieve the disastrous win looming on the distant horizon.

Speaking of horizon, I wonder if Pelosi and her band of communists from the bay area will suddenly embrace the banned Blue Angels aerial show?

Posted by fdcol63 | July 30, 2007 10:14 AM

The Left and the Dems are too invested in the "failed war" strategy for this to make any substantial difference to them. For confirmation of this, just see Russ Feingold's comments to Chris Wallace yesterday on Fox News.

Instead, we can expect to see more "Winter Soldier"-style anti-war fantasies from Scott Thomas Beauchamp and his ilk as the Left and the Dems get more desperate.

Posted by Shoprat | July 30, 2007 10:29 AM

You can be sure that the Democrats are trying to figure out a way to take credit for this and their MSM lapdogs will be sure to help them.

Sometimes the NYT gets it right. I am astonished.

Posted by Jim | July 30, 2007 10:38 AM

"Come now, O'Hanlon and Pollack have always been hawks." Of course. If someone doesn't fit the "narrative" firmly established as inalterable Truth by the Iraqisvietnamandwecan'twinthere Left, then naturally, the source Must Be Discredited.

So....perhaps they are not just mere Hawks, meaning anything THEY say should not be taken seriously. Perhaps they are Neocon, Zionist, Mossad agent, Joo loving, Haliburton BushHitler CHICKENhawks!!

Posted by MarkJ | July 30, 2007 10:41 AM

Needless to say, it's too early to do an end-zone dance vis a vis Iraq.

However, it seems to me that increasing, and "un-ignorable" reports like these, especially from observers who hold no candle for President Bush, will put increasing pressure not on Bush...but, rather, on the usual Democratic suspects in Congress to give General Petraeus, and the surge, more time.

We'll see what happens, but, to use a Civil War analogy, we may be now experiencing our "Atlanta Moment." Indeed, the fact that Pervez Musharraf has apparently, at long last, decided to pursue a Final Solution against Taliban/AQ in Waziristan indicates that the Dems will discover, sooner rather than later, that they've boxed themselves into a political corner, and royally screwed the pooch, with their "retreat and defeat" program.

Posted by filistro | July 30, 2007 10:49 AM

O'Hanlon and Pollack are talking about areas where the American military is working with, arming and supporting Sunni militia groups. (Over the violent objections of the democratically-elected Iraqi government, for obvious reasons...)


Let's say the police in LA or Washington D.C could substantially reduce street violence and crime by choosing to arm one of the dominant gangs in the area with superior weaponry, and then turn those gang members loose to patrol the streets.

Would this be a good idea?

Why... or why not?

Posted by Jazz | July 30, 2007 11:07 AM

Since the New York Times is heavily liberal, run by the DNC and always lies, does this mean we're.... losing now?


Posted by Steve White | July 30, 2007 11:13 AM

O'Hanlon is a serious man, as is John Burns; when either of them say something with which I disagree, it's useful for me to review what I'm thinking. They aren't always right, but they're always serious and interesting.

That said, the current meme is to denigrate 2003-06 as Rummy's fault, and provide (perhaps) grudging respect for the recent accomplishments of Gates and Petraeus.

There's plenty to fault in the 2003-06 period: emphasis on sweeps, handling the De-Ba'athification, emphasis on 'whack-a-mole', inability to recognize and fix the proper handling of terror suspects at Abu Ghraib, and not enough consideration to fixing the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

However, in counter-balance, we did organize and help two major elections, and in two major regions, the Kurdish north and the Shi'a center-south, life has been relatively quiet. The mistakes we've made were big ones, but there were substantial successes in that period, and we shouldn't denigrate them.

Posted by dougf | July 30, 2007 11:16 AM

"Let's say the police in LA or Washington D.C could substantially reduce street violence and crime by choosing to arm one of the dominant gangs in the area with superior weaponry, and then turn those gang members loose to patrol the streets.
Would this be a good idea?
Why... or why not"

That would depend on how reliable the choice turned out to be over the long term, but the reduction of violence would be an absolute good per se. If this could in fact be done in LA with the subsequent beneficial social results, then yes it would be a dandy fine idea IN CONTEXT.

