Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Iraq Study Group report

William Caldwell IV, Military Moron, has an op-ed in the WaPo, in which he says, “I don’t see a civil war in Iraq. I don’t see a constituency for civil war.” And he should know: “I studied civil wars at West Point”. So that settles that.

Okay, I’ve read the Iraq Study Group report (pdf). Nine months to come up with this, huh?

The funny thing is that the assessment of the situation in Iraq is actually more realistic (and depressing) than I would have expected from this bunch: grave and deteriorating situation, Shiite and Sunni politicians in the government not especially influential, militias “seen as legitimate vehicles of political action,” etc etc. It’s just the recommendations that are unhelpful and even unserious, since I can’t believe anyone who understood and accepted that assessment would also believe that the commission’s recommendations could a) be implemented, b) help much if they were.

Most of the focus on international diplomacy (“The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region”) is DOA. Bush won’t talk with Iran and Syria, they won’t join any “Iraq International Support Group,” there will not in fact be an Iraq International Support Group. Bush isn’t going to spend his last 2 years in office solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By the way, these are the juicy incentives the ISG suggests we offer Iran and Syria:
i. An Iraq that does not disintegrate and destabilize its neighbors and the region.
ii. The continuing role of the United States in preventing the Taliban from destabilizing Afghanistan.
iii. Accession to international organizations, including the World Trade Organization.
iv. Prospects for enhanced diplomatic relations with the United States.
v. The prospect of a U.S. policy that emphasizes political and economic reforms instead of (as Iran now perceives it) advocating regime change.
vi. Prospects for a real, complete, and secure peace to be negotiated between Israel and Syria, with U.S. involvement as part of a broader initiative on Arab-Israeli peace as outlined below.
Dude, you had me at “enhanced diplomatic relations with the United States.”

By the way, it doesn’t really have 79 recommendations. Some of them are repetitive, and one (#24) just says that the timetable for the benchmarks in #23 may be unrealistic.

A bunch of them relate to oil, you’ll be surprised to hear. Otherwise, it’s mostly all about training and embedding (or, as the ISG put it in order to emphasize their maverick independence, imbedding). They seem to put rather a lot of faith in the power of the proximity of an American or two to improve the characters, competence and courage of any Iraqi in their vicinity. Honestly, I’ve been near Americans my entire life, and I don’t know that it’s made me a better, braver person (and yes I will cut out the alliteration now).

It’s not just the Iraqi military that needs the purifying power (that one just came out) of “imbedded” Americans, but every branch of government. For example, “The ethos and training of Iraqi police forces must support the mission to ‘protect and serve’ all Iraqis. Today, far too many Iraqi police do not embrace that mission”. Also ag, oil, whatever. Of course those require Americans who aren’t in the military and may not really want to go to Iraq. So #74 suggests simply ordering civilian government employees into Iraq anyway.

As I said, it took them nine months to come up with this. It’s a paean to, indeed a fetishization of consensus, anywhere and everywhere: “reconciliation” in Iraq itself, the “new international consensus for stability in Iraq,” and in the US (“success depends on the unity of the American people”). This should come as no surprise after the ISG developed their own consensus through nine endless months of team-bonding and trust exercises – rope courses, drumming, falling backwards into Ed Meese’s arms, etc.

It wasn’t worth it.

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