Sunday, August 26, 2007

O'Hanlon-Pollack Op-Ed/Report on Iraq

I'm sure most Americans who are reading this are aware of the O'Hanlon-Pollack NYT op-ed that claimed, "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms" and concluded that "there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008 (my emphasis)." The op-ed has been hailed by supporters of the surge as a remarkable in-your-face rebuke to defeatists from two long-standing critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, while detractors assail the essay as propaganda by two bedrock supporters of the war in Iraq as output from a guided tour by Bush administration propaganda machine.

Less noticed is the two Brooking analysts' full report (still maddeningly anecdotal and too journalistic for my tastes), which presents a much bleaker picture. More or less the same claim, same conclusion; but, where the op-ed gives one paragraph to the (political) graveness of the situation and half a paragraph to the depiction of the Iraqi National Police as "a disaster", half the full report is devoted to the political difficulties, as well as very serious caveats to the military success. The latter also says, "The current Iraqi [proportional] electoral system is a disaster" and calls for a new national election under "a geographical representational system like [the United States or Great Britain". If you think that that is going to happen before "March-April 2008", after which the full report says that the US will have to draw down to pre-surge levels - the insurgents (code for Sunni) and the militia (Shiia) will appreciate that piece of information - then the future looks bright.

The title to the op-ed, A War We just Might Win, takes on an undoubtedly unintented irony for the more prosaically titled Iraq Trip Report at Brookings.

Note: By "anecdotal" and "journalistic", I mean the frequent use of an illustrative example or qualitative words or phrases like "many" and "far more" instead of numbers and fractions, or even relative terms like "majority" or "most".

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