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Spin, spin, spin
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 30, 2007

It has been an amusing day.

First an opinion piece appears in the NY Times in which two self-identified critics of the "administration's miserable handling of Iraq" seem to have a change of heart after an 8 day tour of Iraq and opine hey, you know what, this is "A War We Might Win". The right, for the most part, cheers. The left for the most part, jeers ... and goes bats.

And a relatively obvious and tired attempt to tamp this outbreak of hope is afoot. It seems that the two miscreants who dared stray from the anti-war left's mantra that all is lost in Iraq were none other than a couple of guys from the Brookings Institute.

Oh, my.

Of course the right crowed, calling the think tank "hard left" and "liberal". The left, of course answered with, "Liberal? Why it's barely left of center. In fact, it's probably a little right of center if you add these two bozos into the mix."

Heh ... yeah, got it. And as for the two bozos, well they've never been critics according to the left. In fact they're cheerleaders. Rah rahs for war. What are you talking about critics. Why those two never met a neo-con they didn't just love or a war they didn't support.

If you don't believe my characterization, please, do yourself a favor and read the comments here.

Not precisely the most scintillating of debates. In fact, it has been mostly a series of claims on one side and a series of denials on the other. Unfortunately that's what passes as debate these days when it comes to this war. And as usual little or nothing was said about the substance of the article by those who oppose the war.

So are these guys critics? Well Kenneth Pollack certainly does a good impression of one, and that's with a very cursory look. For instance in 2004 in an article in The New Republic he's less than complimentary. A few little gems for your perusal:
The primary cause of our current problems in Iraq is the reckless, and often foolish, manner in which this administration has waged the war and the reconstruction.

[...]

I still have great difficulty fathoming why the administration chose not to fight the war the right way. I remain convinced that, while reconstruction was never guaranteed to succeed, the current mess we now find ourselves in is largely, if not entirely, a product of the administration's determination to do things the wrong way.

[...]

The willingness of members of the Bush administration to abandon their past records of prudence and match Saddam's reckless and delusional behavior with their own may have been the most important element missing from my own thinking about the war.
Yup that's about a "10" on the support meter, wouldn't you say? No criticism in there, nope, nothing to see, move along there.

In 2006 Pollack went even harsher when this was published in the Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs:
It never had to be this bad. The reconstruction of Iraq was never going to be quick or easy, but it was not doomed to failure.[1] Its disastrous course to date has been almost entirely the result of a sequence of foolish and unnecessary mistakes on the part of the United States.

[...]

If Iraq does slide into all-out civil war, the Bush Administration will have only itself to blame. It disregarded the advice of experts on Iraq, on nation-building, and on military operations. It staged both the invasion and the reconstruction on the cheap. It never learned from its mistakes and never committed adequate resources to accomplish either its original lofty aspirations or even its later, more modest goals. It refused to believe intelligence that contradicted its own views and doggedly insisted that reality conform to its wishes. In its breathtaking hubris, the Administration engineered a Greek tragedy in Iraq, the outcome of which may plague us for decades.

[...]

Almost immediately, the mistaken assumptions and inadequate planning for postwar Iraq began to plague U.S. actions. Combat units found themselves in charge of large urban areas with no sense of what to do, whom to contact, or how else to get help. As no orders were issued to the troops to prevent looting and other criminal activity—since it was mistakenly assumed that there would not be such problems—no one did so. The result was an outbreak of lawlessness throughout the country that resulted in massive physical destruction coupled with a stunning psychological blow to Iraqi confidence in the United States, from neither of which has the country recovered.

It was at that moment, in April 2003, that the United States created the most fundamental problems in Iraq.
And it goes on and on. Of course anyone can see this isn't really criticism, but in reality a sly method of supporting the administration.

