Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Iraq Study Group Report: 160 pages, but wide margins

Well, the Iraq Study Group released its report today. Things have changed a LOT about the panel since I blogged about it. No longer does the group carry the burden of being seen as past-their-prime insiders who were chosen for their names and media profiles instead of their expertise and willingess to stand up to the powers that be! No!! Check it out: they got rid of that fogey politicos Robert Gates (confirmed today as Secretary of Defense) and replaced them with ... hmmm, let me see here...

Ah yes! Lawrence Eagleburger! A spry 76, Eagleburger seems the be the guy who stood at the post to watch Yugoslavia devolve into the worst hot war Europe had seen in a half century. However, he at least was someone (widely suspected at the behest of George I) who was willing to call out the Bush administration during their rush to war in 2002. Anyway, he was put there after Rumsfeld resigned, i.e. after the election, i.e. after the ISG had already come to their basic conclusions, i.e. he's a meaningless figurehead.

Oh, and he named all three of his sons Lawrence. Freaky!

So all this is to say that my efforts to contextualize the ISG report, which I admittedly only skimmed, took me to one place I really generally loathe going: Slate. Why do I hate Slate? Well, here's what I said many moons ago:

As if Christopher Hitchens' blatherings weren't bad enough, the folks at Slate also seem to have created a niche for themselves as the ultimate in wacky "what if" scenarios and their mind-numbingly dull "explainer" articles. "What if Howard Dean were debating George Bush tonight?" is their thought exercise for today.... I just find the whole thing to be irrelavent, unfunny, and desperately wanna-be in its hipness and water-cooler-topicness.

(As if to prove my point, today some of their featured articles are "Why Litvinenko Lost His Hair but Not His Eyebrows" and "My Quest for the World's Perfect Bag." Oh, and "Why Do Cruise Ship Passengers Always Get Diarrhea?")

Anyway, imagine my surprise to find that they were leading with the only writer in their damn organization worth a darn, Fred Kaplan, and his cutting, plain-spoken gem of a scary article, "The Iraq Study Group Chickens Out". His points:

> Whereas everybody seems to want the ISG to use the word "should," the report instead uses the word "could."
> They not only don't advocate a timetable for withdrawal, they give themselves enough wiggle room so that more troops are just as viable an option as fewer.
> They have not given us one reason why Iran would possibly be interested in helping us out.

However, none of Fred's analysis is nearly as convincing to me as the article I read earlier -- forgive me, I forget where -- that points out that by not mentioning the permanent bases -- the massive, extremely intentional permanent bases -- that are already in place, the ISG is not dealing with the FACT of our occupation and our actual strategic goals (whatever they are, because god knows the administration won't tell us) and therefore is nothing more than a meaningless exercise in empty rhetoric and political cover for any politician who would like to use it.

So expect more carnage. More sectarian violence (that is likely saving American lives because we'd be a truly inept occupying power if we were NOT secretly encouraging division among the populace, "divide and rule" being the only proven precept among colonizers). More evasion from Tony Snow and the like. And a couple of more years of nobody having the balls to demand George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's resignations, which to me is the only rational first step in any Iraq strategy.

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