Well, mighty Melhicans, I've finally had a chance to read the Iraq Study Group Report and it's time to rip that sucker apart, piece by piece. Unfortunately, as much as I'd desperately love to, I don't have access to any actual White House security cam footage to entertain you with video of the Prez doing just that amid what was surely the biggest tantrum ever thrown in the White House.
Before I get into the 79 recommendations (btw, this will have to be a multi-part series hobbled together as I can snag a moment of free time here and there) I want to share with you my knee jerk reaction to the overall document. Like most of you, I saw a LOT of media coverage of the report prior to getting a chance to read it, myself.
Considering the unanimous media opinion that it was a hard hitting, straight shooting, no holds barred, blunt-object-whack at the Prez, I was expecting it to be one of the (if not THE) most scathing indictment of the President, by anyone, to date. Perhaps my expectations colored my reaction, but I was sorely disappointed. The (to my eye) blatantly purposeful use of passive voice to soft peddle the critique and spoon feed it to the adminionstration made me want to gag. The time for molly coddling this President has long since passed and should never have existed. He's a grown man and sitting President, for criminy sake, not a cranky child who's fretting in public and needs to be gently reminded of his surroundings and manners! Now... on to the recommendations...
R1: Implement the new diplomatic offensive before Jan. 31 of this year
Whether you think implementing it, at all, is good strategy, you have to admit that this recommendation beats the hell out of having Bush show up in Iraq in a Santa suit, dragging an open (but unused) parachute behind him, for a photo-op with the troops.
R2-iii: Secure Iraq's borders
Before this report launches into the group's recommendations, it discusses the many problems with the President's handling of the war, including the rapid decline of support among Americans and the need to turn that red, white and blue frown upside down. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm thinking that spending our hard earned tax dollars and indebting ourselves even more severely to foreign crowns to secure Iraq's borders -- which were secure until we laid them open, while leaving our own borders wide open and unprotected might not be conducive to bolstering public support for Bushie's Botched Folly.
R3: Get the Iraqis, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference together in the same room to discuss coming together to suppot the newly installed Iraqi government that most of them are already trying very hard (and succeeding) to undermine.
Ohhh Kay. Um... if this sounds like a trick to ME... Seriously, while the opposite is normally true, this may be the ONE and ONLY meeting of foreign leaders & diplomats that Bush would HAVE to attend, in person, for anyone to show up.
R4: Establish an Iraq International Support Group
I don't really have a comment on this one, mainly because I just don't see it happening regardless of whether it would be a good or a bad thing. I just wish I'd been there to witness Georgie's reaction when he read this one, because you KNOW what HE thought this meant!! (I feel sorry for the people who have to explain these things to him -- the desire to eff with his mind must be overwhleming.)
R5: "The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself Other countries—for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea..."
Take a moment. Re-read the list of nations in the recommendation... really read it... now just ponder on the realities involved in this recommendation for a moment. (I'll wait.) OK, NOW you know why I don't see this support group thing coming together anytime soon. It would be nice if it could come together and could succeed, but... going back to what we're sure Bush thought was meant by "support group," the world isn't a warm fuzzy waiting for an excuse to happen... it's somewhat more complicated than that and some of those complications run pretty damned deep. Our blatant and arrogant lack of respect for those complications is part of what got us into this mess in the first place... it sure as Hell isn't going to get us out of it.
R6: The Secretary of State or the President should lead the U.S.'s diplomatic offensive effort
Whoa... hold up a minute! I thought this report rather established that their leadership is what led us so far down the path to chaos and that these two couldn't lead a snipe hunt expedition (aka "the search for WMDs) without screwing it up, much less anything of international importance.
R7: The UN Secretary General should designate a special envoy to carry out his work in regards to the diplomatic offensive.
Hey, now here's an idea! Maybe we could appoint a special envoy to lead the US effort, made up of people who have at least half a clue what they're doing, instead of putting Condi and/or Bush in charge.
R8: "...develop specific approaches to neighboring countries that take into account the interests, perspectives, and potential contributions..." "The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya."
If bribing them doesn't win their support, we can always go back to the old standby of punishing those nations who don't see things our way. I'm being snide because I'm a realist. The talks would not consist of balancing interests or bringing these nations to the table, as equals, to fascilitate a cooperative effort toward devising strategies and solutions and a course of action that is equitable to all. It would involve bringing them to our table, as nations of the free world WE lead and selling the strategies, solutions and course of action we devised without their input and fully intend to implement with or without their participation, cooperation or support.
I'll save the other recommendations for future installments, to be posted as I find the time and inclination.
Lest I've made it seem as though I believe otherwise, let me very clear: We DO need a new plan. That's not an opinion, it's a fact.
I'm not sure if this is the plan we need or not -- but I can say with full confidence that it's a damned sight better than the plan we've been working with, to date. (Which seems to consist, primarily, of pretending there's a plan.)
What I want done, TODAY, is for the Bush adminionstration to define "victory" in regards to Iraq by spelling out, clearly, the specific objectives that must be achieved for us to declare "victory" and exactly how we will measure whether those objectives have been achieved. We're paying for this mess -- with what will be multiple generations of our tax dollars, with the ceding of power to foreign debtors, with the lives and limbs of our sons and daughters serving in Iraq, etc. We can't even begin to hope to devise any workable strategy, either on our own or in concert with the other nations of the world, until that question is answered.
THAT is the first reality that must be dealt with -- until it is, we're just talking about stepping forward on a treadmill.