I hadn't realized that Michael O'Hanlon also does local news. New member of congress Nikki Tsongas, for example, introduced legislation that would require troop withdrawals from Iraq so naturally the Lowell Sun turned to America's leading former defense budget analyst:

"It just doesn't compute," Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution said, arguing that Tsongas' plan could cause Iraqi factions to recoil in self-defense as the country destabilizes with the rapid departure of American troops.

In that destabilizing atmosphere, O'Hanlon said, Tsongas' plan to establish an international diplomatic group, which she calls the Middle East Security and Economic Organization, would amount to little more than a group of officials meeting "in hotels."

"Iraq has made a lot of progress in the past two or three months," said O'Hanlon, a critic of the war who believes the surge brought limited stability to the country. "It's just funny to see a freshman member reach those sweeping conclusions."

Funny, indeed. You actually see a classic here of best case / worst case mismatch. We can't leave because if we did things could get worse. But things got steadily worse for about four straight years while we were there, so it's not like keeping 100,000+ troops in Iraq is some kind of assurance that Iraqi political dynamics will play out in a favorable way. There's no reason to arbitrarily assume the worst if we leave and assume the best if we stay.

UPDATE: "The Good News," by Michael O'Hanlon, The Baltimore Sun November 25, 2003: "Things could still get worse in Iraq. But at the risk of speculating, it seems more likely that they will start getting better. We are already witnessing improvements in the Iraqi quality of life; we may soon start to see improvements in the security situation."