Monday, July 30, 2007

There's nothing there:

Everybody is talking about the New York Times op-ed by O’Hanlon and Pollack. Sure, these are the guys who were predicting success from way back in 2003, and were wrong about a number of other Iraq "facts" (like Saddam's WMD program). But set that aside. Here is what the dynamic duo report:
  • They spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel.
  • The morale of U.S. troops is high.
  • Civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began.
  • They talked with a Marine captain in Ramadi who is meeting with local Sunni sheiks.
  • They walked a street in Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood that is "slowly coming back to life".
  • They visited the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul where "reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities".
  • Wherever they found a fully staffed Provincial Reconstruction Team, they also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it.
And they pass on claims by American advisors and command that:
  • Many corrupt Iraqis in the military have been removed.
  • Three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable.
  • Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda.
That's it. Instead of delivering hard numbers that show the situation in Iraq as a whole, or even the restricted areas where the surge is supposed to work, they talk to a Marine captain and walk down a street (apparently the McCain/Graham exercise still impresses some folks). It's pretty close to 100% anecdotal, which is foolish when assessing a military situation.

Oh, and they admit that "we still face huge hurdles on the political front", which is what the surge was intended to allow to move forward.


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