Iraq Study Group report released; Update: “Rough waters” video added!

posted at 11:14 am on December 6, 2006 by Allahpundit

It’s available for download here. The press conference has just started — and is being carried live by all three networks. An anxious media wonders: will Baker be able to encapsulate the pessimism of the report in one killer pithy soundbite? [Update: Bingo. See below.] If he does, you know who’ll have the video.

Updates coming.

Update: And just as I type that, Lee Hamilton declares, “Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.” Jackpot.

Update: It sounds like the leaks were accurate. They want a significant number of troops withdrawn soon — ideally within 16 months — and the rest redeployed to advise and support the Iraqi army. (Minor surprise: first they want a minor increase.) And of course they want us to talk to Iran and Syria, an initiative which most Americans (including most Republicans) support. Says Moran: “You will excuse me if I believe that talking to Syria while it is in the process of gobbling up its tiny Lebanese neighbor to be one of the most cynical, immoral, and ill-considered diplomatic ideas in a generation – which of course is right up Baker’s alley.” Presumably the outreach could start as early as next week, right after Iran gets done denying the Holocaust.

Verdict: success is not an option.

Although the study group will present its plan as a much-needed course change in Iraq, many of its own advisers concluded during its deliberations that the war is essentially already lost, according to private correspondence obtained yesterday and interviews with participants. The best the commission could put forward would be the “least bad” of many bad options, as former ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer wrote.

An early working draft from July stated that “there is even doubt that any level of resources could achieve the administration’s stated goals, given the illiberal and undemocratic political forces, many of them Islamic fundamentalists, that will dominate large parts of the country for a long time.”…

Much debate in e-mail exchanges among the most outspoken advisers to the study group focused on whether adding troops would help. But most feared that bringing in the large numbers required would break the military, lead to a surge in U.S. deaths and do nothing to better protect civilians.

In the end, the experts did not agree on sending additional forces beyond military advisers for the Iraqi national army. They seemed certain that Bush would reject most of their recommendations and that few could work anyway.

“Very early on, the notion of achieving some sort of victory didn’t take,” said Chas W. Freeman Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “So if victory is not possible and not feasible, even if you could define it, then what you’re left with is to find some way to mitigate defeat.

If the Marines ever tire of “Semper Fi”…

Update: The enduring question’s going to be whether long-term success was ever an option or whether the Sunni/Shiite divide would have gobbled up the country eventually no matter what. If Bush had sent 300,000 troops three years ago, if the jihadis and militias had been choked in their cradle and the two sides had a few years of peace to acclimate themselves to, maybe they’d have a different footing going forward. Or, with a thousand years of slaughter on the books and Iran and AQ looking to stir it up, maybe not.

We are where we are, though. Which is why relying on the Iraqi military to prevent a civil war is an exceedingly naive idea:

[O]thers say that placing too much emphasis on training the mainly Shi’ite national army, which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said last week would be ready to take control of national security next June, ignores the fact that the country is in the midst of a deepening conflict that pits Shi’ites against Sunnis.

We can train Iraqis to be better soldiers but it is not proven we can train them to be better Iraqis. They will still be loyal to communities and tribes rather than central government,” said Loren Thompson, defence analyst at the Lexington Institute.

“There is too much unjustified optimism that Iraqi forces are tractable and trainable. To date there is little evidence.”…

“If our goal is to prevent the spread of civil war, then we are not going to be pulling troops out, because the moment we do, the war will grow so ferocious we will stop deploying.

“If our goal is to get out, then we are going to have to accept an even higher level of civil strife. If Americans leave Iraq, it will not be peaceful by anybody’s definition.”

In the end, the Commission’s using the same strategy McCain is (allegedly), albeit in the opposite direction: he claims more troops will help, they claim fewer troops will. Bush can’t really embrace either option, though, and they know it. As things get worse, each will point to his failure to adopt their own recommendations to explain why things fell apart. Big help, but that’s his fault entirely for not having done all that he could in Iraq when the country still had the political will to do it.

Update: I leave you with this, from the executive summary. We need to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue. And we also need to engage in dialogue with Iran, which is committed to the destruction of Israel. Mazel tov.

The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and Syria.

Update: N.Z. Bear has posted a hypertext version of the report for easy linking.

