December 6, 2006

Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei

Hatched by Dafydd

This is the continuation of the previous post about the Iraq Study Group's final report....

(The report itself, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, can be found here.)

Watcha gonna do about me?

Or us, actually; by "us," I mean "US," of course... what is the U.S.'s role in creating "national reconciliation" in Iraq? Here is how the commission steps into the fray:

The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is a key topic of interest in a national reconciliation dialogue. The point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose. The point is for the United States and Iraq to make clear their shared interest in the orderly departure of U.S. forces as Iraqi forces take on the security mission. A successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.

Again, not bad as a principle; implementing it won't be a piece of pudding, however, as we have to balance the effects on all the different groups in Iraq of a United States threat to leave: such a threat might be effective on moderate Sunni and Shiite groups, who understand the fragility of the newborn democracy; but Sunni terrorists and Shiite militias would both love for us to leave -- for the former, because of the chaos this would cause, allowing Iraq to become like Sudan; and for the latter, because they could embark upon a Hitlerian "final solution" to the Sunni question.

I don't agree with the second part of recommendation 35; here is the explanation that precedes it (the recommendation itself is just to implement this explanation):

Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a highlevel American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders. The United Nations can help facilitate contacts.

I believe that here, James Baker has allowed his Realist bias towards negotiation -- which always requires at least two negotiating partners -- to cloud the obvious (to me) judgment that Muqtada Sadr is no more a negotiating partner than was Yassir Arafat, or than is al-Qaeda today; the actual recommendation specifically excludes talking with al-Qaeda... I would do the same for Sadr. In addition to being a bloodthirsty butcher who has nothing constructive to add to any "national reconciliation," he is also a paid agent of Iran; in other words, he is a traitor to his country and the catspaw of Teheran.

Instead of talking to him, we should simply kill him and the entire inner cadre of the Mahdi Militia.

Killing Sadr (and his butt monkeys) would go a long way towards ending Iran's easy access to the Iraqi parliament; it would send a message to the mullahs (the only kind they understand); and once the dust settles, it would dramatically improve chances of a true national reconciliation.

After that point, it would make sense to "talk directly... to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders." To quote the thoroughly unquotable Arafat, "of course you make peace with your enemies; you can't make peace with your friends. With my friends, I make business!"

Recommendation 38 -- that we allow "neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" -- is a sin; but it's a venial one. They will of course interfere with necessary military action, but I doubt they can interfere very much.

Withdrawal from fancies of withdrawal

The most important thing in the ISG report is the thing that wasn't in the ISG report, the dog that didn't bark, as Sherlock Holmes noted: the complete lack of any demand for any significant immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

-- Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur, "Silver Blaze," the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1893.

Originally, a couple of months ago, the Democrats were jubilant (and many conservatives bitter and despairing) at the widely reported claim that the ISG report was going to call for a phased withdrawal of troops to begin immediately, lending an air of authority to the Democrats' campaign promise. But when we read the actual report itself, we discover that once again, the Democrats have been betrayed by their own supposed informants on the committee (mostly likely Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta). In the end, this is what the report says:

While [the national reconciliation] process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.

Most of this is straight out of the Bush administration's playbook. The ISG recommends embeds in all Iraqi Army units, all the way down to company level. How many soldiers do they envision doing this?

Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role. This increase in imbedded troops could be carried out without an aggregate increase over time in the total number of troops in Iraq by making a corresponding decrease in troops assigned to U.S. combat brigades.

The Pentagon report is likely to recommend something substantially similar, though they may also want to use U.S. troops more directly to disrupt violence in places like Anbar and Baghdad provinces... a possibilty that the ISG report itself raises, if done on a temporary basis. (Everything is "on a temporary basis;" Bush certainly doesn't contemplate leaving 150,000 troops in Iraq for the next thirty years!)

The report does, of course, recommend an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces; but that too has been our policy from the very beginning; this is nothing new. The ISG is looking at a timeframe of about a year and a half:

While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

About the only thing the Democrats get out of this is a little bit of face saving: they can say to their constituents, "see? We did get at least some defeatism into the thing... don't hate us!"

As far as capping overall force level, Newsweek reports today that the man incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) appointed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%), wants to significantly increase the level of American troops in Iraq to squash the militias, and has explicitly allied himself with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) on this issue:

In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”

Given that Silvestre echos the views of "experts" that the Democrats themselves trotted out during the election, such as Gen. Eric Shinseki, it will be very easy for Bush to accept the recommendation of more embeds -- but to do so via an increase of the force level, rather than holding it steady, as the ISG suggested.

Even the ISG itself recognizes the possible need for a short-term "surge" of U.S. forces to stabilize Iraq:

We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.

