While the Iraq Study Group report has been helpful in calming some of the more elaborate hallucinations of our psychotic political discourse, it may well have had a counterproductive effect on the underlying delusions. The first half of the report, the assessment of the current situation, dumped a tankful of ice water on the proposition that any sort of "progress" was being made in Iraq, or that something that might be called "victory" was in sight.
However the second half, the recommendations, were clearly tucked and trimmed to be politically acceptable in Washington, and that means that they make no sense and are not connected to the reality depicted in the first half. Sure, some of the ideas about looking at the problem regionally and talking with members of the new, improved and expanded Axis of Evil were constructive (and bound to be rejected by Emperor Chimpoleon), but the core of the proposal, redoubling the investment in the Iraqi security services, is nothing but a proposal to fill the fire tanker with kerosene. The same goes for the proposal, equally acceptable it seems to the ISG and to Harry Reid, to "temporarily" increase the size of the occupation force.
Here's the NYT today, on the Pentagon quarterly report on the situation in Iraq:
The new report, completed last month, noted two parallel trends.
On the one hand, the Iraqi security forces are larger than ever, with 322,600 Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other troops, an increase of 45,000 since August. Iraqi forces also have increasingly taken the lead responsibility in many areas.
The growth in Iraqi capabilities, however, has been matched by increasing violence. That raises the question of whether the American strategy to rely on the Iraqi forces to tamp down violence is failing, at least in the short term.
The Bush administration has decided to step up substantially the effort to train and equip the Iraqi forces. A major question being pondered by Mr. Bush is whether that is sufficient, or whether more American troops are needed in Baghdad to control the violence and stabilize the city.
Hmm. Here's a syllogism for you:
Proposition 1: Iraqi security forces are bigger than ever.
Proposition 2: There is more violence than ever.
Try this, from the International Crisis Group:
[C]ontrary to the Baker-Hamilton report’s suggestion, the Iraqi government and security forces cannot be treated as privileged allies to be bolstered; they are simply one among many parties to the conflict. The report characterises the government as a “government of national unity” that is “broadly representative of the Iraqi people”: it is nothing of the sort. It also calls for expanding forces that are complicit in the current dirty war and for speeding up the transfer of responsibility to a government that has done nothing to stop it. The only logical conclusion from the report’s own lucid analysis is that the government is not a partner in an effort to stem the violence, nor will strengthening it contribute to Iraq’s stability.
I was listening to the On Point program last night on NPR, where they had Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, who styles himself a military historian, arguing in favor of the "surge" of additional troops into Iraq. His core rationale, from memory but only mildly paraphrased: "There is a real enemy there. There are evil people who will do bad things if we don't stop them."
Yes, there are evil people in Iraq. As a matter of fact, there are bad, evil people all over the place, including in the White House. But the solution to the existence of evil in the world is not, I am sorry to have to report, the U.S. Army.
The White House occupant actually met with one of those bad, evil Iraqis just a couple of weeks ago, Abdul Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who in that meeting declared his undying love for the occupation and begged to allow the Iraqi security forces to be turned loose against the "insurgency."
As it happens, the head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, the only effective humanitarian operation in that country right now, complained just last week that the U.S. military frequently obstructed its operations, and he noted that the insurgents, being Iraqis and concerned about the welfare of the people in the regions they control, were more accomodating. Two days later, Iraqi soldiers from the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Mr. Hakim, and who are actually members of his private army called the Badr Brigade, showed up at Red Crescent headquarters and abducted half of the staff. The Red Crescent got the message. They have now shut down operations in the capital.
But it is precisely the Democrats in Congress and the liberal pundits who endorse giving Mr. Hakim more soldiers, more weapons, more equipment, more logistical support, and more training, on the theory that this will solve the problems in Iraq.
Here's what "we" must do. We must leave. There is a plausible exit strategy: Climb onto trucks; drive south; wave goodbye on the way.
The International Crisis Group has a number of other very good recommendations about creating a regional suppport group, enforcing equitable distribution of oil revenues among Iraq's various ethnic and confessional groups, etc., but there is no chance in the world the Bush administration will go along with any of that because it requires giving up ambitions to dominate the region and conceding the Middle East to the Middle Easterners.
It might save us a trillion dollars or so, but on the other hand it might not be the best thing for Dick Cheney's pals in the oil business. Still, a fair enough trade in my view.