Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report

Not much new here. I've just read it and find very little of consequence beyond what has already been floating around. I do like the report for it's candor in pointing out the issues and complicated environment in Iraq. Something that the nay sayers of the present policies seem to constantly deny. I haven't read any commentary on it yet. I'll do that after writing this.

The political reactions to this are rather telling though. Most of the things I've read indicate that the Dems think this is a complete vindication of their contentions that the Iraq policy is a failure. I don't see that at all. From what I have gleaned it looks like the group pretty much states that both sides of the debate have been off the mark.
“Their report underscores the message the American people sent one month ago: there must be change in Iraq, and there is no time to lose,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who will become the Democratic majority leader in the new Congress. “It is time for the Iraqis to build and secure their nation, and it is time for American combat troops to be redeployed.”
Interesting. The report definitely doesn't say that. This is the classical cut-and-run doctrine or what the report defines as "Precipitate Withdrawal."
Because of the importance of Iraq, the potential for catastrophe, and the role and commitments of the United States in initiating events that have led to the current situation, we believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitate withdrawal of troops and support. A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.
The report also addresses the "staying-the-course" method as well.
Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost. Nearly 100 Americans are dying every month. The United States is spending $2 billion a week. Our ability to respond to other international crises is constrained. A majority of the American people are soured on the war. This level of expense is not sustainable over an extended period, especially when progress is not being made. The longer the United States remains in Iraq without progress, the more resentment will grow among Iraqis who believe they are subjects of a repressive American occupation. As one U.S. official said to us, “Our leaving would make it worse. . . . The current approach without modification will not make it better.”
The major problem with this whole debate has always been the difference between tactics and strategy. Cut-and-Run is an alteration in strategy. Staying-the-Course is another strategy, which to the politicos has been a complete denial that the military has been making tactical changes all along. This report in fact can be viewed as using the Stay-the-Course strategy while specifying desirable alterations in tactics.
The use of the “stay the course” phrase by Mr. Baker, who was secretary of state under President Bush’s father, could hardly have been accidental, given his background in Washington, and critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy were sure to take advantage of it.

“The Iraq Study Group report represents another blow at the policy of ‘stay the course’ that this administration has followed,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who will become its chairman in the new Congress. “The American people rose up again staying the course in Iraq, because the course is not working.”

That does irritate me. The fact that Stay-the-Course is a quoted term, but they chose to avoid the Cut-and-Run term strikes me as inconsistent with staying out of the politics.

Back to the politicos:
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called the report “a lifeline of opportunity for this president.”

“If he takes it, there’s a chance we can find a new, bipartisan way forward, a chance that Iraq one day might be a place of stability rather than a failed state with warring factions, a chance that the entire Middle East won’t descent into conflagration and violence, a chance that our troops can be redeployed rather than mired in a civil war,” Ms. Feinstein said.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said he hoped the president would read the report. “I hope that he will talk to people who are willing to disagree with him and not just those who will say everything he’s doing is right,” Mr. Leahy said.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said, “This may be the last, best chance we have to get it right in Iraq.” He added that the replacement of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld with Robert M. Gates could be crucial in carrying out the study group’s recommendations.
This all sounds drastically like the Dems, and probably the Repubs in congress, want to decide the tactics for the theater. As I've stated before, this is a big mistake. Letting politicians make these decisions can have drastic consequences. Strategy is just fine, they can go on about the parts regarding political solutions and economic solutions, but when it comes down to how the military should fight or police, that should be left to those who know what they are doing.
But Democratic reaction was not unanimously favorable. “Unfortunately, the Iraq Study Group report does too little to change the flawed mind-set that led to the misguided war in Iraq,” said Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin. “We need an Iraq policy that is guided by our top national security priority — defeating the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11 and its allies.”
This guys going to run for President? Jackass. Why would they delve into the the mind-set that initiated the conflict? Has nothing to do with finishing the conflict. And with his obvious failure to realize that Iraq is now truly a theater in the GWOT, I think he's proven himself to be a complete dolt.