(Pulling together the views of Rep. Silvestre, Gen. Shinseki, Gen. Pace, and the unanimous report of the Iraq Survey Group, President Bush can call the troop increase an act of "national reconciliation" for the United States!)

And what will the slow, steady reduction of forces, which has been the policy of the Bush administration from the very beginning, leave us in the region? From the ISG report:

At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue [oh, is that all?]. Intelligence and support efforts would continue [ah, there we go -- the last two components!]. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan.

By the way, for those who thought the ISG would demand we hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria, the report envisions four "missions" for the remaining U.S. forces; three are just what you would expect -- but here is number four:

Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.

Sounds good to me!

There follows a long list of recommendations for the repair and maintenance of equipment (and troops) as they return from Iraq, and for continued training of U.S. forces back home. I have no objection.

The police are there to preserve disorder!"

Much of the foregoing has been acceptable but not particularly helpful (not unhelpful either); its only utility is in the many cases of a Bush-administration policy that Congress was loathe to fund, but whose prospects will rise now that Bush can wave the ISG report in their faces and threaten to denounce them as refusing to follow it (that's a congressional disincentive).

But here's a suggestion that I think is actually innovative and a great idea: the ISG recommends that the Iraqi National Police and the Border Police shift from the Interior Ministry to Defense.

The Ministry of the Interior is riddled with corruption and Shiite sectarianism, and its has repeatedly been accused -- with a great deal of justification -- of running death squads out of police stations and filling the police ranks with boatloads of Mahdi Militia and Badr Brigades members. Contrariwise, the Defense Ministry has done a much better job with the Iraqi Army, which the police agencies would thus join as paramilitaries.

Most Sunnis trust the army far more than they trust the police; and even the Shia admit that the army has been fair, even when it fights against the militias. Removing the national cops from the dreaded Ministry of the Interior is an inspired stroke which can only have come from the mind of commissioner Ed Meese.

Left to Interior would be control of local (not national) police, prosecutions and investigations, and payroll for all the police, including those transferred to the operational control of the Ministry of Defense.

Other than this one new idea, the ISG proposes only that current Bush administration programs to train, embed with, reform, and improve the technological capabilities of the Iraqi police forces should continue, harder and faster.

The last 18 of the total 79 recommendations are technical suggestions relating to the Oil Ministry, to American intelligence collection and analysis (such as hiring more people who speak Arabic and retaining analysts who have studied the Iraq insurgency, terrorist groups, and militias), and to budgeting for the war; you're not particularly interested in any of them. (And if you really are, they start on page 83 of the document, 101 of the PDF.)

Hey, Big Lizards reads these things so you don't have to!

"And in conclusion..." whereupon thunderous applause spontaneously erupts

The most important point I want to make is the one that I suspect nobody else will make: the tone of the report. There is very little hectoring in the second section; it's all confined to the first one, which is why I opined (all right, a bit tongue in cheek) that the Assessment section was the one written by the Democrats.

In fact, throughout the operative section, the Way Forward, the ISG assumes that the purpose of the report is to suggest ways to win in Iraq... if by "win" we mean establishing a stable democracy in Iraq that has the military, police, and judicial strength to crush al-Qaeda, disband the militias, and pull together as a coherent national unit.

Even when they drift into Realist fancies and follies, such as the useless blathering on and on about "regional conferences" and "international dialogs" and "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings," it's quite clear that the ultimate purpose is not to transition Iraq to a dictatorship with "our own guy" planted on the throne, as I was afraid it might be, given James Baker's political leanings.

This ISG report will never be mistaken for something Henry Kissinger could have written.

It recommends an initial period of no reductions in force, but a shifting of priorities in the direction that the Bush administration has said all along it wants to go, but which it hasn't really done enough of yet. Even there, the report itself recognizes that there might be advantages -- political as well as military -- to a temporary bump, or "surge," of American muscle... a sentiment that is shared by powerful voices as diverse as the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the former Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Thus, the defeatist Democrats will almost certainly be stymied in their long dream of an immediate "redeployment" of U.S. troops to next-door Okinawa.

There are a few recommendations that are actually interesting, notably the notion that the Iraqi national cops be shifted from Interior to Defense and made a part of the Iraqi Army. And a lot of technical recommendations that look good, and which the Bush administration has tried to get for a long time now, but which the parsimonious (when it comes to defense and intelligence) Democrats have thwarted -- including more spending on reconstruction, on the military, and on the clandestine agencies, and an almost Rumsfeldian reorganization of the latter.

The focus on useless diplomacy will eat up a lot of the brainpower and company time of the liberals and internationalists, while the rest of the country gets on with the business of winning the war and rebuilding Iraq in a stable, functioning democracy.

