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Old 12-01-2006   #1
SWJED
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Default ISG: Witless Wisdom

1 December NY Post commentary - Witless Wisdom by John Podhoretz.

Quote:
Yes, it's been quite a week for the 10 members of the Iraq Study Group, the committee formed last spring to offer recommendations on a path forward in Iraq.

They had a wonderfully invigorating leak session the other day with The New York Times, which was the first recipient of the group's key top-level save-America recommendation. Co-chairmen James "Is There An Arab Dictator Nearby Whose Butt I Can Kiss" Baker and Lee "Yes, I'm Still Alive" Hamilton didn't even bother to pretend to brief the president or key lawmakers first.

The president could wait his turn. After all, this is the Iraq Study Group we're talking about here, buddy...

Baker, Hamilton and their crew of old Washington hands (and I mean old, like Metheuselah-level old) are recommending a "gradual pullback" of American troops but without a timetable. That basically translates into a nice, long, slow defeat - the "graceful exit" of which the president spoke so harshly.
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Old 12-06-2006   #2
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Default Iraq Study Group Report

Iraq Study Group Report
Quote:
Contents

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Executive Summary

I. Assessment

A. Assessment of the Current Situation in Iraq
1. Security
2. Politics
3. Economics
4. International Support
5. Conclusions

B. Consequences of Continued Decline in Iraq

C. Some Alternative Courses in Iraq
1. Precipitate Withdrawal
2. Staying the Course
3. More Troops for Iraq
4. Devolution to Three Regions

D. Achieving Our Goals

II. The Way Forward—A New Approach

A. The External Approach: Building an International Consensus
1. The New Diplomatic Offensive
2. The Iraq International Support Group
3. Dealing with Iran and Syria
4. The Wider Regional Context

B. The Internal Approach: Helping Iraqis Help Themselves
1. Performance on Milestones
2. National Reconciliation
3. Security and Military Forces
4. Police and Criminal Justice
5. The Oil Sector
6. U.S. Economic and Reconstruction Assistance
7. Budget Preparation, Presentation, and Review
8. U.S. Personnel
9. Intelligence

Appendices
Overview Map of the Region
Overview Map of Iraq
Administrative Divisions
Distribution of Religious Groups
Letter from the Sponsoring Organizations
Iraq Study Group Plenary Sessions
Iraq Study Group Consultations
Expert Working Groups and Military
Senior Advisor Panel
The Iraq Study Group
Iraq Study Group Support
...now to slog through this much-hyped document, and see if it's worth the time and effort expended, let alone the paper (and digits) its printed on...
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Old 12-06-2006   #3
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Default Disappointing.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. Such an air of defeatism has seeped into the American psyche that it's just, I don't know. It's just disappointing. Somehow I had held out some hope that a group of experienced, elder statesmen could tell us something we didn't already know.

No, there is no "magic" formula that will turn Iraq around overnight. To expect that is completely unrealistic and a false premise. It isn't rocket science. What we need in Iraq, is a demonstration of American resolve to the world. I don't know why we can't seem to manage that, politics I suspect. But I think that a display of American resolve would turn the momentum around to our side. The insurgents are winning the all important propaganda war, America knows that the insurgents fight for the television cameras, and yet somehow, America perceives that we are losing this fight when we are at least maintaining a stalemate and if we would get serious about it, we could put this insurgency down.
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Old 12-06-2006   #4
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You know, I don't think it's so much a case of Americans losing their resolve to fight. There were a lot of people who enlisted in the military right after 9/11. That's not a sign of a cowardly people. You don't hear as much criticism about our mission in Afghanistan as you do about Iraq. And there isn't a lot of call for us to leave the Afghani mission, in fact I hear more people in favor of Afghanistan than opposing it. It seems to me that the problems have less to do with a lack of stomach for fighting a war on the peoples' part and more to do with a lack of competence in fighting the war on our elected leadership's part. Nobody likes backing a losing team...and it seems that most of the reasons for our difficulties start and stop with the upper management. When I hear Bush, or Rumsfeld, or Cheney sitting back and talking about us losing our will to fight it bothers me because that feels more like they're externalizing blame than anything else. Strategy and tactics have more to do with winning or losing a war than public unhappiness does.
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Old 12-06-2006   #5
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Default Maybe

You know what? At this point, who knows? You could be exactly right. Although in some of the liberal discussion boards, I do see as much bashing of the Afghanistan mission as I do Iraq, but the public at large, your right.

