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December 8, 2006
Perhaps Not Such A Hit At Home, Either

Earlier, I wrote that the Iraq Study Group proposal bombed with the nations most directly involved in its recommendations, especially with Iraqis. The report seemed to fare much better inside the Beltway, but it turns out that even there people question the report's policy recommendations:

Members of Congress yesterday questioned the practicability of recommendations from the Iraq Study Group about how to reverse the chaos in Iraq, but they praised the panel's stark assessment of conditions there. ...

Democrats were guarded in their treatment of the report, especially its call for engaging Syria and Iran in diplomacy. In comments after a hearing yesterday with the co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, Levin suggested that "there could be some kind of effort to generally support the recommendations."

But Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Armed Services panel quizzed former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) about specifics. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was the most dubious, singling out the group's decision not to call for sending more troops to Iraq. "I believe that this is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq," he said.

In fact, few saw any value at all in the central recommendations of the ISG, which argued for the creation of a regional conference of Iraq's neighbors -- excluding Israel -- and negotiations with Iran and Syria. A defensive James Baker insisted that the US should at least attempt to engage Iran, if for no other reason than to show the Iranians as "rejectionist". He and Lee Hamilton also took the opportunity to scold Congress for not doing enough to influence White House policy on Iraq.

Congress didn't buy any of their arguments. Some took the opportunity to use the hearings to score political points against the Bush administration, but that's both easy and pointless, since neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney will run for office again. Members of both parties made it clear, though, that any solution that relies on Iran and Syria to play a constructive role in ending terrorism is a fantasy doomed to failure.

Baker tried strenuously arguing that point, however. He claimed that the US successfully engaged Syria in 1990 to stay out of the Gulf War despite their being a terrorist state. What he failed to mention is that (a) they continued being a terrorist state, (b) they had their own issues with Saddam Hussein at the time, and (c) they clearly saw that the war would happen and that Iraq would lose it. We also applied enough pressure to get the Syrian Army to withdraw from Lebanon, and that's only because we had 140,000 troops next door. I don't think either the Syrians or the Iranians greatly fear being labeled as "rejectionists", whatever that means. They greatly fear getting their behinds kicked like Saddam experienced twice.

Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat from Hawaii and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, put it best. He called the ISG report "theater ... devoid of any basis in reality," and predicted disaster if anyone took it seriously enough to attempt its implementation.

George Bush apparently agrees. Despite his gracious reception of the report, he made clear yesterday that he wouldn't go hat in hand to terror-supporting states:

The emerging debate over the report sets a baseline for the administration's own internal review of Iraq policy, which officials hope to complete in time for Bush to give a speech to the nation before Christmas announcing his new plan for Iraq. At a news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush called himself "disappointed by the pace of success" and said that "we'll change it if we want to succeed."

"The American people expect us to come up with a new strategy to achieve the objective which I've been talking about," Bush said.

Yet, while the president called the Iraq Study Group's ideas "worthy of serious study," he seemed to dismiss the most significant ones point by point. He noted that Blair is heading to the Middle East to promote Arab-Israeli peace, but he gave no indication that he plans an aggressive new push of his own as proposed by the commission. Bush said he, too, wants to bring U.S. troops home but noted that the group qualified its 2008 goal by linking it to security on the ground.

And he repeated his refusal to talk with Iran and Syria unless Tehran suspends its uranium-enrichment program, Damascus stops interfering in Lebanon and both drop their support for terrorist groups. "The truth of the matter is that these countries have now got the choice to make," Bush said. "If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it's easy: Just make some decisions that will lead to peace, not to conflict."

It's hard to fight a war against radical Islamist terrorists when one is trying their best to kiss up to their biggest sponsors. That's something that James Baker, Lee Hamilton, and the rest of the ISG seem to have forgotten. Fortunately, Bush has not.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 8, 2006 5:55 AM

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