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December 06, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report

I'm working through the recommendations now. I've approached the report with an open mind, since it's obvious that the Bush/Rumsfeld plan is not working. However, several descriptive phrases about the Iraq Study Group come to mind as I read. They are as follows:

not helpful
wishful thinking
too many carrots, no stick

I wish I could say differently. It's almost like a bunch of guys sitting around a table on Saturday night, playing Risk, or Dungeons & Dragons. The panel members imagine a world in which all the players would act rationally if only they talked to each other. With their "New Diplomatic Offensive," they've conjured a mythological universe that sounds nice, but doesn't actually exist.

The Iraq Study Group's major error was their assumption that parties with a strong negotiation position will trade away strength for promises by a weaker adversary. The kind of negotiation that the ISG envisions could only work if the parties shared mutual interests and goals, which is absolutely not the case in Iraq or in the broader Middle East.

The best example of the ISG's naïveté involves Iran:

Our limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.

Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks.

In other words, ask Iran to help stabilize Iraq, even though at present Iran is actively working to destabilize Iraq — because Iran feels it is in its interest to do so. The ISG suggests that Iran will abandon a key pillar of their regional foreign policy, to avoid becoming "isolated" (though they already are) and to gain a "broader dialogue" with the U.S. (which they don't give a rat's ass about). The penalty for not doing us a favor (against the Iranians self-interest) is to continue with a status quo that the Iranians don't mind at all.

And how does the Iraq Study Group suggest that we persuade Iran to do us that big favor, which the ISG admits they are unlikely to want to do? The report is short on suggestions. But the panelists have no trouble coming up with nice things that Iran can do for us, assuming they can be magically persuaded to ignore their strong negotiating position and act against their own interest.

• Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.

• Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government.

• Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation.

• Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq.

Again, why would the Iranians want to do any of these things when the status quo in neighboring Iraq suits Iranian purposes so well? A destabilized Iraq is an Iraq vulnerable to Iranian influence. More importantly, a destabilized Iraq also means a weakened United States especially vis-a-vis Iranian nukes.

And of course, my criticism doesn't even reach the fact that Iranian interests are also motivated by a dangerous religious fanaticism that makes their cooperation with the West even more unlikely.

I've seen many objections to the Iraq Study Group's report from several other critics. I can't address that commentary, since I haven't read the whole report. But if the rest of the ISG's recommendations are as unwise as their "New Diplomatic Offensive," and their failure to understand the Iranian problem, I think the panel might have done more harm than good.

Update: And in the "he said what I said, only better..." department, here's a must read digest of the ISG report, by Robert Tracinski. An excerpt:

We should negotiate with Iran and Syria to convince them to help stabilize Iraq, but then James Baker angrily denies that this would mean caving in and allowing Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program, and he angrily denies that it would mean caving in and allowing Syria to re-conquer Lebanon. In other words, he wants to ask Iran and Syria to help us in Iraq--while ruling out the only concessions that might induce them to do so. At the same time, the ISG also rules out any serious military threat that would force Iran and Syria to abandon their current strategy.

This is the pattern of the whole report: to stipulate the achievement of a result, while denying the actual means that might achieve that result.

When you desire a result without enacting the means for achieving it, that's called a "fantasy"which is ironic, considering that James Baker is a dean of the "realist" school of foreign policy.

I almost never say this, but read the whole thing!

h/t Chris Roach.

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Posted by annika, Dec. 6, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


Baker is a well known Arabist of the Foggy Bottom ilk. he's happily throw Israel to the wolves, and appears to do so with his proposal to have a "regional" meeting without Israel at the table.

Does anyone seriously believe that Israel will hold still for this stuff, and allow Iran to move to the bomb?

I have faith that my President will not buy into this aspect of the proposals; if he does, I will be disappointed and have to reconsider my registration.

On the other hand, if it brings the Democrats closer to unity on the war, there are parts that are palatable. Now that they have "won" the election, they need to take some responsiblity for their actions and words, and if they keep to the obstructionist path, their "victory" (more like, our loss) will be short lived indeed.

In that regard, the report is useful.

By the way, Annie, remember that the Iraqis are Arabs and the Iranians are Persians; Iran could never control Iraq; they just want them weak.

Why do I think that Straw, Will and the rest of the cut-and-run interloper crew will love these proposals?

