O’Hanlon’s Brookings Benchmarks


I’m a “criteria guy.” We are going through a hiring process at the New America Foundation, and I am one of the folks who harps a lot about establishing criteria for decisions. But I think that these criteria should be obvious to all.
Michael O’Hanlon seems to be a criteria guy as well — but Spencer Ackerman, Matthew Yglesias, Ilan Goldenberg, and Ezra Klein zap him for being opaque about how he established his roster of “benchmarks” which he has dubbed as “Brookings Benchmarks.”
All of their response commentary is great. No more needed from me.
— Steve Clemons

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2 comments on “O’Hanlon’s Brookings Benchmarks

  1. JohnH says:

    Let me explain this another way. O’Hanlon sets out political benchmarks, including “establishing provincial election laws, reaching an oil-revenue sharing accord, enacting pension and amnesty laws, passing annual federal budgets, hiring Sunni volunteers into the security forces, holding a fair referendum on the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk, and purging extremists from government ministries and security forces.”
    Behind these benchmarks is some vision of Iraq. Only problem is, O’Hanlon won’t tell you what that vision is. While the benchmarks appear to be reasonable actions that Iraqis might take on their own behalf, we know that the Bush administration is not interested in the well being of Iraqis. Otherwise it would not have presided over the deaths of a million of them or the squandering of a few $Trillion.
    So O’Hanlon’s benchmarks presumably lead to some vision of Iraq that is in America’s self-interest. But he refuses to link the benchmarks to that agenda. Perhaps there is no consensus among politicians and foreign policy experts on a common agenda for Iraq (scary thought, which begs the question as to why Bush continues to squander the $Trillions).
    Or, more likely, there is a common agenda that they refuse to make explicit. Why would they refuse to reveal it? Most likely, they can’t reveal the agenda because is it totally repugnant to Americans and to their values, as it is to people around the world.
    O’Hanlon and the group thinking beltway establishment apparently hope that Iraqis will adopt the political benchmarks, become pacified, and let America get on with doing as it pleases with those unspecified “vital strategic interests.” And if Iraqis behaved, Americans would never have to be clued in about the real mission or to be allowed to give feedback on it


  2. JohnH says:

    Only problem is that criteria for success can’t be set without knowing what you’re trying to accomplish. Which brings us back to the point: Iraq–for what?
    If we’re trying to satisfy Bush’s emotional impulse to avenge the threat to his Daddy’s life, I’d say that a million dead Iraqis ought to have more than compensated for that. Ditto for Saddam=evil. If we’re trying to get oil out of the country, then the Iraq venture has been a miserable failure by any measure.
    If success means pacifying the country–for what? Pacification is not done for the sake of pacification.
    It’s long past time for devious politicians and foreign policy experts to be explicit with the American people about the goals for Iraq. Only then we can judge the merit of the criteria.


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