Update: Mary K’s been watching NBC and e-mails with a partial transcript. Brian Williams:

Various members of the Iraq Study Group, as you saw, helping in the answer of questions posed by reporters. The quote of the session may very well emerge to be this, from Congressman Hamilton initially, “Our ship of state has hit rough waters.”

Here’s the clip.

Update: Time says al-Sadr and Al Qaeda will love the report. Iraqi citizens? Not so much.

Update: You know I wouldn’t let you down. Soundbitemania!


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We should engage Iran and Syria, but not in civil discourse!

Golfer_75093 on December 7, 2006 at 8:54 AM

We engaged Stalin, we engaged Mao; how is this different? This is not a rhetorical question, how is it different?

honora on December 7, 2006 at 10:34 AM

Throughout a reading of the report, the word “vapid” comes to mind. One has to search long and hard to find anything of substance. It does appear they tried to concentrate on economics, but got security and politics all mixed up with it. Looking over the people they consulted, I can’t imagine there was consensus. I’d like to see what the consultants said. Bottom line: the Iraqis not knowing themselves what kind of country they want is causing chaos. Doesn’t make sense to turn things over or seek “reconciliation” (some kind of liberal buzzword) given those facts. I also don’t get their imbedded non-combat military idea. It will take a lot of spin to sell me on anything in this report.

dapro on December 6, 2006 at 9:18 PM

I agree. This is more of a report card (F) than a comprehensive go forward plan.

I am starting to think cutting and running (I may as well use it, I know I will be accused of it) may be the only reasonable option. My logic:

-we assumed the Iraqis wanted to be free Iraqis. Turns out they are more interested in being Sunnis (bring back Saddam), Shiites (Islamic satellite state of Iran) and Kurds (leave us the hell alone and we’ll do fine) In a post Balkic state break up world, this should not have surprised us.

-we can’t want a Iraqi democracy more than the Iraqis want it. Simply won’t work.

-the level of incompetence here is staggering. One of many little nuggets from the report: our embassy in Baghdad has six people who speak Arabic. Six. Given the deterioration and the laws of inertia, we don’t have the capability to turn it around politically. And militarily is increasingly irrelevant.

It is entirely possible I am full of s***. (Which is the main difference between me and the fools who got us into this, I acknowledge my fallibility.)

I don’t want to think about this anymore.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 10:46 AM

We engaged Stalin, we engaged Mao; how is this different? This is not a rhetorical question, how is it different?

honora on December 7, 2006 at 10:34 AM

Stalin was at war with the Nazis, Mao was fighting Japan, not supplying them with arms. Stalin wanted Hitler to LOSE, Assad wants Al Qaeda to WIN. What the ISG is suggesting is more like engaging HITLER to help us defeat Japan.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 7, 2006 at 10:57 AM

Stalin was at war with the Nazis, Mao was fighting Japan, not supplying them with arms. Stalin wanted Hitler to LOSE, Assad wants Al Qaeda to WIN. What the ISG is suggesting is more like engaging HITLER to help us defeat Japan.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 7, 2006 at 10:57 AM

I’m talking the Cold War. Thought that was obvious.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 11:19 AM

I’m talking the Cold War. Thought that was obvious. — honora

…we had be allied with both Stalin and Mao during WWII, for one thing. For another, Russia held vast swaths of Europe, China was attacking Formosa/Taiwan, an ally.

…and, I seem to remember that we fought *BOTH*, not always by proxy, in Korea *AND* in Vietnam (although Stalin was making that perambulatory dirty nap by then).

…and, neither had struck or assisted in strikes against our home turf.

Finally, as savage as they were, neither Stalin nor Mao were trapped in a lockstep brain-devouring cancer like Islam. They weren’t sending their citizens out with dynamite strapped to their middles with the express purpose of killing non-players. As close to the edge of the definition as they may have been, in other words, they were civilized.

There.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM

I’m talking the Cold War. Thought that was obvious.

This isn’t a Cold War. I thought that was obvious.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 7, 2006 at 12:12 PM

This isn’t a Cold War. I thought that was obvious.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 7, 2006 at 12:12 PM

Yes it is.

