Monday, December 11, 2006

The Butcher, the Baker....

The Iraq study group report delivered a much-deserved public scolding to the White House, and it has been interesting watching the White House spin machine go into overdrive on this one. It is also remarkable to see the critic's role played by such characters as James Baker and Ed Meese.

Despite the pleasure I take from seeing the administration embarrassed, I find that the report is fundamentally and fatally flawed. The study group, while more perceptive than the president (not a particularly high standard), still dwells in a fantasy world, evidenced by statements such as these:

"the Iraqi government needs to show its own citizens—and the citizens of the United States and other countries—that it deserves continued support."

"President Bush and his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership to convey a clear message: there must be prompt action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress"

"the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraq’s security forces and to continue political, military, and economic support"

"Saddam Hussein has been removed from power and the Iraqi people have a democratically elected government that is broadly representative of Iraq’s population"
I believe the problem is readily apparent.


Clinging to these pretenses accomplishes nothing positive, either for Iraq or for the United States. The Iraqi "government" controls no territory, commands no loyalty, has no monopoly (anything BUT a monopoly, as the competing militia factions exercise real authority) over coercive force and is unable to perform even low-level governmental functions. "Training" an "Iraqi security force" or military is a non-starter because of the fundamental reality that it is impossible to have an Iraqi military when there is no Iraq. We have spent significant time, manpower and money tilting at this windmill, and in the face of even stronger militia operations and a greatly-diminished regard for both the U.S. role and the Iraqi "government," expecting improvement here is a fool's paradise.

This of course is no secret or any profound observation on my part. It also is not surprising, given the makeup of the study group. While it may be "bipartisan" it is still made up of mainstream Washington insiders who have a vested interest in avoiding the obvious reality. The report clings to the Iraqi government, elections and democracy because this is the last refuge of even the slightest (albeit totally fictitious) whiff of anything resembling legitimacy in the invasion and occupation. They cling to frauds and fictions because they have to do so. Any other course of conduct would force them to do something that they would be organically unable to do. They would have to describe not incompetence, not missed opportunities, not flawed planning, but criminality. They would have to talk not of victory or defeat, progress or setbacks, but rather our nation's criminal conduct, the conduct of a rogue state. That they could not do.

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