The context being that the alternatives did NOTHING to either reduce violence or promote any sort of social 'good'. Nor even prevent a continuing deterioration of the overall situation.

"To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."

True then ---- true now.

Posted by starfleet_dude | July 30, 2007 11:18 AM

O'Hanlon and Pollack may be convinced, but they aren't at all convincing:

O’Hanlon, Pollack convinced at how right they are

Their opinion is pretty worthless, given their awful track record with regard to Iraq.

Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 30, 2007 11:23 AM

Filistro offers an interestring idea. What would happen if the police armed a gang to obtain peace. Well let's look at Washington DC where the police armed the dhimmiecrats.

When you arm a band of cut throats you get legal thuggery, their leaders take up the public podium; they threaten honest businesses with "excess profits taxes," extort tribute from honest citizens, conduct show trials.

Good thing the US didn't make this mistake in Iraq. Imagine what would happen if the dhimmiecrat equivalents in Iraq were aremed, oops they are but by Iran, they're called Al Queda.

Posted by sashal | July 30, 2007 11:26 AM

Glenn Greenwald on Ken Pollack op-ed

"What is the most vivid and compelling evidence of how broken our political system is? It is that the exact same people who urged us into the war in Iraq, were wrong in everything they said, and issued one false assurance after the next as the war failed, continue to be the same people held up as our Serious Iraq Experts. The exact "experts" to whom we listened in 2002 and 2003 are the same exact establishment "experts" now."

The worst part is that toads like Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin and Assrocket are seizing on this piece as proof that even liberals support the surge.

Posted by Jim | July 30, 2007 12:05 PM

So you're quoting GLEN GREENWALD as some sort of "authority" to illustrate...what?


Greenwald is a heinous, hate-filled and very partisan far left hack, who is primarily infamous for his well documented "sock puppetry." Sorry, but I'll take the credibility and integrity of people like Hugh Hewitt (in spite of my strong disagreement with him on a number of issues - e.g., his foolish support of the Meiers nominatio) over that dippy and disingenous fraud Greenwald, any day of the week.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | July 30, 2007 12:37 PM


The vast majority of the text in Greenwald's piece on this issue consists of quoting O'Hanlon's former words. No matter what you happen to think about Greenwald, it is disingenuous to disregard the fact that O'hanlon has made many similar predictions in the past, none of which has turned out to be remotely correct.

Posted by exhelodrvr | July 30, 2007 12:40 PM

While I am a big fan of Gen P, I don't think he deserves most of the credit for the current shape of the Iraqi army, which is what seems to be implied.

Posted by exhelodrvr | July 30, 2007 12:42 PM

If the success of "the surge" continues, that will likely work to Hillary's advantage. She has had the most reasonable approach of the DEm candidates, and will have the easiest path towards taking credit for it.

Posted by docjim505 | July 30, 2007 12:51 PM

RE: GEN Petraeus, I'm reminded of Lincoln's comment about Grant: "I like him. He fights."

This has happened through our military history. We have a general who, for whatever reason, isn't successful. The CinC keeps trying replacements until he finds one who IS successful. Greene replaced Gates after Camden; Grant "replaced" Meade who replaced Hooker who replaced Burnside who replaced McClellan who replaced McDowell (or something like that; with so many yankee generals, it's easy to get confused); Patton replaced Ward; Halsey replaced Ghormley; Abrams replaced Westmoreland; etc, etc, etc.

But what's the common factor?

The CinC never gave up the fight.

