Democrats and other war critics should not be arguing for an unconditional and rushed departure, as the congressional leadership and Obama are generally doing. Nor should supporters of the war be arguing for a largely open-ended commitment regardless of Iraqi performance, as the Bush administration and to some extent Sen. John McCain seem to favor. McCain, the GOP nominee, has been vindicated in his support of the surge, and his resolute commitment to success in Iraq is admirable.
O’Hanlon — a surge proponent himself — doesn’t bother to explain how McCain’s support for the surge been “vindicated” if the surge hasn’t achieved its stated goal of political reconciliation. Nor does O’Hanlon explain what is “admirable” about a strategy that has exacerbated political divisions and prepared the ground for even greater sectarian violence.
In his piece, O’Hanlon goes on to cite the passage of the “de-Baathification law” and the “provincial powers act” as signs of progress. Yet these two examples are negated in his very next paragraph:
Yet myriad problems still exist. For example, the de-Baathification law, if badly implemented, could do more harm than good by purging Sunnis from the very security forces that we have worked so hard to include them within. And even the landmark provincial powers act has since been vetoed by Iraq’s presidency council, leaving it in limbo.
For O’Hanlon, it’s always about staying longer in Iraq. A year ago, in March 2007, O’Hanlon wrote that “Congress should give [President Bush's] surge strategy a chance — while preparing for the real fight this fall.” Then in July 2007, despite the complete lack of political progress, O’Hanlon claimed that the surge was showing “enough promise…to warrant a continuation of the effort for a few more months.”
Now, seven months later, rather than recognize that the surge has not produced anything like the desired political outcome — but has instead ratified the radical sectarian takeover of Iraq’s political system — O’Hanlon touts the return to merely disastrous 2005 levels of violence as a reason to…stay in Iraq longer.
UPDATE II: Ilan Goldenberg examines Michael O’Hanlon’s media ubiquity.