Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Strange Little Column

One wants to feel almost sorry for Michael O'Hanlon, he of the Brookings Institution and together with Ken Pollack, supporter of the war and of the president's escalation "policy". Almost.

For instance, no-name, non-members of the Washington D.C. establishment like Glenn Greenwald shouldn't be getting ink for criticizing O'Hanlon's trip to Iraq's Green Zone and subsequent pro-surge write-up of a few weeks ago.

But O'Hanlon's apologia in today's Fred Hiatt's Washington Post is not really conducive to his cause.

The first couple of paragraphs consist basically of O'Hanlon pouting about being criticized, a situation I'm sure is probably new to him as it pertains to how media personalities and fellow pundits have usually gratefully treated his work. Worse, though, is his petulant claim that however devoid of merit his trip and analysis might have been, it was all worth while, really, because the result of the whole shebang was that O'Hanlon and Pollack had the chance to speak truth to power, against all the tiresome, whinny Politically Correct pessimism about Iraq:

Unfortunately, much of the blogosphere and other media outlets have emphasized the wrong question, challenging the integrity of anyone who dares to express politically incorrect views about Iraq.

Sigh. But after dispensing with the pissing contest part of his op-ed, his substantive responses end up falling flat, too.

His first bulleted item in that regard is a claim that Iraqi civilian casualties are down, at least according to the Army. OK. But where are the numbers and what are they compared to? O'Hanlon doesn't provide them. As Matt Yglesias comments, if the military was sure of their accuracy, why not provide them?

His second bulleted item says the counter-insurgency tactics are working much better. There are more "joint patrols" between Iraqi and U.S. military units. I don't know what O'Hanlon really means by this claim, but I think he means, or at least I wonder what he thinks of, the new policy of financing Sunni insurgents and trying to turn them against Al Qaeda in Iraq. And what, one wonders, is the likely long term effect of this policy?

His third bulleted item says Iraqi forces are improving, but offers no evidence to support this claim other than that the U.S. military folks he spoke to seem to be more satisfied with their Iraqi counterparts collaboration and the fact that a few of the most biased commanders (i.e. most aligned with Shiite militias) have been fired. O'Hanlon admits his positive vibes regarding this point are "more hedged than the first two".

His last bulleted item says that "Economic reconstruction is improving". O'Hanlon lauds the fact that "we" (this is another troubling trend in O'Hanlon's writing--who is "we"?) are now focusing on more small-scaled reconstructive efforts, because, and he even says this, the big ones are "particularly vulnerable to single-point failures and thus sabotage".

This last point highlights yet another weakness in "our" progress in Iraq: "small-scaled reconstructive efforts" in the area of utilities means in plain English that "we" have pretty much retreated to trying to run the country on local generators, an effort that does not speak of quality, efficiency or permanence.

Another "Knockoff"

Among the right-wing's War is Peace bag of goodies has been a variety and growing line of feable attempts to create "knockoffs" that would, presumably, rally the grassroots, or more likely the 28% dead-enders and their media enablers to the righteousness of their cause, whatever that is.

The latest is something called Freedom March--I'm sorry--Freedom's Watchers--er, I mean Freedom Watchers, um, anyway. It has a prominent list of well-connected Board members including former Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer brought out of retirement for a second act of bamboozling the press, and apparently, and this is very useful, much moola to spend.

But before this week's Freedom Watching Illuminati we had The Victory Caucus. The Victory Caucus had an illustrious Board of Governors, too. Consequently, before it "relaunched" last month, whatever that means, The Victory Caucus was supposed to be the right-wing's answer to

Meanwhile, between the first launching of The Victory Caucus, and its relaunching last month, there was yet another right-wing stab at creating the illusion of grassroots support for endless war, or for at least propping up the Decider and what was left of the conservative Republican establishment after the 2006 election beatings, called, We Win, They Lose. We Win, They Lose, was the brainchild of former U.S. Senator, Tommy Frist, age 13. We Win, They Lose was trumpeted breathlessly by the likes of Glenn Reynolds, age 19, and Michelle Malkin, age 17, which should give you some indication of Win Win, They Lose's prospects.

So, Freedom's WatchTower (yawn), welcome to the party. When's the relaunch?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bizarro World

Atrios links to a Tommy Friedman interview from May 2003.

It's an hour long so I hesitated to sit through it all, but Atrios' extracted portions occur in the first few minutes.