Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rosa Brooks: So Wrong on Iraq, and Why It Matters

Rosa Brooks, at the Los Angeles Times, tries to take down John McCain on the Iraq war, "McCain: So Wrong, But So What?"

Brooks starts with this nifty hook:

Unsolved mysteries of the universe: Where did matter come from? Why did all those ships vanish in the Bermuda Triangle? Is there really a Loch Ness Monster?

And here's a new one to add to your list. In poll after poll, about two-thirds of Americans say they oppose the war in Iraq, believe things in Iraq are going badly for the United States, disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war, consider even the initial decision to go to war to have been wrong and want the next president to end the war quickly. Yet -- and here comes the mystery -- polls also show that more Americans trust presumptive Republican nominee John McCain than either Democratic presidential candidate when it comes to handling the war in Iraq.

Go figure.
But Brooks really isn't interested in unravelling this "mystery" - there really isn't one, which, of course, isnt' her point.

What Brooks is attempting is a simple smear: She says McCain was wrong about Iraqi WMD; about the "fairly easy" prospects for success on the ground; and about the patterns of violence between Sunnis and Shias.

The conclusion: McCain's just plain wrong, all around.

But Brooks is not so "fair and balanced" in her allegations of McCain's senility.

She omits, for example, the fact that McCain's been calling for more troops
for five years. She then compounds her ommission with this inaccuracy on Barack Obama:

McCain keeps boasting of his own national security expertise and insisting that Barack Obama, his chief Democratic rival, is naive and "does not understand ... the fundamental elements of national security and warfare" -- even though Obama, unlike the "experienced" McCain, managed to get it right on Iraq from the very beginning.
One would think that Brooks - who's listed as a co-blogger at Democracy Arsenal, one of the leading left-wing foreign policy blogs - would know better than to make such a statements on the relative experience of McCain versus Obama on Iraq.

The truth is that Obama, "from the very beginning," has proposed precisely the wrong policies for a turnaround in Iraq. The Illinois Senator has advocated more troops when the war was going badly (an opportunistic attack on the administration), and he's called for an immediate withdrawal when things have turned around under General Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy.

As Peter Wehner has argued:

When the Bush administration had the wrong counterinsurgency plan in place, Obama was supportive of it. He told the Chicago Tribune in July 2004, “There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage.” While John McCain was calling for more troops and a different counterinsurgency strategy in 2003, 2004, and 2005, Obama was not.

In late 2006, when the situation in Iraq was dire, Obama declared it was time to “execute a serious change of course in Iraq” — but rather than advocating a “surge” in troops, he was advocating a ”phased withdrawal.” His predictive judgment was this: “We cannot, through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have, expect that somehow the situation is going to improve.”

In January 2007, when President Bush announced the administration’s change in strategy in Iraq — which included tens of thousands of additional troops and a new COIN strategy led by David Petraeus, Obama declared that nothing in the plan would “make a significant dent in the sectarian violence that’s taking place there.”

Then, in May 2007, Obama did what he had never done previously: He voted against funding for combat operations, claiming as a reason the fact that the bill included no timeline for troop withdrawal. And in September, just three months after the final elements of the 30,000-strong surge forces had landed in Iraq and fairly substantial security progress was discernible, Obama declared that we needed to withdraw combat troops “immediately.” “Not in six months or a year — now.”

It got so bad that Obama at first denied progress was being made, then denied that the surge had anything to do with the progress, and even insisted (in a debate in January 2008) that the reduction in violence was due not to the work of the American military but to the results of the 2006 midterm election in America. Finally Obama was forced by the overwhelming evidence to concede the surge had made progress — yet in the process Obama misrepresented his past position, insisting that when the surge was announced, he had “no doubt” that “if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in violence.”
The facts show, in sum, that it's Obama's who's been wrong from the beginning, and it's Brooks who is wrong in her attack on McCain.

Ralph Peters notes:

The surge worked. Incontestably. Iraqis grew disenchanted with extremism. Our military performed magnificently. More and more Iraqis have stepped up to fight for their own country. The Iraqi economy's taking off. And, for all its faults, the Iraqi legislature has accomplished far more than our own lobbyist-run Congress over the last 18 months.

When Iraq seemed destined to become a huge American embarrassment, our media couldn't get enough of it. Now that Iraq looks like a success in the making, there's a virtual news blackout.
That blackout's reaching right over to the editorial offices of the Los Angeles Times, where commentators like Rosa Brooks weave their tales of failure while reality passes them by.

There's no mystery there, and pointing that out is what matters.