What is most interesting about this article is not what it says, but who is saying it. If a conservative were to write such an article, the skeptics most assuredly would immediately dismiss it as repeating White House talking points. But the fact that two severe critics of the Bush administration’s management of the war — from a think tank usually described as liberal to boot — have published such a piece in the New York Times of all places might, under normal circumstances, give opponents of the war pause. ~Mackubin Thomas Owens
Via Dan McCarthy
For those whose memories do not stretch back to that distant year of 2002, I would offer the reminder that The New York Times endorsed the invasion and its news division was one of the worst offenders in pushing government talking points as the reporting of facts about the real world. You could quite reasonably lay a significant part of the blame for the media’s complicity in the build-up to the invasion at the door of the NYT. With their editors having finally come out for a pro-withdrawal position over four years after the war began, the NYT is supposed to be taken as a redoubt of intense antiwar conviction. Yeah, and Chuck Hagel is antiwar. Tell me another one.
Meanwhile, Brookings, which is one of the most “centrist” of all establishment “centrist” think tanks, is supposed to be taken as some woolly left-wing outfit, and the participation of O’Hanlon and Pollack–who have never ceased being war supporters–is supposed to impress us.
War opponents are supposed to feel thunderstruck by the revelation that these two war supporters still hold the same basic position that they have held for years (pro-war, the war can still be won and it is absolutely vital to win it). In one sense, I do feel a little shocked that there are still people who support the war with any of the same intensity as before, but that is not what Owens means. Of course, criticism of the management of the war is something for which Sen. McCain, one of this NRO symposium’s participants, is quite well-known. Criticising the management of a disastrously mismanaged war makes you no more of an opponent of the war than is a Sam Brownback or John Warner, and it actually predisposes you towards overvaluing evidence of improvement in the situation, no matter how slight it may be.
Of course, John Warner is one of those Republican Senators with an impeccable “pro-military” record and a long tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee who has now signed on with Lugar, Domenici, et al. in saying that the “surge” is not working and that the political process in Iraq is more or less hopeless. (On this latter point, you will find few dissenting voices.) When solidly internationalist Republicans say these things, they are just as readily dismissed as O’Hanlon and Pollack’s remarks are uncritically embraced, because those Republicans are saying the “wrong” things as far as a pro-war audience is concerned. These are the Republicans who are, in Owens’ estimation, “enabling” a defeat that would otherwise not happen. Of course, if things were actually going so swimmingly, you would likely not have a stampede of these old GOP warhorses towards redeployment and declaring Iraq policy to be in need of significant change.
Finally, as Djerejian has shown to devastating effect, O’Hanlon and Pollack seem to have had a much less positive view of the situation in Iraq as recently as June in O’Hanlon’s case, and many of the descriptions in the op-ed do not seem to agree with a lot of the rest of the evidence.