Posted by Okonkolo | July 30, 2007 12:56 PM

Rather than play my op-ed is better than your op-ed, I will just note:

The American people are somewhat numb to such claims, having been told repeatedly that we "have turned a corner" in Iraq so much that you could draw a labyrinth with those turned corners. I think not many are surprised that security is better in areas where we are surging, but it is clear we can't keep that up, and it is also clear that the Iraqi army (with its magical increasing and decreasing readiness status and troop counts) is very problematic, with infiltration and ethnic/militia agendas on the part of some of its troops. And the goal of the surge, really, was to improve security so that the political progress could be made. Any op-ed summarizing the failure of Iraqis to hit ANY of the benchmarks for political progress would cast the whole surge as a failure. and again, what were Americans told when many were becoming questionable in supporting the war last year? Wait for the report. Then, wait for the surge, so we can evaluate these benchmarks. So in a few weeks, what will the report be on those political benchmarks? Failure. But then again, there will be another plea for even more time, won't there, despite the promises of political progress only months ago. People are tired of it, and their congressional representatives are going to feel the heat. And as much as it may feel good to ream the Democrats over this, the level of dissatisfaction with the war means that a lot of independents and Republicans have turned on the war. And I don't think asking for another year to see if things get better is going to win any of them back.

On another note, I am stunned to read Novak's piece on a Turkish/US operation against Kurdish rebels. Wow!

Posted by David M | July 30, 2007 12:58 PM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/30/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by filistro | July 30, 2007 12:59 PM

dougf...: That would depend on how reliable the choice turned out to be over the long term..

Aye, there's the rub.

Offhand I can't think of a single instance where taking sides in a Middle East conflict hasn't in some way, eventually, come back to bite us.

But what's the alternative? Just remain above the fray and let them slug it out while the sand turns to blood and the whole world grows increasingly unstable and radicalized?

I truly don't know the answer.

What's more... I don't think any of us ever will.

Posted by salt1907 | July 30, 2007 1:11 PM

This item does not reflect the real MSM strategy for dealing with Iraq. The MSM has come up with a plan to differentiate between various members of Al Qaeda in different locations, in order to justify retreating from certain members of Al Qaeda without appearing to advocate retreat from Osama bin Laden. But the effect will be the same. Retreat from Iraq is equivalent to retreat from Al Qaeda. And the MSM will sound convoluted and "nuanced" if it tries to argue otherwise.

Posted by hunter | July 30, 2007 1:27 PM

Victory has many fathers. If the lefties now want to claim some patrimony and help win the war, I am all for it.
Fighting a war is not an immaculate process, but is rather very very maculate.
If America can be convinced that we can win in Iraq, I am all for it.
Millions of Iraqis who will not die, and millions more Iranians who will be liberated sooner, will be grateful.
Victory is was and shall be the sole goal.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | July 30, 2007 1:32 PM


Are you the same Hunter who spouts cliches over at RedState? You sound like him.

You state,

'Victory is was and shall be the sole goal.'

I completely disagree.

Posted by Andrew X | July 30, 2007 1:34 PM

Hail Petraeus Maximus!

Posted by Continuum | July 30, 2007 1:42 PM

Baghdad, now, during the summer is said to reach temperatures around 130 degrees.

Well, even here in Memphis where we only get up to like 95 or 99 on really, really, really hot days, it seems most of the criminal element holes up inside, or someplace cool. Crimes against strangers and burglaries all seem to subside during intensely hot days.

Are the decreases in casualities, kidpnappings, murders caused more by the blistering heat than much of anything else?

In other words, is this surge successful because of the weather? Will the cooler fall bring an increase in violence once Baghdad is cool enough to walk outside in the sun?

Posted by Monkei | July 30, 2007 1:44 PM

Well that's great news Captain! It's nice to know we have turned that corner in Iraq ... again.

I hope this time it is for real!

Posted by Lightwave | July 30, 2007 1:53 PM

Greenwald is more disingenuous than he is a hack. He's saying that what O'Hanlon and Pollack have to say should be completely discounted because they were wrong in the past.

That would hold water, except for the fact that this is pretty much Greenwald's response to everything. "You were wrong in the past, so you can't possibly be right!" is the standard argument of the surrender crowd. Only defeat exists to them, anything else is an affront to their logic.

So when given evidence that things in Iraq are improving and improving rapidly, they drag out the same straw man arguments they accuse the Bush administration of using.

And why? The Democrats have invested everything -- the entire future of the party -- on our defeat in Iraq. They know that if the perception of the war turns towards victory, then they are doomed as a party. The electorate will turn on them and expose them as enablers and far worse, and their party will be gone from the American landscape for decades.

