Today's Blogs

Optimist Club

Bloggers analyze Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack’s progress report on the Iraq war and discuss the FBI’s raid on Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ home.

Optimist club: Brookings Institution analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack lit up the blogosphere Monday with an op-ed in the New York Times reflecting on their eight-day trip to Iraq. The two authors conclude that “the situation in Iraq remains grave” but argue that the surge is going well enough to justify hanging around into 2008.

“Count me unconvinced,” writes conservative war critic Andrew Sullivan. “Pollack’s only sources are American advisers and the ‘high command.’ ” Joe Klein, blogging at Time’s The Swamp, says he agrees with “many” of the conclusions but doesn’t think that they warrant such optimism. He also suspects the two authors got a skewed perspective on their trip: “Pollack and Hanlon seem to have visited only Sunni areas—Ramadi, Tal Afar and Mosul, the Ghazaliya neighborhood on the west (Sunni) bank of the Tigris River. And that’s where the progress, such as it is, has been made, with the tribes moving against the jihadis and toward us. But Iraq is primarily a Shi’ite country—and we’re not doing so well with those guys.”

For some, the op-ed confirms their faith in Gen. David Petraeus, architect of the surge. “The thing that stands out here is that Mssrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack aren’t just saying that events on the ground are changing for the better but also that the military has total confidence in Gen. Petraeus,” writes the California Conservative. “Troop morale is soaring as a direct result of Gen. Petraeus’ leadership and brilliant planning. I’ve said from dawn till dusk day after day that Gen. Petraeus knew what he was doing in fighting a counterinsurgency war. The events of the last six weeks are proving that he’s a brilliant strategist in defeating insurgencies.”

John Hinderaker at Power Line calls the report “basically the same observations that most visitors to Iraq have made lately” but suspects that Democratic congressmen “won’t be swayed”: “I think many Congressional Democrats are committed to defeat, for political and ideological reasons.” Ann Althouse responds to Hinderaker, saying, “I will not succumb to this fear, which depends on the belief that the Democrats are evil. I do fear, however, that those who are politically committed to ending the war will resist evidence of good news, that it will take an unusually strong dose of good news to see good news as good news.” Althouse then dings liberal bloggers Matt Yglesias and Jeralyn Meritt for just such resistance. Yglesias writes in a separate post: “Statistics don’t really corroborate what O’Hanlon and Pollack say, there’s no particular reason to privilege ‘on the ground’ knowledge if it was just fed to them by official sources (which appears to be the case), and, most of all, the point of the surge was to change the political situation in Iraq, and they concede it hasn’t done that.”

Liberal Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, and Money refutes the duo’s claim that the civilian death roll has declined by “roughly a third since the surge began.” He also disputes their self-characterization as Iraq war critics: “[T]hey have both been vigorous supporters of the Surge, and they were both supporters of the initial invasion. … To paint themselves as harsh critics who’ve somehow ‘come around’ is to create a fantasy.”

At Interesting Times, liberal New Yorker writer George Packer exhibits a polite skepticism about the pair’s conclusions: “What could and couldn’t they independently confirm from their briefings by military sources? For example, how do they know that, in Mosul and Tal Afar, ‘the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside’?”

Read more about the O’Hanlon-Pollack piece.

Lend me your earmark: FBI and IRS agents raided the home of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a corruption investigation also targeting his son and several other politicians. The Justice Department is investigating Stevens’ connection with Alaska energy company Veco, which allegedly helped Stevens renovate his house in exchange for earmarks. Bloggers right and left can finally agree on something.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a bipartisan issue,” writes conservative Erick Erickson at Redstate. “It is what secret earmarks and pork barrel spending do to our elected officials of both parties. … Ted Stevens, Jerry Lewis, Don Young, John Doolittle, William Jefferson, Jack Murtha—they all need to go.” These are the wages of pork,” writes Captain’s Quarters’ Ed Morrissey, who figures Stevens had it coming: “Hysterical defenses of $200 million projects to benefit a few dozen residents of an island practically begs people to question who gets the money and how that benefits Stevens.” At National Review’s The Corner, Larry Kudlow urges Republicans to cut him off: “[T]his Stevens business has to be swept away. The GOP should not defend him if he is guilty. Just clean house.”

The Left Coaster’s Steve Soto thinks Stevens might face more than just corruption charges: “Note that the raid was carried out by FBI and IRS agents, which indicates that Stevens may soon have tax fraud problems.”

John Nichols, blogging at The Nation’s Campaign Matters, foresees a “nightmare scenario” for Republicans in 2008, in which a scandal-plagued octogenarian tries to fight off up-and-coming Democrats Mark Begich and Tony Knowles. “For Senate Democrats, 2008 is suddenly shaping up as what could be one of their best election years in decades.”

Wonkette’s Alex Pareene points out that Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator ever, “has been in the Senate since 1968, but he’ll still only be remembered for being the crazy old man who explained that the Internet is not a truck.” (Explanation here.)

Read more about the raid.