The Iraq Study Group misses the mark
By Charles Bloomer
By now we can reasonably conclude that the report from the Iraq Study Group (aka ISG, aka Baker-Hamilton Commission, aka the Incredibly Stupid Group) is not worth the paper it is printed on. At best, it might make a good doorstop. At worst, it is a recipe for disaster.
Very few people outside the ISG have defended the study. According to my unscientific research, the only people in favor of the ISG recommendations are a handful of Democrats (including such bright lights as John Kerry and Jack Murtha), the New York Times, and every terrorist organization east of Gibraltar. President Bush called the recommendations "interesting" in the same tone of voice as the Chinese curse, "May you have an interesting life".
The ISG report came up with 78 recommendations. I never realized there were 78 ways of saying "retreat" or "surrender" or "give up". In the entire report, there is not even one mention of win, victory, or success. The starting assumption for the ISG is that we are failing in Iraq and that we cannot win.
The ISG report shows that when you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer, no matter how hard or how long you study. Evidently, no one bothered to tell the ISG at its inception that they should study ways of winning the conflict in Iraq. So we end up with 78 ways to withdraw and re-deploy, abdicate our responsibilities, badger the Iraqis and negotiate with our enemies.
We get such gems as the recommendation that we talk Iran and Syria into stabilizing Iraq. The bright assumption being that Iran and Syria do not want to see an unstable, conflict-torn, violent Iraq on their borders. If that were the case, why are Syria and Iran the biggest contributors to the sectarian violence in Iraq? In reality, Iran and Syria want to see the United States withdraw from Iraq so that they may overrun the country and turn in into a staging base for even more violent terrorist activity.
Another brilliant statement made by the Great Thinkers of the ISG is that if we just solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if we just get Israel to give up more land, the entire Middle East problem will disappear overnight. So, the reasoning must go, it's the Israeli's fault that the Sunni Muslims are killing Shi'a Muslims and vise versa. Sure, that makes sense – Muslims kill each other because of Israel.
What I do not understand is why we needed the ISG, with its political has-beens, celebrity movers and shakers, even a retired Supreme Court justice. None of the members were acknowledged military experts. We have a Congress with 535 members. We have a Pentagon full of expert military advisors. We have a Secretary of Defense, Secretaries of Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff containing the military leadership of the armed forces. With all that talent readily available to the President, why did we go hire a group of well known, well-connected outsiders? Did we think we were going to get a high quality unbiased report? Well, we didn't. We got a very expensive mediocre mess of trash that sounded more like a six-year-old's whine of "It's too hard" and added absolutely zero to the debate. It has given us some interesting political theater as we watch the Baker bunch try to defend their 700 pages of claptrap.
When you're dealt lemons, make lemonade. We can take some of the recommendations as a starting point for real debate on real action. For example, the recommendation to talk with Iran and Syria: We should talk directly to Iran and Syria – one way. We should tell them to back off or pay a significant price. We need not invade, just do some significant, expensive damage to their military infrastructure.
We can discuss troop levels. In fact, that is already being done, coming from the military advisors. But we need to understand that simply increasing the number of troops, or embracing a nebulous concept such as securing Baghdad will not be enough. We need to take the gloves off. We should make clear in no uncertain terms that we will not be restricted by politically correct or overly sensitive constraints. For example, we should exercise our rights under the Geneva Conventions to attack and destroy mosques that are used for military purposes against us.
The President should, with proper environmental care, send every copy of the ISG report in his possession to the recycling center (all those trees should not have died in vain). Then he should thank the members of the Incredibly Stupid Group for their time.
And wish each of them an "interesting" life.