December 2, 2006


A Perfect Failure: The Iraq Study Group has reached a consensus (Robert Kagan & William Kristol, 12/11/2006, Weekly Standard)

[A]fter nine months of deliberation and an unprecedented build-up of expectations that these sages would produce some brilliant, original answer to the Iraq conundrum, the study group's recommendations turn out to be a pallid and muddled reiteration of what most Democrats, many Republicans, and even Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officials have been saying for almost two years. Thus, according to at least six separate commission sources sent out to pre-spin the press, the Baker-Hamilton report will call for a gradual and partial withdrawal of American forces in Iraq, to begin at a time unspecified and to be completed by a time unspecified. The goal will be to hand over responsibility for security in Iraq to the Iraqis themselves as soon as this is feasible, and to shift the American role to training rather than fighting the insurgency and providing security. The decision of how far, how fast, and even whether to withdraw will rest with military commanders in Iraq, who will base their determination on how well prepared the Iraqis are to take over. Even after the withdrawal, the study group envisions keeping at least 70,000 American troops in Iraq for years to come.

Failure? It's what a sovereign Iraq has asked for. Why liberate them if we weren't going to respect them? Like all intellectuals, the neocons care more about their idea of Iraq than about the real thing.

Meanwhile, the Realists refuse to be outdone: A 1991 Kurdish Betrayal Redux? (Najmaldin Karim, December 2, 2006, Washington Post)

[T]he Iraq Study Group has shunned America's closest allies in Iraq, the Kurds, out of ideological prejudice. It's not just that the pro-American Kurds make it difficult to argue that Iraqis all hate Americans, thereby obliging troop withdrawals. The Kurds make 'realists' and Sunni Arab advocates nervous; the evidence of Kurdish suffering is irrefutable and it is hard for the United States to walk away from the victims of genocide.

The Kurds also attest to the 'realist' betrayal of Iraq in 1991. As Coalition Forces were breaking the back of Saddam's army from the air, President George HW Bush's public suggestion to Iraqis, "to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside," encouraged Kurdish and Shiite uprising against the Baathist regime. George H.W. Bush and Baker provided no support and tens of thousands of Shi'a and Kurdish Iraqis were slaughtered in reprisal once the regime regrouped.

The last truly 'realist' administration in United States history only intervened after considerable public pressure following shocking CNN images of Kurdish refugees, and after Turkey resisted accepting thousands of refugees. Even then, the intervention was mitigated. A safe haven was set up for the Kurds, but little was done for the Shiites beyond the "no-fly zone" in southern Iraq, in which Saddam's almost non-existent air force was not allowed to fly but where Iraqi attack helicopters were.

Having suffered so much under the rule of the largely Sunni Arab Baathist regime, Iraq's Kurds and Shiites want a decentralized state. Yet the Iraq Study Group, and its many "experts" has already dismissed the notion of establishing three autonomous ethnic-religious regions in Iraq, a proposal promoted by Senator Joe Biden and emeritus president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb. Biden and Gelb's proposal is profoundly respectful of the Iraqi democracy, as such a plan would be legal under the 2005 constitution that nearly 80% of Iraqis voted for.

Of course, why would a panel that has spent more time talking to America's enemies, Syria and Iran, than America's allies, the Iraqi Kurds, care about the democratic wishes of the people of Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 2, 2006 12:07 PM
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