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?
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.