And as more and more people figure out an entire political party is doing everything they can to ensure our defeat in a bloody war, fewer and fewer people will tolerate it.

If we withdraw from Iraq, the Democrats will inherit the genocidal results. If we stay and fight in Iraq, the Democrats will inherit the mantle of defeatists.

One of those two outcomes will happen. Either way, the Democrats are finished. And we'll remember the arguments about "credibility" that bloggers like Greenwald put forth when either way, they are discredited to the point of irrelevance.

And since that is their fate, why pay attention to them now? It seems the side with the credibility problem is invested in America's defeat.

Posted by ShochuJohn | July 30, 2007 2:00 PM

Jim snarks, "Of course. If someone doesn't fit the "narrative" firmly established as inalterable Truth by the Iraqisvietnamandwecan'twinthere Left, then naturally, the source Must Be Discredited. "

My point, which you seem to have missed entirely is that, contra Ed's notion that someone has been convinced here or that previous critics of the war have changed their tune because of this astoninshing success, these two individuals were already pro-war and pro-surge.

I suppose next, Ed is going to argue that the surge must be working because EVEN Joe Lieberman (who ran with Al Gore in 2000, donchta know) is convinced.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | July 30, 2007 2:01 PM


So, you think that people who have been wrong - not just a little wrong, but consistently and totally wrong - in their estimations of the situation in Iraq, should now be trusted to give an accurate prediction?

Why would you believe someone who has been wrong, wrong, and wrong again? You are correct that Greenwald spends a lot of time pointing out that people who are crowing about our imminent victory in Iraq have done so many times in the past, and were wrong those times. You are incorrect in your assertion that this is not a valid criticism.

I also find your predictions about the American electorate to be highly questionable. The vast majority of polling data shows you to be wrong; significant majorities of Americans support the Dems in their quest to get us out of Iraq. I submit that you are projecting your personal opinions on to the electorate at large, which is never a very good idea.

Posted by hunter | July 30, 2007 2:03 PM

Why should I care a fig what you think?
War is so terrible that the only worth doing with it is to win.
I am sorry, but not surprised, that you would completely disagree.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | July 30, 2007 2:10 PM

Hunter, I don't know why you would care what I think. That's a personal decision for you to make.

You state,

'War is so terrible that the only worth doing with it is to win.'

At what cost? At any cost? The phrase -

'Victory is was and shall be the sole goal.'

Implies that their is no other goal for the US then 'winning' in Iraq, whatever that means. I completely disagree. We have other goals which are just as important, if not more so, then victory in Iraq.

Posted by filistro | July 30, 2007 2:13 PM

Okonkolo makes a point so simple, valid and devastating that it really bears repeating.

Not one of the political benchmarks has been met.

Meanwhile the Iraqi parliament decamped today for a 5 week holiday, calling this break a "constitutional rtight." They will return on September 4.

Does anybody seriously think any of the benchmarks will be met by September 15 .... when General Petraeus is scheduled to come down from the mountain with the stone tablets?

BUT... wasn't the "surge" designed to allow for the benchmarks to be achieved?

In such a tangle, nobody should ever use words like "victory."

Posted by BD | July 30, 2007 2:16 PM

Well, let's see.

One thing that gives these guys credence is - ahem - they've actually been to Iraq.

Two: the report that morale is better this time than last.

Three: citation of the EPRT's as being particularly effective where fully staffed is specific.

Four: they admit their surprise at the successes they've found.

Five: they're not singing the "rosy scenario" song. They don't see 'victory', they see a sustainable situation Iraqis can live with; there still are useless Iraqi formations (just fewer of them), etc.

Six: By & large, Democrats are the natural audience for the Brookings Institution. What in the _ _ _ _ do they gain from lying about Iraq (which, when stripped of the niceties, is what the finger-in-the-ears-singing-"La-la-la-la-la" crowd is accusing them of doing)?

Don't like what you're reading? Fine; tell us why your opinion is more credible.

