Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The limitations of the Iraq Study Group

By Michael J.W. Stickings

[Creature's note: Michael's stuck in the office and asked me to post this for him. These are his initial thoughts on the ISG recommendations. More thoughts will follow.]

The Iraq Study Group story is overblown. The media -- in particular David Broder and his clones-- talk up bipartisanship and "centrism" all the time. They feed off the partisanship, but in moments of self-importance, which are common, they like to situate themselves above the divisive rancour. Hence McCain's ongoing media popularity and questionable reputation as a maverick. Hence all the talk about how moderates won the midterms for the Democrats. (I don't buy into the whole "centrism" thing, but that's because I think liberalism is the center and that conservatives have propagandized everyone into believing the center is much further over to the right than it really is.) Hence Jim Baker's media popularity, hence his reputation as a statesman unsullied by partisanship when his whole career has been in the service of the interests of the Bush family. Hence the fact that the media are lavishing such positive attention on the ISG, its co-chairman (Baker and Lee Hamilton) and its rather predictable report.

The conventional wisdom was that Bush would use the ISG for cover, but he's shown no willingness to follow the ISG lately. Indeed, he seems more stubborn and clueless than ever. And so the ISG is really just regurgitating, under its own cover of bipartisanship and independence, various ideas that Democrats and sensible Republicans like Chuck Hagel have been pushing for a long time, as well as various ideas that have already been tried to some degree, like pressuring the Iraqis to do more for themselves by themselves. How nice of Bush and the warmongers to invade a country, screw pretty much everything up, and then tell the people of that country it's their fault.

Still, I credit the ISG's realistic assessment of the situation in Iraq. It's right to conclude, against the delusions of the White House (or at least the rhetorical spin from the White House), that the situation is "grave and deteriorating": "No one can guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop sectarian warfare, growing violence or a slide toward chaos. If current trends continue, the potential consequences are severe." (Indeed.) It's right to recommend that diplomatic channels be opened and that efforts to internationalize the reconstruction of Iraq be pursued. (If it's not too late already.) And it's right to call for a flexible withdrawal of most U.S. troops by 2008. (The American people want them home, and the presence of U.S. forces is making the situation worse.)

And now, as Iraq continues to slide ever further into a chaotic abyss, and with the likelihood that peace and stability, let alone effective and legitimate self-governance, won't be established anytime soon, it's back to Bush. What will he do? He may, if only for the sake of his own public relations, for the sake of looking good, support some of the ISG's recommendations. There are 79 of them, after all, and surely Bush can find a few of them he likes. But Bush has also indicated that the ISG is just one of several groups looking into Iraq, and he may prefer to heed the advice of the Pentagon, soon to be under the anyone-but-Rumsfeld leadership of Robert Gates, who said yesterday that the ISG report is not "the last word". The ISG may have been perceived to be political cover for Bush, but now it seems more to be a nuisance, not least because of all the positive media attention, and Bush's "new" strategy may mean not diplomacy and withdrawal but a troop increase and a commitment to a lost cause.

Bush has shown extraordinary ignorance, incompetence, negligence, self-delusion, and self-righteousness throughout this disaster of a war. Why would that change now?

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  • The US has saved Europe in two world wars and protected us in the Cold War. Is it now Europe's turn to rescue America in Iraq? Okay, the situation in Iraq is not an existential threat to America, but still...

    The ISG report recommends a support group for Iraq that should include the European Union and could even include anti-war Germany.

    Do you expect European help in Iraq?
    I am skeptical. Germany's Federal President, however, has called for helping the United States in Iraq.

    I have blogged about the ISG recommendations involving the EU. What do you think?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:31 PM  

  • They quoted you on CNN, on Wolfie's show. Congrats, Michael, you is big time now!

    By Blogger Fixer, at 4:45 PM  

  • Saw it too, good job!

    By Blogger creature, at 5:04 PM  

  • There is nothing new in the ISG report but it gives political cover and momentum to perhaps try to get something constructive done.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:03 PM  

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