The Iraq Study Group's long awaited (if exhaustively 'leaked') report was given to George W. Bush this morning. Here it is for us as a PDF.
Expect to be underwhelmed.
For the last month, the world have waited for 'The Amazing James Baker IIItm' to solve all of the problems in Iraq. We all know this isn't actually going to happen, but the expectation that the ISG will bring a major shift in Iraq policy and a brighter future to Iraq itself is persistent.
This is understandable. No matter how smart or well informed we are as citizens, there's an expectation that the government (or at least those making these types of recommendations within the government) are smarter and better informed than we are. Surely they'll think of something.
Well, here's the thing. Sometimes 'smart' and 'well informed' don't really get you anywhere. Sometimes things are just so broken that they can't be fixed. The situation in Iraq is pretty much screwed.
The report calls the situation "grave" and "deteriorating." So what? We didn't need Jim Baker the Third to tell us that. He also comes to the startling realization that failure in Iraq won't just screw up Iraq. The whole region could end up in chaos.
The media will report all of these turns of phrase ("Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.") as proof that the Baker Commission is taking a hard look at reality and speaking truth to power.
'Look how independent the Baker Commission is - they say we're failing! The Bush Administration would never do that. These guys must be serious.'
Of course this isn't the case. While every 'criticism' is stark, all recommendations are replete with enough caveats to allow the Bush Administration to keep doing what they're doing now.
"By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq."'Subject to unexpected developments' certainly gives George W. Bush a lot of wiggle room. We've been in Iraq since 2002. How many EXPECTED developments have there been so far?
Even the Bush Administration's response to the report screams 'we aren't about to let this piece of paper stop our glorious adventure!'
"We will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion,"Words straight from Bush's mouth. Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but if Bush promises to take something 'seriously' and 'act in a timely fashion' I can pretty much be sure that the report will be shoved in a drawer somewhere and forgotten.
Whether this is because the report didn't toe the Administration Line or because it came from James Baker (read: Daddy) this advice won't be heeded.
Bush urged Congress to take the group's proposals seriously and work with the administration to find "common ground" on Iraq policy.All of a sudden, the people that you demonized throughout the last two years for being cowards, 'cut and runners', terrorist sympathizers, or worse are supposed to work with you? You've spent (literally) millions of dollars trying to convince the American People that Democrats want to hand innocent Americans over to terrorists - now you are going to share war-planning responsibilities with them?
"The country is tired of pure political bickering," Bush said.
The Bush Administration has always regarded 'bipartisanship' as bullying just enough Democrats into taking the Administration position for the White House to get exactly what it wants. Why should we expect anything different now?
This White House has spent to much time heaping scorn on it's perceived opponents (and it's allies for that matter) that a cheap verbal olive branch isn't about to bring the cooperation of other parties.
That's why the report's recommendation to work with Syria and Iran are doomed. While it's in both Syria and Iran's long term interest to have a stable neighbor in Iraq, they're not about to just start putting aside short term gain to help America and George W. Bush out of a tight spot because George W. Bush and James Baker think it's a good idea.
The Iraq Study Group's report ends with this piece of wisdom:
"Foreign policy is doomed to failure -- as is any action in Iraq -- if not supported by broad, sustained consensus."The report meant consensus at home - something Iraq had enjoyed (if wrongly) for many months before the public soured as the bungling became obvious. I contend that 'broad consensus' in a global frame is required for any sort of foreign policy - military interventions in particular - to succeed. It was obvious from the beginning that George W. Bush did not have the support of the world at large. The U.N. hardly jumped at the idea of 'disarming Saddam,' to say nothing of regime change and bringing 'freedom & democracy' to Iraq.)
Approval for the American intervention in the Middle East was non-existent. These are the countries that share borders with Iraq, the countries that would by default be the ones preventing foreign fighters, arms, supplies, and money from entering Iraq. These would be the countries that would have to refuse refuge to insurgents, militia men, and sectarian fighters. These countries would be the ones that could exert the most influence (good or bad) on the new government.
But securing the assistance and support of Iraq's neighbors was the way Daddy fought Saddam and we know the way Bush Jr. (and friends) felt about how that one ended...
Iraq Study Group James Baker George W. Bush War in Iraq