Posted by Jim | July 30, 2007 2:27 PM

Scho- says:

"My point, which you seem to have missed entirely is that, contra Ed's notion that someone has been convinced here or that previous critics of the war have changed their tune because of this astoninshing success, these two individuals were already pro-war and pro-surge."

Okay. Not wanting to miss your point, I went back and read the editorial again. I also read Ed's post again. And then again. Hmmm. Somehow, I am simply unable to find that money quote or quotes (or even an implication) that "prior critics" of the war have now "changed their tune." Please direct me to any words of Eds which lead to that conclusion.

Perhaps the only thing which is astonishing, (and the reason for Ed's post?) is that such an editorial was permitted to show up in the NYTimes to begin with - a "news" organization which has already firmly established the politically acceptable liberal "narrative." This editorial has gone off the reservation - so........we better make sure we quickly discredit the authors, right?!! They're just Lieberman-ish lap dogs. Thank goodness that paragon of integrity, Glen "SockPuppet" Greenwald was there to remind everyone that there is nothing to see here, good little lefty drones - move along.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | July 30, 2007 2:30 PM


"Five: they're not singing the "rosy scenario" song. They don't see 'victory', they see a sustainable situation Iraqis can live with; there still are useless Iraqi formations (just fewer of them), etc."

Excellent use of the Buzzword of the day - Sustainable Situation. To those of us who have been skeptics of the wisdom of this conflict from Day t-90, it's just more goalpost moving.

I really think that people who are advocates of our imminent victory in Iraq greatly misunderstand the nature of Insurgency and Guerrilla warfare. The enemy can keep up the fight indefinitely, as a significant part of the population supports either one side of the conflict or the other. Without the political reconciliation bringing some sort of accord to the differing factions, the violence simply will not end.

A historical study of the nature of insurgencies and
guerrilla conflicts shows that victory is obtainable through two means - political reconciliation, and genocidal acts on the part of the occupying force. I don't foresee either of these taking place any time soon, so I highly doubt we will find ourselves in a position where we can extract our forces and claim 'victory.'

Posted by ShochuJohn | July 30, 2007 2:45 PM

Jim, in my original post, I quoted the title of the post, "They've Got To Admit, It's Getting Better," which, in addition to a Beatles reference, literally states that somebody is admitting something, meaning a concession, a fact contrary to their interests or own general worldview. First line of the post, "Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the center-left Brookings Institution take to the pages of the solidly-left New York Times with an unusual mission." O.K. Now we have some context as why it is admission. These people are by implication, lefties, operating in lefty organizations. If you didn't know anything about these people, one would deduce that lefty (read anti-war) intellectuals have become conviced by progress in Iraq. I am not the only one to get this message. "roc ingersoll", commenting immediately before my original comment, second comment made for this post, writes, "I'm glad the some critics are now acknowledging progress though it has been there from the beginning. "

These, you see, are not critics. In fact, what you have is pro-war people writing pro-war literature. Hardly earth-shattering.

Posted by Where's The Beef? | July 30, 2007 2:59 PM

Cycloptichorn, I dunno, but the Iraqi people, for the most part, are very aware of those two extreme possibilities -- genocide or reconcilliaton.

In fact, that the stakes are so high for them, in their country, is the reason that the progress toward meeting the benchmarks has been slow (and on some of them, two-steps forward, one-step backward). They are much further along the way than they were under Saddam, surely.

And that means they are further away from genocide. But not homefree. The Iraqi politicians are not a monolith. There are factional interest, of course, but Parliament has not thrown-up its arms and now await genocide. Their timetable is to based on what is doable, not on what is perfection.

I suspect that the loudest critics in the USA will move the goalposts. When the military strategy has succeeded (and that's not a certainty), and when each benchmark is eventually reached (also not a certainty), always the focus will be on criticism based on the lack of perfection in hitting each and every benchmark 100%. And then, when all the benchmarks are achieved, the criticism will shift the goalposts to new areas of imperfection.

