While channel surfing the other day I caught part of a panel discussion on C-SPAN where Frederick Kagan, Michael O'Hanlon, and Kenneth Pollack were offering the world their collective wisdom about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Their joint appearance was held -- where else? -- at the American Enterprise Institute. It had all the trappings of an actual academic event, except for the fact that there was unanimity of opinion in the room that George W. Bush did the world a favor when he lied us into invading and occupying Iraq. The audience at AEI consisted of white men in business suits, most of whom admitted to having some kind of contractual corporate relationship with profiting from the occupation. There was also a smattering of Republican staffers and fellow travelers. Kagan, O'Hanlon, and Pollack held court where they outlined their belief that everything General David Petraeus has done in Iraq has been exemplary of strategic brilliance on par with the accomplishments of Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and MacArthur.
The hot air had barely escaped their mouths when events on the ground in Iraq contradicted everything they claimed about the great "strategic success" of the surge. It is not surprising that these pseudo-scholars would heap praise on their own creation, but what was kind of a shock was their complete misunderstanding (willful?) of the difference between "tactics" and "strategy." These "intellectual" Iraq occupation enthusiasts repeatedly insisted that the "surge" was part of a grand "strategy" for "winning" in Iraq. And they offered the now obligatory and tired cliché that "progress" is being made, a "turning point" has been reached, and we must be patient for the "surge" to bear fruit, (maybe in the next 6 to 9 months).
Kagan, O'Hanlon, and Pollack -- the Three Musketeers of Neo-Colonialism -- offered their "expert" advice for "staying the course" in Iraq at about the exact same time all hell was breaking out in Basra. The Shia Mahdi Army is in an epic turf battle with the Shia Fadhila militia and the Shia government in Baghdad under the U.S.-backed regime of Nouri al-Maliki. President George W. Bush is quoted today in the New York Times giving his blessing to the crackdown in Basra saying: "This offensive builds on the security gains of the surge and demonstrates to the Iraqi people that their government is committed to protecting them. There's a strong commitment by the central government of Iraq to say no one is above the law."
This is an amazing statement coming from a U.S. President who is responsible for this catastrophe. Bush seems actually to believe that there is such a thing as the "law" in Iraq. Even with the 2 million refugees and the 2 million internally displaced people, and the 1 million dead; and the blowing up of a major oil pipeline; and the fighting among Shia militias, and the Balkanization and Somalia-zation of Iraq; and the daily photographs of anguished Iraqis weeping for their innocent dead; and the corruption of the U.S. contractors and the criminal syndicates; and the kidnappings and beheadings, and the 1,500 civilians killed each month; and the illegality of the invasion and occupation, Bush still tells us that "no one is above the law." Like the Three Musketeers, Bush is clearly delusional.
What Kagan, O'Hanlon, and Pollack were doing at the AEI the other day was to float trial balloons and set up an early positive press frame for the upcoming testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Kagan, O'Hanlon, and Pollack will no doubt be getting a lot of face time on PBS and NPR and the 24-hour cable news shows sharing their wisdom about how their "surge" has worked and we need to continue the occupation, (especially now that fighting has broken out once again). I am already sick of looking at Kagan's portly double chin, O'Hanlon's disheveled red hair, and Pollack's pinched bespectacled mannequin-like visage.
So the same province, Basra, that Petraeus boasted about being secure the last time he testified to Congress is now an out-of-control mini-state, but the conclusion remains: "Things are improving in Iraq and therefore the U.S. must stay; things are getting worse in Iraq and therefore the U.S. must also stay." It sounds like the advice the cable business television shows give to their viewers about the stock market: "The stock market is tanking therefore it's a great time to buy stock; the stock market is rising therefore it's a great time to buy stock."
What the Three Musketeers do not seem to understand is that "strategically" the Iraq invasion and occupation failed miserably years ago:
Overthrowing the Sunni Baathist regime in Baghdad removed the chief impediment to Iran's growing influence in the region.
The mayhem and disorder following the power vacuum the U.S. created in Iraq led to the Balkanization of the country where we now have so many armed groups vying for power and shifting alliances no one can sort it out.
Iraqis who would today be computer engineers or architects are dedicating their expertise to perfecting the car bomb and IED as instruments of urban guerrilla warfare.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has created at least 25,000 new anti-American fighters who have formed new networks of international terrorist organizations.
The people of the world are outraged by the U.S. violations of Iraqi sovereignty and its imperial aggression, knowing full well that the 112 billion barrels of oil in Iraq are part of the motive.
There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which exposed to the world, especially to our long-standing allies, that U.S. policymakers are nothing but a pack of liars.
Add to all of this the disgraces of Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the torture, the renditions, the illegal surveillance, and the no-bid contracts going to KBR, Blackwater, and other corporations connected to the Bush Administration, and it becomes very difficult to see the "strategic" successes of which Kagan, O'Hanlon, and Pollack speak.
In September 2002, Kenneth Pollack said: "The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam's regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction." Pollack's book on Iraq is widely seen as being the most influential argument for the invasion among "scholars" and his status as a former Clinton NSC official gave it a patina of bipartisanship. But in a more recent interview in the November-December 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review Pollack said; "I don't like to characterize myself as a supporter of the invasion."
Similar examples of intellectual dishonesty can easily be found in the utterances of Kagan and O'Hanlon too. Why are PBS and NPR still listening to these charlatans and frauds? The Three Musketeers of Neo-Colonialism soon will be darkening our TV screens and polluting our radio waves, doing advance work for the Petraeus-Crocker dog and pony show coming to Congress next month.