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A lot of people like Robert Kagan's reports on Iraq because he says what they want to hear. He's a booster. Thus, for example, the senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who resides in Belgium, writes in his latest column in the Sunday Washington Post that "NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure." Actually, I've seen that Ramadi is safer than it had been. Alas, it has no airport. It hasn't since the war began. It has landing zones for helicopters but not even a strip of runway on which C-130s can land. Brian Williams, having been to Ramadi, would know that and indeed a search of his writings turn up no mention of any Ramadi airport.
Okay, so Kagan committed a faux pas. But it doesn't enhance one's credibility to say a place that doesn't exist is "more secure." Nor does it help his overall theme as expressed in the title of his column "The 'Surge' Is Succeeding." It's way to early to make any such pronouncements. What we've seen so far is that as American forces increased, Sadr apparently just slipped across the border to a safe haven in Iran and has clearly told his men to lay low for the duration of the "surge." When the tide ebbs, he plans to reclaim the beach. It is a good plan, which isn't to say it will work. Our best hope is that his men can't take it anymore and defy Sadr, giving us the chance to kill and capture them. But that clearly hasn't happened yet and it may never.
Defeatism certainly doesn't help anything, but boosterism is just a temporary feel-good shot in the arm. It did not help that in May of 2005 Vice-President Cheney claimed the insurgency is "in its last throes." It did not help that Karl Zinsmeister, when he was editor of AEI's magazine, (and somebody who actually has been to Iraq), published an article in his own magazine a month later declaring "The War is Over, and We Won." Only realistic assessments of the war will lead to realistic actions, and only realistic actions can lead to salvaging something resembling victory out of this war.
[Apology: In the initial posting of this blog I confused Robert Kagan with AEI's FREDERICK Kagan. Actually, there is no mention of Frederick Kagan having ever visited Iraq and he's also a booster. But this does not excuse my mistake.]