I guess he’d actually be number two after O’Reilly. It’s Michael O’Hanlon, surge supporter, senior fellow at the leftish Brookings Institution, co-author of that wave-making op-ed in the NYT this morning, and now persona non grata among progressives. Barnett’s been following their reaction to the piece all day; go ye and read, and read Jonathan Chait at TNR too. He’s under the wingnutty assumption that O’Hanlon and Pollack might actually believe what they’re saying, contra the leading nutroots theory that they have every incentive to report progress in Iraq even though doing so guarantees their alienation from the left-wing establishment.
The only truly surprising thing about the op-ed is how old the news is. Unless you’re Rick Ellensburg, it’s no bombshell that violence is down dramatically in Anbar and some Sunni tribes are working with the United States. The reality-based community fancies itself forever attuned to reality with laser precision, immune to the cognitive dissonance that plagues wingnut denialists. Now they’re hearing about progress from two of their own, albeit two who have been and continue to be hawkish about Iraq, and they’re not sure how to process the information. You’re seeing the same thing, slowly but surely, in their writing about Petraeus, who used to be known as the guy who should have been in charge from the beginning to conduct a proper counterinsurgency campaign and is now known as a wholly owned BushCo operative because, like O’Hanlon and Pollack, he’s dared to acknowledge progress on the ground. Dean wrote about that today, too. Be aware of how they’re demonizing him going forward because the closer we get to the September progress report, the more the left is going to want to preemptively discredit anything hopeful that he might have to say. He is, after all, in the words of Ellensburg himself just another “shiny uniform” and thus, to quote Sullivan’s latest disgusting rhetorical equivalency between Islamists and people he doesn’t like, a part of “Bush’s increasingly sectarian military.”
Update: Once O’Hanlon’s tenure as designated hate object ends, here’s the guy who’ll replace him:
There’s a paradox. That’s to say the more that the Democrats in the Congress lead the push for an early withdrawal, the more Iraqi political leaders, particularly the Shiite political leaders, but the Sunnis as well, and the Kurds, are inclined to think that this is going to be settled, eventually, in an outright civil war, in consequence of which they are very, very unlikely or reluctant, at present, to make major concessions. They’re much more inclined to kind of hunker down. So in effect, the threats from Washington about a withdrawal, which we might have hoped would have brought about greater political cooperation in face of the threat that would ensue from that to the entire political establishment here, has had, as best we can gauge it, much more the opposite effect, of an effect that persuading people well, if the Americans are going, there’s absolutely no…and we’re going to have to settle this by a civil war, why should we make concessions on that matter right now?