Friday, December 08, 2006

Larry Wilkerson on the Iraq Study Group

Larry Wilkerson worked as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell. He has intimate knowledge of how the Bush Administration works. His article appears in the New York Daily News; here are some points he makes (hat tip to White House Briefing):
Jam-packed as the ISG's report is with recommendations and assessments, it is not a panacea for what ails the Bush administration. Even if its recommendations are spot-on, even if the President accepted every detail, there is not the requisite diplomatic skill and expertise within this national leadership to pull it off.


Capable, risk-taking, bold and decisive leadership - leadership that does nuance and not simply black and white - as well as consummate diplomatic skills at key junctures are absolutely necessary to carry out such efforts.

This leadership and these skills do not reside in the current administration, even with the addition of the new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.


And then there is the vice president. How to circumvent him and his minions? It seems an impossible undertaking. With 88 people working directly for him on his own personal staff - an unprecedented number - and others strategically placed throughout the federal bureaucracy, Cheney is a formidable force. Isolated by the President or not, he can still wreak havoc... ...

Wilkerson says we have betrayed the Iraqis and that the ISG report is wrong to blame them. He's essentially right on the analysis. In some respects, the ISG report gives Bush some political cover, but only if he changes his policy and implements the major recommendations, the most important one being the need to deal diplomatically with the surrounding nations.

And of course, Wilkerson is spot on when he points out that even if the Bush Administration accepts all the recommendations of the ISG report, it doesn't necessarily have the competence to implement the recommendations. In fact, the real problem facing the United States is the breakdown of our foreign policy under Bush. We can't help the Iraqis or anyone else or even ourselves until repairs are made to the policy and the staffing.

If Bush decides to change course, he can cut Cheney down to size, ask for several more resignations and bring in highly qualified people, including experienced diplomatic envoys, to implement a number of important changes; he won't win the war but he can begin to clean up the mess and repair our foreign policy.

Let there be no doubt: our country has been in a constitutional crisis for more than a year (longer if we include the lying that got us into the Iraq war). The Republican-controlled Congress has done nothing to deal with the crisis; Republicans just assumed Bush had the Republican majority locked up, but the American people have informed them otherwise.

If Bush decides to remain stubborn, there will be a continuing effort to limit what he can do and the pressure on him will grow. The longer Bush remains defiant, the deeper the constitutional crisis will grow. In reality, the crisis could last all the way to January of 2009, or longer, but let's hope ways can be found to keep our country and our foreign policy from drifting for the next two years.

Democrats will do what they can but their majority in Congress is slender; the institution of the legislative branch has also been damaged in the last twelve years. The key is how much longer Republicans in the House and Senate wish to prolong the crisis. Given that most Republicans are nearly as ultraconservative as the president, it's not certain what will happen.

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