Moral Clarity

Kevin Drum, aiming for some kind of wanker prize, posts the following missive from "[a] member in (extremely good) standing of the VSP community":

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 oped 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?

Well, of course, if you mischaracterize the critique that was made of them, then that fake version of the critique doesn't hold up well. Pollack and O'Hanlon concluded:

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

This, it seems to me, was deliberately dishonest. Part of the effort to confused people about the nature of the choice facing us, by doling the war out in bite-sized morsels. They also managed throughout the course of their op-ed to obscure the fact that the "surge" hasn't met its stated goals. It remains unclear whether or not they actually visited any portion of Iraq that wasn't a "Potemkin village" of sorts. For some reason or other, for example, they seem to have not noticed that Baghdad had become a network of walled-off ethnically cleansed cantons.

Clearly, though, the summertime decline in violence has proven more sustainable than I thought it would at the time. Equally clearly, Pollack and O'Hanlon have a good relationship with General Petraeus and came back from Iraq speaking from a set of misleading talking points designed to advance the political sustainability of the Bush administration's policies. I'm not shedding any tears for them.