According to Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, We might Win in Iraq.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference. [SNIP]
In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship. [SNIP]
In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab. [SNIP]
In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.
Since the op-ed has been linked far and wide, likely there is little left to say that hasn’t been already said. So I’ll sample from Memeorandum and refrain from politically labeling the links (except in the cases for which the political bent is obvious). I’ll let the reader judge how interesting the given opinion is—in good or bad terms.
The first thing I noticed in this paean to the Iraq war by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack was who they didn't talk to…[SNIP]Powerline:
There's a lot more, but the "who" that O'Hanlon and Pollack did not talk to is not there, either. Give up? Why, it's anyone at all who wasn't wearing a U.S. military uniform! [sic]
My fear, though, is that the leadership of the Democratic Party sees progress on the ground in Iraq as bad news, not good. I think many Congressional Democrats are committed to defeat, for political and ideological reasons. If so, they won't be swayed by this kind of report. It could help, of course, if voters perceive progress in Iraq and hold politicians accountable if they fail to sustain it. But not many rank and file voters, either Democrat or Republican, read the op-ed pages of the Times.Q and O:
So here are two guys, former critics of the war effort, who've spent considerable time on the ground in all areas of Iraq and have come away impressed by the significant progress that has been made in real terms, not rosy administration terms, and recommend it be given more time.Thomas P. M. Barnett:
And yet it's one thing to send just enough to settle the situation, but quite another to realize that, with the rotational strain coming to a head, there's still no question--despite the expected operational success of the surge--that the drawdown and pullback must occur, so the larger issue remains: What have we done diplomatically in the region to adjust to that inevitable pathway? [SNIP]Think Progress:
So [it’s] good news to hear and excellent tactical analysis, but we're talking the small stuff here while still ineffectively debating the larger strategic issues, which neither party's candidates are effectively exploring right now, instead filling airwaves with fanciful declarations that we must "end this war now" (as if!) and "stop Iran's quest for nukes!" (ditto).
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.Talk Left
I have a new litmus test for the Dem Presidential candidates - they must promise not to have [Democrats] Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollock in their administration.And Jules Crittenden:
It isn’t about how we manage to extricate gracefully. It isn’t about whether Iraqi pols can agree on anything by September or March, any more than it’s about whether American pols are likely to agree on anything in that time frame. It is about making it work, in Iraq and in the United States. It is not that we can win, which has been demonstrated. It is that we must win. Because the alternatives … the threat of genocide, the rise of Iran, the threat of spreading war, a new period of American humiliation and diminishment of American power … are not just unpalatable, but not an alternative. There is no room for equivocating on that.