All in all, if you can ignore the smarmy and offensive lecturing at the beginning -- think of it as a very extended forward; the actual meat of the document isn't bad at all. Certainly the president can easily follow all of its recommendations as part of his own adamantine intention to fight this war to victory and not bring the troops home except as victors.

...No matter what Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol, and Christopher Hitchens say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2006, at the time of 8:05 PM

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» Important Readers Note from Big Lizards
Big Lizards analyzed the entire James Baker-Lee Hamilson Iraq Study Group report in a pair of posts yesterday: Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei It's important that we... [Read More]

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» Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq from Big Lizards
Most of this post derives from several sources: Historian Arthur Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Win In Iraq (and How to Lose);" Weekly Standard contributing editor and AEI scholar Fred Kagen's article in the current issue... [Read More]

Tracked on April 25, 2007 1:39 AM


The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

"the actual meat of the document isn't bad at all."

If you ignore the part about killing the Jews, because they are the cause of all the world's problems including the dolchstoss.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2006 9:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive

Thanks to the whole nest of lizards for wading through all that 'unanimously declared' prose.

What a hilarious morning we get by comparing the Lizardoid description to that of the Seattle P-I. Said paper proves its leading position in the Worst Newspaper contest by cherry-picking quotes of reactions by anti-Bush Democrats, portraying the report as 'proof' that the situation is a disaster and getting worse, showing photos of a humble Bush solemnly reading this new Sermon from the Mount, and quoting the AP article 'The Bush Policy has Failed and Is Deteriorating' with great relish.

The P-I makes no effort to describe the report overall as 'assessment' and 'recommendations', nor to describe where their meager cherry-picking occurs. Instead, they give us two pages of second-hand quoted opinions, and head for the latte bar to masturbate. Only at the bottom of a bazillion paragraphs do they even mention 79 recommendations - but they're in such a rush for said bar that they fail to quote any.

They do give a pointer to the document itself, online. That confirms the old suspicions that only elitists with computers shall be part of the annointed - those looking for the full story on the printed page are stuck with the viciously slanted spin and non-news seen fit by the Editors as 'information' for the hoi polloi.

Herding public opinion by selective omissions - it's the American newspaper way. But lizards do it better.

The above hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 7:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I must have missed that part.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 2:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I do agree with most of what Dafyyd says here, the one thing I wonder about however, is killind Sadr. Don't get we wrong, I hate the little maggot, but in truth the rise of the militias was a direct result of the constant attacks on the Shia by Sunni terrorists. Sistani told them time and again to turn the other cheek, but the Golden Dome was the straw for many of the Shia I think. If we kill Sadr and the attacks continue someone else will come along and he might be worse. So neutralizing or exiling him might be better than making a martyr of Sadr.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 2:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

Terrye: Its in the part about giving the Golan back to Syria.

Baker has been looking for a way to implement the Final Solution since the First Gulf War.

He thought he had a winner when he dusted Arafat off and dragged him back from exile as part of the Oslo catastrophe. Now its time to find another way. He is clearly hoping that baby Assad and the Iranians will do the dirty work for him this time.

What a deal, he turns Israel over to Iran, and the US surrender is accepted in Iraq, but we get to keep our horses and our swords.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 7:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I don't think that giving Golan back is a good idea, but I don't think that was intended to be just about killing Jews either.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 8:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

And Baker does not say anything about surrendering in Iraq either. Baker is not my favorite person, but how about picking Jimmy Carter for awhile? Baker has been paying for years for a remark he supposedly made to Kemp years ago. Good God, Democrats can bring Arafat to the White House and they get less grief.

What do you think we should do, just shoot Baker? Never let him out in public again?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 8:13 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I hate to say this, but all of my life I have been hearing about the Middle East and I don't think it is fair to blame an American whether it be Baker or Rice or even Clinton for that nightmare.

I have no doubt that when Baker is dead and gone and Bush is gone and Condi is gone we will still be hearing about the Golan Heights and Gaza and Hamas and all the rest of it and then I suppose the next president and Secretary of State will be getting the blame for it and on and on and on and on.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 8:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

What do you think we should do, just shoot Baker? Never let him out in public again?

Either solution is acceptable to me.

Terrye: whether you hear about the Israel-Arab conflict and what you hear will depend upon who the next President is. If it is Hillary (Heaven Forfend), the MSM will declare the coming of God's Kingdom on Earth and bring home their foreign correspondents. If it is a Republican, you can be sure that it will all be his fault from day one.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2006 8:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


And you are adding to that characterization. More and more people do not even want to watch the news or vote because they hear this crap all the time. Killing Baker is a tad extreme and if you don't know that you are part of the problem.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2006 1:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

Terrye: I don't know why you are ripping on me. I was just agreeing with you.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2006 10:57 PM

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