Let me spell it out for you, in words of one or two syllables (oops)–the question is why could we negotiate with our enemies (i.e. Stalin and Mao circa Cold War) at one time, and yet be incapable of doing so now. Why would I suggest that Iran and Syria are comparable to WWII allies? Don’t be so obtuse.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 1:40 PM

Finally, as savage as they were, neither Stalin nor Mao were trapped in a lockstep brain-devouring cancer like Islam. They weren’t sending their citizens out with dynamite strapped to their middles with the express purpose of killing non-players. As close to the edge of the definition as they may have been, in other words, they were civilized.

There

.

You’re not serious. How many innocent people did Stalin and Mao kill? These guys (Iran and Syria) are pikers by comparision.

It’s stunning to hear an arch conservative like yourself denigrate the menace of communism. Easy to say, now. The big difference is that our cold war enemies had serious weapons and resources reasonably equal to our own.

I understand the urge to magnify the current enemy and minimize the past ones–makes us look less inept. Sorry, that dog won’t hunt.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM

honora on December 7, 2006 at 1:45 PM

You’re not serious. How many innocent people did Stalin and Mao kill? These guys (Iran and Syria) are pikers by comparision. — honora

…I don’t denigrate (or diminish, which I think is the word you were looking for) the menace of communism. Remember, though, that communism only tried for about 70 years to invade Europe and the West, from about the 1850′s until about 1918/19. Then, it kept trying until 1945, and held sway de jure in half of Europe, de facto in the other half for about 50 more years. Then, it crumbled.

Islam — the ideology being pushed by the jihadis, remember — has been trying to work its way into Europe and the West since the Seventh Century. It held much of Spain for about 700 years, the Balkans for quite a while, but failed otherwise. Still, they kept trying…taking the Rome of the East in 1453, formerly firmly Christian North Africa (Augustine was what would be called an Algerian today), and has been in India and thereabouts causing mischief since the Seventh Century, as well.

I’m not talking sloganeering or shallow, hip-pocket comparisons here. I’m looking to history.

The threat of communism was real…the problem is that it was so artificial and inhuman as to not be self-sustaining., The problem with Islam is that it is *TOTALLY* human, especially in its Salafi incarnation, and that is most certainly *NOT* a recommendation, as I mean that in the strictist Calvinstic sense. It can last forever, as man’s capacity for sin, suicide, murder and all things foul are nearly limitless…and his creativeness in these areas is nearly limitless, as well.

I’m not talking numbers. I’m talking potential.

Stalin and Mao weren’t ideologues. They were cold-blooded pragmatists. Trotsky was the dreamer. Had he had his way, we’d've had suffering, executions and misery on a scale approaching that possible under the Islamists.

I give credit to Mao and Stalin for effort, but the jihadis take the prize for pure, unfiltered evil.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 2:03 PM

I give credit to Mao and Stalin for effort, but the jihadis take the prize for pure, unfiltered evil.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 2:03 PM

First, from Websters, denigrate:

to treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle; disparage: to denigrate someone’s contributions to a project.

Second: the idea of Islam as one unbroken singleminded movement that began a couple centuries ago and that is the same thing as jihad, and is now culminating in the person of al Sadr, well that’s pretty broad brush shall we say? (Sorry for the run on sentence).

Whatever. I don’t think talking with Iran and Syria will help, don’t get me wrong. But I willing to consider that I am not the best judge; what could it hurt?

I object to the (again) dogmatic approach this administration prefers in general. This is just another example.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 2:12 PM

First, from Websters, denigrate

…and, also from Websters:

di·min·ish (d-mnsh)
v. di·min·ished, di·min·ish·ing, di·min·ish·es
v.tr.
1. Word honora should have used, but used denigrate instead.

Second: the idea of Islam as one unbroken singleminded movement that began a couple centuries ago and that is the same thing as jihad, and is now culminating in the person of al Sadr, well that’s pretty broad brush shall we say? (Sorry for the run on sentence).

…hey, you’re talking to THE MASTER of the run-on sentence…so, I appreciate the effort.

If you have any doubts about Islam being an encapsulated, unquestioned and undeviating recipe for totalitarianism, read their book. After a few suras, even a few verses, you’ll begin to get the idea that Mohammed (bacon and shoes be upon him) had issues.

As to the unbroken line of aggression, I have only to remind you that 732, 1187, 1389, 1453, 1571, and all that foolishness since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 — especially the nasty bit since 1948 — all have one thing in common: muslim aggression.

