Before he was against getting out of Iraq, Michael O’Hanlon was for it.
In May 2004, the foreign policy specialist (and frequent advisor to Democratic candidates) penned a Washington Post op-ed with his Brooking Institution colleague James Steinberg entitled, "Set a Date to Pull Out."
"Unless we restore the Iraqi people’s confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood," they wrote. "Critical to achieving our goal is an announced decision to end the current military deployment by the end of next year."
But O’Hanlon, for reasons unexplained, seems to have had a change of heart. He supported the escalation of troops. And after a recent eight day tour of Iraq, on the invitation of his old Princeton buddy David Petraeus, O’Hanlon and Iraq war cheerleader extraordinaire Ken Pollack wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday entitled, "A War We Just Might Win."
"We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms," the two write, contradicting Brookings’s own Iraq index, ironically supervised by O’Hanlon. "There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."
So O’Hanlon and Pollack are back firmly in the pro-war camp, where they and so many of their colleagues in the foreign policy establishment were before the war. (I wrote a feature about the supposedly liberal think tanks that enabled the war in Iraq back in ’05 called "The Strategic Class.")
Only Steinberg (now dean of the school of public affairs at the University of Texas), it seems, has kept to his position. "I’m skeptical" of the O’Hanlon-Pollack op-ed, he told me via email. "On the other hand, they’ve just been there and I haven’t. But in the absence of more compelling evidence (and a chance to talk to them directly) I remain of the view that I held then."
It’s little wonder why the White House likes O’Hanlon and Pollack so much. But it’s a mystery why prominent Democrats still bother to listen to them.