Kristol's first Time column contradicted by Time's own reporting

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Several points in Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol's column for the January 15 edition of Time, his first since being hired by the magazine as a "part-time columnist," were contradicted by Time's cover story in the same issue on President Bush's reported plans to send 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

In his column, Kristol backed the "new strategy for victory" in Iraq that has been advocated by retired Gen. Jack Keane and American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan. According to Kristol:

There has been some sniping at the Keane-Kagan plan. But what is striking is that so few of the critics actually go to the trouble of analyzing it -- or proposing a substitute.

In fact, Time's cover story, titled "What a Surge Really Means," offered a detailed analysis of Bush's reported plans for a "surge" of 20,000 troops in Iraq. The article specifically noted that Keane and Kagan's plan is the basis for the White House's actions:

The surge belongs to the neocons and in particular to Frederick Kagan, who taught military history at West Point for a decade and today works out of the American Enterprise Institute as a military analyst. Kagan argued for a surge last fall in the pages of the Weekly Standard, the neocons' house organ, after the military's previous surge, Operation Forward Together, failed in late October. Kagan turned to former Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who still has street cred at the Pentagon, to help flesh out the plan and then sell it to the White House.

Kristol wrote of Keane and Kagan's plan:

And they [the American people] would be right to wonder -- because we don't need to accept defeat in Iraq. Former Army Vice Chief of Staff General Jack Keane and military expert Frederick Kagan, working with other experienced military and civilian planners, have laid out a new strategy for victory, supported by a sustained and substantial (but feasible) troop increase. That plan (available at aei.org reverses the debilitating Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey emphasis on a "light footprint" for the U.S. military and on drawing down American troops as soon as possible. Keane-Kagan follows classic counterinsurgency doctrine by sending enough troops to provide security for the Iraqi people, especially in Baghdad, now the center of gravity of the conflict. With security established, training of the Iraqi army and political reconciliation can proceed. This plan is likely to be the basis for the new way forward soon to be announced by the Bush Administration.

Kristol offered no support for his claim that the troop increase is "feasible." Time's cover story, however, quoted Gen. John Abizaid, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Central Command, saying that a troop increase of the size and duration envisioned by Keane and Kagan (and Kristol) is not feasible:

Outgoing Centcom boss John Abizaid told a Senate panel in November that the U.S. "can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect." But he added that "the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps." Surge proponents quietly cheered the recent announcement that Abizaid is retiring. They believe that Abizaid and many of the Army's other top generals are locked in a post-Vietnam mentality that has them worrying more about the recruitment and retention required for an all-volunteer force than about fighting and winning wars.

Kristol also claimed:

Based on what I've been able to learn about the situation on the ground, and based on conversations with soldiers and experts, I think a new strategy for victory supported by additional forces has a good chance of success. If others think the situation hopeless, they should make the case for withdrawal -- and presumably for withdrawal sooner rather than later. They should also describe what they think would happen during, and after, our withdrawal -- and why that outcome is preferable to trying for victory. The critics tend to say, "It's too late -- it won't work -- let's leave." Their feelings of disappointment and impatience are understandable. But those sentiments are not a responsible basis for policy.

Kristol gave no indication as to why he thinks Keane and Kagan's plan "has a good chance of success." Time, however, noted that some do not share Kristol's optimism -- such as a Bush administration official. According to Time:

So far, the [national security adviser Stephen] Hadley-run hunt for a new military and diplomatic approach has earned mediocre marks from inside and outside the White House. Wider-ranging alternatives were not explored in any depth, said several foreign policy experts who met with Hadley in December, and talks with Iran and Syria were ruled out of the question. A dismayed Administration official who has generally been an optimist about Iraq described the process as chaotic. "None of this," he predicted of the surge and its coming rollout, "is going to work."

As Media Matters for America noted , Kristol also attacked several Bush administration "critics" in his Time column without naming, quoting, or in any way identifying a single one.

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