Friday, December 15, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report Irrelevant?

Kevin Drum:

Question: has a hotly anticipated blue ribbon report ever fallen into irrelevance so quickly? The Baker-Hamilton report was released only a week ago, and as near as I can tell it's now a dead letter. Within days, both left and right slagged it viciously, President Bush made it clear that he didn't think much of it, and virtually no one other than David Broder had anything nice to say about it.

(I mean that literally. Has anyone stood up for the report? I can't really think of anyone who's had any sustained praise for it.)

And now? The worst fate of all: it's completely off the radar screen. Its language was so vague as to be meaningless, and within a few days its insignificance was so obvious that no one was even giving it the dignity of arguing about how misguided it was. Chattering classes-wise, it's disappeared down a black hole.

I really haven't gotten that impression at all. I've been too busy to follow the news and the blogs like I normally do, but I'd hardly say it's dropped into irrelevance.

Besides, to think that anyone would actually follow the recommendations of the report is to overstate the purpose of the report. It was never to provide us a feasible way out of Iraq (though I think it has excellent recommendations, so I guess I'm standing up for it) so much as it was to provide some political cover to those who want us out, and some impetus to those who want us to stay. In fact one could argue that the mid-terms did the same thing, and the ISG Report has simply melded in with the political effect the elections produced, and provided more "talking points" for those offering recommendations for what to do about Iraq. And besides, it's not as if we can keep doing what we're doing.

UPDATE: It looks like Kevin just barely beat Krauthammer to the punch in declaring the report irrelevant...though to be fair, Krauthammer declared the report's irrelevance "instant", as opposed to having taken a week. Now that Krauthammer has come out so strongly against the report, I know that we should follow it's recommendations. Mostly so we can avoid suggestions like these:
First, as I've been agitating for, establish a new governing coalition in Baghdad that excludes Moqtada al-Sadr, a cancer that undermines the ability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to work with us.

Hmmm, earlier in his column Krauthammer says of the report's statement that we must stop Syrian and Iranian meddling in Iraq as "fatuous King Canute pronouncements give the report its air of detachment from reality." In less hyperbolic language, he's saying that the report tells us we should do something, but doesn't tell us how we should do it. Krauthammer would recognize such a tactic, wouldn't he? It seems to me, declaring that we need to excise Sadr, who currently commands the most political influence in Parliament and whose power has only grown in the 3 1/2 years of our occupation, but then suggesting no way in which we can effectively do this, is a little...well, fatuous.

And his next recommendation?
"Double down" our military effort. This means a surge in American troops with a specific mission: to secure Baghdad and (with the support of the Baghdad government -- a sine qua non) suppress Sadr's Mahdi Army.

And where are those troops coming from? More involuntary call-ups? More reserves and national guardsmen sent to active duty? Shifting troops from western Iraq to Baghdad? Does that mean abandon battling the insurgency? And if we touch off a second round of war with the Mahdi Army, what then? How would we know we've won? Sadr's killed? Captured? Put on trial, like Saddam? Sent running into Iran? And in angering most of the Shiites of the country by attacking a popular Shiite cleric, how do we deal with the backlash? Even more troops to fight them? These extremely pressing questions, things we must consider before expanding combat in Iraq, go strangely unaddressed in Krauthammer's column. That strikes me as slightly, well...fatuous, and not at all serious. Krauthammer has yet to figure out, after nearly four years of war, that we are not playing a giant war-game whose only consequences are sore feelings for the loser, and you can't go proposing "novel" solutions to a very real conflict when you are not all serious about addressing the consequences of those solutions, or even discussing seriously how we implement them. This sort of magical, consequence-free thinking is what got us into this war. It will most assuredly not get us out.

1 comment:

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