Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report

My thoughts on the Iraq Study Group's Report:


In the Executive Summary, one of the Group's recommendations is:
Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.

The first thing that leaped out of the page at me was "their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq". Exactly what interest is that?

If you read the report itself, it seems to contradict the Executive Summary on this point:
U.S., Iraqi, and international officials also commented on the range of tensions between the United States and Iran, including Iran's nuclear program, Iran's support for terrorism, Iran's influence in Lebanon and the region, and Iran's influence in Iraq. Iran appears content for the U.S. military to be tied down in Iraq, a position that limits U.S. options in addressing Iran's nuclear program and allows Iran leverage over stability in Iraq. Proposed talks between Iran and the United States about the situation in Iraq have not taken place. One Iraqi official told us: "Iran is negotiating with the United States in the streets of Baghdad."

...Like Iran, Syria is content to see the United States tied down in Iraq.

Back to the original question: How is the U.S. supposed to "engage them constructively"?

This is where the "New Diplomatic Offensive" comes into play.


Catchy phrase. What it means is use diplomacy to get all of Iraq's neighbors to create a "Support Group" to work towards a stable Iraq. (For the complete detail, read pages 50-58 of the report).

While the Iraq Study Group (ISG) came up with some intriguing negotiation "carrots" for dealing with Iran and Syria (page 51), I question whether Iran and Syria will see them that way. Especially when we get to recommendations 13-17, which have the U.S. getting more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Syrians will especially like recommendation 15 (pages 56-57), which is a list of things we should demand from them.


The Isaeli part of the "New Diplomatic Offensive" is probably the weakest part. It is filled with great ideas that never worked in the past. How many politicians and diplomats have tried to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Fortunately, they did not give weightings to the importance of each recommendation, otherwise the Israeli recommendations would have to be given a "pie in the sky" rating.


Much to the chagrin of the peacenik moonbat fringe on the Left, which has been saying for years that Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism, the ISG Report says:
Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East -- the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism -- are inextricably linked.

I guess it is safe to assume the moonbats will ignore the ISG Report since it doesn't match their world view.

There is also more bad news for John Kerry and Jim Webb. The ISG Report says an immediate withdrawal is a bad idea:
The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.

Finally, the ultimate insult is saved for Nancy Pelosi. Just a week ago, San Fran Nan had this to say about one of President Bush's comments referring to Al Qaeda in Iraq: "But the 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again." The ISG Report explicitly refers to an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq, performing acts of terrorism there. (On a side note, the 9/11 Commission did NOT dismiss the notion like Pelosi said.)


The ISG Report also says "staying the course" is a bad idea, as well as sending more troops (pages 38-39). Neither of these ideas solve the sectarian strife in Iraq.


Finally, the ISG Report (page 39) rejects splitting Iraq into three regions:
Because Iraq's population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn...A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions.

The report does add that if the situation were to move in this direction, then the U.S. should "manage the situation" to avoid negative consequences (i.e. ethnic cleansing).


There is a long portion of the ISG Report dedicated to actions that need to be taken inside Iraq. Most of it is fairly common sense, which surprises me that more of it has not already been implemented. Things such as the Iraqi government negotiating with the various sectarian groups ("Hello?! McFly!").

There is also a good idea about setting milestones for the Iraqi government. If their government does not accomplish certain goals by certain milestones, the U.S. could withdraw certain amounts of support, such as economic or military support.


On pages 76-77 of the ISG Report is a section entitled "Restoring the U.S. Military". If anyone thinks Donald Rumsfeld didn't screw over the military, this section puts a big exclamation point on that fact:
The U.S. Military has a long tradition of strong partnership between the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and the uniformed services. Both have long benefited from a relationship in which the civilian leadership exercises control with the advantage of fully candid professional advice, and the military serves loyally with the understanding that its advice has been heard and valued. That tradition has frayed, and civil-military relations need to be repaired.


One of the most brilliant ideas from the ISG Report is to utilize the U.S. Department of Justice to train the Iraqi police forces (pages 81-83).


There are some other sections in the ISG Report dealing with subjects such as economics and intelligence gathering. If you want to read them, help yourself, but they are not particularly interesting or earth shattering compared to the rest of the Report.


