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Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE BLOGOSPHERE vs THE VSPs....PART 2....A member in (extremely good) standing of the VSP community emails to suggest a delicate topic for the liberal blogosphere to take a second look at:

One thing you might write about — if only because nobody else has, I think — is how that whole dust-up over the O'Hanlon/Pollack op-ed looks in retrospect. I mean, clearly they were on to something — the relative quieting down of stuff that has taken place in Iraq over the last several months, etc. Completely debatable whether that was due to the surge, or is sustainable, or is deeply significant, etc. etc., but it's not like the caricature of them put forth in the blogosphere at the time — as paid lobbyists for the Bushies, reporting back what they were told to after checking out a Potemkin village — holds up, does it?

Hmmm. Yes. Seems like I was pretty skeptical of the O'Hanlon/Pollack report myself. But basically they reported two things: (a) violence is down and security has improved, and (b) the economy, police force, political leadership, and infrastructure are still disaster areas. And actually, um, that pretty much seems to be true, doesn't it?

Discuss.

UPDATE: The blogosphere dissents! "Et Tu Kevin?" writes Ilan Goldenberg. He reviews the main critiques of O&P "at least as far as I saw it," and concludes that "I still think they all stand." Meanwhile, Matt Yglesias suggests I'm "aiming for some kind of wanker prize." He also reviews the criticism of O&P and concludes, "I'm not shedding any tears for them."

One note: this is a little deep in the weeds, but Ilan points out that my nickel summary of O&P was based primarily on their full report, written in late August, not on the New York Times op-ed they wrote earlier and got blasted for. "But nobody read the report," he says. "Everyone read the op-ed."

That's a fair criticism. At the time, I spent more time with the report than I did with the op-ed, so that's what I based my impressions on. But it's true that the op-ed got a lot more attention, and it's also true that the op-ed painted a considerably rosier picture than the full report. The op-ed was almost entirely about the improved security situation and, unlike the report, gave virtually no attention to the continuing political/economic/infrastructure problems.

Still, I'll stand my ground in at least one respect: whatever problems O&P had with tone and emphasis, their main point was that security was getting better. And they turned out to be right — at least for now. I'd advise not being too churlish about acknowledging that.

That said, the war was still a bad idea and we ought to be withdrawing U.S. troops regardless of any security gains we've made over the past year. Without political progress our military presence does no good, and if anything, the political landscape today looks even worse than it did when O&P wrote their op-ed four months ago. It's well past time to leave.

Kevin Drum 12:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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Comments

It seems like this is an area where we liberals have to admit we were wrong something. I thought it would be impossible to make any military gains in Iraq, and I remember people saying only 10000 extra troops wouldn't do anything, and I agreed with them. However, I still think we should withdraw because as Bush himself has said, this war cannot be won militarily and it must be won politically, and the first step to doing that is to withdraw. If you doubt that, take a look as the latest opinion poll from the Iraqi people themselves.

Posted by: Alex on December 20, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

My impression of the original criticism was that O'Hanlon/Pollack were attempting to imply that any improvements in the security situation validated their original cheerleading for the war. There is probably a fair number of your readers that would think violence could go to zero, and it would not excuse the lies that were used to get us into this war, and would not resurrect the +3,000 dead U.S. troops or the +300,000 dead Iraqis.

Posted by: DougMN on December 20, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is quite a new discovery. If you segregate religious enemies and and build walls around them they will stop fighting.

This is quite an advancement in the knowledge of human behavior. It suggests that we can solve the crime problem if we put potential criminals in isolated cells.

Surprisingly, nobody ever thought of that before. O'Hanlon and Pollack should be awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace, Biology and Physics for this discovery.

Posted by: gregor on December 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the main problem many had with the O'Hanlon/Pollack piece not so much with the content of the piece as it was with the way O'Hanlon and Pollack portrayed themselves as initially critical of the Iraq War and the surge, which (upon further examination) was not actually the case?

Just asking.

Posted by: DaveWoo on December 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you're absolutely right. I remember during that time, egbert, ex-liberal, and I routinely referred to and quoted the important Hanlon/Pollack report, but we were summarily dismissed as trolls. Turns out the "trolls" were right while the liberals were wrong. I tried to look up and find some of those comments in your comments section, but for some reason they seem to have disappeared. Too bad.
This is, unfortunately, one of the consequences of living in a echo chamber like liberals often do. They make ignorant comments and then dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as trolls. Hopefully this will teach liberals a lesson, but I don't see that happening.

Posted by: Al on December 20, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Considering what a mess our economy is, you can expect the Bushies -- *any* Bushies -- to get an economy working. They don't have a clue.