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 7, 2006

This report exemplifies a certain bureaucratic mindset found in government that is enamored of "process." I accept that dialogue is important, but, as Annika notes, there has to be some "stick" backing up the negotiation. This reminds me of overweight people who buy the newest diet book, and feel like they have accomplished something. Setting the book on their nightstand feels like they are doing something about their weight, but, obviously, that book means nothing unless they take some positive action that actually effects their weight. If we follow many of this report's recommendations we will be like a fat guy who accumulates more and more diet/self-help books while his weight continues to soar. I think the Administration knows this, and I pray I am right.

Posted by: DBrooks on Dec. 7, 2006

Was there anyone among you who excected something different from Baker, O'Conner, and a pack of Democrat toadys? Anyone? Anyone?

This is the kind of fine work that got GHWB re-elected. In my heart of hearts, I knew that Rumsfeld had a strategy, and while he was there, I was certain that the administration did too. Now, the water is very muddy.

Amazingly, if I may borrow a phrase from Mr. Limbaugh, the Iraq Surrender Group did not have one military member to lend them verisimilitude. I'll remind the uninformed among you that war is the prosecution of foreign policy by other means. The product of these distinguished folks is koolaid, when we ordered an expensive Cabernet.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 7, 2006

Good point, Casca, about not having a military member. When it was raised this morning on Fox News, Cavuto pointed out that a few were former 1st Lts. and there was one Reserve Lt. Col. amongst the 10.

The response was "They might just as well have been veterans from the Spanish-American War; what we needed was high level recent General Staff officers who understand the logistics, tactics and strategy of modern warfare" (or something close to that). Apparently there was consultation with high level folks, but that ain't the same thing as signing on to the conclusions.

The Israelis have already rejected the central premise. Big surprise, there.

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 7, 2006

I don't understand some of the goals of ISG either. Call me crazy, but I figured that the last thing anyone wanted was more Iranian and Syrian involvement.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus on Dec. 7, 2006

Small point, but GHWB wasn't re-elected; some guy named Clinton knocked him out of the box. Casca must have meant un-elected.

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 7, 2006

Annika, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this subject. Your thoughts show substantial discernment. A couple of comments on those thoughts;

- Iran could be put on the hook by at least publicly stating their intentions. If they refuse to acknowledge support for a unified, diverse Iraq, then more weight is put behind the drive for nuclear-related sanctions. If they publicly state they do not support a unified, diverse Iraq, then more weight again for sanctions. If they publicly support Iraq, but continue with clandestine Shia militant activities, then again more weight for sanctions.

- The situation in Iraq has for too long been viewed as primarily a military operation, when we really need a tremendous diplomatic thrust to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, if it is not too late. The early use of DIME (Diplomatic, Industrial, Military, Economic) effects based operations in a serious Phase IV plan was given extremely short shrift with emphasis almost solely on 'M'; now its time to focus on the others. Hence, the absence of flag level officers could be viewed as a positive for this group. The input of a Lt. Colonel should not be discounted.

My respect for James Baker has grown over the last few years, as he has stepped away from simply being a partisan behind-the-scenes (and sometimes in front) fighter to an independent, principled advocate of examining and taking the right steps, regardless of party platform. IMO, no higher public calling exists.

Posted by: will on Dec. 7, 2006

Begone Fucktard.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 7, 2006

Shelly, it's called a tongue-in-cheek comment.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 7, 2006

One would think that then WH CoS Baker's advice to raise taxes, thus leading GHWB to betray his "No New Taxes" pledge, would leap to mind whenever one hears the name James Baker. His name is a curse. He took GHWB from an 80% approval rating into the 40's in a year. I'll never forget '92. I was one of the casualties of Baker's stupidity.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 7, 2006

> Begone Fucktard

If one wonders what is meant by a 'reprobate mind', they need look no farther than Casca.

Perhaps he pines for the days when he actually could tell people what to do and expect them to do it. Now he is simply beating his gums...

Posted by: will on Dec. 7, 2006

- Iran could be put on the hook by at least publicly stating their intentions.

HOW many times do they have to say they want to wipe Israel off the map for you to believe them? For the world to believe them? will, like james baker, can go fuck himself.

...great analysis Annie. Brit Hume had extensive coverage yesterday of Baker's "flip syria" option in the ISG report, which seems equally out of touch with reality as the recommendations on Iran.

I was hoping they might recommend, I dunno, killing more bad guys, but I guess that's too much to hope for from a country that keeps handicapping itself in the fight against Islamic fascism. We have an enemy who routinely use women and children as human shields, and often coerce the latter into the service of operating guerrillas -- and yet it is America's rules of engagement (ROE) that are questioned by the world? Charges of civilian casualties and inappropriate rules of engagement have become a staple of enemy propaganda (and reported front page by us) and this has led to the rules of engagement being modified, as a result U.S. troops have become increasingly hesitant to fire on the enemy. Solving this won't solve everything of course, but it seems we need to start setting some examples of our determination through our superior fire power.

