Here‘s a pretty thorough and compelling rebuttal not only of the reliability of the O’Hanlon/Pollack op-ed that has had war supporters swooning for weeks, but also of every report from visitors to the limited confines of secure facilities and the Green Zone. Finer writes:
The Brookings pair, self-described in their Times op-ed as “two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq,” are also longtime backers of the invasion and the recent troop surge. Before the war Pollack wrote a book subtitled “The Case for Invading Iraq,” and he has found fodder for hope on every visit.
It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I’ve stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it’s like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.
The question here is not one of honesty or careerism or bias, though a good part of the debate over the op-ed centered around whether or not the authors were spinning or distorting the “reality” of what they saw because of ideological or professional blindspots. The question is whether anyone has the ability to learn much significant or valuable about what is happening in Iraq given the short time of the visits, the limited access to much of the country and the highly controlled atmosphere surrounding the visits. The answer seems pretty clearly to be no.
It is also telling just how desperate war supporters have become that they latched on to this misleading glimmer of positive news (which, of course, simply “confirmed” what they had supposedly “known” all along) with such zeal.
Update: This report of a fairly significant battle outside Ramadi underscores how tenuous things are in precisely one of the areas highlighted by O’Hanlon and Pollack as secure.