Sunday, December 10, 2006


The Iraq Study Group: We waited for this??

I’ve finally waded through it: The Iraq Study Group Report. Not exactly a page turner, it provides 79 recommendations which, unfortunately, read like recommendations that a unanimous 10 people can agree on.

They include the banal:

"RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil."

They include actions that aren’t directly in our control:

(From) "Recommendation 30: …A referendum on the future of Kirkuk (as required by the Iraqi Constitution before the end of 2007) would be explosive and should be delayed."

They include the too-general-to-give-an-opinion-on:

RECOMMENDATION 37: Iraqi amnesty proposals must not be undercut in Washington by either the executive or the legislative branch."

And they include the I’m-listening-but-I’m-suspicious (because it means calling in the UN):

“RECOMMENDATION 38: The United States should support the presence of neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration."

But nothing in it made me sit up with that “I could have had a V8” reaction. And like everything else involved with government, it’s the details that get you...and the details aren't there. The Group appropriately gives itself cover and the future opportunity to say “I told you so:

It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation.”

Unfortunately the new way requires actions by others – notably Syria and Iran – that nothing in the recent past indicates are either practical or realistic expectations.

As to overall reaction to the Report, I think Soccer Dad has it about right:

“It's hard to get a good read on the Iraq Study Group's final report; but, in a sense, it's something of a Rorschach test: people see in it what they want to see.”

The “Dean” however seems impressed...and not in agreement with me:

“The Iraq Study Group -- 10 senior statesmen, equally divided between the political parties -- threw down the challenge in a unanimous report that showed no signs of being compromised or softened in the interests of bipartisan comity. This was not a happy-talk report.” David S. Broder - The Great Divide Over Iraq

One of my favorite sayings is that if two of us agree on everything, one of us isn’t thinking. But I’m not sure how to extrapolate that to a 10-member report. While the report may have involved a lot of work, it isn’t apparent that it involved a lot of thought beyond just how to get something on paper that all agreed on. I like the tone Jonah Goldberg takes on this:

“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” Jonah Goldberg on Iraq Study Group on National Review Online

But he’s not finished:

Nowhere does the commission ever seriously consider how to win the war in Iraq. Why? Because winning is no longer a possible consensus position. And pulling out isn’t a consensus position either. So rather than a real strategy about Iraq, we get Laodicean tripe about how the Iraq Study Group is our last best hope to unite Americans. I’m sorry, but that wasn’t its mandate.”

Honestly, I was expecting more from the ISG. Based on the pre-release hype, I was expecting some bold recommendations. I may not have agreed with some or all of them but people throughout government would at least have been forced to react and perhaps share with us their own recommended strategy. Instead, we get a lot of let’s-talk-more, let’s-encourage-others, let’s-be-friends blather. Don’t worry kids, this Report won’t be on any future exams.

The I-Did-Not-Know-This-Department: Many are familiar with the fact that George Foreman has 5 sons – all named George. It’s usually worth a chuckle. But did you know that Lawrence Eagleburger, a member of the Study Group, has three sons all named Lawrence: Lawrence Scott, Lawrence Andrew, and Lawrence Jason.

Other Fun Facts: Two of the ten members of the Group are graduates of DePauw University: Vernon Jordan and Lee Hamilton….Only two members are NOT lawyers: Lawrence Eagleburger and William Perry.

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