Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack of The Brookings Institution published a typically thoughtful piece on Iraq in today’s New York Times. Having just returned from Iraq, they conclude that while the progress there has been enormous, American involvement will be crucial for several more years. “Young democracies are fragile entities,” they write. Tensions remain. And having come this far, “we have no choice but to see Iraq through to stability.” They also write this:
The Iraq war isn’t over. And while President Obama’s apparent decision to withdraw the bulk of American troops by August 2010 is not necessarily a mistake, it cannot be carried out rigidly. If all continues to go well, it should be eminently feasible; if not, the administration will have to show the strategic wisdom to slow down as needed to deal with problems.
Let’s hope President Obama takes their words to heart.
Just a brief word about Messrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack. On Iraq, they have been intellectually gutsy and honest. Gutsy because both men are Democrats and yet defended the surge when virtually the entire Democratic Party was (fiercely) against it. They never gave up on the war or downplayed its geopolitical and moral significance. They felt the heat, I’m sure, but they held shape. And both scholars insisted their analysis to be driven by empirical reality and the facts on the ground, rather than ideology.
O’Hanlon and Pollack, intelligent and informed, are always worth reading. But beyond that, they are worth admiring.