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Archive for the ‘Iraq Study Group’ Category

Rep. Christopher Shays: Reconstitute The Iraq Study Group

Posted by K.E. White on June 7, 2007

The Iraq Study Group might be back, and heading to Iraq.

Wednesday night Christopher Shays (R-CT) suggested the Iraq Study Group be reconstituted and sent back to Iraq.

Speaking at an forum on the House floor organized by Steve Israel (D-NY), Shays reccomended the Iraq Study Group prepare a report to dovetail with General Petraeus Congressional testimony slated for this September.

The discussents included the following Congressional representatives: Tim Bishop (D-NY), Christopher Dent (R-PE) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD). All supported the initiative, with Rep. Israel offering to co-sponsor any possible legislation drafted by Shays.

All are members of the Center Aisle Caucus.

(Crosslisted at Campus Progress)

Posted in Christopher Dent, Christopher Shays, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, Steve Israel, Tim Bishop, Wayne Gilchrest | 1 Comment »

Blog-on-Blog: Response to the Reliant on Bush’s Troop “Surge”

Posted by K.E. White on January 13, 2007

The Reliant offers a good take on Bush’s plan to deploy more troops in Iraq.

Below are comments from K.E. White, who using the (unfair) advantage of endless comments to respond to the post. They also appear directly on the site.

“As Charles Krauthammer puts it…”

Charles Krauthammer? Okay, okay I might be a bit biased: but Krauthammer as a rational authority on this? He’s the extreme of the extreme, though he has been the most consistent (or irrational depending on your point of view) of the neo-cons.

This article of mine is a bit slanted
, but it does paint the problems of using this guy as a lone support.

“As for the increase in troops – the primary focus of Bush’s address – that recommendation may be a valuable one, but one can’t help but feel that the ideal moment for it has already passed. The increase, indeed, seems like a belated action…”

I completely agree, the “ideal moment” has passed. But I think its valuable to point out why: the American public has flipped flopped on its opinion of the war. Whereas earlier and throughout the 2004 election is supported remaining in Iraq and ignored troublesome signs there, it has now become extremely embittered: with 40% of voters strongly against the venture, an amount that upticks to 60-70% when relaxed to disagree.

“Thus far, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have supported the effort to keep force levels as low as possible in Iraq – which, thus far, has proved counterproductive in the bloody and complex milieu of Iraqi insurgency and counterinsurgency.”

When you evoke “policymakers on both sides” I become a bit suspicious. Weren’t these policy makers simply following the cue of President Bush? John McCain has consistently supported more troops, but was Congress really going to tell the President the proper level of troops, or pull for an increase? Doubtful: that is without the recent foreign policy maelstrom–increasing sectarian violence in Iraq brining about a highly critical Iraq Study Group Report and a sweeping ’06 election cycle.

When it came to troop levels it was Bush’s call: until the ’06 elections there was not the public pull for Congress to weigh in, as it now is (yes, albeit too late for rational policy making, a common weakness of Congressional warpowers).

But I would lay blame squarely on Bush, not “policymakers on both sides of the aisle.”

But if you are endorsing smarter and more active Congressional oversight (lacks for decades), we find ourselves in total agreement.

“If these additional troops are deployed – in the right places, for the right reasons, and with the right attention to reconciliation efforts within Iraq – there is reason to hope that they will prove a key part of securing democracy for the Iraqi people.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. General Petraeus (have you or could you do a bio on this guy?), from all reports, seems to be the right guy for the job. But does he have the proper tools? What I find interesting is that Bush did not take Frederick Kagan’s advice on troops numbers–same or virtually same brigade number, but far less troops.

Bush should have done this earlier: having lost public support, even if this policy is effective it will not survive any short term difficulties.

But on the main point, we both seem to share the same sentiment: solidifying the Iraqi government would be better than all-out civil war (or, depending on your point of view, terrorist feed sectarian violence) in Iraq.

I hope for success, but have little faith in the strategic judgement of this administration.

Posted in Bush administration, Congress, Diplomacy, Iran, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, John McCain, Reliant, Syria, Terrorism, Wartime Powers, WMD | 4 Comments »

Iraq Study Group Report: Indispensable Uselessness?

Posted by K.E. White on December 7, 2006

  • The Pro-Side

NYTimes Editorial Board

Iraq is so far gone that nobody expected the panel to come up with a breakthrough solution. As the co-chairmen…began their letter accompanying yesterday’s report, “there is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq.” And the study was never going to change the basic facts: there is no victory to be had in Iraq, and however American troops withdraw, they will leave behind a deadly mess…

The world has watched as Mr. Bush painted himself into a corner and then insisted it was a strategic decision. Even the Iraqis are trying to provide cover to for him to come tiptoeing back to the real world. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s call for a regional conference on Iraq would allow the administration to get past its refusal to talk to Tehran and Damascus, by saying that ban was never meant to include Iraqi initiatives.

The Iraq report is a deeply diplomatic document, stuffed with “coulds” and “mights.” It is, all in all, exactly the kind of shades-of-gray thinking that Mr. Bush despises, and exactly what he needs to get the country out of the hole he has dug.


  • Counter-Argument

Fred Kaplan’s The Iraq Study Group Chickens Out

The report of the Iraq Study Group—which Baker co-chaired with Lee Hamilton, that other Wise Man-wannabe—was doomed to fall short of expectations. But who knew it would amount to such an amorphous, equivocal grab bag.

Its outline of a new “diplomatic offensive” is so disjointed that even a willing president would be left puzzled by what precisely to do, and George W. Bush seems far from willing.

Its scheme for a new military strategy contains so many loopholes that a president could cite its language to justify doing anything (or nothing)…

In other words, the bedrock question about Iraq—whether U.S. troop levels should go up or down—is left unanswered…

It’s [Iraq is] a mess. Not even Jim Baker really knows what to do about it.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq, Iraq Study Group | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq Study Group | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iran, Iraq, Iraq Study Group | Leave a Comment »