TCS Daily

Our Commission-in-Chief

By Alan W. Dowd - December 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Like Moses' descent from Mount Sinai, the Iraq Study Group has handed down its findings and policy solutions for Iraq. Depending on what you read or where you watch, the media tell us it is a repudiation of the Bush Doctrine, a cover story for a graceful exit, a helping hand from father (George H.W. Bush) to son (George W. Bush), a surrender, a template for bridging America's divisions, a "realist manifesto." But more than anything else, it is a statement of the obvious.

Perhaps that is to be expected, given James Baker and Lee Hamilton's desire to produce a consensus document. When the goal is consensus, the result is usually the lowest common denominator. Hence, the commission enlightens us with such insights as the following:

  • The United States should launch a comprehensive diplomatic offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. (There's nothing wrong with launching another, but it's hard to keep track of the number of diplomatic offensives Washington has launched to deal with Iraq—and the number of times America's allies have failed to answer the call: There was the diplomatic offensive of 1997-98, when the French and Russians took a pass, leaving President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair to deal with Saddam Hussein's misbehavior. There was the diplomatic offensive of 2002, when the French promised to link arms as long as Washington worked through the UN. That preceded the diplomatic offensive of 2003, when the French and Germans organized an international opposition against the U.S.-U.K. diplomatic drive. There was Colin Powell's "postwar" diplomatic offensive, which reached out to Europe, the UN and the Middle East. What support it had was lost when Kofi Annan waved the white flag after a bombing in Baghdad and essentially shut down the UN presence in Iraq. There were the diplomatic offensives of 2004, which sought to build on the return of sovereignty to Iraqi leaders, and 2005, which sought to build on the momentum of Iraqi elections. How many is that?)

  • A "Support Group" should be formed to help the nascent Iraqi government. It should consist of "all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union...Other countries—for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea—that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members." (Of course, all of these countries and organizations—save Iran and Syria, which we will get to in a moment—are already helping to varying degrees in Iraq.)

  • Citing a "grave and deteriorating" situation in Iraq, the commission warns that "neighboring countries could intervene." A day before the formal release of the report, former commission member Robert Gates, who now serves as secretary of defense warned of the prospect of a "regional conflagration." (Could intervene? Iran and Syria already have. And as to this notion that we are on the brink of a regional conflagration, we are far beyond the brink. The Middle East has been at war for decades. Aside for a brief interregnum in the 1990s, Israel has been besieged by war since 1948. Saddam Hussein invaded three of his neighbors and launched missiles against a fourth in the 1980s and 1990s. In Iraq, Sunnis—in the form of the ruling Baathist regime—were at war with Kurds and Shiites long before American forces toppled the statues. The only difference today is that the Shiites are doing their share of killing too. Lebanon has been at war off-and-on since the early 1980s. The U.S. and Iran fought pitched battles in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s. Afghanistan was at war with its own people prior to U.S. intervention there. Add to this list the hit-and-run terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan and Turkey—all part of bin Laden's global guerilla war—and the picture of a "regional conflagration" is in perfect focus.)

  • The United States should provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan. (In this, the commission implicitly and perhaps unwittingly concedes what many of us have said since 9/11—that Iraq and Afghanistan are both fronts in a much wider war.)

  • The U.S. should "remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership." (Between the U.S. president, U.S. Congressional delegations, U.S. secretaries of state and defense, U.S. generals and U.S. ambassadors, and, of course, U.S. commissions, I would guess that Prime Minister Malaki and his predecessors have plenty of contact with the United States government.)

  • The rights of women and the rights of all minority communities in Iraq must be protected. (This was enshrined in Iraq's post-Baathist governing documents; indeed, it's arguably the very reason some Iraqis are so committed to waging their brutal war against other Iraqis.)

  • The U.S. should "expand and upgrade communications equipment and motor vehicles for the Iraqi Police Service...[and] urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web." (This is not exactly the sort of grand, sweeping, Marshall-esque vision of the way forward we were promised.)

