The poor neocons and hawks had to get together and share their feelings yesterday:
President Bush and some of the most vocal Capitol Hill backers of the Iraq war from both parties gathered yesterday for what an insider described as a group therapy session.
"Or maybe it was more like an intervention," said the source, reconsidering the description. "And the President was grateful and welcoming."
Bush met with a grim-looking gaggle of 14 lawmakers and several White House staffers hours after the Iraq Study Group issued its report urging the President to order an about-face on his Iraq strategy.
"It means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the American people, to recognize that there are people in this town who are concerned more about the security of this country than they are about the security of their own political positions," Bush said, according to the insider.
More concerned about the security of their legacy and the legacy of their wonderful ideas of miltary might than the security of troops in the field, you mean.
Who was in this encounter group, you ask?
Their wings clipped by the Iraq Study Group's report, the hawks who met with Bush included his pal Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Conn.), California Rep. Jane Harman, who lost her job as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a 2008 presidential hopeful who wants to send more troops to Iraq.
A sourpussed Vice President Cheney and political guru Karl Rove were among the top administration officials who looked on as the President was advised on how to change course in Iraq, boost Arab allies such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, keep a cautious eye on threats including Iran and work with the new Democratic majority.
"There was a tremendous amount of candor in the room," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, the lone New York Democrat in the session. "It was optimistic in that he didn't dismiss any of the ideas. He heard us all out."
Well, of course he heard you all out, dude, you're all of the ones who've been wrong from the very beginning, just like him!
If the immediate aftermath of this report is to get together with all of your friends to bitch and moan about how everybody's being mean to you and your policy, you can just tell that the report will either fall on deaf ears or be implemented in a piecemeal and deeply rationalized way. The President himself said at his press conference today that he won't implement all of the recommendations. And senators like St. McCain and Honest Joey Lieberman were poking holes in the report on Capitol Hill today.
Many in Congress have praised the group's report, which was eight months in the making. But Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., told Hamilton and Baker that he does not believe their approach will work. The panel called for a phase-out of the U.S. combat role by 2008 and rejected the idea of a short-term increase in the number of combat troops in Iraq.
McCain took issue with that approach, saying he did not agree with the Baker-Hamilton group's conclusion that the U.S. military does not have enough forces available to sustain a troop boost in Iraq.
"There's only one thing worse than an over-stressed Army and Marine Corps, and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps," said McCain, a Vietnam veteran and a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful. "I believe this is a recipe that will lead to our defeat sooner or later in Iraq." [...]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., and Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, both said they are skeptical about another of the commission's key recommendations: that the administration approach Iran in search of help in stabilizing Iraq, as part of a regional diplomatic initiative.
"I'm skeptical that it's realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq," Lieberman said.
Baker acknowledged that the Iranians were unlikely to help, even if asked. He said that during the course of the commission's discussions an Iranian official told him that Iran was not inclined to help.
But Baker said he saw no harm in approaching Iran anyway, and if it declines to help, "then we will hold them up to public scrutiny as the rejectionist state they have proven to be."
The neocons are trying to sabotage this proposal. Despite their worldview being completely rejected they still wield a lot of power in Washington. And honestly, as James Moore says, the proposal does a decent enough job of sabotaging itself, so it's not even necessary:
Exactly 20 years ago this month, Lawrence Walsh was named as a special prosecutor to study the Iran-Contra affair - the illegal sale of US arms to Iran to provide funding for an American-backed guerilla organization in Nicaragua. Americans had some hope that their government would get to the heart of the matter and people responsible for clandestine operations using taxpayer money illegally would be held accountable.
They were not. Indictments were issued but so were numerous presidential pardons. Ollie North got grilled and Fawn Hall rose to a transitory cultural icon. Ultimately, though, the leader and his policies, which were responsible for Iran-Contra, were not called to account. Mistakes, we were told, were made. But nothing that bad. The president's team was just trying to do what was right. This was the unimpeachable Ronald Reagan, after all, and nothing like this could happen if it was morning in America. The Iran-Contra Report became a kind of number two Mexican dinner with one taco missing. There were all kinds of information. But not much truth.
What is there in the Hamilton-Baker report that a college freshman in Middle Eastern studies doesn't already know? And that a president should not have to be told? This mundane, tenacious grasp at the obvious is one more painful example of how our culture creates soft places to fall for our leaders who fail to lead. Our obstinate president, who has refused to admit mistakes or make changes, demanded political air cover before trying something new. And we gave it to him. When did we stop demanding that our presidents do their job and start giving them commissions and study groups and blue ribbon panels to hold their hands through the trying times? How hard is it to be a man, to admit a mistake, learn from it, and then do better? We ask it of our sons and daughters.
Spencer Ackerman has more on the report itself, which doesn't fully call for withdrawal or for troop increases or anything, really. It's a perfect mirror of the analyst who reads it; they can see themselves inside.
But take a closer look. First, the commission isn't actually calling for withdrawal; it's calling for a reorientation of military effort -- troops won't conduct combat missions, they'll just be helping Iraqi forces conduct them. This is new lipstick on a very old pig. Despite what the commissioners said at today's press conference, it's just a marginal tinkering with the years-old strategy of "putting an Iraqi face" on security operations.
Second, the commissioners say that we "must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq." But that's exactly what the commission's recommendation entails. I asked the Iraq Study Group how many troops the training mission would require, and for how long. Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese gave the vaguest of answers, but he did say that it would necessitate "a considerable force" for logistics, training, force protection, and special operations. "We don't say specifically how long it will last," but it will require a "sustained period of time." There's a reason why the Pentagon is calling this the "Go Long" option.
Finally, it's unrealistic to suggest that with such a U.S. force in Iraq for such an indefinite timeframe, forces won't respond to insurgent or death-squad attacks if either directly fired upon or if their Iraqi counterparts aren't up to the challenge. Indeed, if U.S. troops are in a combat situation but are not positioned to respond as such, the Iraq Study Group's wishful thinking -- and the Pentagon's -- will put them in the worst of all possible situations.
Ackerman concludes by saying that this is a 1968 moment - a point at which everybody knows the war cannot be won, yet nobody wants to be the person on which future generations can pin the losing. So everybody hems and haws and commiserates with one another while more men and women die. The political will for stopping this killing is not there. And so we'll have a major humanitarian crisis to go along with a failed state and a lost war, but everybody in Washington can hold their head up high and claim they showed stiff resolve.