Yesterday, Fox News aired “American Commander: Gen. David Petraeus,” a one-hour biographical account of the top commander in Iraq. The program, a narrative of Petraeus’s life from birth until his controversial Congressional testimony, featured stories from old neighbors to high school buddies to fellow military officials.
One of the most prominent interviewees was Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon. Fox highlighted the fact that O’Hanlon has enjoyed a 20-year personal relationship with the general, extending back to graduate school:
O’HANLON: Petreaus certainly was distinctive and noteworthy.
FOX: Michael O’Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution. And in 1987, he attended Princeton with Petraeus. [...]
O’HANLON: Petraeus was trying to learn lessons [from Vietnam], so that with humility, and a willingness to do things differently, then next time, the military could stay out of that predicament. So that’s Petraeus’s style. He is very self-critical of himself and the institutions that he represents.
In his notorious New York Times op-ed, O’Hanlon did not mention the friendship but called Petraeus a “superb commander.” In subsequent interviews, he again glossed over his long relationship with Petraeus. In a Washington Post story entitled “The Work Behind Our Iraq Views,” O’Hanlon did not state that the work behind his Iraq views may be biased by his friendship with Petraeus.
The traditional media has regularly hosted O’Hanlon but has also ignored O’Hanlon’s inability to assess Petraeus’s work in an unbiased manner, choosing instead to call him a “vocal critic” of the war.
O’Hanlon has alleged that no one can question the “forthrightness” of Petraeus and has since attacked reputable critics of Petraeus as “flat-out sloppy.” Both the mainstream media as well as O’Hanlon have ignored the possibility that his judgment of Iraq may be clouded by his friendship and deep-admiration for Petraeus.