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There doesn’t seem to be much reason to pore over the Iraq Study Group’s report, as it seems like the president isn’t real inclined to follow its recommendations. But it’s worth glancing at, just the same.
First, I’d just like to point out that there are no Middle East experts on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Zero. I’m sure they talked to experts for their opinions, and that helped, but still… If you were going to come up with a comprehensive report on any topic, it seems like you’d want someone with knowledge and experience on your team. If you were researching, say, a farming crisis, you’d probably want a fucking farmer on the panel.
But of course, this report was never about solving Iraqi problems, it was about solving the domestic problems of American politicians who see that the war is unpopular but don’t want to risk being called “soft on terror.”
While many in the media world are claiming that this report calls for radical changes, some of the recommendations seem exactly the same. It talks about training the Iraqi forces, and estimates that the training should be complete by early 2008. And when that’s done, all American forces not involved with the training and not “imbedded” (is that the right spelling? They use it throughout the report) with Iraqi troops (estimated up to 20,000) can be “redeployed” to somewhere else. Afghanistan, maybe, or the Home for 21-Year Old Vets with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Train them till we’re done, then we’ll leave. Sounds an awful lot like Bush’s soundbite, “when the Iraqis step up, we’ll step back.”
So the first groundbreaking thrust of the report is to do what we’re allegedly already doing. Nice work.
The recommendation also ignores the fact that the Iraqi military is largely made up of Shia militiamen who are responsible for a share of the civil war violence. So when you train and outfit the Iraqi military to fight the sectarian violence, you are simultaneously helping to exacerbate some of it. Why our beloved commentator class can’t seem to wrap their heads around that is beyond me.
The second major recommendation is for a new “diplomatic offensive.” Not “talk”, not “negotiate”, not “work together”, but “launch an offensive”, like we’re going to fire treaty missiles at them from fighter jets. But that’s the best way to reach Bush, as he’s so obsessed with the military. “Mr. President, would you like me to lead an assault on the kitchen to subdue a cup of coffee for you?”
Anyhow, this “diplomatic offensive” is one where the US would try to get Iran to use its influence to calm Iraq’s Shia population, and Syria would use its influence to calm Iraq’s Sunni population (the Kurds, who are living in relative Utopia at the moment, need no calming).
This proposal immediately hit a brick wall. Bush has already announced that he will not talk one-on-one to either Iran or Syria unless Iran stops enriching uranium and Syria stops “destabilizing” the Lebanese government.
Now, I find it doubtful that either of these nations would help the US unless they a) felt that the chaos in Iraq was the number one threat to their regimes, or b) they get a pretty sweet deal in return. Iran wants to run its nuclear program in peace (no pun intended) and wants the US out of Iraq. They’ve gotten almost everything else they could want out of the Iraq war (the US defeated their enemies Saddam and the Taliban, while putting friendly Shia leaders in charge of Iraq), so there’s just not much more they could ask for. Syria wants to run Lebanon, call off the UN investigation into their role in the past assassination of a Lebanese prime minister, and get back the Golan Heights from Israel.
About the only path that Bush is willing to accept along these lines is an “international group” meeting. At which I presume Iran and Syria would make the demands above, and Bush would refuse.
The third, somewhat novel idea in the report is that the US should work on a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. Before the war, the neocons argued that the way to peace in Israel was through Baghdad; meaning that once the US invasion of Iraq had made other Arab leaders piss themselves with fear, we could force them to accept a deal with Israel. The ISG report makes a case for the opposite, that peace in Baghdad might need peace in Jerusalem first. Of course, this is what every Arab and Muslim leader in the world told the US when it was initially trying to drum up Middle Eastern support for action against Iraq, that nothing was more important to changing the region than the Israel-Palestine conflict. But being pompous assholes, our brave leaders took no heed.
The interesting thing about this recommendation is that it is one of the only things that could possibly start to rebuild US credibility with the Muslim world. Well, only if the US was tough with Israel. And that seems pretty damn unlikely. So never mind, maybe.
Sadly, we’ve already seen signs that the White House wants to dismiss the ISG report, or try to minimize its importance. Bush has said that he’ll look over the ISG report, but that the State Department and Pentagon also have reports pending. So ya see, the ISG report isn’t a big deal, it’s just one of many reports with many recommendations and stuff (although Tony Snow later claimed that these would not be formal, printed reports). So much for that hope of getting out of Iraq.
But it’s much worse than that. If these Democratic Congressmen are telling the truth about their recent meeting with the President, we’re all doomed:
Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.
Bush said that “in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America,” recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. “He’s trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you’re right you’re unpopular, and be prepared for criticism.”
Durbin said he challenged Bush’s analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that’s what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now - work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.
Bush, Durbin said, “reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response” and emphasized that he is “the commander in chief.”
Well there’s a handy delusion. His unpopularity and stagnating death war are signs that he’s actually a hero, like good ol’ Harry Truman. Give him a few more months and he’ll figure out a way to justify cannibalism too.
I cannot believe these fuckers. They truly seem to think that their will and stubbornness is all that’s needed to win the war. Sure, you could argue that on a one-on-one brawl, willpower can play a vital role. But this is kinda different. Willpower doesn’t put your planes back together, or deflect mortar fire, or tell who’s friend and who’s foe.
I’ve got no conclusion here. Not only will the fabled ISG report not end the violence in Iraq, but it won’t even get the Americans out of Iraq. Everything I read says that not only will the Iraq civil war rage on for years to come, but that it might envelope and bring down Jordan and Saudi Arabia before it’s done. Hooray for World War III.