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News Round Up: Debating the (Pre-)Findings of the Iraq Study Group

Posted by K.E. White on December 1, 2006

So it seems a lot of people have thoughts on the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

In fact, there were so many spin-turning antics that I almost forgot that the report hasn’t actually been released yet. (That’s happening next Wednesday.)

So what are some of the talking heads sounding off?

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), incoming chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, seems to be of two minds on the Iraq Group’s report. He likes that the report favors a gradual pull-back or troops, and the group finding that there is no military solution to Iraq–only diplomatic. But he thinks the Iraq Study group made a “mistake” by not “specify[ing] a beginning for the pull-back of troops.”

But don’t worry, the Iraq Study Group will have it’s clear opponents. Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote earlier this month:

So let’s add up the “realist” proposals: We must retreat from Iraq, and thus abandon all those Iraqis–Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, and others–who have depended on the United States for safety and the promise of a better future. We must abandon our allies in Lebanon and the very idea of an independent Lebanon in order to win Syria’s support for our retreat from Iraq. We must abandon our opposition to Iran’s nuclear program in order to convince Iran to help us abandon Iraq. And we must pressure our ally, Israel, to accommodate a violent Hamas in order to gain radical Arab support for our retreat from Iraq.

And of course, there’s the cottage-industry of speculation about whether Bush will ilsten to the report. Most of the debate rages between those who see Bush as having no choice but to listen–“things are just too bad”– and those who think him so delusional as to continue his failing policy. (There are still those few neo-cons out there that believe Bush’s policy is overall correct.)

And then there are those who favor the report, but hit it for its glaring omission: what happens if Iraq implodes?

This is what Fred Kaplan focuses on in his excellent article. He offers three options: get out, pick sides, or honker down and wait. While his thoughts are nothing new, his presentation of the options deserves attention.

But what about the political angle: Why have all these leaks surfaced?

Perhaps the answer is simple: publicly leak early to pressure Bush into a response, while also giving him time to gracefully recalibrate.

But forging political consensus has proven illusive. Many politicians are trying their best to look like they have fundamentally different Iraq strategies; but, in reality, they are just focusing on single parts of a strategy in isolation—not much of a help. With McCain’s call for more troops, from Biden’s decentralization plan (a rare holistic roadmap for Iraq), and everyone else falling somewhere in a broad middle zone, it seems the report has already failed in its most important political task: bringing both parties together around a single strategy for success—or at least diminished failure—in Iraq.


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