Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group report: so, what else is new?

I'm a bit underwhelmed by the Iraq Study Group report "The Way Forward: A New Approach" (see this and this). It reminds me of the usual recommendations by committee; you're familiar with the genre, I'm sure.

"New approach?" Hardly.

I haven't had time to read the full text, but the reports on the report are in line with the leaks on the report we'd gotten prior to the its official debut. The main recommendation seems to be more or less what the Administration has been saying all along--the goal is Iraqization, without an exact timetable. This is combined with the following "new" ideas, leaked prior to the issuance of the report: a temporary upsurge in troop involvement to get over the hump of Iraqization, talks with Iran and Syria (I've written about that idea before, here), and a new commitment to the old failed "peace process" approach to Israel/Palestine. No magic wands, nor were any expected.

I'm a bit perplexed by all the attention paid to the report prior to its release, and even now. Something like this--a public document about future military strategy--needs to be vague and general even if it does contain new and important information. At least, it should be that way if any of its proposals have any chance of being effective. Telegraphing exactly what we plan to do in great detail, and beaming it around the world for the enemy to see, would be counterproductive, to say the least. But many in this country and the MSM, although professing to be citizens of the world, act as though the only important thing is domestic political infighting, and a short-sighted "gotcha!" game.

And, of course, in line with this, some of the MSM articles on the subject (example here) emphasize the Group's criticisms of the current approach. Imagine if, in the middle of the gloomiest days of the Civil War for the North, or World War II for the Allies (and they were pretty much all gloomy for the first couple of years), our own media had emphasized the demoralization of our forces, or the pessimism of our own people. But I digress...

I'm glad and not at all surprised at the seemingly general and rather bland nature of the recommendations. It's really only the details of how Iraqization and the subsequent slow withdrawal of US troops will be carried out that matter on the end; all the rest is bluster.

However, bluster can be harmful, and I'm with Robert Kagan and William Kristol (oh yes, we evil scheming neocons stick together!) on the negative results that have already ensued from all the jaw-jaw about the Iraq Study Group, to wit:

It's not as if the Baker commission has accomplished nothing, however. Although its recommendations will have no effect on American policy going forward, they have already had a very damaging effect throughout the world, and especially in the Middle East and in Iraq. For the Iraq Study Group, aided by supportive American media, has successfully conveyed the impression to everyone at home and abroad that the United States is about to withdraw from Iraq. This has weakened American allies and strengthened American enemies. It has exacerbated the problems in Iraq, as all the various factions in that country begin to prepare for the "inevitable" American retreat. Now it will require enormous efforts by the president and his advisers to dispel the disastrous impression that the Baker commission has quite deliberately created and will continue to foster in the weeks ahead. At home and abroad, people have been led to believe that Jim Baker and not the president was going to call the shots in Iraq from now on.

As yes, outside of the echo chamber that is Congress and the MSM the news gets around, and it has consequences. But we needn't worry too much about any of those: we can always talk with the enemy about them.

[NOTE: re Iraqization vs Vietnamization, you might want to review this.]

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