O'Hanlon + Post = Well, The Same

Someone at The Washington Post editorial pages decided that despite the fact that Michael O'Hanlon (PDF) "has appeared on the major television networks more than 150 times since September 11, 2001 and has contributed to CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and FOX some 300 times over that same period" that what the world needs is more media exposure for Michael O'Hanlon. Thus, they gave him the chance to respond to his critics.

Now, were I an editor I might well have done the same thing. Certainly, at this point it's a newsworthy exercise. So, yeah, I would have given him the space. Given it to him, that is, were he inclined to actually address the substance of the criticisms that have been raised. But we don't get that. On the much-disputed issue of Iraqi civilian casualties he simply reiterates that "the Pentagon showed us data illustrating that overall death tallies from all forms of sectarian violence were down about one-third from last winter's average." People have suggested that this should be seasonally adjusted. O'Hanlon has no response. What's more, while O'Hanlon says he's seen the data, the Pentagon hasn't released it to the public for scrutiny. Leila Fadel reported earlier this month for McClatchey that "U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim."

Does it seem plausible that the Department of Defense has really solid, favorable data about its own activities that it's keeping hidden from public scrutiny? Not to me.

And it's on like that. Thousands of words have been spilled criticizing his New York Times op-ed and he hasn't responded to a single one of them. He's just re-iterating his views in a new venue, and though he says this "would be a sad time to conclude we have been defeated," he also concedes that "our strategy for Iraq probably cannot work absent major national political cooperation across sectarian lines." But if our strategy probably can't succeed, then this seems like an ideal time to conclude that we should abandon our strategy. There's no such thing as a non-sad time to admit you've failed, after all.