Standing Up for McChrystal
Spencer Ackerman reluctantly agrees with a foe he once said "never had an interesting thought in his life"
Spencer Ackerman, liberal foreign policy blogger, doesn't like Michael O'Hanlon at all. Ackerman has said that the Brookings Institution scholar "continues to demonstrate that ignorance or shoddy reasoning is no obstacle to placing an op-ed" and is at times "peddling a sellable message, allegedly, while gussying it up as scholarship." So it is nothing small that Ackerman and O'Hanlon are taking the same position on General McChrystal's political turn. Here's Ackerman on O'Hanlon in 2008:
Michael O'Hanlon is a Brookings Institution defense expert who doesn't actually know anything about defense. He does, however, know how to be a reliable barometer of what very-slightly-left-of-center establishment types believe should be said about defense. If anyone in the foreign-policy community respects O'Hanlon, I haven't met him or her. I remember being at a barbecue in 2005 and remarking that O'Hanlon has never had an interesting thought in his life when an aide to John Bolton stood up, pumped the air with both fists, and bellowed, "Preach it, brother!" [...] Harder to understand is how the foreign-policy establishment doesn't put him out to pasture. Like the Bolton aide at the barbecue, few are willing to say publicly that O'Hanlon doesn't know what he's talking about, no matter how widespread that opinion actually is behind closed doors and over beers.
Snap! Today, Ackerman agrees with O'Hanlon, evaluating the politicization of generals. Ackerman writes:
With a heavy heart and a long stare into the mirror, I must acknowledge: I am on the same side of an argument about the propriety of Gen. McChrystal's remarks as Michael O'Hanlon. This is when the voice in my left ear says, Are you sure you want to continue down this path? But we're-- we're-- we're right, damn it, and it's disconcerting how few people criticizing McChrystal are able to produce full, contextualized quotes from the man to support this narrative of insubordination. Gates and Jones addressed a media-driven controversy to end it, and to get McChrystal, indeed, to stop giving the press opportunities to feed a narrative that's irresistible to the press. That's why Gates and Clinton deaded the issue last night with a very vocal bit of support for the general. [...] For the record: I really don't like disagreeing with Gene Robinson, but I disagree with him on this column, because it reads like he's read the bad press coverage of McChrystal, rather than McChrystal's actual remarks.
O'Hanlon's column in today's Washington Post:
Some might agree with all this yet say that McChrystal still had no business wading into policy waters at this moment. It is true that commanders, as a rule, should not do so. But when truly bad ideas or those already tried and discredited are debated as serious proposals, they do not deserve intellectual sanctuary. McChrystal is personally responsible for the lives of 100,000 NATO troops who are suffering severe losses partially as a result of eight years of a failed counterterrorism strategy under a different name. He has a right to speak if a policy debate becomes too removed from reality. Put another way, we need to hear from him because he understands this reality far better than most in Washington.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.