Not all talking dolts were from the left:
A prominent Senate Republican praised the study group’s findings. “The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq,” said Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. “It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and regionwide diplomacy and engagement.

“The president and Congress now must work together to frame a new policy that will allow the United States to leave Iraq and the Iraqi people to make their own decisions as to their future,” Mr. Hagel said.
Really? Hmmm. I must of missed where the military policing and combat of terrorist and insurgent groups stopped being part of the solution.

As for the Iraqi people making the decisions, that is true, but the US has to still be present to help them stabilize. John Gibson on Fox tried to pull that argument pushing to the point that if Iraq fails it will be the Iraqi's fault. Completely missing the point that it also will be our fault and that the consequences are substantial. The report goes into a discussion of that as well. See section B "Consequences of Continued Decline in Iraq."

This article has more politicos shooting their mouths off, and my favorite will now be quoted:
"The verdict is in," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "There can no longer be any doubt that the violence and chaos in Iraq are getting worse, that our current strategy is failing, and that we need to work together on a new strategy that will make it possible for us to bring our troops home. The only question is whether the White House will heed this clarion call and agree to change the perilous course we have been on in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell and the chaos began."
Yep, Teddy-the-Clueless spouts off and shows he's clueless. I'd love to ask him if he thinks we should put Saddam back in power. Juxtapostioning Saddam's regime with the current chaos is astoundingly stupid. They may be killing each other, but in fact far more of Iraq is free and secure than they were under Saddam. The may be messing up their new found freedom in many places, but they have something that they didn't have under Saddam.

The report does have many good changes in tactics for the military, and some for strategic change for political and economic progress. Not much different than was listed by the Rumsfeld memo though. A bit disappointing on that level.

The report does stand against more troops in Iraq. I'm not sure I agree completely with that.
Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation. A senior American general told us that adding U.S. troops might temporarily help limit violence in a highly localized area. However, past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area. As another American general told us, if the Iraqi government does not make political progress, “all the troops in the world will not provide security.” Meanwhile, America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence. Increased deployments to Iraq would also necessarily hamper our ability to provide adequate resources for our efforts in Afghanistan or respond to crises around the world.
I do believe that a temporary surge in some key areas would be helpful. I'm not going to the McCain level of adding another 100,000 troops, but maybe a smaller number to address some of the exceptionally bad sectors and put them under saturation patrols for long enough to get the policing efforts and political efforts into play.

The partitioning of Iraq is also addressed.
The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high. Because Iraq’s population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn. All eighteen Iraqi provinces have mixed populations, as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions. Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, told us that such a division would confirm wider fears across the Arab world that the United States invaded Iraq to weaken a strong Arab state.

While such devolution is a possible consequence of continued instability in Iraq, we do not believe the United States should support this course as a policy goal or impose this outcome on the Iraqi state. If events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence, and minimize regional instability. The United States should support as much as - possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues.
Other sections of the report also address the consequences of division including ethnic and sectarian cleansing.

I have to say that I would have thought they would have called for more assistance from Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They go on about Syria and Iran. Iran they seem to write off as not likely to be of any assistance. The interview I saw with Baker and Hamilton seemed to be very enthusiastic about Syria. Though the benefit to Syria to assist the US seems to be mainly getting back the Golan Heights. Seems to me that Israel should have been consulted on the viability of that plan, and I haven't found anything that indicates that they were. I think Saudi Arabia could be a big help with the Sunni factions since there is a large Sunni presence and power in Saudi Arabia. The problem is, I don't know how much of assistance they could be, since they have issues with those Sunni groups being major supporters of terrorism.

Syrian involvement is all over the report. I'm just not sure how that can be worked out. Maybe we can enlist Baker in making a go at that.

Too many talking points in the report overall, so just go read it for yourself.

No comments: