New York Times reporter Michael Gordon, analyzing the major-party candidates’ positions on Iraq (10/6/08), writes the sort of article you would expect from someone who has already taken a public position in favor of the policy embraced by one of the candidates and against the policy adopted by the other.
Here’s Gordon’s review of the “surge” policy that he and McCain supported and Obama opposed:
There is no question that the American reinforcements dispatched by President Bush have helped reduce sectarian violence, both directly through military operations and indirectly by helping encourage the spread of the Awakening movement, in which neighborhood watch groups have taken on Sunni extremists.
Actually, there is a very real question of whether the sending of additional U.S. troops to Iraq reduced or contributed to sectarian violence in Iraq. A reporter who was not a partisan for one side of the debate would have been more likely to acknowledge that controversy.
And here’s Gordon on the alternative Obama offered to the “surge” strategy that Gordon supported:
Mr. Obama’s position on troop cuts was forged in late 2006 as Iraq appeared to be approaching a full-scale civil war. Drawing on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report, he opposed Mr. BushÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢s troop reinforcement plan and sponsored legislation in January 2007 that would have removed all American combat brigades by the end of March 2008, while allowing a small force to remain for training, counterterrorism and the protection of the American Embassy and its personnel.
At that time, American intelligence agencies warned in a national intelligence estimate that the removal of all American and allied forces within 18 months would “almost certainly” lead to a significant increase in sectarian fighting, suggesting that the speedy, if partial, withdrawal advocated by Mr. Obama would also risk a major increase in violence.
Given Gordon’s close working relationship to the American intelligence agencies who assured us that Iraq absolutely for certain had WMDs, he more than most people should be wary of treating these agencies as an authoritative source on what “almost certainly” would have happened in a counter-factual world. But what did happen in the real world is that sectarian violence levels in Iraq dropped as Baghdad was ethnically cleansed–an accomplishment achieved at the cost of more than 1,000 U.S. lives. Gordon thought it important to include the imagined negative consequences of Obama’s plan; the actual downside of the plan that he and McCain backed were less newsworthy to him, I guess.
See Peter Hart’s “Spinning the Surge” in the most recent issue of Extra!.