Columnist Hails ‘Surge’ In Iraq — Paper Does Not Disclose His Brother Was One of its Architects

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By: E&P Staff

The Washington Post published an opinion piece on Sunday hailing the success of the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq and harshly criticizing reporters for not doing the same, or at least covering alleged major advances in that country. It failed to disclose, however, that the author of the column, Robert Kagan, is the brother of the man who has been called an architect of the “surge” idea.

Robert Kagan’s bio with the Post column reveals that he is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and that his latest book is “Dangerous Nation,” a history of American foreign policy. It does not disclose that his brother is Frederick Kagan, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, whose AEI report, “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” reportedly had a very strong influence on the White House in crafting its “surge” idea.

Robert Kagan’s column today opens: “A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn’t work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

“Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn’t exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference.

“Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.”

Later, Kagan admits, in something of an understatement, “There is still violence.” Then he closes with another blast at journalists: “No one is asking American journalists to start emphasizing the ‘good’ news. All they have to do is report what is occurring, though it may conflict with their previous judgments. Some are still selling books based on the premise that the war is lost, end of story. But what if there is a new chapter in the story?”

Kagan’s predictions on Iraq have often proven wrong in the past. Glenn Greenwald, blogging at Salon, reprints some of the Kagan assessments today.

With William Kristol, for example, he wrote in March 2004, “there are hopeful signs that Iraqis of differing religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath.” He then hit the “perpetually sour American media focus on the tensions between Shiites and Kurds.”

Earlier, in June 2003, when no WMD were found in Iraq, Kagan wrote in the Post, “The weapons were there. Someday we’ll find them or we’ll find out what happened to them. Unless, of course, you like your conspiracies to be as broad and all-pervasive as possible.”

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