When the commission strays from the obvious or the minutia, it drifts into difficult, if not dangerous, terrain. For example, the commission calls on the United States to "engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues."

Iran and Syria are pumping men, material and money into Iraq to destabilize it and to blunt Washington's stated goal of spreading democracy across the Middle East. They have fomented wars in Lebanon and Iraq. The Iranians and Syrians are waging a regional war by proxy—and they are not paying any price for it. They are terrorist regimes that are in open violation of international norms and U.S. goals. One of them is racing to build a nuclear arsenal and openly calls for the destruction of a UN member state, who happens to be a democratic ally of the U.S. In short, even if they could be persuaded to change course, they have forfeited that opportunity because of their behavior.

The panel also urges Washington to talk with Moqtada al-Sadr and other militia and insurgent leaders. Sadr is responsible for American deaths. Even though he is technically a part of the ruling coalition, he oversees something of a parallel government, complete with sharia courts of the sort that made the Taliban famous. His militia was once small and illegal. It now numbers thousands and is uncontrollable. He should have been killed or captured in 2004, when Iraqi officials charged him with murder. U.S. forces were in the process of taking him down, when someone inside the Iraqi government offered to broker a deal. Ever since, he has stoked the fires of sectarian war, using the minaret to coordinate terror and slaughter.

In short, with due respect to the well-meaning wise men on the commission, there are glaring flaws with the Iraq Study Group, not the least of which is something beyond its control—something for which Congress is to blamed: Commissions like this short-circuit or bypass altogether what the Founders envisioned for our system of government. The American people did not elect a commission-in-chief to define and conduct foreign policy, command the armed forces or point the way forward in Iraq. That is the president's job.

This commission was not empowered to make law, declare war or victory or defeat, make peace, or check the Executive branch. That is the job of Congress—and it is a job Congress is increasingly unwilling or unable to perform. Just consider the proliferation of commissions in recent decades: Congress and the Executive have empanelled commissions on Iraq, 9/11, WMDs and intelligence, missile defense, space defense, Social Security, tax reform, government secrecy, veterans issues, the PRC, e-commerce, terrorism, government waste, assassinations, and the list goes on and on.

This commissionizing of American government—this trend toward passing the buck from Congress and the Executive to unelected, unaccountable individuals—is not healthy. Congress should do its job, and one of its primary jobs is to provide oversight of the Executive. If Members of Congress believe the Executive branch is wayward in war or peace, then it is their responsibility to do something about it.

Creating a commission is no substitute for action, just as stating the obvious is no substitute for policy.

Alan W. Dowd is a senior fellow at Sagamore Institute for Policy Research.



Totally missing the point. The clear message is Bush/Cheney blew it
the bipartisan message delivered was completely straightforward: what's being done isn't working. The war as embarked on was bungled. We're in trouble.

If there isn't a clear prescription for how to get out of trouble, it's because the situation has been screwed up so badly that there isn't one. That isn't hte commission's fault: it's the Presidents.

The U.S. Military needs machines that can mass produce unmanned aerial vehicles. UAV's smaller than the drones flying in Iraq and Afghanistan could be manufactured by machines. These unmanned aircraft are made from composite materials and aluminum engines. The radio guidance systems utilize purchased electronic parts. The aircraft are often partially filled with hydrogen or helium. The lighter than air gases add lift. Machines can be constructed to make all of the parts from raw materials except the purchased electronic parts. Machines can assemble UAV's from fabricated and purchased parts.

Mass producing UAV's with machines can be done economically. After the machines to make the parts and assemble the planes are completed, large quanities of UAV's could be built. A fleet of 10,000 UAV's flying in conjunction with other aircraft could significantly improve the Iraqi Army's capability on the ground.

In addition,
the recommendations are those of fools. Utterly stupid.

Fools or Worse?
One has to wonder about the influences on Mr. Baker's thoughts by his foreign clients..

The most accurate thing he's said is referring to the Iraq Surrender Group's members as "has beens"- and they are.

Whether you agree with the war or not, expecting help from the Iranians is lunacy.

Will somebody tell me what Sandra Day O'Connor's knowledge of foreign affairs is?