Posted by: Scorpio on December 20, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

DaveWoo got it in one.

The issue was that they were being touted as a skeptical duo from the liberal Brookings Institution who were swayed by all the glorious progress in Iraq.

Posted by: uri on December 20, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

can NOT expect it of them.

Posted by: Scorpio on December 20, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't everybody dodging the question? The question was, "Is the surge a good idea?" I didn't think it was then, and I still don't think it was ('cause the quieting down has nothing to do with it). The sooner we're out, the better - not what Pollack and O'Hanlon think.

Posted by: David in NY on December 20, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

two wrongs don't make a right...in this case three wrongs is still wrong.
& gregor & davewoo got it right, al, not so much.

merry huckabee al.

Posted by: mestizo on December 20, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I always assumed the real blogosphere beef with O'Hanlon & Pollock still writing well-placed op-eds was a sort of meta-complaint: why are *those guys*--who got so much, so very, very wrong in the past--still dominating public discussion of Iraq, not to mention presenting themselves as left-wing critics of the war?

Posted by: Scott E. on December 20, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ahhh, the VSP Community still hasn't come to the realization that Bush's War of Choice was never premised on any "unassailable" facts and consequently, no Declaration of War was ever considered as required by our national Constitution.

Moreover, as a Chicano who is also a Vietnam War vet, I have achieved the clarity for understanding that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a bogus artifice just as the AUMF was a bogus artifice. Sadly, many of my Brethren of Shared Experiences died then and are dying now in pursuit of the unchallenged political ambitions of the VSP.

To wit, Matt Iglesias has an excellent take-down of the VSP in which all the "hanger-ons" continue to resist America's reality, and all for the sole purpose of maintaining their individualized mantle of residence within the VSP.

Consequently, whether the surge is working or has worked in the short-term, is pretty much irrelevant if one refuses to become distracted or remains in denial of the "unassailable" facts.

So, spare me the 'discussion' with respect to the surge or "reconciliation" despite our military withdrawal. Sadly, the nexus for logic and fact is not a behavior much appreciated or respected in the VSP. Regardless, I will continue to remain an aficionado for the Sonoran Desert Adage and which informs and illuminates that "the only thing that changes in America is its history."

If you "got it" wrong on War, tell it to my buddies who are dead. As such, you are an embarrassment to yourself, and recognize your "clarity" for nonsense.

Respectfully Submitted.

Jaango

Posted by: Jaango on December 20, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think most people were willing to admit that an increase in troops would bring the level of violence down somewhat. But the point of the surge was to allow political reconciliation, economic improvement, etc. None of those goals have been achieved.

It's rather like a student who gets a failing grade, but then tries to say he should pass the test because he answered the questions, even though most of the answers were wrong.

Posted by: tomeck on December 20, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Did O'Hanlon and Pollack predict the surge would increase refugee crisis?
...The US troop escalation that began last February seems to be implicated in the displacement of over one million Iraqis to Syria between March and October of this year, adding to the nearly 450,000 that fled there in 2006. This is according to projections from a United Nations weighted survey of nearly 800 refugees. Some 78% of those interviewed in Syria said that they came from Baghdad....
How the US 'surge' drove one million Iraqis to Syria last spring and summer is a great mystery, and casts severe doubt on its political success. A significant proportion of these one million Surge Victims appear to have been Baghdad Sunnis, since from January of 2007 through July 2007 the US military admits that Baghdad went from being 65% Shiite to being 75% Shiite....

Bush's unsustainable surge accomplished nothing in the way of a political reconciliation which is necessary for a stable society and infrastructure reconstruction.

Posted by: Mike on December 20, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Their op-ed was siezed by the pro-war crowd as justification of the war and that everything was going to be hunky-dory, if only the nay-sayers would just shut up. That is why the dialog was forced into a black and white realm.

I don't think that there was ever any question of beating the insurgency back around Baghdad by increasing troops and equipment in the area. All told, probably an additional 50,000 troops were added to the area by retention, influx and repositioning within the country.

Look at it this way, Shinsekei's estimate of troop levels was far more accurate than Rumsfelds. But, as was predicted, the "squeezing the balloon" effect that has lead to less stability in other areas of the country.

Well, here we are 6 months after the full "surge" was achieved. The question is whether a functioning, secure democratic state is any nearer in Iraq than before. Southern Iraq has been abandoned by the British to the militias and war lords. There is little or no parliamentary progress. Northern Iraq is under attack by Turkish troops. The borders remain insecure. Religious restrictions have increased in many areas. Defacto partitioning of the country has occurred.

