Brookings on Iraq

Clearly, the big one today is the O’Hanlon / Pollack editorial in the New York Times. For those of you who read blogs but somehow missed this one, O’Hanlon and Pollack are scholars at the left-leaning Brookings Institute who have been critical of the war, but now believe the surge is working. The upshot is this:

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

I don’t have much new to say on the subject. A great deal has already been said, probably better than I could say it, so I will run that down instead.

RCP’s Tom Bevan buys it. His take:

If two of America’s most well respected experts who follow this stuff closer than anyone are surprised by the positive progress in Iraq, just imagine how surprised the average Joe would be.

Andrew Sullivan is less than convinced.  He points out that Pollack and O’Hanlon appear to have obtained most of their information from people who have a significant incentive to overstate progress.

Matthew Yglesias weighs in twice: In the first, he notes that O’Hanlon and Pollack, while sometimes critical of the war, are not exactly lefty peaceniks either; in the second he points to a more substantive flaw:

The critique of US occupation policy since, say, the fall of 2003 has been that US policy in Iraq has focused overwhelmingly on military goals and ignored the fact that the essential problems in Iraq are political […] according to the people [Pollack and O’Hanlon] who think the surge is working, the surge has, in fact, done nothing whatsoever to address the crucial problems in Iraq.

Brad DeLong is also unimpressed, pointing to a Joe Klein post on his Time blog to the same effect.

My own general sense is that these two have been at best misled, and at worst, outright dishonest. They do not disclose their prior cheerleading for the surge, and in fact, present themselves as war skeptics. I regard their claims warily, particularly in light of Joe Klein’s suggestion that they visited nearly exclusively Sunni parts of the country, where US forces are most concentrated and where the occupation is somewhat less unpopular.


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