"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.