O'Hanlon isn't quite as prolific or as pointed as Pollack and seems to write mostly about defense policy in general. But again, as you'll be able to tell, he's nothing but supportive:
Indeed, for this reason I believe Mr. Rumsfeld's legacy on Iraq will be more bad than good—the boldness and creativity of his invasion plan was vindicated, but the poor preparation for the post-invasion operation has cost the country dearly. In the Olympics, one brilliant success followed by a bad run may get you a gold medal. In military affairs, it does not.
More support here:
The Democratic plans are defensible if one concludes that Iraq is already irrevocably and completely lost. On this assumption, the administration's desire to try and salvage something from the situation — even if just to mitigate the degree of our defeat — is no longer realistic. Furthermore, any legislative maneuver that can embarrass Mr. Bush or even start forcing him to reduce our commitment seems justifiable.
Oh, wait ... that's him giving away the secret Democrat plan.

As Emily Litella used to say, "Nevermind".

Yes, today has been an amusing day, filled with awe and wonder at the ability of some to completely ignore the substance of an article and commit to dancing the "yes they are, no they're not" 3rd grade rumba.
 
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Of course the right crowed, calling the think tank "hard left" and "liberal". The left, of course answered with, "Liberal? Why it’s barely left of center. In fact, it’s probably a little right of center if you add these two bozos into the mix."
I wonder, a little, about this.

I don’t doubt that that was the reaction from some quarters. I’m sure it was. But I have to tell you my initial reaction when I read the piece was this is the Democrat escape route. They’ve been telling us all along, that we’ve already lost, etc. etc. etc..

Now all of a sudden, after years of our being told how the whole thing was lost, and costing themselves large numbers of voters for their cries of "defeat for America at any cost"... comes these two individuals, saying whoops.... maybe we can win it, after all...

I wonder if this new angle has not been too long in coming , since it seems obvious that we are, in fact, winning.

Now that this ground has been broken, the next question to ask, logically, is how many of the Democratic party presidential candidates are going to be singing the same song, once the dust over this initial groundbreaking settles.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
As I wrote this morning this is damage control. There’s a battle going on between the far left and the center left for control of the Democratic Party. None of the first-tier candidates propose that we withdraw our forces from Iraq. Democratic activists, many of whom are farther to the left than the presidential aspirants, are clamoring for complete withdrawal. If the far left of the party gets the whip hand, it will be the kiss of death for the 2008. Everybody knows this except the 10%.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
You’re as guilty of spin as anyone on the left, McQ. And even Richard Pearl has been harshly critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war. But while blogs left, right and neo-libertarian seem to fall into emotional characterizations and ridicule of those on the other side, all of that noise allows serious questions to fall by the wayside. People are enjoying the "sport" of political argument so much they are neglecting the purpose — to learn from other perspectives and analyze different arguments.

For instance, my minority view that yes, there is real tactical success and Petraeus is doing a good job, but that likely won’t be enough given the limits on the surge (time and scope) and the fact that there are real serious political and social problems with no military solution is easily brushed aside for emotional interactions about what it means when people go shopping. Serious question: if these positive reports are true, and if progress is being made, will that lead to a stable Iraq, can it be parlayed into giving Iraqis a chance for stability? I’m skeptical, but will listen to the arguments.

Also there is "spin" about what success means. If in 2003 someone had given the scenario of how things would be 4 1/2 years later, and rather than a democratic, thriving Iraq with a small bill paid by oil revenues we’d had this long, expensive, divisive war which robbed President Bush of his chance for an ownership society and major domestic reforms after his initial tax cuts, no one would think that finding a way out without Iraq crumbling would be considered success or some kind of victory. But that seems to be the way the "right" is spinning it. On the left, you’re right, a lot of people haven’t noticed the change in diplomatic tactics from 2005 to the present (Rice has helped lead a revival of competent diplomacy) or the shift to a more successful — though risky in many ways — surge, with the best military leadership yet. Many have simply learned not to trust the spin of the pro-war side, it’s like the boy who called "wolf" too often. Now things are doing better, but no one believes it.