The Drivel heads
Rush has the Ditto Heads, Washington has the Drivel Heads.

The biggest problem, as I see it anyway, isn't that the ISG Report is fatuous sophomoric drivel but that the ISG members are the best and brightest that Washington has to offer. Be afraid, be very afraid...

compared to whom?
>Will somebody tell me what Sandra Day O'Connor's knowledge of foreign affairs is?

Better than the President's.

compared to what?
I mean, what's the gold standard here?

> ISG Report is fatuous sophomoric drivel

You mean compred to slogans like "mission accomplished," "bring it on," and "stay the course" ? Where's the superior Bush adminstration plan that these recommendations pale alongside of.

Drivel Squared
I'd suggest that you take a step back from the edge.

Drivel is drivel whether you support the candidate/party or not. If you can only recognize Republican Drivel but think Democrat Drivel is the highest form of debate then your critical thinking skills are lacking. In short, your Kung Fu is weak.

You'll note that I didn't say anything about Bush, Cheney or the elephant in the room. You assumed it. Why? Are you, perhaps, based in Washington?

Lemming Stupid Alert

Lemming is based on a stack of faxes from
With lemming, Bush is bad, democrats good.

I'd say he's in left field but he's really in the street outside.

hmm.. still waiting for him to alert his other schizoid personality, BeDulls1

Ex-Politician / Appointee Full Employment
Nothing useful seems to come out of any of these commissions but they cost a lot of taxpayer dollars. We already pay the US Congress an unbelievable amount of money and they outsource their job to an unelected and unaccountable group of political hacks.

This is just the political buddy system keeping the taxpayers money in Washington, DC and actually accomplishing very little with all of that money.

The federal government budget is $2.7 Trillion, the US population is 300 million, that is $9000 for every man woman, and child. Are you getting your money's worth?

Stuporfeeder totally out of arguments alert
so you really have nothing whatsoever to contribute on topic? All you can do is spam up the subject to lame personal abuse???

What 'democrat drive'l?? Since when are James Baker and Sandra Day O'Connor democrats
The whole idea of the study group was to come up with a bi-partisan approach. You think they blew it? Say specifically how.

>If you can only recognize Republican Drivel but think Democrat Drivel is the highest form of debate then your critical thinking skills are lacking

If all you can do is call things drivel, without explaining why, your critical thinking skills are non-existent.

Sure, Supe. Jim Baker's a well-known democrat
The whole idea of the report was to get away from democrat v. republican. But maybe that's too complicated a concept for you. Even if it is, that still doesn't make Jim Baker a democrat. If you have doubts about this, you might look up the 2000 Florida election & see who pulled it out for W.

We're running a war that costs $200,000 a minute that isn't working. You really think spending a little money for people to look into why is a bad idea??

He's based in his mother's basement.
From time to time she lets him upstairs to use the bathroom.

Really substantive comment there and totally on topic Mark
hilarious too. ha ha ha. Great command of the issues.

Finders fees
Many companies have programs under which if you find a way to save the company money, you get to keep X% of the money saved.

If we were to divide up 10% of the savings from any cancelled program between all the congresscritters who voted for cancelling the program (those who vote to keep the program will be out of luck) (and the checks will keep coming as long as they live), do you think that would help?

Really? How about her inability to do the job she was supposed to be qualified for
Other than her position as the first female SCOTUS aj, what does she have to offer? This is the same justice who accepted the utter nonsense that the right to cross examine witnesses could be summarily disposed of if the witnesses were children. Her reason? "compelling state interest". I believe that was Mr. Hitler's favorite justification as well.

Interestingly, it turned out that a great many of the abuse cases that involved the most lurid tales of ritualistic abuse were FANTASY. Funny how if you use a psychologically trained adult to visit a combination of bribery, cajoling and exhaustion on children, it turns out their active little minds will spew forth whatever you want them to say.

In short with a ultravires constitutional shorthand, Ms. O'Connor's great legal mind saw fit to dispose of one of the most basic and important procedural civil rights a person has and it led to false convictions. On the other hand she wouldn't dream of not extending the tenderest and most exacting of courtesies to rapists and terrorists.

