Thursday, August 23, 2007

# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UM, WHY ARE THE HAWKS SO HAPPY ABOUT POLLACK & O'HANLON? George Will is concerned. The advocates of the surge are celebrating a moderately upbeat assessment (PDF here) by Democratic security experts Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Their good news (summarized in a NYT op-ed) is that:

"We are finally getting somewhere" ("at least in military terms"), the troops' "morale is high," "civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began" and there is "the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability."
But then Will cites the bad news from the same op-ed:

"The situation in Iraq remains grave," fatalities "remain very high," "the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark," "the Iraqi National Police . . . remain mostly a disaster," "Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position," it is unclear how much longer we can "wear down our forces in this mission" or how much longer Americans should "keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part," and "once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines."
According to Will, the ability of certain hawks to cite Pollack & O'Hanlon as evidence of success in Iraq demonstrates that said hawks have fallen prey to "a powerful will to believe, or disbelieve, as their serenity requires." In other words, they are no longer part of the reality-based community.

Yet it is Will himself who may have fallen prey to his own "powerful will to believe". Read the NYT op-ed for yourself and see how carefully Will had to select his quotations to make Pollack & O'Hanlon's good news seem less significant.

Even better, read the full report -- unacknowledged by Will -- that Pollack & O'Hanlon put together after their trip to Iraq. (PDF here) They write:
We found a significant improvement in the morale of American forces in Iraq compared to previous trips to Iraq. In the past, we had often found American military personnel angry and frustrated—many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics, and were risking their lives and losing their friends in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

On this trip we felt that most soldiers and Marines were confident in General Petraeus and the team he had put together. They were equally confident in the strategy and tactics Petraeus has devised, and generally could point to tangible signs that these tactics were producing results. They also felt that the surge had provided them with sufficient forces to correct problems that had plagued previous American approaches—specifically the inability to hold terrain once it was cleared (leading to the "whack-a-mole" problem) and the inability to cover significant, flanking terrain in which Iraqi militants either found sanctuary or moved personnel and weaponry.

In contrast to many critics who believed that the U.S. military (and particularly the Army) would take years to adapt proper counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilization techniques, American forces appear to have embraced them in just a matter of months. Every division, brigade and battalion staff we met with, as well as soldiers and Marine in the field, had internalized the principles of COIN operations. More impressive still, they had also grasped one of the most important and most difficult of those, which is the need to adapt all of the other principles to specific circumstances in each locality.

We found that U.S. soldiers and Marines were applying the principles of successful COIN and stability operations to the conditions of very different provinces, cities, towns and neighborhoods with great sophistication and ingenuity. Across the force, Army and Marine units were focused first and foremost on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the grass-roots level, and working to provide basic services—electricity, fuel, clean water, and sanitation—to the people. However, in each place, in keeping with good counterinsurgency practices, operations were tailored to the specific needs of the community and the leaders they were trying to help.
That is just a sample, so I encourage you again to read the full report -- including the bad news. Get the full picture. As the report says,
There is a great deal going well in Iraq but, unfortunately, also a great deal going badly. Points of view often heard in Washington, that the war is already lost on the one hand, or bound to be won if we are adequately patient on the other, seem at odds with conditions on the battlefield and throughout the country.
The battle in Washington will begin again come September. An important benchmark for honesty will be how each side represents the contents of this report.

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(12) opinions -- Add your opinion

You do realize the report will be written by the White House, not Crocker/Petraeus?
We are never leaving until zionists say so. Only Israel benefits from these endless Middle East wars. Iraq is the beginning. As we commit war-crimes in Baghdad, the US gov't commits treason at home by opening mail, eliminating habeas corpus, using the judiciary to steal private lands, banning books likeAmerica Deceived (book) from Amazon and Wikipedia, conducting warrantless wiretaps and engaging in illegal wars on behalf of AIPAC's 'money-men'. Soon, another US false-flag operation will occur (sinking of an Aircraft Carrier by Mossad) and the US will invade Iran.. Then we'll invade Syria, then Saudi Arabia, then Lebanon (again) then ....
Nine times out of ten, I don't need to read to the end of a comment to know it's by "anonymous". It's usually obvious by the end of the first sentence.

The 2nd anonymous may want to learn a little about how his country is designed to work before announcing something is treason (hint: if the constitution explicitly says you can do it, then you are not committing treason when you do it; never mind the fact that the constitution defines treason and does so narrowly so you don't get to declare that it's whatever you want it to be).
anon 6:12am,

in a strong field, that's one of the most contemptible comments Oxblog has received this year.

The Israeli government actually advised against the Iraq war.

Study a detail or two, instead of spouting anti-semitism that even Hamas would find unsophisticated.
Patrick, what you said about “Israeli government actually advised against the Iraq war.” And latter there were Israeli reports indorsing that Israel was much happy to see Iraq with a strong man “Saddam” , but read this bit of news that actually different Israli stand of the war in Iraq.

I think Israelis sending different signals about this war, which one more close to their hearts? God knows.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised eyebrows this week when he praised America’s war in Iraq as a “great operation” that brought stability to the Middle East.
Olmert made his remarks Monday during a White House press conference with President Bush, before heading to Los Angeles to speak at a major gathering of thousands of Jewish communal activists.

Here is a general suggestion with regard to any comment that advocates anti-Zionist conspiracy theories: gently brush it aside.

Often, the purpose of these comments is simply to provoke the anger of anyone who is conservative or pro-Israel, in the hopes that they will say something offensive about Muslims or Arabs or Palestinians or even American leftists.

Those who post such comments have no real interst in rational debate. Thus, I favor the briefest response necessary: We support serious debate, not conspiracy theories.

you said that the Israeli government actually advised against the Iraq war. I hadn't heard or read that. Do you have a source I can track down. I'm interested.
anon 12:33,

in Feb 2002, the Israeli Defence Minister and Prime Minister tried to persuade the Bush administration that Iran was the greater strategic threat than Iraq, and that action against it was more urgent:


To be sure, later in the debate the Israel government acquiesced in the removal of Saddam. But as Martin Kramer illustrates, it was more a case of the US persuading Israel than the other way around:


thanks for the link. However, Sharon/Ben-Eliezer saying that Iran was a greater threat than Iraq is not the same as advising against the Iraq war. Logically, it's kind of 'I prefer fudge to a banana split' versus 'I need to diet.'

The longer Kramer article was an interesting Mearsheimer/Walt critique, but again it doesn't say that Israel specifically argued against the war. It also gets a little tongue tied in quoting Netanyahu saying that "the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam's regime" and then complaining about "Mearsheimer and Walt's assertion that 'the [Israeli] public enthusiastically favored war.'"
I my opinion, hawks are excited about Pollack & O'Hanlon because the Iraq War has been the recipient of almost unrelenting criticism from the media.

The hawks consider the coverage unfair, but it's hard to argue in the face of compelling visuals that the wider truth is more murky and that there are many good events to weigh against the bad.

But now we sense the winds changing. Those of us who supported the invasion and hope for its ultimate success can see we are heading for a period (hopefully a long one) where the successes can no longer be ignored. The press is beginning to have no choice but to admit that much in Iraq is going well, that victory is acheivable, and that the lives of Iraqis are getting better.

We're a long way from done, but the time of the one-sided argument may be over. That is exciting.
The O’Hanlon/Pollack Bamboozlement

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