Posted by John Jay | July 30, 2007 3:17 PM

This reminds me of the man who says of course he believes in marriage, he's been married 8 times. Or Alec Baldwin talking about the virtues of rehab; he's done 9 stints.

Likewise, O'Hanlon is consistent in his belief that we're just inches from victory. He's been saying this for years. NYT should reprint his comments from September 2003 and spare O'Hanlon the trouble of plagarizing his previous comments:

Similarly, Genera Petraus' view of Iraq from a year later, in September 2004, mirros what he says today in asking for 2 more years. http://www.islandpacket.com/editorial/letters/story/6600866p-5878679c.html

O'Hanlon should write a definitive editorial piece and leave auto-complete tags for . He can run this any time, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2050, whenever, without the mental strain of revisiting his past predictions or making a fresh and intelligent evaluation.

We need victory or stability or both. And we need those who have consistently been proven wrong in their predictions to step aside or be 'fired' from commenting or advising on security matters.

Posted by DaleinAtlanta | July 30, 2007 3:26 PM

NO, it's not all "rosy", and no one should take it that way; what's happening is specific to Iraq, and not necessarily applicable to the rest of the Jihadi movement at large throughout the Islamic world.

At best, this is "victory" by small, incremental steps; but we have a long way to go!

Posted by roc ingersol | July 30, 2007 3:35 PM

The left can only be vindicated if part of history is erased in combination with abandoning Iraq.

They have dismissed Saddam's WMD programs, violation of 17 UN resolutions, mass graves, assasination attempts, no fly zones, food for oil palaces and terrorist connections and support. They won't address the Blix report and the missing tons of VX gas or the costs associated with the no fly zones and maintaining our forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They must constantly ridicule the notion that Iraq and the WOT can be possibly related in spite of the terrorists themself indicating its so.

It must be exhausting to constantly move the goal posts in order to define our pending doom and to hope for our defeat. And yes, I question your patriotism.

Posted by jr565 | July 30, 2007 3:45 PM

Good points all.

don't forget the selective amnesia about what the democrats said and believed about Iraq prior to Bush taking office which is 180 degrees opposite of what they say now.

Remember,as but one example, the Iraqi liberation act? Er, wasn't that supported nearly unanimously by the dems? Wasn't that signed into law by the dems and Clinton in particular? Didn't that call for regime change in Iraq as well as a push for democracy? Weren't the justification for such an act that Iraq had WMD's, was violating resolutions and posed a threat both regionally and to the world?
Is the problem that the dems just aren't reading what they're signing or that they suffer from memory issues?

Posted by docjim505 | July 30, 2007 4:31 PM

Cycloptichorn wrote (July 30, 2007 2:30 PM):

I really think that people who are advocates of our imminent victory in Iraq greatly misunderstand the nature of Insurgency and Guerrilla warfare. The enemy can keep up the fight indefinitely, as a significant part of the population supports either one side of the conflict or the other. Without the political reconciliation bringing some sort of accord to the differing factions, the violence simply will not end.

True, but political reconciliation only becomes possible when both sides realize that continued fighting is ultimately self-destructive. If you think you are ultimately going to win, why bother to negotitate except as a propaganda tool? To settle for less than you think you'll get AND leave your enemy intact to try to take it back later?

As for the terrorists in Iraq having the support of the population, I think we're starting to make some good progress in ending that. I've written here many times before that car bombs and other random, indiscriminate forms of terror indicate that the terrorist is LOSING. If he controls or even has the tacit support of the populace, he doesn't engage in such self-destructive behavior. Bombings are his way of trying to frighten the people away from cooperating with the security forces or (as in Iraq) fostering civil war to divert the security forces attention away from him.

A historical study of the nature of insurgencies and guerrilla conflicts shows that victory is obtainable through two means - political reconciliation, and genocidal acts on the part of the occupying force.

I don't believe that this was true of the British in Malaya, nor of us in Vietnam. The British defeated the communist terrorists in Malaya after twelve years of low-level war. We had destroyed the VC after Tet '68 and were on the way to securing most (if not all) of South Vietnam when the libs pulled the rug out from under the military and the South Vietnamese.

