Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Iraq Experts Jockeying for Post-Election Influence

The new Iraq piece at Foreign Affairs, by Stephen Biddle, Michael E. O'Hanlon, and Kenneth M. Pollack, isn't particularly earth-shattering in its analysis and overview of the future of Iraq (see the New York Times as well)

The surge has worked, al Qaeda's been decimated, and Iraqi domestic politics is the hottest game in town.

What caught my attention, though, after all of the article's considerable surprise at the Bush administration's temerity to see the deployment through to victory, is this nugget from the conclusion:

The American people - to say nothing of the servicemen and servicewomen who are fighting - have every right to be tired of this war and to question whether it should have ever been fought. But understandable frustration with past mistakes, sorrow over lives lost, anger at resources wasted, and fatigue with a war that has at times seemed endless must not blind Americans to the major change of the last 18 months. The developments of 2007 and 2008 have created new possibilities. If the United States is willing to seize them, it could yet emerge from Mesopotamia with something that may still fall well short of Eden on the Euphrates but that prevents the horrors of all-out civil war, avoids the danger of a wider war, and yields a stability that endures as Americans come home.
This kind of triangulation is to be expected from O'Hanlon and Pollock.

These two were a couple of the greatest "
liberal hawks" during the run-up to the war. Yet, they've been scourged as the most demonic enablers of the vile BushCo imperialist project. Perhaps with this Foreign Affairs piece, and a few other well-placed articles in the antiwar press, these guys might see enough of a rehabilitation to be considered for defense posts in a potential Barack Obama administration.

Biddle's the riddle, however.

Biddle's an
expert in strategic studies and an Iraq advisor to the General David Petraeus. He's been hammered as a hated neocon by the antiwar left, and he's not one to rehearse "Bush lied, people died" antiwar propaganda.

Now that
Iraq's turning out to be a spectacular success - after years of doom-and-gloom defeatism - perhaps Biddle's hoping to establish some good graces with the Democratic Party's foreign policy community: He too may be getting better positioned for an advisory role in a possible Obama administration.

These guys should be careful.
Obama's not doing so great in public opinion, and at some point-flip-flopping policy advocacy gets one labelled a mountebank in policy circles.

Indeed, we might see unreconstructed neoconservatives landing all the hot gigs in a John McCain administration's national security directorate.