Now, a good bit of that sprung from the ambitions of the individual muslim grandees involved…Saladin, a few Suleymans, the odd Sultan, a Seljuk or two…but they all sallied forth under the banner of the Prophet (who you’ll remember we established as having had issues). So, geopolitical aims met by whipping up religious furvor…sounds very modern to me.

Whatever. I don’t think talking with Iran and Syria will help, don’t get me wrong. But I willing to consider that I am not the best judge; what could it hurt?

…talking to Iran or to Syria should be limited to “You wanted nuclear weapons. Where do you want ‘em delivered?”

Talking to them gives ‘em juice in the very fluid Middle Eastern world, where the motto is “the hand you can’t bit, lick”.

…Oh…you could *ALSO* use the phrase “OK, lynnwood…where are all your little friends?” which you ask as you’re pouring water on the towel over their face.

I object to the (again) dogmatic approach this administration prefers in general. This is just another example. — honora

…define “dogmatic approach”.

If by “dogmatic” you mean “according to a fixed plan”, allow me to point out that fixed plans, open to tactical creativity, is how you win wars. Plans give order to chaos.

If by “dogmatic” you mean that there are some things you *WON’T* contenance, you’re saying that *ALL* is fluid, and that your plan has no goal attached to it.

If by “dogmatic”, you mean that you’ve lost all sense of right and wrong as *OBJECTIVE* values (objective because you can’t monkey with ‘em, therefore you’re responsible, not merely empowered), then I’d wonder why anyone would go to war in the first place…other than for gain…and, if you’ll check the track record so far, gain hasn’t been the goal.

…so, you see my need of specifics here.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 2:48 PM

As to the unbroken line of aggression, I have only to remind you that 732, 1187, 1389, 1453, 1571, and all that foolishness since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 — especially the nasty bit since 1948 — all have one thing in common: muslim aggression.

Well I will accept it as a compliment that you are “reminding’ me of these things (the implication being I knew these specifics in the first place; which I am sorry to tell you, I didn’t). I guess I refuse to give them that much credit.

By dogmatic I mean “characterized by arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles”. (You make me go the dictionary again and I will have to slap you). To whit, “the only way to deal with enemies is not engage with them”, is IMO, a dogmatic approach.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 2:57 PM

…truth in advertising: I had to look up the specifics of the years, but I was rolling by then….

732 — Martel beats back the rag-heads at Tours, ending their northward “tourism”.

1187 — Hattin, Saladin hands Guy de Lusignan and a bunch of thirsty Jerusalemites their a$$es.

1389 — Battle of Kosovo, which the Serbs don’t seem able to stop talking about. Grudges last *FOREVER* in Balkans.

1453 — Mehmend II gives Constantine XI Palaiologos and the rest of Constantinople a simultaneous wake-up/eternal-sleep call.

1571 — Lepanto…Turks, Christians, the usual dust-up.

By dogmatic I mean “characterized by arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles”. To whit, “the only way to deal with enemies is not engage with them”, is IMO, a dogmatic approach.

…which “unproved or unprovable principles”? The “not talking to people after they or their agents start shooting at you” principle? Do you suggest trying to negotiate with rapists? How about a chin-wag with the guy who’s jimmied your window and is all too happy to add murder to breaking-and-entering?

The only way to deal with enemies is to eliminate them…totally.

Don’t leave enough of them about for their kids to be brought up on heroic stories of their “noble” efforts, aspiring to emulate their actions as a point of honor. Let those kids see broken men, shuffling down the street to the mosque carrying the stump of one hand in the other hand…and let them think, “That guy shouldn’t have messed with the Americans!”

What do you get if you talk to them? Their side of the story? There side of the story should go like this: AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHH! *SLUMP* *THUMP* *DECOMPOSE*

What do you get if you talk to them? Talking points, justifying why they were right and you are wrong. Or, you get the diplomatic version, which informs you that their point of view was valid for their time and place and circumstances, and that your solutions to their problems in their context was inappropriate, bordering on imperialistic and racist.

We get enough of that from Chuckie Barron up in NYC.

Nope…once the first cap is fired, you negotiate with ‘em as much as Eisenhower negotiated with Keitel.

That is…*NOT*.

(You make me go the dictionary again and I will have to slap you). — honora

…if you can manage to connect in plaintext, I promise to take notice.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 3:13 PM

Nope…once the first cap is fired, you negotiate with ‘em as much as Eisenhower negotiated with Keitel.

