Wednesday, December 6, 2006
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Open Baker-Hamilton thread
Comment away on:
1) The Iraq Study Group's report;posted by Dan on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM
If I can suggest an additional condition for this thread: posters should indicate in their comments whether they have actually read the ISG report, or read a news summary, or read only commentary in newspapers or the blogosphere on news summaries. I make the suggestion only to gratify a sense of morbid curiosity.
I myself have not read the report. I may have something to say about it once I have.posted by: Zathras on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
I haven't read the report, just commentary. But in general, how often do Presidents heed commissions like the Baker group? Not very often. I don't know if the Bush white house is any better or worse, but the average response to commissions is lip service followed by ignoring it, unless the commission said what the President wants to hear (e.g., the Meese Report).posted by: Fabio Rojas on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Not having read the report yet:
I think bumpkis will happen. The goal of the administration is to hold things together just long enough to pass on the problem to someone else.
I just keep wondering where all this credibility America stands to lose exists. Somewhere with the WMDs I guess.
Their recommendations are to ask a lot of folks to play nice, when we've got no leverage and they want other things?
Bush will make a token effort, but it won't accomplish anything.posted by: ptm on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Haven't read the report (PDF is 160 pages) but numerous summaries.
By coincidence "State of Denial" hit the top of my bedtime reading pile this week, and it is both fascinating and grim.
I think things will have to get worse before anything decisive happens (and todays casualty counts were god-awful).posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
As far as I can tell, even though it diverges sharply from the Bush administration strategy in some areas, it says practically nothing that centrist organizations such as the Economist or the Council on Foreign Relations haven't already advocated in the past few years. It is remarkably devoid of bold strategies.
One richly ironic suggestion: "Iran should... respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity...." Much as America has done, right?
News reports and blogs only, but the report itself may not prove as interesting as the make-up and functioning of the commission that wrote it. For example, were any of the discredited foreign policy "idealists" of the conservative or liberal hawk movements included? Or to broaden on this theme somewhat, were any advocates of Kurdish interests included?
My sense is that the message of the report, and the way it will be interpretted, is as follows: "Iraq is a disaster. We must now limit our aims and negotiate with our enemies. If that means cutting a dirty deal, so be it."
I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the necessity of getting out has begun to trump all other concerns.posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Dworkin is so right that no other comment, including this one, are required.posted by: bstr on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Web commentary only.
'Staying the course is not an option' but it is implicit in each of the suggestions. We can't stay if the Iraqi Defense Force doesn't get up to snuff. Of course we can't leave if its not snuff either. So how do we get out again?
Oh yeah, we don't! England occupied Egypt from the 1880's to the end of WWII and 'getting out of Egypt' was standard boilerplate rhetoric for virtually every English election during that time.
We went to Iraq to stay in Iraq. The hard part will be to keep convincing the American public that we need to be there or we can't leave or we have to leave but we can't--or whatever form the rhetoric will take for the rest of my lifetime.posted by: spliff on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
All right, I've read the ISG report. As committee documents go it is not that long; there are plainly sections included that reflected individuals committee members' concerns, but the overall approach appears to be one on which all ten members generally agree.
With one exception -- a big one, which I'll come to in a minute -- focus on the specific recommendations in the ISG document can leave one somewhere between indifferent and exasperated. A great many of the recommendations, especially those pertaining to embedding American advisors with Iraqi military and police units and reordering which Iraqi ministries should control various military and law enforcement services, are solutions for the problems of January, 2004 presented in December of 2006. Some of them might actually have had their best day even earlier, in the first days of Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. The New Diplomatic Offensive that provoked early Congressional skepticism might have a future if Jim Baker were still Secretary of State; but he isn't, and the suggestions made taken as a whole amount to a diplomatic initiative far too complex and uncertain for a Secretary with Condoleeza Rice's limited abilities.
But in the course of laying out what is probably an impractical scheme for shifting the main thrust of America's effort in Iraq from stability operations to embedding advisors with Iraqi units, the ISG states that American combat brigades could be out of Iraq by the first quarter of 2008. The context of the statement makes clear that the ISG was not thinking in terms of an American withdrawal, but as most of ISG's specific recommendations fall by the wayside this context is likely to as well.
What ISG has done -- and I have no reason to believe this was done intentionally -- is to name a deadline for American withdrawal from Iraq. As 2007 passes and the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, public and Congressional pressure on the administration to meet the deadline is likely to grow, and President Bush likely to find himself either isolated even from members of his own party in Congress, or forced to accomodate the pressure by beginning to withdraw troops. If he does that we are, in the words of Henry Kissinger's 1969 memo, in salted peanuts territory; once the process of withdrawing troops has started public sentiment of accelerating it and finally for getting the whole thing over with will build rapidly.
I will admit that my judgment on this matter may be questioned, as liquidation of the commitment in Iraq is something I have already decided is necessary. Clearly the ISG members have not come to the same conclusion, at least not yet, and it is possible that my assessment of the probable consequences of their report is too heavily influenced by my own preferences. In my defense, though, the first section of the report -- summarizing the state of play in and around Iraq -- is commendably direct, and devoid of happy talk about "building freedom" or victory. I'm not the only one who thinks the media and the Congress will start to use this section as the new benchmark for evaluating how things are going in Iraq, dramatically cutting the administration's room to maneuver and making it much harder to present to the American people that their troops in Iraq are doing any good.
America is not "succeeding at too slow a pace" in Iraq. Our army there has been on a treadmill for years while a country full of people bent on killing each other deteriorates. The ISG report, by documenting this and by -- however unintentionally -- naming a date for American withdrawal, may turn out to be a turning point in this business after all.posted by: Zathras on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
When studying WWI, I find it amazing that no matter how many mistakes were made, people were determined to win. They didn't constantly second guess each other. Now, when faced with a minor squirmish with relatively low cost in life and treasure, we want to run and quit. It does not take a fortune teller to see the wave of war that is approaching us. Either we decide to comfront it now, or we will deal with it in a much bigger way in the future. Look at the trends since 1979. It is escalating and Iraq is another front in that escalation. The question becomes, are you going to comfront this now or leave for your children and grandchildren in a much bigger way. So far we have chosen to punt without things getting better. People need to look at the bigger picture and stop being wrapped up in these historically minor issues such as Iraq. Its good we took out Saddam on so many different levels and history will look kindly on it.posted by: TomU on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Do I take your enthusiasm for continuing the war in Iraq as a sign that you are ready to volunteer and serve there? Since the cost is "relatively low in life and treasure" perhaps you ought to be prepared to be part of that low cost. If not you then how about a son or daughter? After all, if this is such an important battle for future generations, such sacrifices would be minor wouldn't they?
Come to think of it, if this is such an important conflict, then maybe the Bush daughters could stop partying in Buenos Aires and sign up? Support dear old Dad in his clash of civilizations. Or maybe Bush could ask Americans to sacrifice in the form of higher taxes to pay for this war?
Actions speak much louder than words, don't they?
posted by: SteveinVT on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
Either we decide to confront it now, or we will deal with it in a much bigger way in the future.
There are no final, no permanent, solutions, only actions which improve or worsen current conditions. It is this naivete that got us into this mess in the first place. Do we have to kill everyone that disagrees with us? Did we have to conquer the Soviets to defeat them? The military is not a solution, only a tool. Used badly, it is not even that.posted by: Lord on 12.06.06 at 01:24 PM [permalink]
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