A Surge of Optimism

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Been a while since you've heard any good news out of Iraq? Check this out: Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack just returned from there, and they've found some reason for optimism. The much debated "surge" appears, to them, to be working. "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." Both O'Hanlon and Pollack are Brookings fellows, so to hear some good news coming from at least a left -ish corner, will certainly cause debate. We'll talk to Pollack about why he thinks it's working ... you can ask your questions here!

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

O'Hanlon and Pollack are both Iraq War and "Surge" proponents, despite their Op-Ed claim that their are "harsh" critics of the Administration. Document their past written statements and this will become quite clear.

Why in the WORLD should we believe anything they say about the status of affairs in Iraq?? Especially statements that they are using to support the "September Surge" report from General Petreaus...

Sent by Chase Howse | 2:42 PM | 7-30-2007

give me a break...hanlon and pollack have been pushing this war for years...neither of them have any credibility.

Hence, today we have yet another Op-Ed declaring that We Really Are Winning in Iraq This Time -- this one in the NYT from "liberal" Brookings Institution "scholars" Ken Pollack and Mike O'Hanlon. They accuse war critics of being "unaware of the significant changes taking place," proclaim that "we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms," and the piece is entitled "A War we Might Just Win."

The Op-Ed is an exercise in rank deceit from the start. To lavish themselves with credibility -- as though they are war skeptics whom you can trust -- they identify themselves at the beginning "as two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq." In reality, they were not only among the biggest cheerleaders for the war, but repeatedly praised the Pentagon's strategy in Iraq and continuously assured Americans things were going well. They are among the primary authors and principal deceivers responsible for this disaster.

Sent by Cliff Butter | 2:48 PM | 7-30-2007

Interesting leap, from perceiving a decrease in violence due to increased military presence, to deducing that some Iraqis seem ready to bury the hatchet with their enemies of millenia. That General Patraeus has got some magic there.

No surge ever could or ever will work in Iraq. Probably the only solution is to divide the country among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

Sent by Mike | 2:52 PM | 7-30-2007

pre-invasion pollack, i wouldn't trust him as far as i could push him (i throw like a girl)

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20020301faessay7970/kenneth-m-pollack/next-stop-baghdad.html

As the conflict in Afghanistan winds down, the question of what the United States should do about Iraq has risen to the forefront of American foreign policy. Hawks argue that toppling Saddam Hussein should be "phase two" in the war on terrorism. They see Iraq's development of unconventional weapons as a critical threat to U.S. national interests and want to parlay the success of the Afghan campaign into a similar operation further west. Those who pass for doves in the mainstream debate point to the difficulty of such an undertaking and the lack of any evidence tying Saddam to the recent attacks on the United States. They argue that the goal of America's Iraq policy should be to revive U.N. weapons inspections and re-energize containment. Both camps have it partly right -- and partly wrong.

Thanks to Washington's own missed opportunities and others' shameful cynicism, there are no longer any good policy options toward Iraq. The hawks are wrong to think the problem is desperately urgent or connected to terrorism, but they are right to see the prospect of a nuclear-armed Saddam as so worrisome that it requires drastic action. The doves, meanwhile, are right about Iraq's not being a good candidate for a replay of Operation Enduring Freedom, but they are wrong to think that inspections and deterrence are adequate responses to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

After the more immediate danger posed by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network has been dealt with, the Bush administration should indeed turn its attention to Baghdad. What it should do at that point, however, is pursue the one strategy that offers a way out of the impasse. The United States should invade Iraq, eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor prepared to abide by its international commitments and live in peace with its neighbors.

Sent by hannah | 2:56 PM | 7-30-2007

It continues to disgust and disappoint me to hear "experts" refer to the actions of the Bush Administration and the U.S. Military using the word "we." Even a pretense at objectivity would use third person references. O'Hanlon and Pollack, by using "we" about U.S. actions in Iraq identify with those actions. By all the local polls, only a minority of the U.S. public would include themselves in a "we" about what has been done in Iraq.

Sent by Jim Wallace | 2:57 PM | 7-30-2007

Hey isn't this guy one of the dead wrong neocons? why are we listening to such people? they are the driving force between the Islamic/Western collision, because they are zionist, they thin their survival depends on war mongering, if America does not ignore these people, we may expect more upheaval and hatred from the 1.5 Billion muslims who are willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve freedom.

Check the history of Haim Saban, the jewish guy who founded the center this guy is working for, such ulterior motives will get us no where but more terror and endless war.