It is possible to achieve decisive victory against terrorists / insurgents; it's just not very easy.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 30, 2007 4:39 PM

Clinton's Justice Department also tied bin Laden to Iraq, when they indicted him in 1998.

But until I started posting a link to the actual text of the indictment a couple of months ago, the leftists on the various blogs I post to claimed such an indictment never happened.

You see, on their planet, recorded history didn't begin until January of 2001.

Posted by Charles | July 30, 2007 5:42 PM

If you read the actual op-ed, you might notice that there is only one non-anecdotal bit of evidence, relating to one Iraqi Army unit which started almost totally Kurdish, but which is now much less segregated.

Take that bit of hard data out, and everything else is just their opinions.

The opinions of pundits matter only if they've proven wise and accurate in the past. Given the past performance of these two, it seems premature to me to take their unsupported word as particularly strong evidence of anything.

It's likely that the insurgency will be suppressed by the surge until November, by which time the insurgents will have adapted to the new status. We may see then what the surge has purchased.

This op-ed is a snapshot taken from one point of view, not a definitive examination of the situation.

Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 30, 2007 8:24 PM

Very interesting to see the comments of such military experts here who wonder about the costs of victory. Yes the costs of victory are high but the costs of defeat are so much higher.

I guess the dhimmies are just trying to defend their investment in defeat. Looks like the dhimmierats better be ready for another 1972, thats the last time they pulled the stab in the backj strategy and it really worked well for McGovern.

We all know how unpopular Vietnam was, thats what the same "patriots" like Kerry and Kennedy told us then and parrot today.

Posted by hunter | July 30, 2007 8:52 PM

Name them.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 30, 2007 10:09 PM

I've been following this story over the past several hours, and all of the leftist posters have received their talking points on this one-namely, shoot the messengers rather than actually comment on what said authors actually state in their most recent op-ed.

Of course, that's DNC SOP-when the truth comes out, attack the person who reveals it and try to smear their credibility. The actual facts aren't important on their planet.

When former FBI agent Gary Aldrich wrote his Clinton expose, he was smeared by Clinton, Inc. But as far as I know, they never ever sued him for libel. Because they didn't have to.

Posted by SteveJ | July 31, 2007 6:24 AM

What is left and what is right has become somewhat confusing.

Neocon liberals, who call themselves Republicans, fail to make a distinction between two types of big government liberal Democrats. One type are the McGovern peaceniks. They are for big government on domestic issues and seem to think everything will be okay if we unilaterally disarm in the foreign policy arena. Perhaps a proper descriptive term for these people would be kooks.

But there is another type of big government liberal. Lyndon Johnson was not just for big government in domestic matters, he was all for using the military to engage in grand sociological engineering experiments in other countries. Part of this involved an attempt to set up synthetic phony governments for other societies.

A chunk of these Lyndon Johnson liberals, who only cared about the big government foreign policy aspects of the Johnson liberals, were not happy when the McGovernites hijacked the Democrat party. And since they actually were conservative on domestic matters, the Democrat party simply had nothing to offer them.

They looked to join the Republican party, and gave themselves a rather interesting, but deceptive, name -- neocons.

Why the Republican party accepted the neocon liberals is something I have yet to understand. But now, the Republican party has not only accepted them, they have hijacked the party.

People like Pollack and O’Hanlon are big government liberals BOTH domestically and internationally. Because the neocon liberals are true conservatives domestically, or don’t care about domestic matters at all, people like Pollack and O’Hanlon stayed with the Democrat party, but are quite attracted to the neocon liberals big government social engineering policy in foreign affairs.

Hence, the pathetically idiotic column they wrote.

Posted by SteveJ | July 31, 2007 6:53 AM

One more thing about Pollack and O’Hanlon. They did not give a very accurate description of their history on this topic.

Pollack and O’Hanlon both howled for the invasion of Iraq, although Pollack more so than Hanlon.

They then criticized “military tactics,” a common scapegoat for neocons.

And now, these “critics” are back on the Bush regime train.

In other words, they were for it before they were against it before they were for it.

Sound like anybody you know?