So in the end, what has been accomplished? Only the demonstration of a well known fact that concentration of military force will suppress insurgencies.

Posted by: Neal on December 20, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

wasn't the main problem many had with the O'Hanlon/Pollack piece not so much with the content of the piece as it was with the way O'Hanlon and Pollack portrayed themselves as initially critical of the Iraq War and the surge, which (upon further examination) was not actually the case?

Exactly. And no VSP who was actually a serious person would fail to address this point.

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to remember most of the criticism was how O'Hanlon was touted as a "fierce war critic" whose mind was changed, when that wasn't at all true. And that criticism still holds up nicely.

Posted by: PapaJijo on December 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

But thanks, Kevin, for changing history to make us liberals look bad.

Posted by: PapaJijo on December 20, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

The VSP want to make the debate about the quality of the management of the consequences of stupidity, because a debate about their stupidity is one they can't win.

If Bush climbs into his car hammered after a night in the bars, and actually makes it all the way home without wrapping himself around a pole, or taking anyone else out, that's good news, of a sort...

It doesn't mean a.) that his getting behind the wheel in the first place was a wise move, never mind b.) an argument in favor of his doing it again next Friday, or c.) an adequate qualification for giving him a NASCAR ride next season.

The VSP are the very people who should have hidden his keys, and they didn't.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 20, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

How can anyone trust the numbers that come out of Iraq? "27 dead al-queda". How do you know they're al queda? "12 less mortars rounds fell on Baghdad"--Is the Pentagon doing the counting? Didn't the Bush team say it creates its own reality and that if something has a chance of being 1% true it is true?

You can count of these miscreants to count the way they like.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on December 20, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Davis X. Machina,

An excellent post and analogy.

I would add that if the VSP Community was engaged in the 'domestic' policies of our nation, a VSP 'expert' would be attempting to convince me that Major League Baseball's problems with 'roids would be the fault of the 'undocumented' Santa and whose repeated arrivals was the overall cause and culprit.

Respectfully Submitted.

Jaango

Posted by: Jaango on December 20, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hit the 'A' button, jump, spin around and pull the left trigger, this throws a grenade and generally works against the Heretics in normal mode.


Posted by: Matt on December 20, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon and Pollack only represented the W. Bush administration's interests only as the W. Busn administration represented the general interests of VSP's and the FPC. The VSP's and FPC do not represent the general interests of the US, despite their claims, but the interests of defense contractors and other capitalists. Their goal is to retain American hegemony regardless of the quantity and suffering of their victims.

Those who opposed the surge, the occupation and the invasion of Iraq also oppose the use of American hard power to achieve hegemony with aggressive, offensive, overwhelming military power under any circumstances. The VSP's and FPC endorse the use of American military power to enrich a powerful few, which lefties and some liberals abhor and consider criminal.

In this regard, the VSP's and FPC represent the very worst of institutional state power. They are no different than any war mongers from any other warrior societies. They could just as easily be advising the ruling juntas of Myanmar or Sudan.

After the end of WW II, the Allies prosecuted the VSP's and many of the FPC of Germany and Japan, not just the politicians, generals and death camp commandants. I do not think American VSP's and the FPC could withstand a similar scrutiny of their actions. Many would hang, and justice would be served.

Posted by: Brojo on December 20, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

It was the timimg of the op-ed, coming just a little over two weeks before Petraeus' report, that helped enable the spin doctors to establish the meme "The surge is working."

O'Hanlan and Pollack were more cautious in their actual assessment than the ensuing spin, but the combination of suggesting some "success" and being presented as "two prior critics of the war" gave the opening.

Now we're stuck with military success being the metric for "The surge is working."

Posted by: Bob Gaines on December 20, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think people went off the track in opposing the surge.

The problem with the way G.W. Bush had prosecuted the war in Iraq - until the November 2006 elections forced him to change course - was that he had never provided the troops with enough resources and an effective strategy to get the job done right. He undermined the mission for 3 1/2 years, and while withdrawing would have been a better option than staying GW's previous course, a year ago withdrawal wasn't the only - or best - option. Better prosecution of the war was an option, and Bush finally got around to providing it, somewhat reluctantly.

After the elections, Bush finally gave the troops a competent leader, enough resources, and a sensible strategy. It has been better to pursue this strategy than it would have been to withdraw.

Posted by: McCord on December 20, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

They LIED about whether they were critics of the War.

They LIED.

that was the critique.

You are indeeed bucking for the Wanker of the day pirze.

What is with you these days?

Posted by: Armando on December 20, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

There is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in the vsp's comment.

Violence is down because the ethnic cleansing that broke out after the war is finally winding down.

