“Saddam Hussein may be poised to bring the battle to American cities via terrorism.” Wow. That’s Scary. And Very Serious. As one of the most visible “liberal foreign policy experts,” at the “liberal serious think tank,” O’Hanlon became one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the war, evidenced by this Washington Times column from February 5, 2003:
Yet, the president was still convincing on his central point that the time for war is near. Even those of us who have questioned the case for war over the last year, and who do not buy all of the Bush administration’s arguments for invasion even today, need to face the fact that there soon will be no other plausible option.
Since his U.N. speech of Sept. 12, 2002, Mr. Bush has adopted a firm but patient Iraq policy. Overruling hardliners in his administration who favored war without further inspections or U.N. debate, Mr. Bush also elected to use multilateral channels to insist that Saddam disarm or be disarmed. Alas, Saddam is not eliminating his banned weapons of mass destruction voluntarily, and hence we soon will need to lead a military coalition to do the job ourselves. The case is that simple.
In taking this basic approach, Mr. Bush heeded the counsel of multilateralists, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, the elder President Bush, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Tony Blair and many Democrats. It is now time for multilateralists to support the president.
So, as we decide now what to do about Iraq, we should definitely look to Michael O’Hanlon to guide us. His judgment has proven to be so reliable, his reports about the war so trustworthy and credible, and the course he advocated so wise and constructive. And he is so very objective, because it isn’t as though his entire reputation depends upon avoiding failure in the War he urged. He is one of our Very Serious Experts and if he says — especially after returning from 8 days in Iraq — that Things are Going Well and We are Winning, why would anyone doubt him?
UPDATE: Like clockwork: Hugh Hewitt: “The authors have just returned from a trip to Iraq, and they saw what everyone else has seen — noteworthy progress . . . By all means, read the whole thing. If the left has lost Brookings. . . ”
Powerline: “These are basically the same observations that most visitors to Iraq have made lately. Yet, some think this piece is significant, because of who wrote it — two liberals from Brookings — and the fact that it appeared in the Times.”
Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air: “This NYT article is significant both for what it says, and for who is saying it.”
And on and on.
UPDATE II: O’Hanlon on February 17, 2004: “Coalition and Iraqi security forces will ultimately defeat the rejectionist remnants of the Ba’ath Party, as well as foreign terrorists who have entered the country. These dead-enders are few in number and have little ability to inspire a broader following among the Iraqi people.”
O’Hanlon on March 19, 2004:
That said, there is plenty of reason for hope, and much going right today in Iraq as well. . . .
Central Command now estimates the number of hardened insurgents at 3,000 to 5,000. It has also suggested coalition forces are killing or arresting more than 50 insurgents a day, a total up considerably since Mr. Hussein’s capture in December. (Indeed, only 10 individuals from the original 55 on the famous “deck of cards” remain at large).
At that pace, one might think the war should be won by summer. . . .Overall, the glass in Iraq is probably about three-fifths full. Considering the growing strength of Iraqi security services and the fact that $18 billion in American money (as well as a few billion more from other foreign donors) is beginning to flow into Iraq, it is likely to get somewhat fuller soon.
Even as O’Hanlon began expressing increasing concerns about instability in Iraq, it was almost always tempered with rosy overall assessments, such as this, from May 16, 2004:
While the overall situation is disconcerting, there is still hope — especially if the standard for success is defined realistically as an absence of civil war, a gradually improving economy, and slowly declining rates of political and criminal violence. The scheduled transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi caretaker government on June 30 may at least begin to defuse the growing anti-American anger that is helping fuel the insurgency. And most American assistance, tied up in bureaucratic red tape until now, should begin to jump-start Iraq’s economy in the coming months, with a likely beneficial effect on security as well.
As the failure of the war became manifest in late 2004 and into 2005, O’Hanlon began acknowledging the problems in Iraq but blamed the “administration’s strategy,” even though he was a constant defender of that strategy and did not object to it until the war failed. That is what Serious Experts do — advocate plans and then blame everyone else when they fail, including those whose “plans” they cheered on at the time.
UPDATE III: Greg Sargent has much more on the complete lack of credibility of this war cheerleading pair, including additional facts demonstrating further how underhanded this Op-Ed is.
UPDATE IV: For the handful of O’Hanlon/Pollack defenders out there (“most of their false and misleading statements were from a couple years ago; they’ve improved!”), Robert Farley points out just some of the intellectually dishohest claims plaguing this morning’s Op-Ed. Along the way, he notes:
I would like to say that their credibility as analysts depends on the perception of the Surge’s success, but of course that’s not quite right; no one ever loses pundit tenure simply by being appallingly wrong and obviously dishonest while advocating war. To paint themselves as harsh critics who’ve somehow “come around” is to create a fantasy. . . .
Political science opinion, across the left-right spectrum and from all of the different schools of IR resolutely opposed the Iraq War and predicted that it would be a disaster. Rock ribbed realists, liberal institutionalist, and social constructivists disagreed as to why the war would be a disaster, but nevertheless stood against it almost to an individual. I have to wonder whether the continued advocacy of O’Hanlon and Pollack for disastrous policies in a disastrous war has something to do with the need to set themselves apart from the rest of academia, and to point out that they, unlike their Ph.D. holding brethren, have sensible and “serious” attitudes about military action.
In a separate post, Greg Sargent points out that the Op-Ed’s sunny claims about Iraq contradict even the Brookings Institution’s own “index” for measuring the success of the mission.
UPDATE V: A reader emails and (consistent with several other emailers) says:
Tucker Carson reads your piece on the air re: O’Hanlon and Pollack. Hilariously he fake-stumbles over your name “Greenwald? Grenwald? Whatever.”
He quoted part of the graf that included: “They are among the primary authors and principal deceivers responsible for this disaster.”
Naturally, he didn’t address your arguments against the duo’s credibility, he only wanted to use your piece as a jumping off point to discuss whether Democrats actually want the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq. His ‘strategists’ both agreed that, yes, they want to win. Kabuki at its best.
P.S. Tucker claims in that segment to have been against the invasion, says he did not vote for Bush in 2004, and that the President will go down as one of the worst in history. About a second of Googling reveals that Carlson did, in fact, support the invasion, but changed his mind after the first year [citing this].
Pretending to be a war opponent notwithstanding one’s support for the war seems to be a trend today (though not only today). And it is amazing, though it should not be, how easily manipulated the media is by this tactic.
Attention: journalists and news producers: they have these new things now called “computers” that record what people say and write and keep all of that stored. So if someone claims to be a “war critic” or “war opponent,” you can actually look and find out whether that is true.
UPDATE VI: ThinkProgress has the video of a petulant Tucker Carlson protesting the “ferocious” attacks on O’Hanlon and Pollack by bloggers.
UPDATE VII: More on O’Hanlon and Pollack throughout 2006 and 2007, here.