I guess Michael O'Hanlon had a revelation in the last week and now sees light at the end of the tunnel if his Op-Ed post in today's NY Times is to be believed.
The Brookings Institution, for whom O'Hanlon works, publishes an "Iraq Index." The Iraq Index "is designed to quantify the rebuilding efforts and offer an objective set of criteria for benchmarking performance. It is the first in-depth, non-partisan assessment of American efforts in Iraq, and is based primarily on U.S. government information. Although measurements of progress in any nation-building effort can never be reduced to purely quantitative data, a comprehensive compilation of such information can provide a clearer picture and contribute to a healthier and better informed debate. "
Here is the introduction to the most recent Iraq Index report
JULY 23, 2007- With what promised to be a pivotal summer now more than half over, the situation in Iraq remains tenuous at best. Even with all surge forces in place and operational, the modest progress made in the security sphere thus far has not had the hoped-for subsequent influence on the political and economic sectors. Adding to the pressure is the steadily increasing demands stateside for a change in strategy. Indeed, the ?political clocks? in Washington and Baghdad are perhaps farther apart today than they have ever been.
From a security standpoint, having the full allotment of surge troops in theater has allowed for intensified coalition operations in and around Baghdad aimed at rooting out militants from their sanctuaries. Initial reports indicate that these have led to a decrease in the levels of violence in these areas. However, violence nationwide has failed to improve measurably over the past 2-plus months, with a resilient enemy increasingly turning its focus to softer targets outside the scope of the surge. And while the number of internally displaced persons has declined, it has done so not as a result of security improvements but because there are fewer places for Iraqis to run with a number of provinces unable to accept any more refugees. In assessing the overall sentiment of the Iraqi people recently, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker summed it up in one word: fear.
Politically, there has yet to be significant progress in the legislation of any of the critical benchmark laws. This has been made exceedingly more difficult with recent boycotts of the government by both the Shiite officials loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and the largest Sunni bloc, the National Accord Front. Though both have now agreed to return their members to parliament after weeks of abstention, neither has resumed participation at the cabinet level, leaving 13 of the 38 Iraqi cabinet positions vacant. With Kurdish lawmakers denouncing the most recently proposed oil revenue sharing law and the National Accord Front threatening to resume its boycott, it is difficult to see how any measurable political progress will take place before the all-important September update from Ambassador Crocker and commanding General David Petraeus.
Economically, ?stagnation? continues to be the key word. The precarious security situation has continued to stymie any significant improvement of such macro indicators as unemployment, GDP and inflation. Fuel production fluctuates from week-to-week with insurgent attacks on infrastructure and suspected widespread corruption causing the average Iraqi to endure interminable lines to obtain scant amounts gasoline and propane. In addition, the availability of electricity has deteriorated over the past couple of months with Ambassador Crocker recently stating that the average person in Baghdad can count on only one or two hours of electricity per day.
Michael O'Hanlon spearheads the Iraq Index project at Brookings...
You can make compelling arguments regarding what to do in Iraq in support of various positions, but only someone as smart as Mr. O'Hanlon is able to argue both sides simultaneously.