A Bump In The Road
"Jim Baker can go back to his day job."
--White House reaction to the Baker/Hamilton report
While Bush and Tony Blair continue with the same script, there’s another analysis that despite the efforts by Baker and Hamilton to throw their gravitas and wisdom around, the military thinks their report is garbage:
The military recommendations issued yesterday by the Iraq Study Group are based more on hope than history and run counter to assessments made by some of its own military advisers.
Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has struggled in vain to tamp down the violence in Iraq and to build up the capacity of Iraq’s security forces. Now the study group is positing that the United States can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three.
In essence, the study group is projecting that a rapid infusion of American military trainers will so improve the Iraqi security forces that virtually all of the American combat brigades may be withdrawn by the early part of 2008.
“By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq,” the study group says.
Jack Keane, the retired acting Army chief of staff who served on the group’s panel of military advisers, described that goal as entirely impractical. “Based on where we are now we can’t get there,” General Keane said in an interview, adding that the report’s conclusions say more about “the absence of political will in Washington than the harsh realities in Iraq.”
Ah yes, we are back to that usual Vietnam-era canard: blame the politicians and the public for Donald Rumsfeld’s mistakes. But what if it is true, what if there is no way militarily for us to withdraw in the next 24 months and see a somewhat stable Iraq? This would mean that the Baker/Hamilton report is nothing more than what some of us originally suspected it was, a political roadmap to remove Iraq as an albatross to the party in 2008, and not a well-grounded and comprehensive strategy for Iraq’s future.
It would also mean that Bush and Cheney are right in their own twisted way: they have screwed up Iraq and the region so badly that there is no way we can leave during their term without throwing the country and its neighbors into a vortex of destruction for the next decade.
So what do the Democrats do? Pressing for an immediate redeployment runs contrary to the report and the prevailing military assessments. Allowing the White House to dictate policy rewards failure. Accepting the Baker/Hamilton suggestions run contrary to the realities on the ground. Using the Biden and Levin hearings to chart a course somewhere between the Baker/Hamilton report and a 24-month commitment to increasing Baghdad security while improving the ability of Iraqi security forces to fight an insurgency is a middle course, but it begs two key questions:
1. Should the Democrats propose an alternative(s) at all, or hang this around the necks of the wise men Joe Lieberman and John McCain?
2. Why commit to anything militarily until the Iraqis and their neighbors demonstrate their political will to address what is fueling the violence?
Clearly the White House, and its war supporters Lieberman and McCain have little use for the report, and want to increase our military commitment in Iraq to blunt Iran, while showing little appetite for the political steps necessary in the region. And the military and outside experts are dismissing the report already on security grounds. Should the Democrats simply hold the administration accountable through the hearings for adherence to a flawed report while supporting what the military needs (and making Bush pay for it)? And while they are at it, perhaps the Democrats should focus some of their heat at the Iraqis, who don’t seem willing to take the obvious steps of getting the country’s religious leaders to call for a sectarian cease-fire until the Americans and Sunnis can eliminate the Al Qaeda threat.