Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Agony of Victory

This past week a relatively minor report from two policy wonks at the Brookings Institute ignited an interesting and, in my opinion, rather disturbing debate in the blogosphere and political circles. Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack made appearances on the cable political television broadcasts and wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, A War We Might Just Win.

O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Pollack is the director of Middle Eastern research at the same institute.

I wish I could tell you that the firestorm that erupted in the wake of their article was a shocking surprise, but, alas, it was totally predictable.

The left, primarily "progressive," wing of the political spectrum ripped the report and the two analysts to shreds.

O’Hanlon and Pollack had visited Iraq and compiled a detailed, honest and rather even handed assessment of the progress of the first few weeks of President Bush's surge strategy. They reported that our troops were upbeat and moral was quite good. They reported some progress had been made on the ground.
But they also were highly critical. For example they reported that the Iraqi political structure was still a disaster, the parliment was deadlocked and impotent and that the road to stability was still blocked by factional and sectarian roadblocks.

However, the progressives seem to reject even a hint that Bush's strategy might have merit!

Air America, the liberal talk show network, erupted into real sectarian violence. O’Hanlon and Pollack were vilified and condemned. One moment they were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the next they were Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth. And the next they were the hapless Laurel and Hardy. Certainly they were monsters and traitors and buffoons all rolled up into one. I thought my friend Randi Rhodes was going to have an aneurysm.

Predictably the blogosphere was even worse. Clearly there is one opinion you must not ever utter: "We might just win in Iraq."

And Keith Olbermann? I could write an entire essay about the bombastic and convoluted comments from this buffoon. But I'd just end up being named the "worst person in the world."

Besides, that's not my point. My point is "Why must the left demand defeat?" I just don't get it.

Barack Obama made it clear that even genocide was no reason to remain in Iraq. But does that mean we must have genocide in Iraq to prove our political point?

I know we want the troops to come home. But wouldn't it be OK if Iraq was stable? Can't we actually have a working democracy in the Middle East? How bad would it be if the surge worked?

Hey look.... it's early yet. Maybe that won't happen. Maybe Iraq will disintegrate into civil war. Maybe al-Qaeda will take over Iraq and turn it into the world's most powerful terrorist state. Maybe Iran and Turkey and Syria will divide the country into three puppet states.

Things might still change. We could lose. O’Hanlon and Pollack's report was very preliminary.

But why does the left seem to condemn anyone who would forecast stability? Or hint at progress?

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Bush's team were wrong to invade Iraq. And they compounded that error at every turn. They have totally botched the occupation (so far). The mistakes and misjudgements Bush made were huge and tragic.

Bush's political opponents have all the ammunition they need to even go so far as to impeach the President if they have the will to do so.

So why must we also demand defeat in Iraq? Why can't we condemn Bush while simultaneously working for a fair, just and stable solution to this Middle Eastern crisis?

Why condemn O’Hanlon and Pollack for filing a report? Were they wrong to even offer a glimmer of hope.

In today's bizarre political climate, a modern retelling of the story of Peter Pan would have the left so hating Captain Hook that they would be praying that Tinkerbell dies.

We do not need Iraq to die to prove President Bush and the neo-cons were wrong.





Vigilante said...

Wizard, Michael O'Hanlon is just another flavor of Kool-Aid.

As Glenn Greenwald says, O'Hanlon is doing what

...what Serious Experts do -- advocate plans and then blame everyone else when they fail, including those whose "plans" they cheered on at the time.

Vigilante said...

The case of Ken Pollack is slightly different. When he wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002) he (is said to have) set down some prerequisites which still lend him a degree of cred: he argued that the road to Baghdad ran through the West Bank in Palestine and was paved with the blood of Osama bin Laden. I haven't read his book but it apparently goes along with NeoCon/Zionist dogma of shoving democracy down the throats of Iraqis. In the initial weeks of the 20-Mar-03 invasion, he was a cheerleader, even if his prerequisites were not followed by Bush and Cheney.

However, in an interview as early as 28-May-2003, Pollack was asked about his assertions in his book that Saddam Hussein had everything he needed to develop nuclear weapons. He answered,

. . . . you're now getting beyond my area of expertise, Steven. I try very hard not to talk about things I don't know. I mean, the point that I made on your show was a true point. That was the consensus of opinion among the intelligence community. It was hearing things like that that brought me to the conclusion that, you know, 'Boy, if this is the case, we've got to do something about this guy.' I think, you know, that is exactly the kind of thing that we're going to need to go back and look hard at the evidence that we were getting and those various intelligence services who were making those claims, I think, are going to need to go back and re-examine the methods they used. As I said, that was not me making that claim; that was me parroting the claims of so-called experts.

I submit he is still parroting.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, I fear you've missed the point of my essay.

My essay isn't about Pollack or O'Hanlon, it's about the knee-jerk reaction of many progressives against any positive news or opinions about Iraq.

Why??? Is a failed Iraqi state a necessary ingredient in the progressive's view of the future?

the WIZARD, fkap said...

I recommend everyone read Dave Nalle's excellent atricle Ignorance is Strength: Reaction to the Brookings Op-Ed.

I contend the progressive's reaction to O'Hanlon and Pollack is much more interesting and much more important than anything O'Hanlon and Pollack had to say themselves.