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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Everybody wants in on ignoring you

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 14th, 2006

Various news reports over the weekend seem to indicate that the Baker/Hamilton “Iraq Study Group” (ISG) brain trust is just about as clueless as the rest of us about what to do in Iraq, at least if “salvaging a bit of something for Bush’s legacy” is supposed to be part of the outcome. First there’s Reuel Marc Gerecht, who is an advisor to the ISG, but who outlines the available choices in a Wall Street Journal article as follows:

We either declare defeat and withdraw completely tout de suite, or we surge troops into Baghdad and fight. The ISG will surely try to find some middle ground between these positions, which, of course, doesn’t exist.

Warning of massive carnage if there’s a quick pullout, Gerecht apparently prefers to “surge” troops into Baghdad and fight, but what troops? And fight whom? Is he seriously proposing “Fallujahizing” Baghdad, too?

With that in mind, let’s hope this report in the Washington Post (“Panel May Have Few Good Options Left,” Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks) isn’t an actual reflection of what Democratic study group member Lee Hamilton or Democrats in general are hoping for (emphasis added):

While Baker has been testing the waters for some time to determine how much change in Iraq policy will be tolerated by the White House, Hamilton perhaps faces the now even-more-difficult challenge of cajoling Democrats such as former Clinton administration chief of staff Leon E. Panetta and power broker Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to sign on to a plan that falls short of a phased troop withdrawal, the position of many congressional Democrats. In a brief interview, Hamilton conceded the obstacles ahead and emphasized that no decisions have been made. “We need to get [the report] drafted, number one,” Hamilton said. “We need to reach agreement, and that may not be possible.”

As John Aravosis (“AMERICAblog”) says, for Democrats to suddenly sign on to half-measures that won’t work is insane. They should at least press for phased withdrawal — or nothing. No “surge into Baghdad,” no “let’s see how a conference with Iran and Syria goes and build on that.”

Why? (Other than that’s what they were elected for, that is?) Because otherwise they’re most likely stuck with something that only our failed executive branch is empowered to evaluate: military and/or diplomatic success. Short of the one thing Democratic leadership keeps saying is off the table — funding cuts for the war — they’ll have no options at all but to endure 2 years of “but you guys signed on to this too!” along with the familiar “look! it’s working! we painted another school and killed 5 more insurgents.”

Meanwhile, the ISG isn’t the only game in town; not surprisingly, the Pentagon wants in on the action of ignoring the 2006 election verdict on Iraq, too. (I wonder if this started before or after the top brass figured out or found out Rumsfeld was on his way out.) The Washington Post’s Anne Scott Tyson reports (“Pentagon to Reevaluate Strategy and Goals in Iraq“):

The Pentagon is conducting a major review of the military’s Iraq strategy to determine ‘what’s going wrong and should be changed’ to attain U.S. objectives in the war-torn country, the nation’s top general said yesterday.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, initiated the review this fall after starkly deteriorating security in Baghdad led commanders there to rule out any significant cut this year in the level of U.S. troops in Iraq — now at about 145,000 — according to senior defense officials and sources.[…]

Now there’s nothing wrong with reviewing options — unless it’s about elbowing pesky elected civilians out of the way (again, emphasis added):

Pace’s comments also could foreshadow a reassertion of influence by senior officers in the wake of this week’s resignation by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to military officers and analysts. Moreover, some military officers have voiced concern in recent days that if they do not assert a greater role in formulating a future course in Iraq, that course will be defined for them by the resurgence of congressional Democrats, many of whom favor a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Can’t have that.

Things in Iraq are going to hell in a handbasket, and that’s with maximum American involvement, probably in large part because of maximum American involvement, and to top it off an involvement that seems to serve our enemies’ purposes better than it does our own.

I’ve heard of a kind of monkey trap in which the monkey reaches into a tied-down can to grab a piece of fruit or a nut or something. In grasping the bait, the monkey’s hand makes a fist that can’t be pulled out of the can. It’s said that most monkeys don’t let go, and are trapped. Whether there’s anything to that story or not, Iraq is a similar “prize” for us; the sooner we let go, the better off we’ll be.

I’ve also heard that some leading Democrats in foreign policy circles are taking their eye off the ball and looking ahead to 2008 — as if any Democrat has a crystal ball that good, and as if Democrats have that long to make good on last week’s election. They need to help us let go of Iraq; the sooner, the better.

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NOTES: Gerecht via Laura Rozen (“War and Piece”).

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