It's too little, too late.
The so-called “The bipartisan Iraq Study Group” (actually heavily weighted to the right wing, and including zero progressive Democrats) has produced its recommendation. And while they deliberated, Iraq slid into chaos.
The NYT has the leak at Iraq Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops.
The report recommends that troops move away from the heart of combat (“a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq”). Some day.
But here's the thing: there's no timetable (Chairman James Baker didn't want one),
The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.
That “implicit message” would of course be aimed at that master detector of nuance, George W. Bush.
And that would be the same George W. Bush who said just two days ago that, “there's one thing I’m not going to do: I’m not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.”
(Remind me again what “the mission” is please?)
The inside-the-beltway politics are clear:
“I think everyone felt good about where we ended up,” one person involved in the commission’s debates said after the group ended its meeting. “It is neither 'cut and run' nor ‘stay the course.'”
No, it's “stay the course” for a while then “cut and run.” With “run to where” left open — maybe to laagers in the Iraqi desert — just don't call them “permanent bases”. (“The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries.”)
It's amazing that anyone involved could feel “good” about this report: if followed, it will have hundreds of our soldiers killed and wounded before the now inevitable departure. And for what exactly? Or even approximately?
Discourse.net served us well by blowing the whistle on earlier claims related to WMD, and later was a good source of Abhu Ghraib realities, that were being fudged and smoked by the administration at that time in the usual manner.
The original mission is not the red herring Bush is now floating as “mission” while he desperately tries to keep his balls inflated (pun intended). Despite all we know now about the original mission, some very smart observers on the political scene both stateside and abroad, bought into the WMD thesis. Some like Hitchens genuinely believed that the mission was about more than oil, and that something positive could be achieved with ramifications for the greater Middle East.
This original mission however was distinguished by lack of foresight and preparedness on too many fronts to mention. Moreover it allowed for the appalling conditions in Abhu Ghraib to come about under the nose of American authority, an episode that damaged credibility across the board. The mission, such as it was at that point, went off the rails when Bush and associates began to spin the war against Al Qaeda rationale and tried to present Iraq as a “central front” in this war.
When Bush was doing his triumphalist thing on USS Abraham Lincoln, he thought the game was locked down and won. Pesky “dead-enders” would be swatted away and the grand design would proceed. Of course, events drove history in a contrary direction, and that’s when they increasingly upped the rhetoric about Iraq being part of a central front in the war on Al Qaeda. In recent history no standing army has ever won against an insurgency with its roots in the local population – except those operations in parts of the world where governments can still get away with the “more rubble – less trouble” approach. This shift of direction placed American forces in a no-win situation and was a recipe for the disaster-zone the US military is now in.
Bush engaged in deliberate lying and misrepresentation as a matter of policy, once it became clear that they had bitten off more than they could chew and that a potential disaster was in the offing. Saddam was correct when he scoffed about an invasion of Iraq. As I recall the analogy he used was swallowing something very unpleasant and difficult to digest. The Baker initiative and other diplomatic outreach currently going on, is part of a desperate attempt to put a good face on a monumental cock-up of legendary proportions.
Recently on Crooked Timber, a lead post offered the Iraqi constitution and elected assembly as evidence of worthwhile achievement. I couldn’t disagree more. Given what we know about faux democracy in the Middle East and the corruption that it incubates, a person would have to be smoking something to believe that a piece of paper and an assembly in Baghdad guarantees anything at all in relation to the declared objectives of freedom and democracy, given the current situation on the ground. This was not the deal Bush had in mind. It’s as phony as his mission rhetoric. Moreover none of this is worth the death of untold numbers of Iraqi citizens, torture, civil mayhem and close to three thousand American dead – many of them young men and women with a life ahead of them.
If someone had presented this tab to me in advance of the American invasion, I would have said it wasn’t worth it. It amazes me that there are still people who believe they got a fair deal.
THe ISG’s action recommendations regarding specific actions are pretty much worthless–except, perhaps, to the extent that they add some marginal legitimacy to withdrawal options.
Where the ISG report could be most constructive is in the definition of plausibly achievable objectives–that is, facilitating a definition of the the mission which would allow Bush (more or less plausibly) to announce that we’re leaving because we’ve achieved the mission. The hopeful note here is that experience has demonstrated that this president’s plausibility standards are not very high.
The reality is that the price of getting out is to provide the President some sort of face-saving option. Yes, it’s a steep price but, if putting an end to this bloody mess means biting our tongues as Bush announces that we’re leaving because we’ve accomplished the mission, I’m ready to chew on my tongue .
If Jim Webb refrained from punching his lights out, I will, too–for now (but he’d better hope we don’t meet in an alley after his term expires.)
Even a well balance bipartisan committee would not have delivered a worthy recommendation for ending the war in Iraq. For that you need a team of independent, creative and unconventional thinkers. However, even a team of Nobel prize winners cannot fix the Iraq problem. Just pack up and full steam ahead towards the East coast.
The Baker/Camel committee has indeed delivered a camel.