A bi­par­ti­san path to sur­ren­der?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

In an­a­lyz­ing the con­clu­sions and the use­ful­ness of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) rec­om­men­da­tions on Iraq pol­icy re­leased Dec. 6, it’s im­por­tant to re­al­ize the lim­ited, se­ri­ously flawed man­date the panel chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamil­ton has been op­er­at­ing un­der. Panel mem­bers say they were not given a man­date to con­sider in­creas­ing the num­ber of Amer­i­can troops in Iraq be­cause their mil­i­tary briefers dis­missed out of hand the premise that it was pos­si­ble to in­crease the num­ber of Amer­i­can troops in Iraq, on grounds that not enough were avail­able. (Never mind the pub­lic com­ments by the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace sug­gest­ing oth­er­wise.) More than 30 pages of the re­port con­sist of bi­ogra­phies of com­mis­sion mem­bers and lists of peo­ple they in­ter­viewed; we counted just five pages de­voted to the mat­ter of U.S. troop lev­els in Iraq — most of it dis­miss­ing out of hand the idea that more troops might be nec­es­sary to fight the Sunni and Shi’ite ji­hadists who prey upon Iraqis.

Even more trou­bling is the fact that panel mem­bers said their man­date was pri­mar­ily lim­ited to find­ing a a way to sta­bi­lize Iraq alone, (al­though they could con­sider the re- gional con­text) rather than as­sess­ing it in the con­text of the larger U.S. war against in­ter­na­tional Is­lam­ofas­cism. Given the fact that the Baker-Hamil­ton panel did not prin­ci­pally con­sider the most im­por­tant is­sue be­fore the coun­try, it is not a sur­prise that its re­port as a whole is a step back­ward — a com­pen­dium of plat­i­tudes and wish­ful think­ing that taken to­gether would re­ward Amer­ica’s en­e­mies and un­der­mine the larger war against Is­lam­ofas­cism.

As is of­ten the case when highly dis­tin­guished peo­ple of vary­ing po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions get to­gether in an ef­fort to reach con- sen­sus, the end re­sult is a wa­tered-down doc­u­ment that will do lit­tle to help the pres­i­dent or con­gres­sional pol­icy-mak­ers come up with a more ef­fec­tive strat­egy in the war. Much of the re­port con­sists of omi­nous but familiar quotes from ter­ror­ist lu­mi­nar­ies like al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, Ay­man al-Za- wahiri, and re­state­ments of the ob­vi­ous (for ex­am­ple, “SCIRI has close ties with Iran; “the Iran border with Iraq is por­ous”; and “The United States should work closely with Iraq’s lead­ers to sup­port the achieve­ment of spe­cific ob­jec­tives — or mile­stones — on na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, se­cu­rity, and gover- nance”). In other places, the panel makes sen­si­ble-sound­ing, non­con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als for re­form­ing U.S. as­sis­tance pro­grams for Iraq and build­ing a func­tion­ing Iraqi ju­di­cial sys­tem and oil in­dus­try.

But in crit­i­cal ar­eas, the re­port goes in pre­cisely the wrong di­rec­tion. For ex­am­ple, it calls on Wash­ing­ton to “en­gage di­rectly with Iran and Syria” in or­der to “ob­tain their com­mit­ment to con­struc­tive po­lices to­ward Iraq and other re­gional is­sues.” Af­ter not­ing the ob­vi­ous — that en­gag­ing Iran is “prob­lem­atic” — it calls for a diplo­matic cam­paign to per­suade Tehran to join an “Iraq In­ter­na­tional Sup­port Group” to help re­solve Iraq’s “po­lit­i­cal, diplo­matic and se­cu­rity prob­lems.” If Iran re­fused to help, the panel warns darkly, then its re­jec­tion­ist at­ti­tude could “lead to its iso­la­tion.” More likely, such a cam­paign would em­bolden Tehran, which would see such a move for what it re­ally is: an act of des­per­a­tion.

The panel’s sug­ges­tions that Wash­ing­ton should also bro­ker agree­ments with Syria to stop arms ship­ments into Iraq and help per­suade Ha­mas to rec­og­nize Is­rael’s right to ex­ist are com­pletely de­tached from re­al­ity. Some of the ma­jor rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port read like ar­ti­cles of sur­ren­der.

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