Please refute such people

Sent by Kamal | 2:59 PM | 7-30-2007

Why did Rebecca Roberts set aside the caller's comments about how Ken Pollack endorsed the theory that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, at the lead-up to the Iraq war? That was a legitimate question to which I would like to have heard a response? I think Pollack should have at least explained himself. How about a little accountability, and respect paid to the questions that callers ask?

Sent by Liz West | 3:00 PM | 7-30-2007

O'Hanlon and Pollack

First mistake: Calling this a war, as though we had an adversary that was in any way a threat to us.

Second mistake: Talking about "winning" and "progress" for an administration that has shamed the USA and has no credibility with its citizens or the rest of the world.

We're killing our young people, killing Iraqis of all ages, giving our future generations incredible debt, wasting money that could actually benefit our people and apparently (NPRincluded) afraid to say "enough" for fear of appearing unpatriotic.

C'mon NPR ??? we expect better from you.

Sent by Richard Thornton | 3:01 PM | 7-30-2007

Rebecca Roberts has just lost credibility with me. What could possibly be her reason for not getting Pollack to answer the caller's charge that Pollack exaggerated the threat that Saddam posed?

Sent by Norman Prange | 3:02 PM | 7-30-2007

I agree with the caller who asserted that Ken Pollack has no credibility. He gave false credence to the original invasion and the Bush/neocon doctrine of using US military power unilaterally to change the world. As long as that policy is not repudiated, we have a problem. I am sorry the moderator preempted Pollack's response to the "personal" challenge.

Sent by Daniel Hudson | 3:03 PM | 7-30-2007

I am amazed and disappointed that you let your guest get away with saying that, if we leave Iraq then Al-Qaeda will return to being a presence in Iraq. This repeats the same lies that the Administration fed us to get us into this mess. There is absolutely no evidence that Al-Qaeda had *any* presence in Iraq until we destroyed that state. How can you let your guests get away with such blatant... the nicest word I can come up with is "inaccuracies", but I really want to say "lies"???

Sent by Jeff Sonsgtein | 3:05 PM | 7-30-2007

I don't know who the guest is that said Mosul was out of control but it has and is not now ever been out of control. That's based on knowledge of 12 months in Mosul 2005-2006 leading an infantry company and 4 more months in Baghdad - Mosul has always been a model of Iraqi army cooperation and relative stability. In my opinion if NPR wants to lose liteners keep putting folks like Pollack on - NO CREDIBILITY - Bob

Sent by Bob Harris | 3:11 PM | 7-30-2007

Shame on NPR and Talk of the Nation!

Perhaps we could hear from some "analysts" who actually oppose administration policy and cautioned against the invasion from the outset?

Why does TOTN continue to give equal or even greater voice to the failed Neocon perspective when the vast majority of Americans have already decided to put this fiasco behind us?

Sent by Brad | 3:11 PM | 7-30-2007

Ms. Roberts handling of caller's questions in this segment should certainly disqualify her from ever again hosting a political segment on TOTN.

Pollack should certainly have to justify his past fabrications when they are directly relevant to his current ones.

What Neocon nonsense-tank is paying her?

Sent by Brad | 3:27 PM | 7-30-2007

If the surge is successful, which seems unlikely without the appropriate associated diplomatic efforts, will it not simply confirm that General Shinseki was right? It seems that we should have had many more troops (multiples of the number sent) on the ground as soon as the war ended and the occupation phase started.

Sent by Harris | 3:33 PM | 7-30-2007

Should I be surprised that most of the comments on this blog are simply blasting NPR for attempting to put forward another perspective on the Iraq controversy? Is everyone upset because this isn't the liberal oriented soap box that they are accustomed to? I found the segment quite refreshing to hear something beyond the negative about the Iraq situation. Nor should the guests in TOTN always be the liberal voice, or the conservative. I think it is essential to have both side voiced from time to time, and I think this was a perspective that has been neglected for far too long. Although I would agree that the interview had a few softball questions, it was no different from any other interview that is normally conducted on NPR. TOTN does not have to simply be a bastion for the voice on the left, and quite a few moderates tune in an attempt to get a mixed perspective.

Sent by Chuck | 4:02 PM | 7-30-2007

Uh, clearly, "Chuck" hasn't been listening to TOTN very much over the past 7 years or so.

It is hardly a "Liberal" soapbox. There are more center-right and Conservative guests than there are Liberals. And, there is almost never anyone invited from the actual progressive left.

NPR is no different than most-mainstream media in this regard. They're afraid of retribution from the right and take the left for granted.

Today's show was the norm, not the exception.

