The report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) brings to mind the old vaudeville routine in which the actors play doctors working on a patient. Finally, one pronounces the patient dead. Suddenly from the audience a voice cries out “Give him some chicken soup.” An actor on stage says, “I’m sorry, it wouldn’t help” to which the audience member replies “But it couldn’t hurt.” Some of the ISG’s 79 recommendations might not help the situation, but they wouldn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, there are other parts of the report that not only are not benign, they are malign. One of the most obvious of these is the proposal to seek Syrian and Iranian help in Iraq. The ISG report notes that these countries are a major source of our problems, but we should still seek them out. Another is to place the onus for improving the situation in Iraq on a government in Baghdad that we intentionally designed to be relatively weak.
More important, the ISG report is based on a lie. This is a lie of omission. The report fails to tell the American people the consequences of failure in Iraq. The key passage in the report is the single paragraph that begins on page 37 where the consequences of what is termed a precipitous withdrawal are described. The report envisions a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization and a threat to the global economy. In reality, this is what will happen if there is a withdrawal before Iraq is stabilized.
The report implies that we can somehow leave our position astride the Euphrates River, the fault line between Shia and Sunni Islam and things will be all right. They will not. Chaos in Iraq and the potential for a regional conflict fought on top of the world’s major oil reserves could result in a global crisis that could make the Great Depression look like a picnic.
The report is fundamentally flawed because it fails to grasp the nettle. We cannot leave Iraq until it is stable. Therefore, the only useful recommendations the report makes are those relating to improving the security situation in Iraq and sustaining the U.S. military.
None of these things can be accomplished in the time frame proposed by the ISG — the first quarter of 2008. Have we not learned after 3-plus years that all the optimistic assessments of the effects of our policies on Iraq have been wildly optimistic? The ISG falls into this same trap, asserting that the situation in Iraq is dire but suggesting that the Iraqi forces can be successfully trained and equipped in a little more than a year. The ISG report doesn’t offer chicken soup to Iraq and the United States, but rather hemlock.
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