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December 07, 2006

Round-Up of Reactions To ISG Report

Andrew ("Pretty In Pink") McCarthy writes a good summary of the report. A useful place to start.

NY Post Editorial Board:

After nine laborious months, the Iraq Study Group yesterday recom mended that there be peace in the Middle East.

Well, of course.

But how to achieve it?

One word: Surrender.

Surrender in Iraq - and, in due time but inevitably, beyond.

Not in so many words, of course.

The 10-member group, headed by Republican Jim Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton, wants to pull out U.S. combat troops within 16 months.

It wants Washington to ask those fomenting violence in Iraq - Iran and Syria - to be good fellows and stop it.

And it wants Israel to begin another "dialogue" in pursuit of peace. (Translation: It wants Israel to surrender, too.)


The report decidedly avoids using the word "victory." Rather, it sees only the possibility of somehow improving the odds of "success."

But that's just putting lipstick on this pig of a report.

The fact is, the study group offers 79 recommendations adding up to a cowardly exit from Iraq - and the abandonment of tens of thousands of Iraqis who took America's promises at face value.

I continue to be dumbfounded at the Baker Three-For-One Bonus Plan: "You succesfully consigned Iraq to misery and civil war and Iranian domination for decades. In recognition for that, we'd like to give you Lebanon and Israel too."

Isn't losing one country at a time enough?

A lot more after the jump.

George Bush invites Syria, Iran to "talks," but with conditions.

"We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy, a policy that's been in place for 27 years," said Bush. "And that is that, if they would like to engage the United States, that they've got to verifiably suspend their [nuclear] enrichment program."

The Bush administration suspects Iran of using its nuclear program to develop weapons. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

As for Syria, Bush said Damascus should "stop destabilizing" Lebanon's government.

"If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it's easy," Bush said. "Just make some decisions that'll lead to peace, not to conflict."

Jonah Goldberg on why Bush may be so willing to happy-talk this abortion:

The report undercuts the Murtha crowd by delegitimizing the quick bug-out (AKA redeployment) option and makes staying in Iraq at least until '08 the "conventional" or "mainstream" point of view.

For Bush, isn't this the only part of the ISG report that matters? And when it comes to the actual situation in Iraq, the report basically confirms established policies of the White House and the Pentagon. So, in effect, doesn't the heralded bipartisan commission in effect give Bush the leeway to — ahem — stay the course?

Of course, the ISGers want Bush to endorse the entire report, hence all of that boilerplate about how everything reinforces everything else etc etc. They could never contemplate that such Olympian wisdom might be dissected. Could it be that this was the price Baker had to pay to Panenta and others to get agreement? Because it seems to me that Bush is perfectly at liberty, politically speaking, to cherry pick policies from the report that he likes and disregard the rest. And when he does so he can say he is following the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

More Jonah Goldberg:

IN WASHINGTON, sometimes it's preferable to be wrong in a group than to be right alone.


At the end of the day, the report reflects the man who put the deal together. Baker is a deal maker, a power broker, a difference splitter. And that's the real spirit of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

Some people want more troops in Iraq, so it calls for some more troops at first — so as to better train the Iraqis. And then, because other people want far fewer troops, it calls for a timetable for far fewer troops by 2008. Because no foreign policy commission could ever be complete without blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for something, the group throws a bone to that crowd as well. And because Baker thinks everything is a negotiation, he sees nothing wrong with chatting up everyone — including terrorist militias and our enemies in Iran and Syria.

The commissioners are latter-day Laodiceans, whom the Book of Revelation describes as "neither cold nor hot … [but] lukewarm." As a result, most of the report hits stratospheric heights of banality. For example, the commission put aside partisan differences to reach the startling conclusion that "Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis." If it requires consensus to deliver such Solomonic wisdom, then I say "feh" on consensus.

Yayyyy!!! Everyone's right!

Jon Podhoretz, dubbing it "Paris' Peace Plan," a double-entendre meant to suggest the courage of the French and the wisdom of Paris Hilton:

THE profound quality of the suggestions offered by the Iraq Study Group - the panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker that presented its report with such fanfare to the president yesterday morning - can be inferred from the following passage on page 60:

"RECOMMENDATION 19: The President and the leadership of his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership."

