Thursday, August 02, 2007

Packer gets answers to Iraq questions

George Packer, the veteran Iraq correspondent, in trying to get to the bottom of the Brookings duo's eyebrow-raising Op-Ed, actually asks the pertinent questions no one else has bothered to:

I talked to Pollack yesterday. In answer to some of the questions I raised: he spoke with very few Iraqis and could independently confirm very little of what he heard from American officials. In eight days he travelled to half a dozen cities—that’s not much time in each. The evidence that four or five Iraqi Army divisions, with most of their bad commanders weeded out, are now capable of holding, for example, Mosul and Tal Afar, came from American military sources. Pollack found that U.S. officers sounded much more realistic than on his previous trip, in late 2005. He gauged their reliability in answers they gave to questions that he asked “offline,” after a briefing—there was a minimum of happy talk, but also a minimum of dire gloom. The improvements in security, he said, are “relative,” which is a heavy qualification, given the extreme violence of 2006 and early 2007. And it’s far from clear that progress anywhere is sustainable. Everywhere he went, the line Pollack heard was that the central government in Baghdad is broken and the only solutions that can work are local ones.

That doesn't sound like much of a trip. Still, Packer deems it significant that the two came away impressed by the changes they witnessed; whether it's sustainable is another matter altogether. And Packer adds this nugget, which tracks with what he wrote in Assassin's Gate:

This flap illustrates two permanent truths of the Iraq war. No American can assert with authority what the reality in Iraq is like. And, for most commentators here, bragging rights are more important than trying to find out.

That's right. Iraq has always been about point scoring. It's always been about who can spike the ball in someone else's face, grab the crotch and yell, "Booo-yeh!" How about we finally get it right, no?

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:19 AM

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