Last week, the Iraq Study Group Report burst upon a breathless world, and proved to be an empty piñata. None of its recommendations has the slightest chance of reversing the course of the war in Iraq. Only those who just got into town on the last truckload of turnips expected anything more. All Washington "Blue Ribbon Commissions" are part of the kabuki, intended to fool the rubes back home into thinking something real is happening, when it isn’t.
If the Iraq Study Group Report is empty of content, the responses to it from the war hawks, or more accurately at this point the war vultures, since what they are feeding on is dead, were as clueless as a Marine at a meeting of Mensa. They denounced it as impracticable, which is true; as fanciful, in thinking Iran or Syria has any reason to help us in Iraq, which is also true; and, in the case of Senator John McCain, as a recipe for defeat.
Senator McCain almost got it right. The Iraq Study Group Report is not a recipe for defeat, but an acknowledgment of defeat. Therein lies its value, and its function. It offers the Bush administration the bi-partisan fig leaf it needs to cover its defeat in Iraq and our inevitable withdrawal.
Like all reports of Blue Ribbon Commissions, the Report of the Iraq Study Group is written so as to cover the backsides of its members. It does not come right out and say, "We’ve lost, and its time to get out." The Letter from the Co-Chairs begins, "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq. However, there are actions that can be taken to improve the situation and protect American interests."
After this obligatory tip of the cap to Pollyanna, however, the report lays it out as clearly as Washington ever will. The Assessment of the Current Situation in Iraq concludes on page 32,
Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating. The Iraqi government cannot now govern, sustain, and defend itself without the support of the United States. Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own future…The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out.
Short of concluding with a chorus of "Asleep in the Deep," it would be hard for the Study Group to make the reality of the situation more evident.
Again, what is key is not the details of the report or the viability of its recommendations, but the response to it. Had it the slightest understanding of which end is up, the Bush White House, while politely disagreeing with some details of the report, would have accepted it as "the only way forward." The vultures, led by the neo-cons, would have "sadly concurred." The Joint Chiefs’ strings would have been pulled so they saluted and "got on board" the last train out of Baghdad.
It might have gone somewhat like this: According to the Friday, December 8 Washington Slimes:
Yesterday afternoon, less than twenty-four hours after the release of the Iraq Study Group Report, President George W. Bush, accompanied by Iraq Study Group Co-Chairmen James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, said, "While I do not agree with every detail of the Study Group’s Report, I accept that it represents the only way forward in Iraq that will have bi-partisan support of the Congress and the American people. I therefore accept its recommendations as a package, as Secretary Baker has described them, and pledge this administration to their speedy implementation."
"I now call on all members of Congress of both parties to join the administration and the members of the bi-partisan study group to set aside all divisions and work together. I look forward to having all American combat troops home from Iraq early in 2008."
President Bush was immediately followed by Mr. Baker, Mr. Hamilton and General Pace adding their endorsements to the administration’s new course and calling for an end to partisanship and national division over the war in Iraq.
Instead, as we know, the Bush administration and the vultures have rejected the fig leaf the Iraq Study Group Report offers. Determined to achieve "victory in Iraq," they guarantee that America’s defeat will be naked before all the world.
One member of the study group, former Democratic Congressman Leon Panetta, was quoted in the Sunday, December 10 Washington Post as saying, "I think the feeling was, how do you rescue this administration from the grip of ideology and force it to face the real world?"
The Bush administration’s only desire, unfortunately for the country, is to escape the grip of reality and immerse itself more deeply in the Jacobin ideology of neo-cons. It seems that, absent a miracle, we are doomed to wander in Oz for two more years.
William Lind [send him mail] is an analyst based in Washington, DC.