From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel's deliberations.For all the 'Strict Father' posturing, the draw down in troop levels is really about easing the domestic pressure of an unpopular war. And nobody's happier about this development than beltway Dems. It gives them cover for something they should have the courage to demand just because it's the right thing.
The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March, avoiding a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Mr. Bush, but making it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended. The recommendations of the group, formed at the request of members of Congress, are nonbinding.
A person who participated in the commission's debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, "there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached."
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.
George W. Bush painted himself into a corner with his 'Stay the Course' rhetoric. He can't reduce troop levels in Iraq because it would mean that he was 'flip-flopping' - something equivalent to admitting that you're wrong. We all know that if there's one thing that Bush can't do, it's admit that he was wrong.
So along comes James Baker to act as a pseudo-authority figure that tells the Bush Administration that they need to begin to redeploy troops out of Iraq. BushCo. has known for a long time that Iraq was unsustainable but they did not want to 'cut and run.' That's why they created (or allowed the creation of) the 'Baker Commission.' The I.S.G. exists to provide the political theatrics needed to provide a marginally elegant exit from a decidedly messy situation.
If James Baker and the I.S.G. puts this country on a road that leads out of the disaster in Iraq, that's a good thing. But I'm not about to praise anybody for following its recommendations. They're just a revision of 'Stay the Course' adjusted to reflect a little bit more reality.
As soon as this report is published, it will be adopted by the Democrats in the same way that the 9/11 Commission's report. 'Enact the recommendations of the Baker Commission' will be the talking point. It sounds good, but the fact is that Democrats are allowing James Baker to set their policy on Iraq.
James Baker Iraq Study Group Bush Administration War in Iraq