What, More O’Hanlon Now?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 9:45 am

Michael E. O’Hanlon continues to demonstrate that ignorance or shoddy reasoning is no obstacle to placing an op-ed. Two days after his problematic piece introducing us to Brookings Benchmarks — or, as I like to call them, The Only Iraq Metric That Matters — here he is in USA Today.

This time O’Hanlon doesn’t bother to pretend his Benchmarks are responsible methods of calculating progress. He just bald-facedly states that progress is happening and chides the Democrats for their strategic myopia in opposing the worst strategic mistake of the post-Vietnam generation.

The Democratic position — embraced particularly by Sen. Barack Obama but also by Sen. Hillary Clinton — is that we need to make haste for the exits. Obama rigidly calls for pulling nearly all combat forces out of Iraq within about a year of Inauguration Day. Clinton’s position leaves room for some flexibility, though her words on the campaign trail are generally similar to Obama’s. But neither candidate’s approach would be supported by most leaders — American or Iraqi — on the ground in Iraq. Only those who have concluded that the war is already lost tend to back such a position. And that latter viewpoint is far less common today than it was a year ago, or even months ago.


Democrats in Congress — including the two seeking the presidency and the leadership on Capitol Hill — should work for success in Iraq while reminding Iraqis that absent continued progress, the U.S. commitment could end, and soon. It is a message consistent with Democrats’ past views on the conflict, yet cognizant of the considerable gains there in the past year.

This would be a noble, worthy approach for an opposition party in a time of war. And my guess is that beyond being the right thing to do, such a change in strategy would be politically appealing to American voters come November.

So there it is. O’Hanlon’s peddling a sellable message, allegedly — did he not notice the 2006 election? — while gussying it up as scholarship. Incidentally, he still hasn’t returned my requests for comment. I’m starting to get a complex!

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