I wonder if it matters anymore?
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Old 12-06-2006   #6
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Default ISG Report News, Editorials, Commentary and Blogs

I've already started updating tomorrow's SWJ Daily News page. Will be adding additional ISG related material tonight and in the morning...
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Old 12-07-2006   #7
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I'm already getting the sense (after a cursory glance through the ISG's report) that the administration would have been better served reading through the threads of the SWC, and could have saved the $1 mil to better train and fund MiTTs
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Old 12-07-2006   #8
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I'm afraid the report itself is a mistake to be made public in such a manner. The BGs are going to step up their attacks. This type of reporting works in their favor and not our's. Someone give me a handgun so I can shoot myself in the foot. I find it ironic that this group is making the same sort of mistake that they claim is causing such choas. These statesmen apparently know as much about counterinsurgency effort as the rest of the politicians.
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Old 12-07-2006   #9
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Wow, I totally agree with Culpepper. As far as will, don't confuse national will, with the will of members of the military. U.S. national will is definately being tried, but nobody knows where it is at because the self-licking ice cream cone that is the media confuses the issue too much.
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Old 12-07-2006   #10
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I haven't finished reading the report yet but I can tell you that the snapshot of Iraq is pretty accurate. I haven't gotten to the recommendations yet but I can tell you that the biggest problem with it is that it will largely be viewed through political filters. I am not sure how much actual influence this report will really have. I suspect that something close to a majority have already made up their minds.

SFC W
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Old 12-07-2006   #11
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Default National Will

I think there's still plenty of national will left. I think most people have a sense that the war is going very badly, that's it's a very strange and different kind of war, and that none of the plans the leadership put out there make a lot of sense.

So far, no one here or anywhere else has come up with a genuine operational plan that will work and work permanently. What's needed to revive the national will, and improve sentiment for the war, is some kind of genuine victory on the ground. Until somebody starts making some lasting progress in the actual theater of operations, people are going to view the whole war effort pretty negatively.

So, I don't think this is a case of "the American people are weak willed and want to pull out of the war even though we haven't been beaten on the ground." Rather, it's a case of "the American people are smart enough to realize that we have been beaten on the ground, we just haven't been routed and driven off the battlefield because this isn't that kind of war."
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Old 12-07-2006   #12
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Cordesman on the ISG Report, 6 Dec 06:

The Baker-Hamilton Study Group Report: The Elephant Gives Birth to a Mouse
Quote:
...The report also does not provide a credible security policy option. Undefined U.S. troop cuts are desirable by 2008, or possibly earlier or later. The U.S. is to rush in more qualified trainers and embeds that it doesn't have, and assign more existing combat forces unqualified for the mission. The plan for dealing with the militias is to form a new U.S. bureaucracy without addressing the need for immediate, day-to-day security in a nation without effective courts and police in most threatened areas.

There is no meaningful plan for creating a mix of effective Iraqi military forces, police forces, governance, and criminal justice system at any point in the near future, much less by 2008. A truly effective effort may be possible with political conciliation and the proper resources and planning. But, (a) the full report does not provide a credible explanation of how this can happen, and (b) the development of effective Iraqi forces is definitely not possible without conciliation.

The main report ignores the problems in today's training and force development programs to the point where many of its recommendations are little more than exhortative nonsense. It also is pointless to make a long series of detailed sub-recommendations for change in the Iraqi security forces in the main report without detailed justification and without a meaningful detailed assessment of the capabilities of the existing force and training effort....
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Old 12-07-2006   #13
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Default SWJ ISG Page

For those that want a one-stop page on the Iraq Study Group's Report.
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Old 12-08-2006   #14
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Default Still no good options

It was foolish of me to hope for more from the study group, but I did. I don't disagree with regional engagement, you have to do it. If Iran is really the problem (I have seen conflicted reports on this), then I think we need to negotiate with them openly. We need to put them in a position where they support the international communities efforts (open statements saying they will), or they openly defy and they state they will continue to destabilize Iraq. If they state publically they desire to help stabilize Iraq, but we have evidence proving otherwise we need to show it. If they defiantly admit they want to continue destabilizing it, then we declare war on them. We need to take the initiative and put them in checkmate, and have the high moral ground. I think we have more maneuver room than we give ourselves credit for. Saudi and several other countries in the region are concerned about Iran, as are several European countries, not to mention Israel. Just because we made serious mistakes with Iraq doesn't mean we should prohibit ourselves from the necessary actions to win this war. Pull out or fight, but I don't think we'll ever solve the Iraqi problem by staying within the boundaries of Iraq. It is regional problem that hopefully we can solve diplomatically, if not then point our guns across the border. I don't recommend attempting another regime change, but executing very punishing military raids that cause significant pain to the regime and demonstrate our will. If that sets the conditions for Iranians to implement their own regime change so much the better.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-08-2006 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 12-08-2006   #15
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Default Half full Half empty

I am ambivalent toward the ISG report in that the report itself is what it is: a collection of individual talking points some of which have key implications on Iraq, some of which are more Washington DC-centric. In this regard, I see the glass as half empty. I wish they (the ISG) had filled it up.

On the other hand, I see the glass as half full because at least the ISG has brought key issues to light, issues that have not seen the light of day in several years. Moreover, the process of the ISG is in my view what is important, not its substance (or lack there of).

On another thread here the other day council member Around Midnight framed a discussion around the issue of National Will as An Instrument of National Power . I see the ISG as a critical step in doing that; the choice is really whether to take the step forward or take a step backward.

