Ok…I have had some time to digest The Iraq Study Group report and my considered opinion is that it is worthless, outside of a total repudiation of the Bush execution of this war of choice. If you are one of those few that still harbor some hope that magic is possible in Iraq then this report may come as a shock. We now have it confirmed by “experts” that "Stay the Course" is a massive failure and that Iraq is all but lost. The report’s purpose, which was to legitimize “Official Washington” inside the belt-line opinion and reconcile it with the rest of the countries’, is now complete.
You would think though, that with all the time on their hands the “experts” on the panel would have helped us understand how Iraq fits into the big picture. How does continuing the course in Iraq impact our national security? While the report does touch on how serious the Israel/Palestine conflict is and the need for the U.S. to engage countries in the region it doesn't address how our global foreign policy is affected or how the Iraq war has damaged our international legitimacy and our long-term national security. The only acceptable aspect of the report is that it confirms and legitimizes what we on the progressive, anti-war left have been saying for years not because it's anything new or especially insightful.
What is difficult to understand is whether the ISG report represents merely incompetence or just a lack of courage on the part of Baker and Hamilton. I had mistakenly understood the purpose of the report as an effort to put a fresh set of eyes and brains on the problem and define the current situation in Iraq, its impact on our global position and then how to best move forward. As I suspected, we have been sorely used once again. Everything about the report is merely political positioning and a hackneyed attempt by the current ruling elite to make whatever solution the best “political” solution. They seem to give a whit about the fact that on the day they released the report 10 American soldiers died in Iraq.
Instead of looking at the disaster in Iraq through the clear lens of reality and then letting the observations drive the conclusions they fell back on the political. They didn’t make the hard decisions that are required by this debacle and instead addressed the political positions and potential political ramifications of the various options. Instead of offering the best solution or options they chose to offer what they thought would be most politically saleable. Instead of just telling us the truth and spreading a clear and understandable picture of the situation for all of us to see they chose political expediency. These “experts” took eight months to tell us what we all already knew…Iraq is a mess and as Al Gore says the “the worst strategic disaster in American history”.
Finally, if it’s hollowness and political “chicken dancing” were not enough the report has no muscles. Because it is a product of political pressures and not reality it is spineless. Bush and Cheney can now just cherry pick the least politically onerous parts and create some hybridized version that let’s them do what they want and still claim that they are adhering to the report. If you need any proof of exactly how Bush is going to respond to this report I only have to point toward the 9/11 Commission Report. If you’ll remember, the Bush administration resisted the commission until they had no choice and then picked pieces from it while ignoring the most important suggestions and now claim to have implemented it. This is a precedent I fully expect to be followed in this case.
Here we are again. We have waited 8 months for this report and once again we are left with nothing but essentially a political “chicken dance”. Bush and Cheney will do exactly what they want under the cover of this report and what we will have is essentially “Stay the Course” redux. What we have witnessed is an exercise in what is known as “Turd Polishing”.
UPDATE: Here is what Russ Feingold has to say about the report.
The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report. Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened - that's fairly accurate - but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq. This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.I rest my case.