So here we are. In a difficult situation, where real debate and discussion between people with different perspectives, willing to listen to each other, is needed. But yet it’s the same emotional political gamemanship in Congress, on blogs, and in the media. That’s democracy in action!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You’re as guilty of spin as anyone on the left, McQ. And even Richard Pearl has been harshly critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war. But while blogs left, right and neo-libertarian seem to fall into emotional characterizations and ridicule of those on the other side, all of that noise allows serious questions to fall by the wayside. People are enjoying the "sport" of political argument so much they are neglecting the purpose — to learn from other perspectives and analyze different arguments.
So how is it, then you explain, not learning from others perspectives, danger extreme lack of ability in the area of analyzing different arguments?

And Dave;

Good piece. We agree. We also tend to agree on what happens to the democratic party nominees, if they continue this headlong plunge toward the Kossack wing with the party.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Of course the right crowed, calling the think tank "hard left" and "liberal". The left, of course answered with, "Liberal? Why it’s barely left of center. In fact, it’s probably a little right of center if you add these two bozos into the mix."
Kinda like how Imus was being branded as a "conservative" by the left at the end...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
And even Richard Pearl has been harshly critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war.
Would that be Daniel Pearl’s father? I’m not a college professor but I think you mean Richard Perle.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
Boris Erb writes:
You’re as guilty of spin as anyone on the left, McQ.
McQ appears to have hurt Boris’s feelings.
So here we are. In a difficult situation, where real debate and discussion between people with different perspectives, willing to listen to each other, is needed.
The one thing that never seems to occur to Boris is that it is impossible to have "real debate and discussion" with someone as mendacious as himself. That’s not even counting the slithering eelishness one must wade through before reaching his core mendacity. Nor does it count his sickening repetition of rote platitudes such as "real debate and discussion" in the context of the aforesaid mendacity and slithering eelishness.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
If the Brookings Institution is now anywhere near the center of American politics, that is a much bigger story than the apparent turn-around in a few liberal sources regarding the war in Iraq. Here is what the Wikipedia currently says about them:
”Brookings is widely regarded as being politically liberal.
If that were to be true, glasnost would have to immediately cease quoting the Iraq Index and move on to another, more "well-informed", source of wisdom.

 
Written By: <em>notherbob2</em>
URL: http://
(Chuckle)
What can be said of the politics of someone who considers the Brookings institute to be slightly right of center?
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
I should also note, this morning, Hewitt has an interview with John Burns posted, where Mr. Burns is making the same noises as the article under discussion here. This smacks to me of a coordinated effort. Which, of itself, would seem to confirm that what is being sought here is an escape route from the "defeat America at any cost" politics invoked by the Democrats for the last several years.

Apparently, someone’s gotten the word that it isn’t very popular amongst the American people... including mainstream Democrats.... (hint: I don’t mean the Kossacks.)

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Pollack wrote the most influential book advocating war with escape-hatchy qualifications. It was somewhat noteworthy when he flipped against it, as shown in the quotes. But even then, he impressed me as a fairly objective observer.

Most importantly, in this piece they’re discussing the present, not the past, and what that means for the future, discounting the summer of bombast we’re now experiencing. Unless something terrible happens, I think we’ll stick it out for awhile longer - as we should.

We can win the military part of this campaign, leaving only the minor detail of political reconciliation without an obvious strategy.
 
Written By: Larry
URL: http://
The Democratic plans are defensible if one concludes that Iraq is already irrevocably and completely lost.
This is a counterfactual, and the author proceeds to note that everything isn’t lost, progress can be made and is being made, etc. etc. It’s pro forma war defense: Bush made lots of mistakes, but schools are being painted, corners are being turned, etc.

The rest of your cites are irrelevant: they’re critical of Bush for sure, but don’t disprove the rather obvious fact that they’ve seen corners being turned for the past 4 years.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
The rest of your cites are irrelevant ...
Of course they are, jpe. Stop by again when you have a fresh set of talking points.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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