Sent by Zerofi | 4:48 PM | 7-30-2007

FDA DOES, in fact, have mechanisms to make investigational drugs available to people with serious illnesses who have exhausted approved drug options, and cannot participate in clinical trials. Mr. Burrough's point seems to be that his daughter would be alive today if she'd been allowed access to an investigational drug. But the company, and not FDA denied access because it would have negatively impacted their ability to conduct the trials necessary to see if the drug really worked, how well it worked, at what dose, and with what side effects. Cancer therapies often don't work for many patients even after they are approved. But shifting the incentive to sell (to very wealthy patients) the small amounts of investigational drugs available, rather than studying them, simply denies greater numbers of future patients access to drugs with known side effects, predictable dose requirements, and third party reimbursement.

In the long run, it's a very short sighted idea.

Sent by Clark Kentman | 4:51 PM | 7-30-2007

I, too, am very disappointed in Rebecca Roberts' failure to confront Ken Pollack on the credibility issue. While I wouldnt necessarily expect an interviewer to initiate such a confrontation, to discount a callers comments in regard to credibility as personal bias is disingenuous. A confrontation need not be a personal attack, as any competent interviewer should know; for example: "Given that your analysis prior to the invasion was off the mark, why should the American people credit this analysis?"

I would like to point out that I am not blasting NPR for interviewing Ken Pollack, but I do think that listeners can reasonably expect the interviewer to challenge any analysis that comes from a source that has been disastrously wrong in the past. Unless TOTN can address issues like this more rationally, its credibility with me is gone, and I will urge the station I listen to (KCLU) to find a more thoughtful replacement.

Sent by Carl Magagnosc | 5:37 PM | 7-30-2007

So interesting--that Pollack would like to reinvent himself as a critic of the Administration. He liked the Administration just fine when he was advising them to go to war. How dumb does he think we are to buy his propaganda again? The neocons should be ashamed of themselves.

Sent by Eustica | 5:47 PM | 7-30-2007

That first caller was 100% correct: Ken Pollack has Z-E-R-O credibility on the Iraq issue. The interviewer should have agreed with this obvious point and halted the interview at that point. Why allow Mr. Pollack to continue spouting his distortions? Please consider having this liar never appear on your show again.

Sent by Emery Lapinski | 6:23 PM | 7-30-2007

I really am surprised that TOTN allowed itself to be duped by O'Hanlon and Pollack... again! I suggest a little more research before presenting another propaganda fest like this for your audience.

Hey Chuck. Presenting "both sides" isn't presenting the facts on one side and complete lies on the other. Everyone has a right on their opinions.. but not their own facts.

Sent by Guy in Milwaukee | 6:27 PM | 7-30-2007

Unfortunately, I have to agree with the caller that questioned Mr. Pollack's credibility and objectivity. Even a cursory review of the news out of Iraq makes one wonder on which planet Mr. Pollack's Iraq exists. There is still no running water in many areas. Electricity is still just below pre-invasion levels. People, especially children, are dying because the water supply is contaminated. Sewage is still running down the streets in many cities and there is an extreme shortage of drugs to treat even everyday problems such as common infections.

Approximately one is seven Iraqis is a refugee either internally or externally. Syria, one of the "axis of evil" nations has an estimated 1.4 million Iraqis, Jordan has approximately one half that number and other surrounding countries have lesser amounts. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been spectacularly unsuccessful in an attempt to raise a paltry $100 million for relief efforts. The US however, which has no trouble spending $2 billion a week somehow can't find the wherewithal to come up with any money to aid the displaced people. One then has to ask, what is it, exactly, that we are getting for our $2 billion each week?
But, Mr. Pollock seems to see a light at the end of the tunnel??!!

Sent by Tom | 9:20 PM | 7-30-2007

Hey, Chuck!
I am scheduled for a third trip to
Iraq. How about you come along and
experience how refreshing and pointless Iraq is.

Most sincerely, Dwayne Chandler.
Off duty and out of uniform.

Sent by Dwayne Chandler | 10:13 PM | 7-30-2007

I want to add my voice to those who have a problem with the host's curt dismissal of the first caller.

The caller's question was, simply: why should anyone care about anything Ken Pollack has to say? He is a fraud who has supported the neo-con party line in every significant way. Why should NPR give him the time of day?

On a call-in show with the title "Talk of the Nation", shouldn't the guests have defend engage the callers? Isn't that the point of the show?

Sent by JB2 | 11:00 PM | 7-30-2007

Pollack has been shilling this war from the beginning.

It's a shame he's still given a soapbox.