This is an individual that spends a little too much time being necromanced by her own prose.

YOU might be her equal (zero) in terms of offering a useful opinion.

Does this have something to do with Iraq?
She was one of ten members of a panel, serving after a long career and distinguished career as a judge first in Arizona, then as a justice of the Supeme Court. You disagree with one of her decisions on the court. Then disregard her opinion and consider that of the other 9 members, most of them equally distinguished.

You truly are a legan in your own mind eric
Not even close, but you can go on deluding yourself ;)

Says it all
If you have doubts about this, you might look up the 2000 Florida election & see who pulled it out for W.

They were called VOTERS.

The whole idea of the report was to get away from democrat v. republican
Bullcrap! Apparently,many of the staffers are veteran think tank ideologues giving new creedence to the idea Phd stands for piled higher and deeper.

I don't give a rats ass about Baker's party. I'm concerned about the results. When you start with the premise that Iranians are going to be helpful, the report is flawed.

So, to the extent Mr. Baker is complicit with this idea-he's wrong. Unlike you clods on the left, we don't provide lifetime passes for irrationality based on party.

And from time to time she doesn't
Which is why his partisan screeds so often can be described as excrement.

Sure. Baker heaeded up the effort to get Florida's electoral votes for Bush...
... but he's a hack Bush hater with an agenda.

>I'm concerned about the results. When you start with the premise that Iranians are going to be helpful, the report is flawed

I think they started with the premise that what's being done isn't working. You disagree with their conclusions??? Fine. But that doesn't make them anti-Bush hacks.

>So, to the extent Mr. Baker is complicit with this idea-he's wrong. Unlike you clods on the left, we don't provide lifetime passes for irrationality based on party.

Is there some reason you can't deal with the issues at hand and the realities on the ground in Iraq instead of turning everything into Right V. Left?

You're favorite dish!!!
>Which is why his partisan screeds so often can be described as excrement.

Help yourself to another big bowlful, and dig in. Nice and warm, just the way you like it. And plenty more where it came from. Always glad to hear from a satisfied customer.

No, it has to do with her judgement
If a SCOTUS AJ forgets whats she should've learned in Criminal Procedure 101, or even a casual perusing of Blackstone-which is supposed to be her expertise-we shouldn't expect sound inferences on matters where her knowledge is "less expert".

Innocent people were ruined for life because of her lousy jurisprudence.

I'm sorry that you can't understand that or much of anything else.

Tell us again how we should extend Miranda to Bin Laden.


A thorough misrepresentation
It's predictable that the party line should be to disparage the Study Group's findings. But at least the author should properly represent those findings.

1) Consensus opinion is not being sought. The findings are a grab bag of diverse suggestions. One can pick and choose from among them.

2) "The United States should launch a comprehensive diplomatic offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. (There's nothing wrong with launching another, but it's hard to keep track of the number of diplomatic offensives Washington has launched to deal with Iraq—and the number of times America's allies have failed to answer the call...)"

The United States has launched no diplomatic offensives since the decision to invade Iraq was taken. After the UN told them they wouldn't join in an invasion, the US bullied individual nations into going along with them. A "diplomatic" approach would imply that the actual victims of military aggression are to be given some say in their fates.

It seems to me that that would be the "democratic" thing to do. Instead, the list of people we are NOT talking to is far longer than the list of people we are talking to. We aren't talking to Iran or Syria,. obviously. We aren't talking to Sadr. We aren't talking to the Sunni insurgents. They've all been written off as enemies, but they're enemies we can't get rid of just by exercising our might.

Therefore in my mind they have become people we must talk to, and come to some agreement with nicely, if we are to ever get out of this mess.

3) The Maliki government badly needs a "support group". Without support, they will fall. That's a given.

4) "Lebanon has been at war off-and-on since the early 1980s."

Not so. Lebanon's civil war ended when Israel left, and the country's affairs were ceded to Syria. Lebanon then stayed at peace until Syria was forced out. Now they are at war again. Who gains by this? Not Syria.


