VDH Responds

The riposte is a little sad, really. Hanson clearly favored an aggressive strategy that concentrated on shoot-to-kill aggression and opposed any increase in troops back in 2004; Petraeus, in contrast, was a stern critic of past efforts, wanted many more troops and emphasized classic counter-insurgency tactics - patrolling and living with Iraqi civilians to win their trust, while cordoning off terror hubs and attacking them. Hanson is now in favor of the troop increase (surprise!), but still doesn't say how this squares with his previous position that 138,000 was plenty. He simply says that 160,000 is closer to 138,000 than to 200,000. Sure, but if 138,000 and more aggression had been enough in 2005 and 2006, why did we need the surge at all? If Hanson realizes he was wrong back then, why not say so? It seems to me he has a choice between jettisoning some (but not all) of his past arguments and taking his current position or admitting he was wrong, explaining why, and moving on. But he's on the neocon right; and they simply cannot admit they're ever wrong. Like cardinals defending orthodoxy rather than politicians defending policies, they keep repeating themselves. So we're left with the contortions of this morning.

Hanson tries to square the circle by saying that our recent "success" is due to more aggressive tactics, not the troop increases. If you believe Petraeus has instituted more shoot-to-kill operations in civilian areas, less outreach to the public and more lethality, then he may have a point. But I'm guessing you read the papers as well as I can. Certainly Petraeus believes more troops made a difference. (Of course, almost the entire difference is a function of Shiite militias pulling back and waiting for us to leave, and the Sunni tribes in Anbar realizing al Qaeda is a bunch of barbarian fanatics.)

Hanson's peroration is a recitation of a creed. This creed endures like all creeds, irrespective of reality. The last five years have told us a lot, and there's plenty to disagree on and think about. If it has entrenched your view that the Arab world is just itching for normal democratic development, that it's another post-war Germany or Japan on the verge of a miracle, then fair enough. But surely it behooves you to say why any sane person would draw such a conclusion. Hanson doesn't. He simply darkly accuses me thus:

I am not sure that Sullivan can read the English language.

I used to think Sullivan was perhaps unstable, but not necessarily dense. But I fear that he is increasingly both - or more still.

More still? More than unstable and stupid? You mean I'm Al Gore now?