What O’Hanlon Really Said

Conn Carroll /

Michael O’Hanlon’s brave support for the surge in Iraq has made him public enemy number one in the progressive blog circles. Whenever O’Hanlon comments on the situation in Iraq, progressive blog readers are treated to insightful analysis like this full post from Media Matters fellow Duncan Black: “Wanker of the Day Michael O’Hanlon. In only 4 more Friedmans, we can, 7 years later, consider reducing troops in Iraq. This war is so awesome, and it’s even awesomer that its proponents are still very serious media figures instead of living out their lives in shame under a bridge somewhere.”

While Duncan’s tongue in cheek post is grating on some, at least it is honest. Unlike Matthew Yglesias who summarizes O’Hanlon op-ed this way: “Michael O’Hanlon gets a Washington Post op-ed to lay out his surprising view that the surge is awesome and, indeed, is working so well that we can expect to start taking troops out of Iraq in early 2010 if everything continues to be so awesome. … We can start taking them out, that is, if progress is made on such minor issues as ‘Basra and the south,’ ‘Local and national elections,’ ‘Refugee return,’ ‘Kirkuk,’ ‘A national oil law,’ and the state of Iraqi Security Forces.”

This is a blatant mischaracterization of the whole piece. O’Hanlan does call for American troop strength to remain steady through 2010, but he identifies the six issues mentioned above as “reasons that such strategic patience is necessary.” Yglesias portrays O’Hanlan’s op-ed as saying that only when success on these issues are complete can American troops draw down. O’Hanlan is actually saying the exact opposite; that failure on these issues by 2010 will weaken the case for continued American presence in Iraq.

Perhaps Yglesias can take solace in the fact that his preferred presidential candidate has one adviser telling BBC News not to trust the candidate’s current promises to withdrawal troops from Iraq and another adviser publishing a paper calling for an 80,000 strong troop presence in Iraq through 2010.