What I'd like to know is this: If you strike every recommendation made by the ISG off the list of ideas worth consideration, what's left? Is it just to stay the course, forever? Or is it the illusion that we can force a military solution without gaining the support of the people being coerced? And that might can finally make right-- even though might alone is unlikely to ever prevail there again, now that Saddam's iron mold has been broken.

They're like the kids. Wake them up and it's going to take forever to put them to sleep again.

The subject here is how to solve Iraq's crisis of governance. How exactly would more UAVs help in that endeavor?

And this has what to do with Iraq?
She wasn't the only person on the committee, or even the only Republican. You don't like her: noted. So what?

Thanks for sharing, big guy
Lots of facts, politeness, respect, smarts, you've got none, but you keep talking.

Inspired dialog
On a good night they rise to the level of a Comedy Central. But often they're more like a slow Saturday Night Live. Sample:

"You're a big doo doo head!"

"Oh yeah? You're a big doo doo caca head!"

"Yeah? Well you're a ... a... you're what you said, squared!"

Commissions and consultants...
I worked as a consultant in the Management Advisory Services (MAS) practice for Deloitte in the middle part of my career (in the mid-1980's). That was before the practice evolved into (mostly) Information System deployments, as it is today. Back then we went in to solve specific operations problems regarding manufacturing with large clients.

Of course, the managers there understood their business perfectly and in the course of our first day's interviews we pretty much had their problems defined and we knew what foolishness was causing them. The rest of the engagement consisted of helping the client stop doing stupid things.

People inside the company know very well what is wrong. Consultants only get called in when something is clearly wrong. It always turns out that the reason is obvious and well understood. And the reason is always some stupidity that the client must simply stop. And everything magically gets better in a hurry.

Why can't the client do this himself? Politics. Someone needs to take ownership of the stupidity. The consultant. And then go away taking the social stigma with him. Everyone inside already has cover and is keeping his head down. To stand up and declare that something is wrong implies that the guy either made the mistake himself or that he knew about it all along and hid it for some (evil, self-serving) purpose. But when the consultant comes up with the solution then the client (including all his horses and all his men) can act like this is some sort of dramatic breakthrough that only specialists (from Deloitte) could create. And that's why they pay us the big bucks!

For political reasons the US needed to pretend we thought democracy could deliver a competitive, strong government in Iraq. Nonsense. Democracy in that society would give them an extraordinarily weak central government. The result would be social anarchy and intrusions by their warlike neighbors. Iraq needs another strongman and he must be from the Shia camp. As it turns out Moqtada al-Sadr is the guy.

The US decision-makers understood from the beginning that the Iraqi people want and need a strong government and that democracy would not get the job done. However, we could not install and support another strong player of our own selection. Everytime we do that we create a monster. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were both our guys during the Cold War. When such assets turned out OK for us like the Shah of Iran or Ferninand Marcos we got embarrassed. If they turned against us then we got hurt. But they were necessary to get the job done.

The Baker Commission and the Democratic Congress are our cover. General Colin Powell (the warrior) is gone and a bright young woman Condoleezza Rice, PhD is Secretary of State. Donald Rumsfeld (another warrior) is gone and a bright, reasonable (University President) Robert Gates, PhD is Secretary of Defense. Some of the things we needed to do to launch this necessary endeavor have now become the (obvious) stupidities that we must simply stop. Because James Baker said so. And then he'll go back to his ranch in Texas. We love consultants.

The New 21st Century Automation
UAV's could dramatically increase the amount of surveillance, and provide the winning edge for coalition ground forces.

What would be so wrong with al Sadr...

How about the scenerio that al Sadr quietly and de facto comes to power? His militia is already being used by the government to do the dirty work fighting the al Qaeda led Sunni insurgency. If we take a hands-off attitude his team will simply take over and put an end to the violence. Without genocide. Or a genuine civil war. But we need to get out of the way, now.