Truly, a grateful nation should fall on its knees and thank the benevolent Creator that the nine wise men and one woman who comprise the Iraq Study Group were willing to sacrifice themselves and come together so that such a recommendation could be placed before our leaders and the world.

The nation's capital hasn't seen such concentrated wisdom in one place since Paris Hilton dined alone at the Hooters on Connecticut Avenue.


Also in the Support Group: Iran and Syria. Yes, having done their best to destroy the new Iraq, these two tyrannical nations are poised to perform a very, very constructive role in helping to get the new Iraq up on its own two footsies!

And why? Because, see, it's in their interest to do so: "Although Iran sees it in its interest to have the United States bogged down in Iraq, Iran's interests would not be served by a failure of U.S. policy in Iraq that led to chaos and the territorial disintegration of the Iraqi state."

This is why we have commissions, you see. Regular dumb folk might look at the evidence of the past 25 years and think that the last hing Iran wants is a nice, strong and stable Iraq on its border. They might think that a strong and stable authoritarian Iraq might just attack Iran again and cause another 10-year war with deaths of millions. But here's the ISG to set us dumb people straight.

And even dumber people among us might think that if Iraq ends up strong and stable and Westernized, the Iranians would fear it might unduly influence Iran's own young population, hungry for Westernization and eager to see an end to the domination of the mullahs.

Yes, chaos and disorder would seem like a nice holiday gift to the Iranian theocracy, if you asked some of us dumb people. But then, we're dumb. Not like the ISG. Now we get it: Iran has, like, soooo much to gain from Iraq's getting better all the time.

As Paris would say, that analysis is hot!

The terrorists themselves, as reported by Sean Daniels in FrontPage:

Already, terrorists are rejoicing at the report, calling the new plan a victory for “Islamic resistance.” Hamas asset Abu Abdullah exclaimed, “The big superpower of the world is defeated by a small group of mujahedeen. Did you see the mujahedeens' clothes and weapons in comparison with the huge individual military arsenal and supply that was carrying every American soldier?” In this, he sounds very much like Osama bin Laden's assessment of Vietnam, Beirut, and Mogadishu.

Iraqis themselves are unhapy:

Pro-American Iraqi politicians, working to establish a non-sectarian democracy in the midst of the Muslim world, expressed their dismay at the plan. Kurdish parliamentarian Mahmud Othman responded with outrage: “They have no right to do this. This is unfair.” A leading advisor to Prime Minister al-Maliki said the U.S. has an obligation to support Iraq “all the way,” adding, “We need their support to go forward.”

And he also notes the absurdity of inviting Iran to "stabilize" Iraq into a democratic, pro-Western bulwark against Islamofascism:

[In claiming Iran can be a positive force for stabilizing Iraq,] the study actually contradicts itself, since it says at another point that promoting unrest in Iraq allows Iran to frustrate American aims in the region. The report calls for the immediate launch of a “diplomatic offensive” to engage Iran and Syria by appealing to “their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.” [4] However, bogging our forces down in Iraq and focusing international attention on the supposed failure of U.S. foreign policy particularly suits Iranian and Syrian interests. Chaos in Iraq only deflects international attention from Iran’s nuclear program as well as Iran and Syria’s covert war against Lebanon and Israel, through its terror proxy Hezbollah. For these reasons, Iran has worked so diligently to further chaos in Iraq. Why would anyone presume that they would change their way when their strategy is fnally paying off?

Arabs generally are big on the Arabist Baker's report:

Many Arabs on Thursday interpreted an American advisory panel's bleak assessment of President Bush's Iraq policies as proof of Washington's failure in the Middle East.


"This report is a recognition of the limitation of American power," said Abdel Moneim Said, head of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic studies in Cairo. "In the short term, America will highly suffer the loss of its reputation and credibility in the region."


Mustafa Bakri, an outspoken critic of the U.S. and editor of the Egyptian tabloid Al-Osboa, told a state-run television show that the report indicated "the end of America."

Bakri, who supports Syrian President Bashar Assad and the former regime of Saddam Hussein, urged Arab countries to "capture the moment as America now is in its weakest period."