The ethnic cleansing is winding down because formerly ethnicly mixed areas are now mono-ethnic.
Ethnic cleansing is complete.

How the surge relates to this dynamics is unclear.

Posted by: Adam on December 20, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

The significance of a statement often goes well beyond what is expressly stated. In context, many of us read the O'Hanlon/Pollack thing as being part of a campaign (i.) to encourage our continuing presence in Iraq (which many of us think is a very bad idea) and (ii.) to justify the original decision to go to war.

I think we were right in our understanding of the significance of the piece. And I think both efforts are misguided -- stupid and offensive, even.

Posted by: tom on December 20, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Gaines: O'Hanlan and Pollack were more cautious in their actual assessment than the ensuing spin, but the combination of suggesting some "success" and being presented as "two prior critics of the war" gave the opening.

Precisely. The Pollack/O'Hanlon report was actually fairly critical, and repudiated some of the common claims of the Bush administration. Because it contained an opinion that the surge was creating progress it was seized upon by hawks and chickenhawks and partisans as "proof!", even though it failed to take into account the massive relocation of Iraqis (to the tune of 15% of the entire population) or the temporary cease-fires of both Sunni and Mahdi into real consideration.

To wit, it included the following observations:

That Al-Qaeda in Iraq was a home-grown phenomenon that would never have existed except as a response to an invasion

That there's no reason to think that the nationalist Al-Qaeda in Iraq would "follow us home" if we didn't "fight them over there."

That the progress against al-Qa’ida has not yet been replicated in dealing with sectarian strife.

That the suppression of sectarian violence has been largely a result of balkanizing cities with blast walls, gates, and military checkpoints.

That the Iraqi National Police are an utter failure, mired in corruption, sectarianism and graft.

That the economy blows, and is unlikely to unblow anytime soon; that sewer and water conditions are abysmal; that health care is broken; and that the production of electricity is about what it was when Saddam was in power.

That the government was a complete failure, unable to project power, and that any progress in completing a legislative agenda would likely be ignore by all parties.

In fact, the report called for chucking the entire government and electoral process and replacing it with a new one.

Posted by: trex on December 20, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Has the Maliki government had some overwhelming successes in reconciling the factions and divisions in Iraq that the MSM is covering up?

That was the goal of the Surge. The Surge has failed.

What am I missing? Kevin? Mike? VSPs everywhere?

Posted by: Jim on December 20, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin is a little quick to accept criticism.

Good to be self-critical, but that should include considering what can be said in favor of, as well as against, the thing at issue. Especially when the criticism implicates other people or ideas that go beyond yourself.

Snap out of it.

Posted by: tom on December 20, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

it's not like the caricature of them put forth in the blogosphere at the time -- as paid lobbyists for the Bushies, reporting back what they were told to after checking out a Potemkin village -- holds up, does it?

Straw men rarely do.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on December 20, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

trex: the production of electricity is about what it was when Saddam was in power.

I'd like to see some figures on electricity now compared with before the first Gulf War.

Posted by: anandine on December 20, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Let me pile on here.

The problem is that P&O'H presented themselves as war critics when they were in fact war hawks, liberal war hawks who helped turn many of the nominally liberal top bloggers into fellow travelers down GWB's road of shame.

The later point explains why Kevin is even bothering to post this nonsense.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

VSPs? I thought I was a regular reader, but I seemed to have missed that chapter in the acronymn speakers guidebook. Virginia State Police? Probably not. Voluntary separation program? Nope. Still doesn't look right. Vogon Space Patrol? Seems a bit warmer, but no. Visiting Scientist Program? Negatory.

I give up.

Posted by: capitalistimperialistpig on December 20, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps this "VSP in extremely good standing" can provide a few concrete examples of misplaced criticism? Were there from those considered major players in the blogosphere, or narrowly read bloggers? How pervasive does this person believe this to have been? Are they willing to address, as DaveWoo pointed out, that the main thrust of criticism of O'Hanlon/Pollack was not for the piece but for their egregious claim that they were initial critics of the war? And will this person bravely remove the veil of anonymity so that an open dialogue on the debate can commence?

Posted by: hamstak on December 20, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Self-criticism is an admirable quality and more people need more of it. And yes, while people were upset how the two portrayed themselves, that wasn't the entire criticism by a long shot.

Untold reams of Internet pixels were unrolled and wasted on essays saying that the military surge could not work. These pixels and their carbon footprint were destroyed by all sorts of liberal arts majors, engineers, students, and Pomeranians who really had no credentials (to use a word that some people here are known to dislike) and no first or second hand knowledge to be bloviating on.

