IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORTIraq Study Group Report
Having gone through the ISG report at breakneck speed, I have a few comments on this document and its nature.
First, I would suggest that anyone who reads it, and wishes to understand it's actual purpose should begin with the last page and work forward.
Secondly, there are many people on the right becoming quite exercised (or the left celebratory) about some of the language used in the report or the recommendations being "surrenderist". Or implicitly rebuking Bush. Or the Neocons. Or the military Or Israel. Or whatever.
Well, my advice is to calm down, at least for the moment. Some recommendations are excellent and long overdue, such as establishing interagency "operational jointness" on the Goldwater-Nichols model. Others are merely common sense. Some would appear to be, superficially, gratuitous concessions to our enemies. Or are even patent nonsense at odds with reality. However it doesn't really matter. No particular point in this report is meant to be taken at face value per se but as a collection ( hence the stupendous laundry list -something for everyone). That's not why the ISG was established or why the particular personnel associated with this project were selected with such obvious care.
The ISG was established because the Bush administration has completely paralyzed itself in Iraq and the first objectives in issuing this report are:
a) To open up the widest tactical options for the United States in Iraq and the ME as can be mustered.
b) To restore a consensus at the moral level for an American foreign policy and political elite that is badly divided along partisan lines as well as between subgroupings like " realists", "neocons" and " antiwar critics". This is a formal signalling for a "closing of ranks" at the top in the face of Iraq's effective disintegration into sectarian anarchy.
The specifics of any given recommendation here matter a great deal less than communicating to other parties that a window of diplomatic oportunity with the United States has abruptly opened, a moment of uncertain duration. We will be making choices in Iraq and once America goes down a new path the window is going to slam shut as our new policy acquires a logic of momentum. That is what the ISG is about, not making the government of Iraq an effective partner in fighting al Qaida or stopping infiltration from Syria, neither of which is going to happen.
The former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, is not a strategist or an idealist. Baker is not even a tactician so much as he is a highly gifted, political, fixer. Despite his courtly demeanor and Beltway "gravitas", Baker is the most ruthless bureaucratic infighter of our generation who has left dozens upon dozens of political corpses in the wake of his climb to the top with the Bush family. Baker has lined up the heavyweights of both parties behind the ISG in order to get the U.S. and President Bush out of a jam, not out of Iraq, though the latter will probably occur along the way.Assessments[ Updated]:Thomas P.M. Barnett
, Robert Kaplan
, Ralph Peters
, Kobayashi Maru
, Bruce Kesler
, American Future
, Abu Aardvark
, Atlas Shrugged
, Captain's Quarters
, Dean's World
, Kevin Drum
, Redneck's Revenge
, Small Wars Council
, Dreaming 5GW
, Duck of Minerva
, Rightwing Nut House
, Don Surber
, QandO, The Glittering Eye
, Matthew Yglesias
, Counterterrorism Blog
, Hugh Hewitt