Pollack did acknowledge that he had been wrong on one key issue—WMD. And, he said, it was fair to take that into account when evaluating his current writings. But, he observed, “I don’t think you should make a judgment about my work based on any [one] particular thing I’ve done. I would argue that if you went back and looked over my grand record on Iraq going back to the 1980s, I’ve actually got a very good track record.” He asked: “Should Churchill have been disqualified forever because of Gallipoli? I’m not trying to put myself in the same category as Churchill, but the point is that one mistake should not forever hang over a person’s head.”

It’s a valid point. If the Gallipoli standard were applied to Iraq, much of our foreign-policy commentariat would be out on the street. Christopher Hitchens would have to give up his column at Vanity Fair and Thomas Friedman would lose his perch at the Times. Half the columnists at The Washington Post would have to find a new line of work, and The New Republic would probably have to shut down. In the simple interest of journalistic employment, some slack must be allowed. It’s healthy, though, to be reminded of what these prognosticators have said in the past, especially when they continue to turn out such one-dimensional and one-sided assessments as the one that Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon published in the July 30 Times. 

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Michael Massing is a contributing editor to CJR and the author of Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq.