Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Iraq: Cut and Walk

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path than can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved."
So begins the eagerly-anticipated report of the Iraq Study Group, which criticizes the goals, strategy and tactics of the war. It remains to be seen how this analysis will be attacked, and thus how it will resonate among the caretakers of this problem, but there are very few long knives out in the early hours of its release, which bodes extremely well.

President Bush, who last week was nearly pronouncing the report preemptively DOA, today was was speaking like a uniter not a divider when he ascribed to it the power to be basis for common ground. That is a very positive step. It costs him nothing, but magnanimity isn't his style, so perhaps this means something.

The rapid pace of change of attitude towards the war has been astonishing, of course, because of the resounding expression of disgust in the mid-term election just a month ago. But the torrent -- starting with Rumsfeld's resignation (and subsequent leak, one presumes, of his legacy-imprinting 21 Big Ideas) to Robert Gate's two word answer, "No, sir," to Carl Levin's only slightly more loquacious question whether the United States "is currently winning the war in Iraq" -- seems to have completely obliterated all happy talk, at least outside the White House briefing room.

There is no more talk of "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them there," just of not abandoning Iraq so that a bad situation of our creation doesn't become worse; there are no more jibes about "cut and run" whenever anyone suggests a timetable to leave, because Republican royalty is now suggesting it; no denigration of attaching conditions to performance by telling Iraq -- ISG recommendation # 41 -- that the U.S. needs to redeploy even if Iraq doesn't prepare itself properly for this eventuality; no squawk about a redefinition of the mission from being part of the global war on terror to training police and military to hold together a young, struggling nation teetering on edge of implosion.

The report speaks of possible success but not of winning the war, even though it speaks of the dangers of handing Al Quaeda a propoganda victory.

As I've said before, the momentum seems to be squarely behind the ISG report as the focal point for an exit strategy. It seems inconceivable that the president, having lost credibility, moral and political capital, and the last election, will continue to blithley lose the peace by not embracing the basic logic of this document.


Bob said...

Senator Russ Feingold is one notable figure tonight who is no fan of the ISG's report. He isn't that thrilled with its membership ["not a single figure who opposed the Iraq war to begin with"], nor any of its witnesses ["no one who thought going into Iraq was a bad idea"] nor even is overall theme ["a Washington inside job that perpetuates the mistake of looking at the world through the prism of Iraq."] Feingold told Keith Olbermann tonight that America faces innumerable terrorist threats originating in south Asia and Afghanistan, but that "our inappropriate obsession" with Iraq neither addresses nor seems to acknowledge this. Feingold would declare a deadline to the Iraq government and have US troops out by next summer, with special ops forces there to fight Al Qaeda, the group he said was "as I remember, the one which attacked us on 9/11." Now maybe Russ is no fan of the ISG, but I'm a big fan of his.

john c abell said...

Bob: I saw that as well -- btw, I have been wondering why Feingold took himself out of the presidential sweepstakes before all this juicy stuff hit the fan -- but since Al-Malaki said in Jordan with Bush on the same stage that his people would be ready to take over by June all of this may occur now with alarming speed anyway.

At this stage, challenging the makeup of the panel as way to criticize their findings strikes me as missing the point, as does the witness list -- Hillary Clinton and John Kerry would have qualified as war backers, and even Howard Dean doesn't advocate immediate withdrawal. As to feeding an obsession, well, would he have less discussion about what do to about this mess?

I see this report as being part of a now inexorable process to extricate from the Iraq sideshow and rededicate US resources to the main fight. If the president is not humiliated in the process, I can live with that.

Bob said...

I can live with it too, John, if the ISG report does get us out substantially in 15 months. I hope you're right in sayin that the report basically plaints Dubya into a corner. Anyway, looks like we'll have to live with it. BTW, I don't think Feingold's obsession comment referred to talking, but rather staying and trying to figure it out some more after 3 years of insanity. Seeing the world through the prism of Iraq, strategically and in terms of major policy, that's the obsession he meant. More I think about it, Russ is angry with his own party mates, who are predictably lining up behind the safety of the Baker report. He left the race because Hillary takes all the money from the donors. Unfortunately for the Dems, they will never win with her running, not even from the center. Come on Obama, make her work.