The "New Diplomatic Offensive" is a bit too idealistic for my tastes. If Condi Rice can pull this one off, give her the Nobel Peace Prize for the next ten years.

That said, I like the ISG Report overall. It has a lot of good ideas which make you wonder what our country has been doing over in Iraq the last three years.

As Captain Picard would say, "Make it so."

(Hat tip to Robert George over at Ragged Thots for posting the links to the Washington Post copy of the Executive Summary and the report itself)


Myrhaf said...

The report must not be as bad as some of us feared it would be. Does it read like they had disagreements on the group and they covered all bases to make everyone happy?

EdMcGon said...

I must admit it is not a bad read, as government reports go. It is only 96 pages long, so it doesn't take long to read it.

There are parts of it which seem like "political" solutions, but there is a lot of it which is common sense.

For anyone with a political opinion on Iraq, this report is a must-read.

William R. Barker said...

First of all, Ed, I'm VERY impressed with your post on the Report.

As you know, over at Ragged Thots I'm also doing a forensic autopsy (*SNORT*) on the Report.

Let me just say up front... your opening comments concerning the disconnect between the Report's "recommendations" to bring Iran and Syria into "the fold" and the Report's acknowledgement that Syria and Iran have FAR DIFFERENT goals with regard to how things shake out than we do... DIRECT HIT, ED!

Basically... the Report is a joke. By that I mean that it has "something for everyone" and often - as you found out - it collapses (sp?) upon itself in contradiction.

I'm not saying the Report doesn't include factual information and even some decent analysis that the average person would profit by being exposed to... I'm just saying that there's really nothing new there and that anyone who regularly reads the Wall Street Journal and a smattering of "policy" journals has seen each and every single "Report" recommendation and criticism presented in a far more substantive manner.

Just a question, Ed... besides you and me... how many other of our "colleagues" over at "the other blog" do you think actually READ the Report? Would you guess - confidently - that even the HOST of that blog bothered to read the whole report?

My point with the above question isn't to be catty (can guys be catty?) or to take a "behind the back" shot (since I assume AIP, Rob, and Robert occasionally lurk here), but rather to point out with sadness the simply fact that while everyone has a right to an "opinion," it's a damned shame that so many of the opinions are based on little more than "feelings" and "beliefs."

Again... good analysis here at P&P.


EdMcGon said...

Thanks Bill. :)

Personally, I know Rob hasn't read it, and I doubt AIP has. I do think Robert read it, although he is being unusually tight-lipped about it.

I would add I think most, if not all, of the internal Iraq recommendations are good ones. Whether they will work is a question for someone with more knowledge of Iraq than me.

William R. Barker said...

I'm still leaning towards either a "3 mini-State" solution or a "2 mini-State" solution.

I'm not at all convinced that these animals (the Sunni and Shia at least) can live under one nation absent... a Saddam Hussein. (*SMILE*)

Hmm... I wonder if the Members of the ISG would favor RE-unifying the former Yugoslavia??? (*SMIRK*)

The problem is SOCIAL, Ed. Social... religious... their upbringing... their mindsets...

Ed. We're not dealing with a culture that has an understanding or tradition of "the rule of law." In fact... just the opposite. Iraq is largely a tribal society out in the countryside and a "sect vs. sect" society in the cities. In both cases our western notions of "fair play," and "justice" simply don't apply across the board to the extent they do here or in other civilized countries.

And yeah... I'm using "harsh" and perhaps "racist" terms here. Why? Because they fit!!! Ed... you think an American ghetto is a dangerous place? These f'ers are kidnapping their "opponents" and setting them on fire!!!

Now there's a chance I'm wrong about splitting up Iraq being the best of a bad set of options... but the fact that the ISG discounts this as an option entirely...??? Ludicrous.

If Iraq had far more "civilized" nationalists than tribalists... both the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police would be effective organizations. Having the U.S. Department of Justice "train" the Iraqi Police force...? Whoever "trains" them... they're still the SAME policemen, Ed. You're not going to indoctrinate them out of all they've ever known and believed... at least I don't think you are. (*SAD SMILE*)


EdMcGon said...