OK, what do you suggest we do? Please keep in mind the realities of Iraq–sectarian violence, Maliki government teetering on the brink of collapse.

Have to run, that damned Christmas tree isn’t going to buy itself.

honora on December 7, 2006 at 3:24 PM

Puritan, you’re a decent and intelligent man, but you’re wasting your time trying to reason with a typically leftist authoritarian hag who is by her own definition dogmatic and is not going to be persuaded

I’ve read this bitter dishonest person’s posts for months, and what comes through most clearly is her anger at being disagreed with. She swoops down on anyone who posts any Thought Crimes, and repeatedly shows genuine anger.

Ask yourself why is someone like her on this blog? My answer: primarily to vent her anger and frustration that many intelligent people find her world view worthless and even harmful.

I’ve been around people like this for four decades, and I can guarentee you that she would do more than ‘slap’ you if it were in her power to do so. She would have you and me and everyone else who contravenes her fired, not hired, not promoted, or worse. Powerless, all that people like her can do is make repeated threats–although pathetic and bitch-silly, the intent to cause us harm if she could is clearly there.

I admire your efforts, but man, talk about Lost Causes…..

Janos Hunyadi on December 7, 2006 at 4:17 PM

OK, what do you suggest we do? Please keep in mind the realities of Iraq–sectarian violence, Maliki government teetering on the brink of collapse.

…actually, we don’t *KNOW* that Maliki’s government is “teetering on the brink of collapse”. We’ve been told that…but please remember that truth via the media from Iraq is as elusive as virginity via Madonna from womankind.

For a full answer, I’ll have to fall back on the cardinal sin of the blogger: I’ll quote myself. What do I suggest we do? Read on (from something I posted too late last night to remember clearly) on another thread (that I don’t think that folks actually read):

I think that we’re all missing the point.

The point *ISN’T* that we have a free, democratic Iraq. *THEY* don’t even want that.

What we want is that Iraq, however it is constituted — even if they go back to licking the boots of medieval sherifs and headmen and slaughtering *EACHOTHER* — knows enough *NOT* to harbor *ANYONE*, assist *ANYONE* who might even *THINK* of crossing us…that is U.S.

Sure, it’d be nice to leave a democratic nation in our wake…and it’s not bad there, in most of the country. The problem is that the problem isn’t entirely one taking place *IN* Iraq. It’s international, in nations which scream to be invaded, but nations we’ll never get around to because half of our electorate has been taken in by the Party of Treason. They don’t want a messy war. They can’t see beyond suppertime.

What we want is a Middle East which doesn’t respect, certainly doesn’t love, the US. We haven’t enough money for that. We should, however, bend every effort to ensure that we have a Middle East which *FEARS* the US…and Iraq is as good a place to start as any…

Once again…you don’t *END* wars, you either win them or lose them.

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 12:05 AM

…just wanted to save myself from having to type it all over again. After today’s tippy-tapping on this thread, my fingers are all rubbery….

Have to run, that damned Christmas tree isn’t going to buy itself. — honora

…good hunting…Merry and Happy Ramahanakwanzmus….

Puritan1648 on December 7, 2006 at 4:27 PM

the question is why could we negotiate with our enemies (i.e. Stalin and Mao circa Cold War) at one time, and yet be incapable of doing so now. Why would I suggest that Iran and Syria are comparable to WWII allies?

Your analogy is not apt. NOT APT I SAY. I know what Realpolitik (oooh multiple syllables) is. Realpolitik is Rumsfeld making nice with Saddam Hussein when Iran is a common enemy. But we do NOT share a common enemy with either Syria OR Iran. Neither want to see the insurgency defeated, they want it to WIN.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 7, 2006 at 4:29 PM

rplat
The Hamilton/Baker group is nothing more than a gaggle of ex-bureaucrats and politicians that simply refuse to go away.

Exactly!! I do not recall voting for these elitists to any office and find it offensive that GWB is even allowing them to form a commission in the first place.

We elected Bush W Bush not some committee to determine foreign policy.

I am sick and tired of these soft-bellied beltway geniuses from all political parties sending our youth to die when they lack the guts to stand with them and stay in the fight.

I could not agree more.

IMHO- The Iraq Study Group is a farce and sham for surrender for political expedience.

ScottyDog on December 7, 2006 at 6:12 PM

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