Any pure form of democracy is a bad idea for Iraq. Democracy would give them a weak government. All along we had to be prepared that a player strong enough to impose his will (and secure the political sovereignty of the nation) would come out of their political process. The guy we need is Muqtada al-Sadr and we have known that since we stopped trying to kill him in 2004.

Al-Sadr needs to restore civil order and he must secure Iraq's borders. His warlike neighbors have already taken a "we'll do as we please" attitude regarding intrusions. Iraq has basicly no ability to defend its own borders. And we don't seem really interested in doing that either.

Muqtada al-Sadr is about ready and we are about gone. It's hard to know how the Administration will try to spin this but replacing Rumsfeld was part of that plan. The Baker Commission was another. It may be a done deal. How do you think this plays out regarding global politics?

I'm not so sure
I don't think we'll be seeing any photo ops of Sadr and Condi holding hands. They're on opposing sides.

The scenario you describe-- allowing al-Sadr to restore civil order-- would be a good one from the point of view of the Iraqi people. But it would be a bad one from the POV of the United States. Sadr's Mahdi Army is a focal point for Shiite resisters, just as the remnants of the former Baath regime is a focal point for the Sunni resistance. If we left tomorrow, both would very likely quickly reach some accomodation. It would be in the best interest of neither for them to continue fighting each other.

The Maliki government is without question an occupation government, and its fortunes are tied to those of the US. Significantly, the Iraq Study Group's report calls for the Iraqi government to write laws permitting free foreign investment in Iraq's oil, and what they call the repatriation of assets-- that is, the ability to then take profits out of Iraq. See their recommendation #63. Here is the download:

This, in large part, is what the fighting is about. A major objective has been to prevent foreign investors from being able to take over the oil. So for as long as it takes, American forces are likely to continue to meet with determined resistance.

Nor will our dogs in the fight willingly give up the bone. Therefore as the President has pretty much indicated we will be there through mid-2008, I think we will see little progress until either the American public reaches its pain threshold and starts screaming, or the Maliki government falls.

I'm thinking Maliki will fall first. Sadr's deputies have broken with him-- and their presence was required to hold his governing coalition together. Let's see if anyone calls for a vote of confidence, and challenges him.

I don't think I've ever seen it put that elegantly. Now if we could only convince the Israelis and the Palestinians that they need the services of your firm...

No need for consensus for principles
If you have principles, there is no need for consensus.

America at one time had principles and people were willing to support those principles, partly because they had principles.

It seems that somehow our 'greatest generation' raised a lesser generation with principles that are negotiable, or no principles except, maybe, 'if it feels good, do it'.

However, fortunately we still have a few million that do have principles and are willing to put their lives on the line to defend them. And suffer the ridicule of those unprincipled politicians and 'intellectuals' who have no clue what a moral standard is.

Does anyone have any examples of consensus decisions that have not been failures?

Needed urgently: force multipliers
There are factors at work in Iraq other than any limits on our already virtually limitless ability to surveille, that will complicate our ability to prevail in Iraq. The military struggle is subservient to the political struggle, and the Iraqis mostly want us out of there.

Our government of convenience, the Maliki government, is in a precarious and rapidly eroding position. If and when it falls, Sadr's people and the former Baath regime become the dominant players in Iraq. We can surveille them all we want. If we don't have half a million guys on the ground to shoot at them, we'll be waving goodbye from our helicopters.

No collusion between Al Q and the Baath
My view of the situation on the ground there differs from yours in one vital respect. I see no operational collusion between the Baath resistance and Al Qaeda in Iraq. They have conflicting goals.

Al Q in I sees Iraq as an arena in a wider global war against Israel and the US. They aren't Iraqi, don't care about the Iraqis, and want to create maximal chaos there to turn the world of Islam (in fact the whole world) against the US. The path they have chosen is to foment stife between the Sunni and Shia Arabs. And they have succeeded beautifully.

First they got the UN out of Baghdad, by bombing theit HDQ and killing their leader. Then they assassinated Hakim. Then all the other carefully planned strikes, like the Samarra mosque that really started the religious wars going.

