Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Reflections on the Iraq Study Group report
A report that is two years too late. These are recommendations that might have had a better chance of being integrated into an overall strategy for success had they been proposed in December 2004 when the U.S. was still in a much stronger position.
Still too U.S.-centric reflecting the belief that the U.S. still has the principal freedom of action and room to maneuver. It reminds me of the scene in the movie Midway when, after hearing about the plan to destroy what is left of the American fleet at Midway, Admiral Nagumo tells Admiral Yamamoto that the plan will bring success if the enemy does everything as expected. So where do we go if Syria and Iran don't want to play ball, the Palestinians don't want to negotiate with Israel (or vice versa), and the Iraqi factions don't shape up? Do we leave? Do we try to "force order"? What happens if no other actor does what we expect them to?
But they don't address the question of why Iran and Syria should want to talk with us. More to the point, the authors sidestep the question: What might we have to give Iran and Syria in exchange for talking with us—in exchange (still more to the point) for getting us out of this mess? Baker is no naïf. When he was secretary of state under Bush's father, he had lots of diplomatic dealings with these countries. He knows that dealings involve deals; we have to give up something to get them to do what we want. But he doesn't want to say this, because he knows that the current President Bush doesn't want to give up anything. If this Bush actually follows Baker's advice and opens up talks with Iran, he'll find this out soon enough—and then he'll back out. (For more on what the report says about Syria, see "This Is What We've Been Waiting For?" by Shmuel Rosner.)
The report's authors try to make a case that Iran and Syria will want to cooperate. They write in the executive summary, "No country in the region will benefit in the long term from a chaotic Iraq." Yet the key phrase here is "in the long term." In the short term, Iran and Syria are benefiting quite nicely from an Iraq that's mired at least somewhat in chaos.
If you guys had not failed in Iraq you would have bombed us several times over by now.
The scope of "success" has changed, but the tone remains very, very can-do. It doesn't seem like realism to me. Take for example the additional 15,000 advisors. A solid "idea" and something that looks nice on paper (or in .pdf). But, how many troops do we have that know the language, can train, know the cultural norms, etc. etc. You can't expect NCOs and officers trained in war to teach an Iraqi company how to be non-Sectarian.
And for the relentlessly political "Mayberry Machiavellies" who are in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, finding someone else to blame for this debacle is the chief consideration, overriding all others.
I do wonder what Baker thinks of his role in giving power to them.
* Note that Librulz need no governmental power or influence on any decision about the initiation or conduct of the war in order to do this.