Posted by: Scof on Dec. 7, 2006

Baker is an anti-semite who should be ignored. The group's comments regarding Israel are so naive and silly that the remainder of the suggestions are automatically suspect. (Why is the answer always about Israel giving up land and caving into human debris?) I am certain though that this report will find ample support among the terrorist community and, of course, among the American-hating community. In fact, based on previous comments, it obviously has.

Posted by: blu on Dec. 7, 2006

dont worry Matt, the rules of engagement will change. But the scary thing is that when they do, it will be because we are in really deep shit.

Posted by: annika on Dec. 7, 2006

There's nothing wrong with Jim Baker's realism in his dealings with the Arab World. For example, it makes sense to team up with Sunni nations like Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran. Or with Iraq in the 1980s. The problem is that he's not being realistic in the assessment of Iran's likelihood to deal with us, as Annika has pointed out.

The whole thing reminds me of Kerry's International Conference plan, as if people with divergent interests will just give in for no reason becuase they're talking. The Iranians are talking to us every day in Iraq in a languge called IEDese.

Realism is good to go. We must deal with dictators and dirtbags and our future enemies to deal with our enemies today. But there is a profound unrealism of this particular report, not least, I should imagine, because of the inherent tendency of such a bipartisan commission filed with amateurs like Vernon Jordan and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Posted by: Roach on Dec. 7, 2006


I have not really had a chance to come to any conclusions about this offering by Baker, Hamilton, et al.

I do not, however, remember ever being a cut and runner. I have argued vociferously that the invasion of Iraq was a bullshit move, engineered by a cabal that was deceitful, scornfull of democracy and ultimately incorrect in their assumptions and inept in their execution.

WHAt to do now that we have induced chaos, destabilized the region, fostered more hatred of America than ever, swelled the ranks of what you refer to as the "bad guys" and in everyway possible degraded the possible foreign policy initiatives and options is a dilema that I can't imagine solving.

I just am not able to pull together the disparate forces, influences, power blocks etc, to come to any conclusion. I am at a loss. I think and have always thougt that the Bush idea of "victory" was laughable. That the loss of life and destruction of property is criminal. And that a thoughtful, detailed, and realistic plan for the invasion and its aftermath was never in evidence.

Cutting and running is different than throwing your hands up in disgust, punishing those who are responsible and retreating from a situation that you have created that will only deteriorate further if you stay. I see no possibility of an acceptable outcome if we remain and no hope of anything better if we go. But if we go no more Americans will die defending a pile of deteriorating shit. And the threat to our nation may decrease by a degree.

Posted by: Strawman on Dec. 7, 2006

Oh, Shelly, be careful of the "Iran is persian/Iraq is arab" thing. The fact that Syria is arab hasn't stopped Iran from controlling Syria and by extension influencing Lebanon.

Posted by: annika on Dec. 7, 2006

ah the fucktard has decided to open his sock drawer and let his puppets speak. get a life loser.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 7, 2006

Baker is the next to last old jackass that I ever wanted to see again, the last one being Jimmy Carter. That idiot actually tried to hold the old Soviet Union together as it was breaking up, he is the one who was primarily responsible for not getting rid of Saddam 15 years ago when it was much more doable.

Posted by: kyle8 on Dec. 7, 2006

"swelled the ranks of what you refer to as the 'bad guys'"...does this mean that you *don't* think of them as bad guys? Or do you just dislike the term for some reason?

Posted by: david foster on Dec. 7, 2006

I think it is ironic that it was Democrat, Joe Lieberman, who came out swinging at these ridiculous recommendations. Good to see McCain calling BS on these losers as well. The so-called "Blue Ribbon" group is getting roundly and deservedly heckled by serious people. The light-weights are of course happy to jump on board so as to avoid any critical thinking.

Posted by: blu on Dec. 7, 2006

Waht sone of you folks don't seem to grasp is the concept that this is not Viet Nam.

No Viet Cong followed us home; the Islamic crazies will for sure. They already did before we went to Iraq.

We will all die if we don't kill them all first.

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 7, 2006

John "Rubble Doesn't Cause Trouble" Derbyshire's review of America Alone:

-For Shelly-

"After the pungent brilliance of the preceding 200 pages, this all falls a bit flat. And in fact, the reader who has traversed those 200 pages has been having different thoughts from the ones Steyn tries to guide him to. For example: Is that original list of options—submit to, destroy, or reform Islam—really exhaustive? How about we just fence it off : Expel our own Muslims, forbid Muslims to enter our countries, proscribe Islam, and deal with Muslim nations commercially at arm’s length? (They have to sell their oil to someone, or else starve.) Such actions are, of course, way over the line of politically acceptable discourse today; but in five or ten years, after a couple more jihadist atrocities, they will not be."