As has been the case in recent weeks with technical debates over the nature of intelligence, or whether torture works or doesn't, I am amazed, no back up, strike that, appalled at the high levels of confidence and certainty expressed by people who basically know nothing.

And yes, I am looking at many of the commenters here in addition to our favorite pundits. (Remember, Matt Yglesias has acknowledged he has had one, one course in military issues.)

Now, I think we make a shitload more sense often times than the VSPs and the Village, but I've always been weirded out by the bets people are willing to make on how the future is going to unroll in Iraq.

Let's not kid ourselves, a lot of our criticism of O'Hanlock was in fact that we felt the surge was not going to work: the stats were from the wrong time period, it was summer, it was the Mahdi Army standing down, ....

If the deaths and terror incidents are down, that's terrific. If we were wrong about our reasons for thinking otherwise, we need to examine our own thinking. Groupthink? Agendas and biases? Probably.

Posted by: jerry on December 20, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'll have to disagree with the emailer.

The blogs I read took the op-ed to task on one, a few, or all of these four points:

1. It downplayed the fact the surge has not achieved its real goal: political progress.

2. It downplayed the fact that ethnic cleansing and a mass exodus of people have also led to less violence.

3. It completely ignored the fact the Iraqi people say that the reason there was so much violence to begin with was because the U.S. was and still is occupying their country.

4. They were consistently labeled as "war critics" when neither was all that critical about the war. Sure, they ripped a few aspects of it, but they supported the idea overall. But that is NOT how they portrayed themselves, nor did the media portray them in that manner.

None of those have changed and, thus, most of the criticism I read still stands. (Although I don't read every blog, so maybe I missed a few that took other routes.)

Posted by: Mark D on December 20, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Very Serious People.

Posted by: jerry on December 20, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

VSP=Very Serious Person/People

However, in reference to think tank drones who blithely write white papers arguing how killing people is a good thing, I prefer the term Violently Sadistic Pricks.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Aww...Joe Klein has a crush on Kevin...

Figures that he'd get the reason why the 'bilious blogosphere' reacted the way it did to the O'Hanlon/Pollack report wrong.

IN retrospect, the reaction was caused by (1) The shaky nature of O'Hanlon and Pollack's conclusions, especially as contrasted against other available information, (2) The presentaion of O'Hanlon and Pollack as 'anti-war liberals' when they demonstrably were not, and (3) the subsequent cover this provided to the White House prior to the Petraeus report...Kev got it right when he stated:

"I think it's fair to ask O'Hanlon and Pollack for more evidence of progress than just regurgitation of talking points from the military brass they traveled with. Whining about how unfairly they're being treated is a poor substitute for the healthy skepticism they should have displayed in the first place."

So yeah, given all the bullshit we were fed in the run-up to the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, there was a bit of outrage at what looked like another attempt to mislead the public. O'Hanlon and Pollack came off as either dupes of or accomplices in that attempt.

Posted by: grape_crush on December 20, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not kid ourselves, a lot of our criticism of O'Hanlock was in fact that we felt the surge was not going to work

Yes, and judging from the administration's poor track record in Iraq (how many 'courses' on military matters have they had, in total?) leading up to the Surge™, not to mention the collapse of the entire political enterprise of a Surge™ that was impotent even by Petraeus' published military calculus, I'd say we come out smelling like a fucking rose, so long as we don't succumb to peer-pressure to endorse a creationist-quality cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy that has, as its price of admission, a complete ignorance of the facts on the ground in Iraq.

Which is a long way of saying that, no, I still don't feel bad for not being a fucking moron.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on December 20, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, two distinct forms of habitual leftie behavior in less than one hour.

First, we have gregor and adam trotting out the talking point:

gregor:
This is quite a new discovery. If you segregate religious enemies and build walls around them they will stop fighting. This is quite an advancement in the knowledge of human behavior. It suggests that we can solve the crime problem if we put potential criminals in isolated cells. Surprisingly, nobody ever thought of that before. O'Hanlon and Pollack should be awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace, Biology and Physics for this discovery.

adam:
There is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in the vsp's comment. Violence is down because the ethnic cleansing that broke out after the war is finally winding down. The ethnic cleansing is winding down because formerly ethnicly [sic] mixed areas are now mono-ethnic. Ethnic cleansing is complete. How the surge relates to this dynamics [sic] is unclear.

Gregor uses sarcasm to embellish the point. Adam uses a bit of Latin logic learning. Maybe he is in law school.

Does either of them wonder how the meme got into his brain? Can either imagine the morning conference call where one of John Podesta's or Eli Pariser's minions delivered it to the kool kidz, fully formed and ready to sell?

