President "La-la-la, I'm Not Listening!" ain't changing a thing about Iraq.
With the Iraq Study Group report due on Wednesday, the Bush administration has notified allies that it will not budge on certain aspects of Iraq policy, whatever recommendations are put forth by the independent panel of 10 prominent Republicans and Democrats.
At a private briefing for diplomats this past Wednesday, State Department and National Security Council officials said they do not expect any major policy shifts to emerge from either a White House review or the bipartisan panel, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), according to diplomats familiar with the meeting. The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because the briefing was private.
The officials also said any recommendations for policy shifts would have to fit in with long-term U.S. strategic objectives for Iraq, including ensuring that the nation can govern and defend itself and that it is stable, not a threat to neighbors, and an ally in the fight against terrorism.
The ISG might as well not deliver a report for all the good it's going to do. It's not an indepdendent voice, anyway, featuring nobody who was against the war from the beginning, and dedicated to nothing more than a classic, mushy-middle Washington compromise. If I were President I'd probably reject them too. For different reasons, of course; but the point is that there's no reason to do some mushy half-measure of "pull back if events on the ground allow and do it soon but really do it whenever you want." This is not dissimilar to the call-it-a-change-even-though-it-isn't strategy Don Rumsfeld recommended before being booted from office:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 — Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.
“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”
Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.
“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”
The policy prescriptions in the text of the memo are warmed-over ideas like training Iraqi forces quicker, or insane ideas like BRIBING IRAQI OFFICIALS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS to get them on our side. Because we'd want to get into a situation that greases the wheels of blackmail.
Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.
Rummy's ideas, like the ISG's ideas, are dedicated to making sure nobody in Washington, all of whom were wrong about invading, has to lose any face in the endgame. Indeed the whole system is designed to make sure nobody has to pay the price for being wrong.
Put another way, these are the premises which Friedman, prior to the invasion, expressly embraced:
(1) If the war is done the right way, great benefits can be achieved.
(2) If the war is done the wrong way, unimaginable disasters will result.
(3) The Bush administration is doing this war the wrong way, not the right way, on every level.
(4) Given all of that, I support the waging of this war [...]
The reason for this is as transparent as it is despicable -- "withdrawal" is a prohibited belief in Establishment Washington. You can pretty much advocate any course of action other than that. Why is the Baker Commission filled with people who supported this invasion in the first place? Shouldn't it be dominated by -- or, at the very least, be substantially composed of -- people who opposed the war from the beginning, i.e., the people who demonstrated foresight and wisdom and judgment?
It is not merely the case that having been pro-war doesn't count as a strike against anyone. That is accurate. But far worse, the opposite is also true. It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a "responsible, serious" foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate.
Establishment Washington really is not interested in how to end this horrendous and despicable debacle we unleashed in Iraq. They are not interested in how to maximize U.S. interests. They are only interested in how to find a way to bring this disaster to some sort of slow resolution that looks as though it is a respectable and decent outcome -- anything that makes it seem like it wasn't a horrendous mistake in the first place.
And the best part is that Establishment Washington thinks that these deeply serious proposals they're makng to save their own asses MATTER. There's a stubborn man in the White House who is borderline delusional about reality on the ground and refuses to accept anything less that victory, a concept limited to his own mind. The establishment is talking to a brick wall, and they're so malleable and willing to subsume the good of America in order to preserve their belief in their own brilliance that they give this brick wall a convenient out. We have a severe dearth of leadership on Iraq, people who are actually serious and willing to say serious things like this:
MURTHA: Well, he said, I think, the end of 2008 have all the troops out, but that’s unacceptable.
BLITZER: You mean all the troops or just the combat troops?
BLITZER: Because half of the troops are combat troops; the other are support troops or trainers.
MURTHA: Yes, that’s true. He said combat troop. But that is unacceptable to me. We’re costing $8 billion a month, Wolf. Since I spoke out there were 400 attacks a day. Now there’s 800 attacks a day. All the measurements which you and I have talked about before, oil production, electricity production, below prewar level. The Iraqis want us out of there, the world wants us out of there. We have to find a way to redeploy the troops and we have to do it sooner rather than later.
Now, we have to work on it this year. I’m going to meet with the White House officials sometime next week and try to convince them that it’s just not going well. It’s not going to be better.
Kissinger came out with the same type of thing in the 1960s and three years later we got out of there, but we lost 20,000 troops. We’re just not making the progress. And then they say, well, we need 300,000 Iraqis trained. Then they say we need 100,000 more Iraqis trained. They keep changing the guidelines. That’s the problem with this report.
That's the problem with Washington, DC. It's Hollywood for ugly people. Everybody cares only about self-image and is ignorant about the greater picture. The difference is that this kind of ugly narcissism in DC costs human beings their lives.