I never had terribly high hopes for the Iraq Study Group. It smacked too much of Papa Bush trying to put little Georgie on the right path, not like a serious effort to come to grips with the catastrophe that Iraq has become (and which, I hasten to note, I and others predicted it would become). And from what I’ve seen of the report, it seems basically to be what I predicted.
Setting aside the details of the recommendations, we can see the problem in looking at Kansas politicians’ reactions to it:
Rep. Jim Ryun, R‑Kan., said he particularly likes the concept of developing a broad international coalition of countries to help. …
Nancy Boyda, the Democrat who will succeed Ryun in January to represent the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Kansas, said, “I’m glad we’re finally recognizing that we need to move in a new direction. We have known for quite a while that things are worse off than we had been led to believe.” …
Rep. Jerry Moran, R‑Kan., who represents the 1st District, which covers much of the western half of the state, was pleased the study group acknowledged that “the status quo is unacceptable.”
“The report correctly calls for the Iraqis to take more responsibility for their country’s security so we can bring our U.S. servicemen and ‑women home,” he said.
Rep. Dennis Moore, D‑Kan., who represents the Kansas City area and part of Lawrence, said he hoped the report would be “the beginning of an honest and productive debate about how the U.S. and the international community can work together to train Iraq security forces, support the Iraqi government, and stabilize the region so we can begin a responsible and realistic redeployment of our troops.”
Sen. Sam Brownback, R‑Kan., who announced earlier this week the formation of a presidential campaign exploratory committee, called the report “a welcome contribution to a national debate on our commitments in Iraq, but this is only the beginning.”
“Even as we speed up the transfer of responsibility to the Iraqis, we must ensure the defeat of terrorists in Iraq and nurture democracy and stability,” he said in a statement.
In other words, they are all saying now what they said before. Yes, it would be nice if the United States would sit down with the rest of the leadership in the region, but the President has indicated no interest in that particular course of action, so we’ll be waiting two years before a US representative meets with someone from Iran or Syria.
And it would indeed be nice if the Iraqi national government were anywhere near strong enough or stable enough to field a unified police force and military so that American forces could focus on other issues. And after almost 4 years, it’s not an unreasonable expectation that they could be contributing at least some. But because the country is in chaos, it’s hard to get those forces ready to fight. Besides which, the process of training and supplying Iraqi forces has the unpleasant side effect of training and supplying insurgents and civil warriors who have infiltrated or simply taken over those groups.
In other words, I’d like everything in the ISG report, and a pony. I’d settle for a clear plan from the White House (beyond the excellent suggestion that we should win). Because Congress can do a lot, but they can’t command the troops on the ground. Ordering troops out of Iraq isn’t even an easy process for Congress. Congress cannot order the State Department to talk with Syria or Iran, nor can it negotiate the creation of a truly international force in Iraq.
Invading Iraq was a solution in search of a problem, and has left us with a problem that lacks any good solutions. Irony or wordplay? You decide.