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December 19, 2006



Dear AA,

I would see it this way:

- The ISG Report is the kind of text that a bi-partisan commission, seeing itself working within the U.S. gov't system, could've produced. It aimed to offer a way to criticize the administration's policies without overstepping the bounds, and in its description of Iraq it also tried not to antagonize the Iraqi government.

- The ICG Report is the kind of text that a non-governmental organization, that doesn't care who it antagonizes, could write. Its recommendations are "technically" more sound, but also have less chance of implementation.

A sentence like "The solution is not to change the prime minister or cabinet composition, as some in Washington appear to be contemplating, but to address the entire power structure that was established since the 2003 invasion, and to alter the political environment that determines the cabinet’s actions." sounds great, but is impossible to implement. At this point, the U.S. administration has no leverage whatsoever to actually "address the entire power structure that was established since the 2003 invasion."

Most of the ICG's recommendations read like the ISG's ... only slightly, but not substantially, altered.



Further to MSK's comment, I would like to add this:

"Realizable" recommendations for action by the Bush administration, or any administration like it, are going to have to involve some skewing of the factual analysis in order to arrive an outcome arguably acceptable to Washington. Baker talked about the existing government as a representative one, to be "strengthened". ICG says no, but it continues to assume that the US has persuasive leverage while it is still occupying the country. The skewing is less, but it is still there.

I think it is worthwhile setting aside for a moment the question of what would be acceptable to Bush or any facsimile of his, and look for a moment at Iraq without those skewed assumptions. The solution, I would say, becomes immediately clear. Withdraw US forces from Iraq and foster rapprochment between the Shiite nationalists and the Sunni nationalists. It is the mirror opposite of Bush policy. It flies in the face of the recent US demonization of Sadr and Dhari both. But isn't there a place for a plain look at what a real solution would look like (for instance if you had a functioning two-party system in the US and the opposition-left party was willing to entertain the above idea?)


Lhe logorrhea from American policy elites is driving me crazy. This entire misbegotten adventure was premised on a delusion that legitimacy (democratic or otherwise) can be packaged, sold, and consumed like a McDOnald's hamburger. It was not only the violence of the invasion and the incompetence of the occupation that created the present state of anarchy in Iraq but more fundamentally the idea that power is a commodity. It's not. It needs to develop as an organic social phenomenon. All these "solutions" offered by American policy elites are not only (generally speaking) ignorant and out of touch with reality, they're actively counterproductive in that they foreclose options that might be viable were they endogenous.

Oscar Wilde was once having lunch at his club with a group that included a mediocre writer who was quite exercised at having been passed over for Poet Laureate. "THere's a conspiracy of silence against me, Oscar, a conspiracy of silence," he whined. "What do you suppose I ought to do?" Wilde gave him a withering stare, paused for a beat, and drawled: "Join it."

It may be a hard truth, but it's time to join the conspiracy of silence on Iraq. We've totally blown our opportunity to support the political process. It's not only our troops that need to get out, yesterday, but our pundits and advisors as well. Having helped to rip the existing fabric of the country apart, we need to let it heal on its own.


Agree generally with comments posted here, but to focus in particular on MSK's and the logical conclusion: people outside the USG can give sound but unimplementable-by-Washington suggestions, people in the USG can give lousy but possibly-implementable suggestions, put the two together and voila! The final and complete failure of Bush Admin Iraq policy is at hand.


Two Missing Climbers Still Sought; Body of Third Identified


Matt Phillips

When top counterterrorism officials and Intelligence committee Congressmen don't know whether Al Qaeda is Sunni or Shia, it is difficult to be optimistic that our government is capable of the hard, serious work this report is suggesting we need. I think the triumphalist stupidity of this administration will persist to the bitter end.


Yes, it's Der Untergang, except Bush and wife won't commit suicide.

So did anyone here see this?

Original link.


I'm beginning to wonder if all of this mess might not be so undesirable from Bush and Co.'s standpoint, however ugly it is to human beings. I mean: cui bono? The number of Americans killed each day is not enough to shake their countrymen out of their daily consumerist torpor and nobody cares about dead Iraqis anyway. It is difficult to believe that with thousands of State Department, CIA and DOD personnel free-ranging Iraq these past three years most, if not all, of potential solutions were both discussed and discarded in favor of the current situation. Who does the current situation benefit and why so much resistance to implementing any sane resolution, beginning with the US abandoning its ne0-colonial aspirations in Iraq?


Sounds like Somalia has already happened if the army is desperate enough to acknowledge devolution and arm the "police" forces of local warlords/building contractors. Catchy slogan: "Building a Bridge to the 12th Millennium BC."

I like the mustache idea though. Here's a start.


The report demands that Iran:

9. Facilitate achievement of a national compact by using its leverage to control SCIRI and its channels in southern Iraq to influence the Sadrists.

that Saudi Arabia:

10. Facilitate achievement of a national compact by using its influence with insurgent groups, in particular by cutting off funding from private Saudi sources to those that refuse to cooperate.

And that Turkey:

11. Facilitate achievement of a national compact by using its influence with all Iraqi actors, including insurgent groups.

All pretty specific. OTOH, the United States is to:

5. In the context of the Quartet, and together with Arab countries, revitalise the search for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

Huh? How? Perhaps by leaning on the Likud party and the Israeli military. Talk about ponies - there's no way that Bush is going to revitalize anything other than the war effort.

Gregory Gause

Ya Abu Aard: Shouldn't the ICG report end up with a pony request? It seems to me that, while their diagnosis is much more on the mark than Baker-Hamilton (which was more on the mark than the Administration), their recommendations of what all the parties should do is nothing but an ambitious wish list, in many ways far more ambitious than the B-H recommendations. Getting all the regional and international parties together, agreed to support a new Iraqi government, everybody willing not to interfere for individual gain, Kurds not to push for Kirkuk, militias to disband...and a pony!


Greg - yes, it should. Unfortunately, due to a mountain of papers to grade and many unrelenting hours of department meetings I never was able to get around to discussing the ICG recommendations at all...


Hmmm.. "national compact" who ever thought that Lebanon would become an object for political emulation. Sure all Iraq's neighbours have an interest in its stability (narrowly defined)but none really has an interest in its economic redevelopment and political consolidation, there's just too much risk that it will be a destabilizing regional actor. I think I tend to see the same reluctance to deal with al-Sadr as fear of a regime that will build legitimacy through nationalist and populist demogougery taking Iraq in that direction. Nor do I see Iraqis who have grown impatient with the occupation accepting longterm politcal supervison.

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