If gregor or adam had a brain it might run like this: hmmm, this argument [talking point] that is being sold to me sounds like it has a superficial logic. Can I think of any counter arguments? Can I imagine any other conclusions or possible outcomes?

OK, the facts start with this. We now have a pastiche of neighborhoods in Baghdad with much higher levels of sectarian segregation than before. In fact, the segregation is now high enough so that we can be confident that very few of our co-sectarians are residing in specific areas. However, it's not monolithic - all to the east Shiite and all to the west Sunni. It is a jigsaw puzzle, with an enormous total number of convoluted internal dividing lines.

Well, now that I think about it, after the Shiite and Sunni forces segregate each neighborhood, it's time to really ramp up the violence. You see, now we can use mortars.

The completion of "sectarian cleansing" actually created conditions for an enormous increase in violence. Believe me; our military leaders were very worried about that scenario. No, I have no inside knowledge. I just have a brain and I'm allergic to meaningless talking points endlessly repeated by pretentious morons.

Oh yeah, my second category of leftie unpleasantness:

The great Armando of Kos rolls out the threat: Kevin, you could be "Wanker of the day".

It's Vladimir Ilyich Armando enforcing "democratic centralism".

Posted by: foucaultfan on December 20, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

The completion of "sectarian cleansing" actually created conditions for an enormous increase in violence.

Apparently not, but then again your post lacked (unborrowed) content, so what should I expect?

In point of observed fact, enormous violence was invested in creating them, involving the dislocation of one in six Iraqis. This is what pacified Tel Afar. So now we have two actualities to your hypothetical whatever it was supposed to be.

Add to segregation the decline in the overall Sunni population and, with the end of the program of national unity, the end of Interior Ministry troops as Shi'ite death squads, you wind up with all kinds of factors that actually, you know, lead to pacification in ways that an unsustainable and highly localized increase in troops numbers that are largely bunkered down in force protection, you know, cannot.

Stated goals. Not met. Deal.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on December 20, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying people should feel bad, just saying we like being reality based, and part of being reality based requires a commitment to a feedback control loop.

Posted by: jerry on December 20, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, how can a guy like you be so disoriented? At the time O'Hann and Poll were making their remarks there was no truth to them. There never was a question that increasing the number of troops would result in a reduction of violence ( think about it..from Bush's point of view) but there was always the concern that reductions in violence would be spun as 'improvement' and they are not. Improvement, the reconciliation of the Iraqi religious and ethnic groups, has not come to pass.
But, as most of us remember, the real issue with these guys was that their remarks were particularly credible because of their having a long history of being war and Bush critics. In other words, they were 'converted' so why don't we all go along. Ill leave you to Glen Greewald's work on they phony critic crap.
Nothing has changed in Iraq. The4 Sunni and Shia still hate each other. Bodies are found in the street. Americans are still dying almost every day. And the same will be true in a month, year and decade.

Posted by: Richard on December 20, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe that violence in Iraq is down when the chickenhawks start purchasing vacation homes there.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

And actually, um, that pretty much seems to be true, doesn't it?

Um, no. They reported that violence was down when it was, in fact, up. If violence dropped (for a whole month!) after their false report, believe it or not, it doesn't retroactively make them right. They also claimed to be "war critics" when they weren't.

Do you get HRC's talking-points emailed to you directly now?


Posted by: Orson on December 20, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

If the deaths and terror incidents are down

US Air Force sorties are way up in Iraq. These air raids and the victims they create are rarely reported in the US. Every day the US is killing more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terror still exists in Iraq, but it is terror created by the US military and endorsed by war criminals like O'Hanlon and Pollack as a good winning policy.

But what is to be won in Iraq? Oil is a well known Iraqi prize. The other objective is to prevent the majority of Iraqis from expressing their political power. That is the power of the Iraqi Shiites, who the VSP's and FPC fear will not align their interests with theirs. That is why the Shiites of Iran are considered enemies and why the Shiites of Iraq must be prevented from obtaining political power. Shiites, unlike Sunnis, are populists. Shiites think national resources should be used to increase the welfare of their nation, not multinational corporations or the strategic interests of the US. Because Shiites will not submit to US corporate hegemony, they must be prevented by oppression and death from achieving their majority political status. This is what the VSP's advocate, and they should hang for it.

Posted by: Brojo on December 20, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Armando is right. What pissed people off was that they were advertised as war critics who had seen the light: "if we turned these guys, why not you?". Remeber Dick Cheney bringing them up?
They could have said in any of their TV appearances that they took exception to (the interview lead-in) painting them as war critics. They never did that, and that was fundamentally dishonest. It took Glen Greenwald to get a whiny concession out of O'Hanlon.