Best

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Old 12-08-2006   #16
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I agree, Tom. The ISG really reads as more of a talking paper, but it does bring out some issues that should be discussed. And by discussed I mean in a real, meaningful way that won't lend itself to quaint sound bites but rather a deeper discussion of what we hope to accomplish and a realistic appraisal of what lies in our way. The sort of talk where everything is on the table, including a more balanced view of the Middle East. I honestly don't have much hope that this will happen, but it would be nice.
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Old 12-08-2006   #17
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The report could not possibly live up to all the expectations, having become all things to all people before it was released. While it may not be perfect it does a couple of things well. First, it starts with fact that what we have being do is not working, nobodies like me have been saying it for years but I am no Jim Baker. While the recommendations of the report may work they may not, many may not even be attempted but the bottom line is we need to do something different, if we keep doing the same thing we will get the same results. Second the reports recommendations attempt to take a comprehensive approach to Iraq instead of looking for solutions piecemeal and only addressing the issues we want to deal with. I doubt any attempt will be made to implement solutions in such an overarching way but hopefully I am just being cynical.
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Old 12-09-2006   #18
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Default National Will

Great thoughts on the report's potential to unify our national will, and whether or not as a nation we will take a step forward or a step back. So far I'm still standing firm on the position that if regional diplomacy fails to bring about an acceptable path forward, then we must be prepared to conduct military operations in the region (not just Iraq) to influence the development of helpful diplomacy in the region (carrot and stick). Operations much like our bombing raid in Libya in response to their support to terrorism. I think that is an appropriate and just use of the military, but one that takes considerable political will (which is currently waning for obvious reasons). If we're going to be a player in the Middle East, then we need to be a player and play from a position of strength. We have been selling wolf tickets for too long. What's at risk if we don't this? We take several steps back and let Iraq devolve into a regional conflict that threatens access to the supply of crude oil in the region, which will drive the industrial world into a recession or worse. I would hope that Iran, Saudi, Syria, and others would opt to prevent this and ally with us (regardless of how repugnant it may be for all concerned) to get Iraq on the right path, to not do so is a lose-lose proposition for everyone except Al Qaeda.
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Old 12-19-2006   #19
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ICG, 19 Dec 06: After Baker-Hamilton: What to Do in Iraq
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...The exceptional convergence of interconnected Middle East crises, coupled with growing sectarian polarisation, is threatening to unleash a virtually unprecedented regional conflagration. While many international and regional actors privately acknowledge this possibility, their quasi- exclusive focus on the strategic competition between the U.S. and its Arab allies on the one hand and Iran, Syria and their allies on the other, is preventing them from taking collective action to stop the slide. Thus, the U.S. administration appears determined not to alter its approach toward Iran or Syria, convinced that any softening would only further embolden them. Likewise, Syrian officials, though privately conceding the grave risks posed by all-out civil war in Iraq and, possibly, Lebanon to the regime’s own stability, appear more interested in fending off U.S. threats than in preventing that outcome.

All in all, every actor remains engaged in policies that, whether in Iraq, Palestine, or Lebanon, threaten to ignite the final fuse. For now, Iraq – seen as the epicentre of, and the most significant prize in the struggle between two visions for the Middle East – stands at the centre of this regional tug-of-war. Its drama is fuelling regional tensions just as regional tensions in turn increasingly will fuel its civil war. Without a radical change in how the U.S. and regional actors deal with Iraq and with each other, the risks of a catastrophic result will rise exponentially.

Implementation of the various measures mapped out in this report is one last opportunity. It is at best a feeble hope, dependent on a fundamental shift among Iraqi political leaders who have been preoccupied with short term gain; on a radical rupture with past policies by a U.S. administration that has proved resistant to pragmatic change; on a significant alteration in relations between the U.S. and key regional countries that have been marked by deep mistrust and strategic competition; and on involvement by international actors that have warily watched from the sidelines. But it is the only hope to spare Iraq from an all-out disintegration, with catastrophic and devastating repercussions for all.
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Old 12-28-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
I am ambivalent toward the ISG report in that the report itself is what it is: a collection of individual talking points some of which have key implications on Iraq, some of which are more Washington DC-centric. In this regard, I see the glass as half empty. I wish they (the ISG) had filled it up.

On the other hand, I see the glass as half full because at least the ISG has brought key issues to light, issues that have not seen the light of day in several years. Moreover, the process of the ISG is in my view what is important, not its substance (or lack there of).

On another thread here the other day council member Around Midnight framed a discussion around the issue of National Will as An Instrument of National Power . I see the ISG as a critical step in doing that; the choice is really whether to take the step forward or take a step backward.

Best

Tom
I agree with your thoughts sir. I am interested to hear what you think of the ISG recommendation to push the Israelis to return the Golan Heights to Syria.

In addition, while the report makes repeated references to the issue of Kirkuk, why do you think that it would not specifically "spell-out" what the issue(s) is/are? Is there a fear of letting the US public know that the Kurds, who are portrayed as some of the "good-guys," will potentially break the country apart over this issue?
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