Gregory Djerejian (himself a right-leaning former war supporter!) has an excellent takedown of the O’Hanlon/Pollack op-ed that one might deem a “fisking” were the term not so gauche. Meanwhile, this morning I saw Fox News still hyping the op-ed and hyping the upcoming O’Hanlon/Pollack appearance on Fox News Sunday (Democrats who appear on GOP propganda outlets to attack fellow Democrats are everyone’s favorite kind of Democrats) with a heavy emphasis on the idea that the inconsistency between the tone of the op-ed and other recent analysis by the dynamic duo should add credibility to the analysis since they changed their minds after seeing firsthand what was really happening in Iraq.
The privileging of firsthand information is, in this case, totally unwarranted. Obviously, firsthand knowledge of conditions in Iraq would be a good thing to have. But as best as one can tell, the two Brookings fellows didn’t really get that. Instead, they took a week-long guided tour organized by official sources. And they did this not because they’re lazy but because it’s too dangerous for people to walk around Iraq without a military escort. Under those circumstances, assertions about troops’ morale need to be taken with a grain of salt (outside analysts are probably steered toward the peppiest troops) and assertions about an improved security situation need to be firmly located int eh context of it being too dangerous for people to walk around Iraq without a military escort.