Posted by: flounder on December 20, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

But that's just the problem, isn't it, when "analysts" are shills? The message stays the same no matter how the facts change, right?

And the clock that doesn't work is correct twice a day.

Posted by: William Slattery on December 20, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon and Pollack went on their junket in July. You don't start seeing any tangible evidence of improvements, at least in terms of violence or dead bodies, until late August/early September.

As for what was happening in Iraq during July:

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in the country's brutal civil conflict rose by more than a third in July despite a five-month-old surge in US troop levels, government figures showed Wednesday.

At least 1,652 civilians were killed in Iraq in July, 33 percent more than in the previous month, according to figures compiled by the Iraqi health, defence and interior ministries and made available to AFP.

So, no, they weren't "right" and don't deserve any courtesy.

The reasons for the recent dip in violence in Iraq are complicated, and predicated more on the simple fact that there are less Iraqis around (large numbers have been killed off or have fled); Sadr has called for a reprieve in attacks; and the Americans have more or less embraced the ethnic cleansing, by helping to drive further wedges between the ethic groups -- which does have a side effect of cutting down on open strife.

Posted by: bc on December 20, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Man, it kills me how often liberals are willing to "admit mistakes," even when no mistakes have been made. I guess it's supposed to make us look fair and even handed, or something. Kevin, did you even go back and read your original post? The basis of your complaints was essentially that O&P made a number of assertions backed up by any facts. To the extent that some of what they reported may have turned out to be true, how has that changed your original complaint? Their report still doesn't contain the evidence you were looking for.

And to echo what many others have said, I remember distinctly that the primary compalint was the way O&Pn were being portrayed as long-time critics of the war. I remember reading statements like "the anti-war folks have even lost Brookings."

What really annoys me about this whole post, however, is the way you seem to have bought into Bush's move-the-goalposts strategy. Casualties may be down, but that wasn't the point of the surge. The idea was to take the pressure off of the Maliki government so real political progress could be made, which has most decidedly not happened.

I don't recall any serious critics of the war claiming that a huge influx of troops would have no effect at all. The point was that it wasn't sustainable, which still remains the case. If anything, the surge has exacerbated the manpower problems the military is dealing with by implementing patchwork solutions, like lowering recruiting standards and turning a blind eye to cheating on promotion exams.

Jeez, grow a pair and stop being so easily intimidated, willya?

Posted by: ChrisO on December 20, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Security has got better short-term because we wised up a little bit. The longer-term picture hasn't got any better, but at least we're effectively hedging our bets.

Posted by: Jimm on December 20, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

@foucaultfan

Okay punk.

How about this for sources:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/26/AR2007102602402.html

Guess I'm not just repeating Kos.

As for your fucking "pastiche":

You can compare the ethnic layout of Bagdad pre and post 2006 here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/baghdad_navigator/

Sure looks like the two sides sorted themselves out.

Oh, and guess what?

You can display all the bombings in Bagdad since the war on the map at the same time. With an overlay showing the sectarian makeup of Bagdad.

Attacks happened at the boundaries between what are now distinct sectarian areas.

Kinda supports the ethnic cleansing thesis.

And btw -- do you walk around in real life with a sign saying "douchebag" stapled to your forehead? Because writing [sic] in posts is the blog equivalent. Tool.

Posted by: Adam on December 20, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

I still haven't been able to determine if the "occupation" of Iraq has had its modus operandi changed. Are the troops as actively operational on the ground or are they being held somewhat out of harm's way? Is the aerial war intensifying, killing more without leaving the comfort of the plane? Where are those numbers?

And as someone already mentioned, what numbers about the Iraqi casualties are we to believe? Remember, Rumsfeld said that we don't count them. And another point raised was about al Quaeda and how many of the supposed casualtes really are card-carriers? We've been japed before.

Posted by: shadou on December 20, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kev, the dude that wrote you that email played your ass good! Or was it a gal? Were you blinded by the pussy? You were, weren't you? Son of a bitch! I thought you were stronger than that...

Posted by: elmo on December 20, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

>> their main point was that security was getting better. And they turned out to be right at least for now.

Did they say "security is going to get better" or did they say "security has gotten better and here is the cherry-picked 'proof'?" I'm amazed that I have to point out the difference to you. Also, if violence increases next month, will you write a post about how the surge is a miserable failure and O'Hanlon, et al., are wrong again?

I thought the whole point was to look at long-term trends and not to obsess over what happens in a two-month period? Also, you are assuming the recent drop in violence proves the surge is working when the surge had political objectives.

