Ken Pollack And Michael O’Hanlon: Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt

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"Ken Pollack And Michael O’Hanlon: Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt"

After a recent trip to Iraq, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack report today in the New York Times that “we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.”

O’Hanlon and Pollack bill themselves “as two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.” The op-ed contains “no mention anywhere of the fact that both men very prominently backed the initial invasion and the ‘surge.'” Pollack, who authored a pre-war book he described as “the case for invading Iraq,” appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in Oct. 2002 uncritically touting the false intelligence about Iraq:

POLLACK: What we know for a fact from a number of defectors who’ve come out of Iraq over the years is that Saddam Hussein is absolutely determined to acquire nuclear weapons and is building them as fast as he can.

O’Hanlon has shared Pollack’s euphoria over attacking Iraq. Prior to the invasion, he predicted a “a rapid and decisive” victory. He has sought to convince war critics to get behind the escalation. And now he is pushing a plan for Iraq that envisions a long-term occupation.

Now that Pollack and O’Hanlon have returned from Iraq, they are embarking on a public relations tour calling for stay the course in Iraq. During an appearance this weekend on CNN, O’Hanlon claimed that war “is going brilliantly at this point.” Asked to respond to O’Hanlon’s assertion, CNN Baghdad corespondent Arwa Damon said the sentiment on the ground in Iraq is completely the opposite:

FOREMAN: Arwa, is there a sense in Baghdad on the ground that that’s exactly what’s happening?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, actually not when you speak to the Iraqi people. In fact, most of those that I’ve spoken to will not really say that they feel that the situation is getting better. Remember, they’re not measuring their own security in terms of numbers of U.S. casualties or numbers of bodies that were found unidentified throughout the entire capital. They are measuring their sense of whether or not things are getting better by the level of comfort with which they can leave their homes. For most Iraqis, they are still just as petrified of falling victim of sectarian violence or any other sort of attack that could take place in the capital today as they were before the surge began.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/arwaohanlon.320.240.flv]

Pollack and O’Hanlon applaud the administration’s military strategy for providing “basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people,” praise the ‘reliability‘ of Iraqi security forces, and express genuine surprise over “how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working.” O’Hanlon’s metrics of success have no grounding in reality:

– Residents of Baghdad are now receiving just one or two hours of electricity each day
— Iraqi security forces are deserting in large numbers
— A new report released last week found that reconstruction has stalled

Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon: often wrong, but never in doubt.

UPDATE: O’Hanlon’s dispatch from a previous trip to Iraq, 10/5/03:

The U.S.-led mission in Iraq is still quite likely to succeed over a time period of roughly three to five years. The lack of any unifying ideology for the resistance there makes it unlikely we will face a snowballing mass insurgency. Moreover, most of the difficult attributes of the effort are not the result of administration mistakes so much as the inherent challenge of the job.

Atrios notes that O’Hanlon and Pollack parrot an old conservative line.

More from Jonathan Schwarz.

UPDATE II: Joe Klein offers a muddled reaction:

I agree with many, but not all, of the conclusions Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon reach in this NY Times column, but you really can’t write a piece about the wa[r] in Iraq and devote only two sentences to the political situation, which is disastrous and, as Petraeus has said, will determine the success or failure of the overall effort.

Transcript:

FOREMAN: So what’s the real situation on the ground? Arwa Damon is in our Baghdad bureau. CNN military analyst Brigadier David Grange, U.S. Army retired joins us from Chicago and here in Washington Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, just back from Iraq. Michael, let me start with you. The basic question, is the surge working?

MICHAEL O’HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: In military terms, yes. Two big reasons, one, we are doing very well against al Qaeda in Iraq. I don’t want to jump into this whole debate about whether they’re taking orders from Osama bin Laden or not, but they have an extreme ideology and they have gone so far that the Sunni-Arab tribes are now fighting against them. I walked through the streets of Ramadi a couple of days ago without body armor. That city is turned around, 95 percent reduction of violence because the Sunni sheikhs and tribes are with us now against al Qaeda. That’s going great. The sectarian violence much less well resolved so far, but at least we’ve put a bit of a cap or a lid on it with our greater troop strength. So that’s the more long-term problem. But the fight against al Qaeda is going brilliantly at the moment.

FOREMAN: Arwa, is there a sense in Baghdad on the ground that that’s exactly what’s happening?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, actually not when you speak to the Iraqi people. In fact, most of those that I’ve spoken to will not really say that they feel that the situation is getting better. Remember, they’re not measuring their own security in terms of numbers of U.S. casualties or numbers of bodies that were found unidentified throughout the entire capital. They are measuring their sense of whether or not things are getting better by the level of comfort with which they can leave their homes. For most Iraqis, they are still just as petrified of falling victim of sectarian violence or any other sort of attack that could take place in the capital today as they were before the surge began.

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