-My Favorite Part-

"Ah, but Mark, there is rubble, and there is rubble. Of the 13th-century Mongol horde it was said that when they had once bestowed their attentions on a city, you could afterwards ride over the place where that city had stood without your horse stumbling. If the indignities suffered in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Grozny are the root causes of present-day Islamic terrorism, then I submit that the indignities were insufficiently severe.

Armchair warriors like myself are sometimes accused of laboring under the illusion that all the world’s problems can be solved by neat “surgical strikes” on troublesome locations, in which suspect facilities, or persons, are cleanly eliminated with minimal collateral damage.

Not guilty! I am, in fact, willing to confess myself a collateral-damage armchair warrior, who would be happy to see us trade in our inventory of smart laser-guided precision munitions for lots and lots and lots of old-style iron bombs, and fleets of great big iron planes to deliver them. Remember those photographs of mid-1945 Berlin, fragments of broken wall sticking up out of vast drifts and dunes of pulverized masonry? Now that’s rubble.

Oh, and we won that war."

Posted by: reagan80 on Dec. 8, 2006

By Sunday, Baker et.al. are deservedly roadkill. Ralph Peters, just said that Baker kept a Military rep off the panel so that the report wouldn't be cluttered with the facts. Love his comments on the report.

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 8, 2006

And this today from the Associated with terrorists Press: "Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told thousands of Iranians on Friday that his Hamas-led government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the "liberation of Jerusalem."

Oh, lest we all forget, Iran is holding a "scholarly" conference to determine if the Halocaust, like, you know, ever really happened.
Yeah, James, the problem is obviously Israel. And let's be sure to deal with Iran and Syria. Negotiating with sub-humans makes a lot of sense. Hell, these twits might already by road kill. Hopefully, James will go away. Maybe a little vacation to Saudi Arabia to get a load off, the fucking prick.

Just those two tid bits alone should tell these children just a little about the people with whom we are dealing. You talk to these people. You kill them. BTW, why the fuck doesn't that fat fuck Sadr have a bullet in his pea size brain yet? Now that's a recommendation worth implementing!

Posted by: blu on Dec. 8, 2006


Both, the term is childish and misrepresents who they may really be.

Swelling the ranks. The fighting in Iraq is not about stopping the "crazies who would follow us home". Those people are out there and their wish to follow us home has not been diminished by anything we are doing in Iraq nor have their numbers decreased, quite the contrary. So what is the value of this adventure? No increase in our security, no advantage in ME political influence, increasing resistance and violence, an Iraqi government that exists only in the green zone, our armed forces fighting for a goal that no one can properly define, our contractors looting the piggybank, and on and on. Altogether demoralizing.

Tell me where this present policy will lead? What will substantially change for the better in the next year? two years?

Posted by: Strawman on Dec. 8, 2006

Does anyone else sense a vacuum in this blog? Every once in a while the Surrender Monkeys drop some poop here. As Casca would say, begone, Fucktard.

The Patriot Act never happens unless we are at war. The Surrender Monkeys may think they have the upper hand right now, but our President will hold fast and surely not abandon Israel.

We desperately need another Jihadist atrocity to jar the rest of the fools back to reality. Don't worry, it is coming, no matter how good we are about trying to delay/avert it.

BTW: Does anyone seriously think UBL is still alive? I figure he's sealed in a cave somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

I hope they parse that Arabist Baker on Sunday. Betcha he won't do O'Reilly.

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 8, 2006

A flash of brilliance: Today, on Imus, Jeff Greenfield quoted Will Rogers, who, when asked how you curtail submarine warfare told the questioner that you just heat up the ocean and make it intolerable for a submarine to be in it.

When the questioner asked him how you do it, he told him that he is only into policy and not implementation.

Sounds a lot like the Surrender Monkey Report, huh?

Posted by: shelly on Dec. 8, 2006

At the very least, the ISG has introduced some bipartisan
truth into the equation, which the limp media will
now pick up on.

Sitting down with Iran and Syria should be done, but certainly
not reported/suggested/spoken about.

Without enormous bribes/concessions, Iran and Syria
have no interest in stabilizing Iraq. Who is the ISG kidding.


Posted by: Roy Zuckerman on Dec. 8, 2006