This post makes a lot more sense if you read the one below it first.
Baseball too boring?. Calvinball not arbitrary enough? Why not try O'Hanlonball?
I frankly don't like the way Brian's making his argument.
Let's please acknowledge where each other have serious data and serious arguments, instead of stooping to this level of personal attack and calling people tools for propaganda.
The first rule of O'Hanlonball: your arguments must please O'Hanlon.
In the clip above there are no personal attacks and nobody is called a tool for propaganda. It doesn't have to make sense -- it's O'Hanlonball!
From the WBUR program:
I don't think I went out of my way to tell a story that was based on a dog and pony show. The military progress is real. Critics should focus on why the opportunity costs of continuing are still too high nontheless, rather than worrying about my motives, as if somehow I've gained some huge benefits.
I don't think I'm a very intersting story here. What's interesting here are the facts on the ground in Iraq. Let's have a policy debate, that's the interesting conversation.
The second rule of O'Hanlonball: You'll focus on what O'Hanlon finds interesting.
Do you keep trying a while longer? What's your theory for how long is long enough before you abandon the effort? That's a question that I think people can disagree on, even if they accept a fairly common factual basis.
The third rule of O'Hanlonball: O'Hanlon will tell when you can disagree.
The "fairly common factual basis" that we should accept includes that there is "minimal political progress" -- which is true in the sense that backwards progress is still progress.
O'Hanlon clearly states that political progress is the key to Iraq. He also appears to acknowledge, in the YouTube clip above (towards the end), that our military strategy in Iraq is undermining the central Iraqi government, arguing only that "it's a gamble" and that "there is no better policy if you still are trying to salvage something."
This explains why O'Hanlon cannot give any rational explanation for why our (supposed) military gains will translate into political ones: the strategy he advocates makes military gains at the expense of political ones.
These are our "liberal" Iraq experts. They define the rules of the debate, bristling at objections that fall outside narrow lines. They advocate a "common factual basis" that is at least partly fiction. They argue explicitly for hope free from logic -- hope in spite of logic. That is the serious argument based on serious data: cross your fingers, roll the dice and hope for the best.