All the Baath wants to do is to drive the Americans out and get back into power. And the same with Sadr. They are both authentic Iraqis. If Maliki collapses and the Americans head for the exits, it's conceivable that there might be some power sharing accomodation between the two. Or, they could decide to duke it out. But either way I see the resistance to the occupation as being one thing, and the ethnic cleansing fomented by Al Q in Iraq as distinctly another.

Just about the only thing that unites all Iraqis is their hatred for the foreign bastards-- meaning Al Q in Iraq first and foremost, as well as the Americans and the Iranians, in that approximate order.

An occupying power in a bitterly hostile land
If you'll recall, one of the main reasons we've gotten stuck in this mess is that we didn't wait to build a consensus. We just went in with whichever nations we could bully into joining us-- all of whom have at this point either already left or announced their departure date. We're stuck out there alone.

Recall, please, the reason George H W Bush and Brent Scowcroft gave for not staying in Iraq. Their advice, if we can take it as such, is both timely and prescient:


While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome."

Demonstrating what gross ignorance is again
Only the truly deluded would conclude the Baathists and Sadr's militia have a snowball chance in hell of surviving the wrath of 80% of the Iraqi population. If the US had allowed the Kurds to have cleaned house Iraq would enjoy both a significant decrease in the commissar's pals and a more unified nation.

You nailed that Mr. Howard
Imagine the military expertise of Vernon Jordan combined with that of Sandra O'Connor! What nation could aspire to a greater military think tank. But wait add to this Les Aspin, Sandy Berger, and the great unlamented Baker and you have the high command of Ecuador! The Group has all the military skills and sophistication of the three stooges.

When you need expertise there is always Sandy Berger
Now who has greater military expertise than Sandy Berger. Excepting maybe Sandra O'conoor and Vernon Jordan. Both served in the elite K Street Brigade, known for its daring commando missions to raid corporate treasuries.

What a laugh. When the going gets tough, and you don't want anyone to have responsibility form a committee. The final sign of collapse.

Commissar Roy brays "nobody there but dem mice"
Its good to see you repeating those old gag lines. They must be very comforting.

I can see Patton and Sherman demanding a need for consensus
As you point out people with principles do not require consensus. People with integrity do not have to consult their moral compass every hour. I can hear Churchill now asking for a consensus prior to his "we'll fight them on the beaches" speech.

The panel included people with all kinds of experience
Why not say specificially what you'd do better?

Consensus building
Off topic, perhaps, but I think still useful to the discussion is the observation that there are two broad approaches to conducting the democratic process (from demos, or people, and krates, or rule, i.e. rule by the public).

The one we use is majority rule. And the shortcoming to giving absolute power to whichever party holds a simple majority is that it encourages factionalism, divisiveness and fighting.

The other approach, employed in most non-hierarchic simple societies, is rule by consensus. Here the group parlays until there is unanimous, or near unanimous agreement. All the ducks have to be in the same row before an action is undertaken. An example would be Afghanistan's "loya jirga" process. The Chinese also favor this approach, which confers strength through unity.

Using the consensus approach, no one has anyone to blame when things go wrong. Because everyone will have acceded to the decision.

Burn your textbooks
and get on with reality.

Do independent commissions earn their keep?
The only times nothing comes from the findings of an independently appointed commission are when the president chooses to ignore the experts. A prime example would be the Meese Commission Report on Pornography, which was ignored by Nixon. Money could be saved by the president's announcing in advance "You can say what you want. I'm not listening."

We were tipped off early in the Bush presidency that he wasn't going to take the process of employing independent commissions very seriously. He appointed a number of commissions to study this and that, ALL THE MEMBERS OF WHICH agreed with him in advance. Their findings were unsurprising.

What makes the ISG different is that some unseen voice whispered in his ear, from the White House drapes, that this time he was to suffer the publication of an assessment by truly independent voices. And here we have it. I don't think we have paid too much for a second opinion.

BTW, if you don't think we're getting a good bang for our tax buck, don't vote for the same people in 2008. Under the current crowd we're now spending a quarter of a trillion each year just for interest on all that borrowed money.

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