December 8th, 2006
After months of waiting, Godot-like, for the Iraq Study Group Report that was to solve all problems, the report has already come and gone with nary a ripple on actual policy, according to a New York Times article. [Bush Expresses Caution on Key Points in Iraq Panel’s Report] The Decider has decided that people will just go on dying as they are. The Decider has decided that even pretending to change would make him look weak:
President Bush moved quickly on Thursday to distance himself from the central recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group: pulling back all combat brigades over the next 15 months and direct talks with Iran and Syria.
Meanwhile, the Generals, falling in line, have also rejected the report:
The prospect of all US combat troops being withdrawn by the first quarter of 2008 was described as impractical by Gen Jack Keane, a retired US Army chief of staff and an adviser to the group. “Based on where we are now, we can’t get there.”
Gen Keane, who was speaking to The New York Times, said the report said more about “the absence of political will in Washington than the harsh realities in Iraq”.
Gen Barry McCaffrey, who is also retired, told the newspaper that there was a danger that embedded trainers would be kidnapped or killed.
“They [the group] came up with a political thought but then got to tinkering with tactical ideas that in my view don’t make any sense. This is a recipe for national humiliation.”
Lt Gen Keith Kellogg, a retired US Army commander who also served as a civilian in Iraq, said that while increasing the numbers of US trainers and embedding them throughout Iraqi units was a “really good idea” it would probably take a year before combat troops could begin to be pulled out.
As Sidney Blumenthal points out in his Beating off the rescue party, there is a long pattern of Bush being warned just how bad things are going and ignoring the warnings and punishing those who dared challenge his fantasy world. Thus, his campaign against the report began months ago:
Ever since the commission was announced, Bush’s energy has been devoted to beating off the rescue party. “This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever,” he said last week in anticipation of the commission’s report, mocking the “realism” universally attributed to former Secretary of State James Baker. Then, on Monday, in an interview with Fox News, he held forth on his superior knowledge over his father’s. “I love to talk to my dad about things between a father and a son, not policy,” he said. “No,” he replied, when asked if he consults his father for advice. “He understands what I know, that the level of information I have relative to the level of information most other people have, including himself, is significant and that he trusts me to make decisions … I am the commander in chief.” He is the “decider” and the decider decides that Father does not know best.
Since the midterm elections loss, Bush has conducted a foreign policy intended to counter the Baker-Hamilton Commission. In a sense, his entire foreign policy is a case study in reaction formation. From the start, he was determined to do everything opposite from what President Clinton had done. Bush abandoned the Middle East peace process, cast aside the negotiations with North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons, withdrew from the secret diplomacy with reform-minded Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and brushed aside concerns about terrorism. Even before Sept. 11, Bush entertained scenarios about invading Iraq. In this he was operating in the shadow of his father, who refused to march to Baghdad in the Gulf War to topple Saddam Hussein. Bush envisioned himself succeeding where he believed his father had failed, thereby exceeding him.
As soon as Baker declared that staying the course was an unacceptable option, Bush furiously initiated rounds of diplomacy guaranteed to disqualify Baker’s proposals before they were formally presented. He rejected talks with Iran. He suggested that Syria comply with his demands, which Baker would propose as the proper subject of negotiations, before there could be any direct relations. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was prompted to repackage long-rejected proposals to the Palestinians as the basis for peace talks there. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was sent to the region to engage in predetermined fruitless nondiplomacy in order to suggest the appearance of diplomacy. Thus Bush created a series of false events so that he might claim he had tried Baker’s approach but that it had failed.
Again, we have been had, waiting months for nothing.
The fantasy will continue. The killing will continue. The Decider will decide nothing. The pundits will pretend that change is just around the corner. On to the next farce.