Sent by TK Major | 12:00 AM | 7-31-2007

I have no problem with NPR presenting the pro-occupation/imperialist/colonialist, neo-con perspective on the U.S. presence in Iraq. But why not someone like Noam Chomsky(or Scott Ritter or Howard Zinn or Hans Von Sponeck, etc. etc. etc.) to balance things out? How about talking about some of the Iraqi people trying to defent their country from an illegal invasion. It seems NPR is taking sides. Interesting since it claims to have such a concern with "balance". What nonsense. Shame on NPR for being complicit in the continuation of an imperialist war. Has NPR no shame?

Sent by Chris | 1:24 AM | 7-31-2007

Rebecca Roberts should NEVER have invited Pollack on her program. Anyone who has heard of him knows he has no credibility, sinecure or no. Bad editorial judgment, people.

Sent by John Deever | 7:39 AM | 7-31-2007

Why in God's name are you presenting O'Hanlon's POV, when he's been a supporter of the war in iraq from day one, and he's totally biased about it. At LEAST present him as what he is, i.e. a hawk who backs Bush's policy completely.

Sent by Dennis Manuel | 10:07 AM | 7-31-2007

Shame!

Sent by Bartolo | 10:32 AM | 7-31-2007

Ms. Roberts should have asked more pointed questions about O'Hanlon's and Pollack's paper trail of false prophesy on Iraq. Shortly after hearing this interview, there was ATC's interview with the Inspector General for Iraq that revealed just how ludicrous this man's statements were.

Given how NPR (like NYTimes, etc.) was rolled by the Bush Administration on the build up of the war, you have a responsibility to start getting it right. Giving O'Hanlon another chance to cheerlead was a huge failure.

Sent by Jan S. Reinhart | 12:10 PM | 7-31-2007

I agree with the earlier posts regarding Ken Pollack's credibility (or lack thereof) and Rebecca Roberts' dismissal of the caller who questioned it. She was wrong to do so.

Pollack's record is out there and his credibility is questionable. For her to dismiss it in such a cavalier fasion is to perpetuate a lie.

I hope to hear some comment from her about it, if not an apology or correction, later on the show.

Sent by Martin Schulte | 1:12 PM | 7-31-2007

Yesterday's interview with Ken Pollack left me angry and disappointed with NPR and TOTN. Rebecca Robert's failed to address a caller's very articulate challenge to Ken Pollack's credibility.

The rest of the segment was a waste of time. I tuned to another station.

Sent by Rick | 4:25 PM | 7-31-2007

NPR is a bunch of pawns in the neo-con agenda. So is the New York Times. All they do is suck up to the administration. I don't want to hear any good news on Iraq. I want America to lose so Democrats can gain politically.

Sent by Barking Moonbat | 7:43 PM | 7-31-2007

Maybe Roberts should have explained why she did not open the discussion to the pre-war intelligence problem (Pollack was part of the problem). But, there were reasons for sticking to the "surge of optimism" story.

1. There wasn't enough time to discuss both the pre-war intelligence and the "surge of optimism" story.

2. The Pollack article deserved to be discussed and challenged. He recommends supporting the surge into 2008, but admits that Iraq remains a big problem. There's plenty of bad news in his optimistic opinion piece.

3. Pollack wrote about the pre-war intel problem in 2004 and was interviewed by NPR on the subject, at that time. Roberts had reason to believe that many NPR listeners who knew about Pollack would have known about this.
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200401/pollack
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1601685

Sent by Tom | 3:05 PM | 8-2-2007

"left-ish?" Wow, where did that come from? Read Salon's article on Michael O'Hanlon, Pollack's partner in crime, and be embarrassed, Talk of the Nation: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/12/ohanlon/index.html

They've both been war cheerleaders from day one. Nice job enabling their masquerade. Your interviewer couldn't even muster a challenge to Pollack's most obvious self-contradictions.

There's a guy named Noam Chomsky. I know he doesn't fit within your "centrist" i.e. right leaning spectrum, but give him a shot. Interview him. You need a credibility boost.

Sent by Paul Lacques | 1:45 PM | 8-14-2007

The whole story is a fraud. Glenn Greenwald, in a Salon article 'The truth behind the Pollack-O'Hanlon trip to Iraq' exposes the whole scripted story of deception. read it for yourself
www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/12/ohanlon/index.html

Sent by Jerry | 6:56 PM | 8-14-2007

"The entire trip -- including where they went, what they saw, and with whom they spoke -- consisted almost entirely of them faithfully following what O'Hanlon described as "the itinerary the D.O.D. developed."

Source: The truth behind the Pollack-O'Hanlon trip to Iraq, http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/12/ohanlon/index.html

Sent by Emery Lapinski | 2:33 PM | 8-15-2007

Support comes from: