General David Patraeus is not the alone these days when it comes to destroying his own credibility by way of the litany of contradictory statements he has made since the Iraq war began.
As you may have heard, Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institute, is back from his tour of Iraq. He’s been appearing on talk shows throughout the US, telling the world that the war is going brilliantly at this point, and that this is significant because he has been such a staunch and consistent critic of the war.
This appears to be a new tactic of the war propaganda machine. Roll out lackeys, but present them to the world as steadfastly impartial (like Petraeus) or as opponents of the war, as is the case with Hanlon.
To begin with, not only was O’Hanlon a signatory to Bill Kristol’s Project for a New American Century, but he was among the first to be informed of the surge strategy by AEI member, Fred Kagan, of the surge strategy and gave it ringing endorsement.
Following Kagan’s presentation, Michael O’Hanlon provided commentary. O’Hanlon supported the overall strategy elaborated by the AEI team.
Now feast on the harsh critiques he has made about the Iraq war, the strategy and the way the Bush administration has handled it.
On October 5th 2003, he wrote a piece for the San Diego Morning Tribune, in which he claimed that:
The US led mission in Iraq is still quite likely to succeed over a time period of roughly 3 to 5 years. The lack of any unifying ideology for the resistance there, makes it unlike we will face a snowballing mass insurgency.
NPR Interview, September 28, 2003:
”¦ the counterinsurgency effort is going fairly well.
”¦..the counterinsurgency mission seems to be going well in that we are taking out a lot more people than we’re losing and I believe we’re using force fairly selectively and carefully on balance.
But you’re talking about specific, isolated acts just like you would get in an American city.
September, 2003, O’Hanlon published another progress report
The administration should want to do this, because on balance the Iraq mission is going fairly well . . . But most indicators are now favorable in Iraq . . . .
As for Baathist remnants of Saddam’s regime, they are diminishing with time as coalition forces detain and arrest them.
In these counterinsurgency operations, American troops are following much better practices than they did in Vietnam . . . .
But these mistakes are being corrected, and future such attacks are unlikely to be as devastating.
Before the House Armed Services Committee in October of 2003 and titled his report “A Relatively Promising Counterinsurgency War: Assessing Progress in Iraq.”
In my judgment the administration is basically correct that the overall effort in Iraq is succeeding. By the standards of counterinsurgency warfare, most factors, though admittedly not all, appear to be working to our advantage.
That said, on the prognosis of Iraq’s future, the Bush administration is at least partly and perhaps even mostly right.
On April 9, 2003, he published a piece for the Brookings Daily War Report entitled “Was the Strategy Brilliant?”
Will war colleges around the world be teaching the basic coalition strategy to their students decades from now, or will the conflict be seen as a case in which overwhelming military capability prevailed over a mediocre army from a mid-sized developing country?
Whether the overall concept deserves to be called brilliant is debatable. But it does appear to have been clever in several specific ways, most notably in the special operations campaign of the war’s early days and in the recent battles for Basra, Baghdad, and other cities. . . .
On April 30, 2003, O’Hanlon went to The Baltimore Sun and wrote gleefully about how Dick Cheney could mock the ex-general war critics because Cheney had been so vindicated:
”¦ the problem never threatened the basic integrity of the war plan.
Vice President Dick Cheney had a nice rebuttal to the retired officers when he understandably, and humorously, took a moment to gloat shortly after Baghdad fell.
Tip your cap, at least halfway, to Rumsfeld; despite his initial ideological blinders on the subject, he is keeping the postwar U.S. presence strong enough to get the job done as it becomes clear that the job will be hard.
The Financial Times, March 18, 2003:
The war could be over within a month . . .
”¦. the battle for Baghdad will almost surely not last more than a week or two. And its hero will be the American and British soldier, not fancy technology or awesome battle plans.
The Washington Times, December 31, 2002:
Saddam Hussein may be poised to bring the battle to American cities via terrorism.
Washington Times column from February 5, 2003:
Yet, the president was still convincing on his central point that the time for war is near.
Since his U.N. speech of Sept. 12, 2002, Mr. Bush has adopted a firm but patient Iraq policy.
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.
It is now time for multilateralists to support the president.
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.”
That said, there is plenty of reason for hope, and much going right today in Iraq as well. .
At that pace, one might think the war should be won by summer. . . .Overall, the glass in Iraq is probably about three-fifths full.