Congress commissioned the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report in March of 2006. (Barret) The purpose of the group was to bring a few new perspectives on how the Iraqi War was going. Also called the Baker-Hamilton Commission this bipartisan group sought to define the Iraq war differently than the administration, the Congress, or the military was defining the conflict in Iraq. The panel provided some 79 recommendations and the mainstream media problematically seemed to be trumpeting only three of the ideas proposed by the group. While the word ‘defeat’ isn’t specifically used anywhere in the report, the tone of the report opts for many political devices that will ensure the defeat of the United States and its interests in the country of Iraq.
Also problematic, the entire tone of the document contained language that was pessimistic and defeatist compared to the rhetoric recently used by the Office of the President. The report begins by pessimistically stating, “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.” The primary thesis of the group is that there is no guarantee for success in Iraq. This committee continues to paint a bleak picture of the Iraqi infrastructure including such statements regarding the Iraq police force on page 13, noting that they are “substantially worse than that of the Iraqi Army.” Focus on business notes that corruption is rampant versus the booming consumer sector. Even in discussing the world’s second largest known oil reserves, the Baker Commission states that instead of being able to help further interests of the Iraqi people, this oil “has the potential to further damage the country’s already fragile efforts to create a unified central government.” (Baker) Their focus is remiss on multiple positives that are occuring in Iraq.
While the report offers some 79 ideas the mainstream media have only picked up on three of them. The first idea trumpeted by the mainstream media was that the United States should draw down its troops by 2008. This strategic retreat was previously coined, “Strategic Redeployment” in a report issued by the Center for American Progress in May of 2006 where it suggested that the United States draw down its troops at a rate of 9000 a month until the end of 2007. (Korb) Given this thesis the ISG is echoing the sentiments of the Center for American Progress by opting for a defeating retreat that unfortunately is rhetorically disguised as a redeployment of American Forces in the region. If the United States withdraws its forces the existing military and security infrastructure will fail because Iraqi’s responsible for this task are completely dependant upon the US military for security. The Iraqi population is entirely dependant upon the Americans patrolling their streets for security. With out Americans there, these forces will fail and the world will see what a civil war in Iraq really would be. This idea was confirmed recently by Retired Army General, Frederick Kagen in a preliminary report published by the American Enterprise Institute. (Kagen)
The second point trumpeted in the press was that the United States should engage in a dialog with Iran and Syria to solve the problems in Iraq. (Ignatius) The newly sworn Secretary of Defense who sat on this committee also co-chaired a published report from the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004. This report, entitled, Iran: Time for A New Approach, preempted the ISG’s report two years earlier. (Brzezinski) While it may be in the interests of Iran and Syria to have a peaceful neighbor in Iraq, they are encouraging the violence there. This superficially sounds like a good idea, however, the Baker Commission failed to address how Iran and Syria could positively effect the security situation in Iraq and assist Iraq in ending the violence. Iraq is not a territory of the United States and as a sovereign nation, it should be noted that Iran and Syria’s interests, commonly viewed in the west as totalitarian and tyrannical, are not in the interest of strong and free Iraq. In the same report published by the American Enterprise Institute as above, Iraq’s neighbors are only in a position to instigate the violence and are not in a position to limit it. This is demonstrated by many of the terror groups and death squads operating in Iraq who receive their training outside of Iraq in neighboring Iran and Syria. (Kagen)
The third idea talked about in the press is that the United States should increase the amount of trainers it has embedded with the regular Iraq Army. The LA Times recently noted that, “For more than a year, U.S. commanders have agreed on the need to assign advisors to Iraqi military units to help them secure their country and allow American troops gradually to withdraw. But only about 5,000 of the 135,000 American military in Iraq are now engaged as full-time advisors.” (Barnes) While this seems like a proactive idea it fails to note that these advisors will come from other active and reserve units affecting readiness, and combat effectiveness. This will remove units from patrolling neighborhoods. The result of this would be further sectarian strife through out the most need areas of Iraq. General Kagen also notes in his Choosing Victory Report, “This rise in violence will destroy Americas remaining will to fight, and escalate the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq beyond anything an Iraqi army could bring under control.” (Kagen)
In conclusion, it appears that the Iraq Study Group’s report isn’t being well received by the White House due to its defeatism and pessimistic recommendations. The three leading ideas being reported on by the mass media are all recipes for failure and an alternate report being promulgated by the American Enterprise Institute entitled, “Choosing Victory,” seems to be winning over more members of the Department of Defense and White House team. With President Bush to release his revised direction for the war in after the first of the year, perhaps we’ll see more of retired General Kagen’s strategies in the White House Analysis versus the bi-partisan defeatists of the ISG.
Baker, James A. The Iraq Study Group Final Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2006.
Barnes, Julian E. “Recommended: More Advisors.” LA Times December 07, 2006 2006: National News.Barret, Ted. Congress Forms Panel to Study Iraq War. Politics. 2006. Web Page Article. CNN Dot Com. Available: http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/03/15/iraq.study/. December 21, 2006 2006.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Iran: Time for a New Approach. Washington, D.C.: Council on Foriegn Relations, 2004.
Ignatius, David. “Engage Iran.” Washington Post November 26, 2004 2006: Opinion.
Kagen, Frederick W. Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq. 2006. Web Page. American Enterprise Institute. Available: http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.25292/pub_detail.asp. December 22, 2006 2006.
Korb, Lawrence. Strategic Redeployment 2.0: A Progressive Strategy for Iraq: Center For American Progress, 2006.