As the ISG Report points out, the three state solution will undoubtedly lead to some ethnic cleansing, as all three groups are not located in three distinct geographical areas. They are all over Iraq.

William R. Barker said...

YES, Ed... and I've ALWAYS acknowledged this. Your point???

I'd rather have thousands or even tens of thousands killed and displaced by "ethnic cleansing" than have MORE tens of thousands... perhaps even hundreds of thousands... killed over time according to present trends.

And finally... again... putting aside "Iraqi" winners and losers, my main concern is that AMERICA wins.

As noted both here on your excellent blog and on Robert A. George's Ragged Thots blog, there are no "good" options for American foreign policy - only bad or worse.

Thank God we still HAVE the Kurds on our side. It's in America's best interests for us to keep it that way.

As to the Shia vs. the Sunni... the Sunni are basically anti-American. Segments of "Shiadom" are also anti-American and pro-Iranian. Our foreign policy goal is to help ensure that the "pro" U.S. Shia win out over the "anti" U.S. Shia (Sadr, etc.) and what's probably going to be necessary to ensure this is to support "moderate" (more pro-Western, more pro-American) Shia against the pro-Iran Shia AND the Sunni.

The Saudis and the other oil rich Sunni States won't like this... but TOUGH. They'll "accept" it because we'll give them no choice - that's how I'd play it.

Keep your eye on the ball, Ed. Our main interest in the Middle East is oil and making sure a nuclear war doesn't break out. "Humanitarian" efforts are all well and good, and no one - including ME - wants to see these animals killing each other... but in the final analysis we're not the Catholic Church... we're the United States of America. Our goals must be to support OUR national interest... not abstract ideals that often tend to blow up in our face and get thousands of AMERICANS killed and tens of thousands maimed.

You and President Bush (*GRIN*) need to start each day by re-reading each and every post I've ever made on this subject. (*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*)


William R. Barker said...

Also... (*GRIN*)... keep this in mind, Ed:

Syria is our enemy. Iran under the Mullahs is our enemy. As I tried to explain to Frick and Frat over on Ragged Thots... HOW we deal with them should be dependent upon our best guess on how various approaches would serve U.S. interests.

A minority Baathist dictatorship under Assad may suck for the majority of Syria's citizens - not to mention Lebanon - but if that's "best" for U.S. interests... (*SIGH*)

But IS it best? That's the question. And even if the best minds available conclude that it IS best in the short-term... the next question concerns the long-term. And even with all that... there's a difference in "talking" to the regime and "dealing" with the regime and even "cooperating" with the regime and SUPPORTING the regime. Bottom line... Assad's regime will always be - and SHOULD always be based on our American ideals - our enemy. The question is... would toppling the regime make things worse in the Middle-East than leaving it be?

And then we have Iran... (*GRIN*)... but we'll leave that for further discussion.

You get the idea.


* Jeez, Ed... if you would just AGREE with me all the time... you'd always be right! (*GRIN*)

EdMcGon said...

Sorry Bill, but I will continue to seek third options when the allegedly best choices lead to ethnic cleansing. I'm funny that way. ;)

William R. Barker said...


I had the BEST of intentions. (*SMILE*)

Out of respect for you as the host of this blog I had ceded the last word on this topic to you.

Yet... thanks to Madscribe over at the other blog... (*GRIN*)... this has been brought to my attention and I'm bringing it to yours:

It's a burden being me, Ed. (*GRIN*)


* The link apparently doesn't work... at least from preview... so check out Ralph Peters' column in today's NY Post.

William R. Barker said...

The above is (or at least is supposed to be) a link to an op-ed by Eliot Cohen that ran in the December 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

Cohen is one of the experts Tim Russert had on his roundtable discussion this past Sunday. In fact, Cohen was the guy who made the most sense.


EdMcGon said...

The links aren't showing in your comments. Can you email them separately to me?

William R. Barker said...

Ed... that's why I gave you the descriptions... so that you could just go to the WSJ and NYP respectively. I think I may have posted them on Ragged Thots too.

I don't have the links anymore so it would be just as easy for you to find the articles for yourself than for me to find them and email them to you.


EdMcGon said...

I can tell you're in the holiday spirit. :P