Iraq Reality Check Estimated Time Of Arrival: 11/08 genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Reality check

Those who presume that voters are being provided with meaningful information in the run-up to this midterm election may well be in for a surprise on November 8th. While that date may not be totally accurate, the report to be provided shortly after the election by former Secretary of State James Baker and his Iraqi Study Group may be a painfully candid critique of the Bush administration's Iraq strategy and the loftier Bush Doctrine that seeks to export democracy. If the information leaked to and included in an article in the New York Sun proves to be correct, the rose colored assessments frequently offered by this administration are about to be jettisoned in favor of a harsh reality check.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

I think it is important to recap where this entire fiasco in Iraq began in order to simply illustrate the degree to which the rhetoric of partisan politics has dictated policy. Lest we forget, the Iraq invasion began as an effort to protect the U.S. from the possibility that Sadaam Hussein might provide terrorists with access to his weapons of mass destruction. When that premise proved to be based upon inaccuracies or worse yet, deception, only then did the nobler goal of bringing democracy to an oppressed population emerge as the focal ambition. I'm not suggesting that this subsequent goal is without merit...but the truth is that it surfaced out of political expediency. Perhaps November will set the record straight or at a minimum bring an end to the ever evolving spin.

The president also said he was not averse to changing tactics. But he repeated that the strategic goal in Iraq is to build "a country which can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself." He added, "The strategic goal is to help this young democracy succeed in a world in which extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend the caliphate."

But the president's strategic goal is at odds with the opinion of Mr. Baker's expert working groups, which dismiss the notion of victory in Iraq. The "Stability First" paper says, "The United States should aim for stability particularly in Baghdad and political accommodation in Iraq rather than victory."

Sadly, even when this President hints that he is willing to look at alternative strategies, he uses language that further fuels the flames of fanaticism. In defining the goal of those who oppose us as a clash of civilizations, whereby he asserts that they seek to "extend the caliphate", he once again obfuscates the potential for reasoned clarity and measured dialogue. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he has the discipline needed to restrain his confrontational outbursts. Further, it has yet to be seen if he can moderate his goals to match that which can reasonably be achieved in Iraq and the Middle East.

"If we are able to promote representative, representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, it will have been a success," he [Baker] said.

That distinction is crucial, according to one member of the expert working groups. "Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative," the group member, who requested anonymity, said.

Both option papers would compel America to open dialogue with Syria and Iran, two rogue states that Iraqi leaders and American military commanders say are providing arms and funds to Iraq's insurgents. "Stabilizing Iraq will be impossible without greater cooperation from Iran and Syria," the "Stability First" paper says.

The larger question is if this President can accept the more modest goals to be offered by Baker's task force or if they will be met by resistance or even a campaign to discredit. It is increasingly difficult to determine where George Bush's convictions end and his need to be right might begin. He has held fast to the argument that he isn't concerned with polls or politics and yet his reported convictions continue to evolve to fit the changing circumstances. The essential question is how he actually views the concept of adaptation. The evidence suggests that he prefers to adapt his rhetoric to fit the circumstances rather than adapts his strategy to address the realities. As he receives this important report, I fear the former...but I'm hoping for the latter.

Daniel DiRito | October 12, 2006 | 4:12 PM
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1 On October 23, 2006 at 3:08 AM, Kevin Hayden wrote —

In six years, I've heard Bush issue one apology (Abu Ghraib) and his only compromise was the Military Commissions Act, which compromised minor details instead of its key points.

I don't see him changing his goal in Iraq. I just think he can't quite grasp that he's already lost that.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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