Thursday, December 07, 2006

More Reaction to Iraq Study Group

A helpful way to look at the report by the Iraq Study Group is to remember that it's essentially divided into two parts: first, an analysis of Bush's war in Iraq and then, second, recommendations about what to do. It's the analysis that gives Bush an F. The recommendations are a mixed bag but it's important to remember the caveat: there is only a chance of minimal success and only if all the recommendations are taken seriously by the Bush Administration; picking and choosing as if the recommendations are a menu like the memo that Rumsfeld provided a month ago will just be a waste of time.

Being the product of a bipartisan committee and given who the members are, the Baker report is far from perfect. But the report is better than anything official that has come out of Washington in six years. I've complained that the Bush Administration wants Americans to believe that 2+2=6 and the conventional wisdom in Washington is so used to splitting the difference that they're still willing to say 2+2=5. A way to see the Baker report, if the metaphor isn't taken too seriously, is that the analysis now says 2+2=4.25 and the recommendations are saying 2+2=4.75; the entire report repeatedly implies the failure of Bush's policies. Given the recent poor performance in Washington by so many different groups, particularly the Republican Congress, that is a vast improvement towards bringing accountability to Bush's foreign policy.

One of the better roundups of media articles on the Iraq Study Group can be found at Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing; here's some excerpts:
For six years, President Bush and his aides have so brilliantly exploited the bully pulpit of the White House that it was easy to forget that there were any other pulpits at all in this town.

That allowed the president to proselytize his world view, repeatedly and without effective objection, even when it didn't conform with reality.

Yesterday's blazing hot media focus elsewhere -- on the highly critical bipartisan Iraq Study Group -- marked a restoration of reality in Washington.

(snip)

Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks write in The Washington Post...

"From the very first page, in which co-chairmen James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton scold that 'our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people,' the bipartisan report is nothing less than a repudiation of the Bush administration's diplomatic and military approach to Iraq and to the whole region. . . ."

(snip)

Carolyn Lochhead writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Naked reality came crashing down on the Bush administration Wednesday as the Iraq Study Group issued its long-awaited recommendations in a last-ditch effort to stave off a 'catastrophe' in Iraq and the Middle East.

"Unlike the posturing and obfuscations that the administration and many in Congress have engaged in since the war began more than 3 1/2 years ago, the elder statesmen of the bipartisan commission spoke with frank clarity of a 'grave and deteriorating' situation and an arduous path forward that could yet fail."

Admittedly, the Iraq Study Group essentially suggest that we should try one more time. That has been suggested by others every three to six months for the last three years. Americans are understandably beyond impatience, myself included. But the ISG is specific about limiting the try and, for the first time, we have a proposal that states frankly that the odds of success at this point are poor. The reality is that if the presidential elections were next year instead of two years from now, there would be no talk of one last try.

Regardless of how Bush responds to the report, it's now clear for everyone to see that his policies are a failure and that he has nothing new or useful to offer the American people. The news is that the radical agenda by right wing Republicans is dead and repudiated and it's no longer just Democrats saying that. But Bush is still in power and Republicans in Congress can still sustain his veto but there is nothing left for them to do but to help clean up the mess. Depending on the stubbornness of the president as well as the stubbornness of his supporters in Congress, this could take six months to start winding down or another thirty months, or something in between. But make no mistake: a reckless and incompetent president is being reined in. There are no guarantees though. The damage the president has done is enormous.

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