Frederick W. Kagan:

AFTER MONTHS OF WORK, access to the best experts in the world and weeks of anticipation from politicians and the American public, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report landed in our laps yesterday.

And that noise you heard was a resounding thud.

The reason: The report basically punts on the most important issue of the day--establishing security in Iraq. All of the pious exhortations to get Iraqis to sit down with one another, to engage Iran and Syria and to find political compromises are meaningless if we are unable to stem the tide of bloodshed that now engulfs much of Baghdad and Anbar province.

Yet the Baker Report devotes scant space (8 pages out of 56 in the proposals section) to the security problem and its recommendations are unoriginal: Increase the number of American soldiers embedded in Iraqi units as trainers by stripping them out of the combat brigades now working to fight insurgents.

This is pretty much the same idea that Gen. John Abizaid offered the Senate last month. It is politically palatable because it promises to pull Americans out of combat, does not require any significant increase in the overall American troop presence and puts the burden for success on the Iraqis themselves.

But it will almost certainly lead us to disaster.

Here's why. It takes time to train military forces to be effective in counterinsurgency operations. It takes months to train American units--which, from the start, are stocked with experienced volunteer soldiers. In the violent situation in Iraq today, with the fledgling Iraqi forces,
it takes more time. And right now, time is the one thing we don't have.

If we pull American units out of their combat missions and focus them on training, the security situation in Iraq in the short-term is very likely to deteriorate. There will be a gap between our abandonment of the security mission and the point at which the Iraqis can undertake it themselves. Will the Iraqi government survive such a collapse? Will the American people have still more patience?

The Baker report blithely acccepts these risks without addressing them.

Rudy Giuliani:

— Mayor Giuliani resigned from the Iraq Study Group when it became clear that signing the group's report would politicize its findings and conflict with his likely presidential run in 2008.

I didn't know that. Good on him.

"The idea of leaving Iraq, I think, is a terrible mistake," the former mayor said. The group's report, however, stresses that America should not make an "open-ended" commitment of troops and links the presence of troops to milestones met by the Iraqi government.

Mr. Giuliani also rejected the panel's recommendation that America tie the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict to stabilizing Iraq. When asked about this linkage on Mr. Prager's radio show, Mr. Giuliani said, "Israel and Palestine is an important issue. Sometimes it's used as an excuse to deal with underlying issues. But the reality here is that the Islamo-fundamentalist terrorists are at war with our way of life, with our modern world, with rights for women, religious freedom, societies that have religious freedom. And all of that would still exist, no matter what happens in Israel and Palestine."

John McCain vs. John Murtha:

``I do not agree that you can take the trainers that are necessary, much less the troops that are necessary, from the existing forces there,'' McCain said after a meeting at the White House. ``There is only one thing worse than an overstressed military, and that's a defeated military.''

No Common Interests

McCain, who is expected to seek the presidency in 2008, was skeptical of the recommendation to involve Syria and Iran: ``You have to understand that the Iranians and the Syrians do not have common interests with us.'' And the report's conclusion that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is integral to success in Iraq ``seems tenuous at best,'' he said in a statement later.

Murtha said the study group's proposal that the U.S. pull out by early 2008 ``is no different than the current policy.''

``Staying in Iraq is not an option politically, militarily or fiscally,'' he said in a statement.

John Howard:

THE Prime Minister has refused to commit to withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq by early 2008, despite the recommendation of the US bipartisan Iraq Study Group that American combat forces leave by then.

During question time yesterday the Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, asked John Howard three times whether he agreed with the report of the group, led by the former secretary of state James Baker, which concluded US policy in Iraq was "not working".

Mr Howard declined to agree with the findings, instead saying one of the report's conclusions was that "the policy of the person who just asked me the question [Mr Rudd] would lead to a bloodbath in Iraq".

The Democrats, of course, "seize" on the report:

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said afterward that he felt vindicated by the report and that it would lead to the beginning of military withdrawal.

“The president has the ball in his court now,” Reid said, announcing plans for a series of oversight hearings in the Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees beginning early next year.


“It is a realistic portrayal of what’s taking place,” Obama said. “If we can agree on the facts, we can continue to move forward.”

And by "forward," he means "backwards, with our hands raised above our heads."

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