I, for one, believe that if you dump 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, you'd probably see a temporary drop in violence. Is that really surprising? If we sent a million more troops into Iraq, you'd likely see a great improvement in the security situation at least temporarily. So what? That doesn't solve the problem, which is how and when can we get out? We know the very serious answer: 30 years.

Hmm. I think you won that wanker award.

Posted by: Orson on December 20, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

What matters is not the success or failure of the war. It's the fact that it was unjustified and based on a lie. If China invades the US, we won't be cheering them simply because some surge of Chinese soldiers during the 4th year of the occupation resulted in us killing less of them.

Posted by: Andrew on December 20, 2007 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

The tactic is as obviouse as much as it is steriotypical. Get it?

No political progress? And no Iraqi really bitching about it? Defacto partitions already in place...

20 years from now the same retards that pushed this filth will pretend they called bullshit from the beginning. And people will believe them. And I will make fun of them all without shame...

Posted by: elmo on December 20, 2007 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Adam,

I would engage you in a battle of wits but, alas, you are unarmed.

I read Partlow's article in the Post when it came out. What's your point?

I'm also very aware of the details of the sectarian movements in Baghdad. The BBC map is quite nice and it illustrates my point exactly. Just look at the current map of sectarian division. Listen. Try to think. I never said that there wasn't a process of increased sectarian segregation. Of course there was. My point is simple. The increased homogeneity of neighborhoods does NOT "logically" imply that there will be a decline in violence.

Yes, there would tend to be a decline in face to face violence as the number of mixed neighborhoods declines. However, there could easily be a great increase in the number of cross neighborhood attacks at a distance. Once the enemies become separated they can mortar each other without killing their co-sectarians. Look up the Lebanese Civil War or Sarajevo or a thousand other examples. If a pattern of artillery or mortar attacks arose, the casualties could easily be much greater than during the "face to face" phase of conflict.

I'm not insinuating that the "surge" prevented that from happening. I'm not insinuating anything. I'm trying to improve the level of discourse by challenging unexamined, un-thoughtful assertions. I'm not expressing any opinion on O'Hanlon and Pollack or on the "surge". I'm just saying that stating with certainty that violence was destined to decline because of increased sectarian separation is not valid as an analytical point. Post hoc ergo propter hoc indeed.

My point about the pastiche is completely confirmed by the BBC map. Just look at the current pattern. There is a very high degree of access at mortar range to the segregated neighborhoods of each sect. The total level of mortar fire exposure to relevant non-mixed neighborhoods would be much less if, say; the sectarian segregation was just a line down the Tigris with all Shia to the east and all Sunni to the west.

Posted by: foucaultfan on December 20, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

I find it telling that this thread ends is such an un-confrontational state...

Posted by: elmo on December 21, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

hey foucaultfan,

Thanks for the tips on listening and trying to think. Alternatively, you could have tried to persuade skeptical commenters here by using ALL CAPS. Both are equally good persuasive devices.

Yours truly,

All Ears.

Posted by: Carl on December 21, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

Looked at from the perspective of Iraqis, a near-holocaust has been inflicted on their country, regardless of the levels of attacks now. Intellectuals, professionals, are being driven from the formerly secular country by fundamentalists; levels of services are at fifth-world levels, etc. All to get rid of a punched-out palooka who was no threat to anyone.

Posted by: bob h on December 21, 2007 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Carl,

Thanks for noticing my rhetorical device. I call that my "High Noon-an" style. I admit that it's hard to take.

I certainly wasn't aiming my words at everyone here. A good ten percent of the commenters are coherent and I'm sure that you are among that group.

I just get a bit peeved at the meme mules who have no idea what they're carrying on their backs. I wouldn't group the mules with the "skeptical commenters" at this site. I like skeptical commenters. I've even been told that I have some things in common with skeptical commenters.

Posted by: foucaultfan on December 21, 2007 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

The report is a endorsement for that something we shouldn't be doing at all on the grounds that we're doing that crap thing somewhat better than we once did.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on December 21, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah Jeffrey, you gotta love it. Go in with the intention of fucking everything up at first, then make things a little better and call it success...

BRILLIANT!

Posted by: elmo on December 21, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

However, there could easily be a great increase in the number of cross neighborhood attacks at a distance.

You make me laugh so hard, foolcultfan!

But maybe you're right? If I try really hard I think I can see how a random mortor or snipper attack would be MUCH MORE terrifieing than groups of men invading my house slashing my family apart with machedies...

I'm not expressing any opinion on O'Hanlon and Pollack or on the "surge", I'm just laughing.

Posted by: elmo on December 21, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

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