Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Blog-on-Blog: Reading the Iraq Study Group Report

Posted by K.E. White on December 6, 2006

by kwhite

Daniel L. Byman’s article Even the Wise Men Can’t Save Us in Iraq, appearing in the Dec. 3rd WaPo, on the Iraq Study Group has turned out to be right on the money. Additionally, it provides a historical view of commissions in American political history.

While I took the liberty to cut this Brookings Senior fellow’s report down to increase its readability, I took no liberities with its analysis.

Byman’s Main Points:

  • Imagine if the Iraq Study Group concludes that there are few good options for Iraq. Such a conclusion would be patently true, but would disappoint everyone and also lead to questions about why the panel existed at all.
    • This seems to be what the Commission has done:

v “A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above.” (page 37)

v “Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost.” (page 38)

v “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation.” (page 38)

v “The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high.” (page 39)

  • To date, neither the administration nor Democrats have admitted the horrific costs of either staying in Iraq or withdrawing troops…But broadly speaking, there is no technical fix to Iraq…And technical answers don’t address the most difficult political questions: What are U.S. interests in Iraq? How would a pullout affect U.S. interests beyond Iraq? And how many more American lives and taxpayer dollars will we risk to protect those interests?
  • The two leaders of the Iraq Study Group are experienced Washington hands who do not need to worry about their findings hurting their popularity or future job prospects…But because they are unlikely to find a technical fix to the Iraq war’s political problems, their greatest contribution will be initiating, rather than concluding, a broader debate on how to proceed. In such a debate, the best choices will not (and should not) earn unanimity. A serious escalation is probably necessary to “win” in Iraq…If winning is too demanding and politically unfeasible, then the United States must think creatively about ways to draw down significantly while still maintaining some influence in the Iraqi snake pit.

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