Now is panic time for the pro-war dead enders. They just can’t believe that good old reliable Jim Baker would stab them in the back by suggesting that things have gone FUBAR in Iraq.
Pandering to just that constituency, Mr. Murdoch’s New York Post splashed Baker and Hamilton onto its front page and headlined them as “Surrender Monkeys.”
First time I have found myself heartily agreeing with Jim Baker who called the Post what it is, a rag. I’ve known some great hard-digging journos who have worked at the Post, mostly as metro reporters. What a horrible day for them.
Now, on to more serious aspects of the war debate. I watched Thursday’s Bush-Blair press conference from the perfect vantage point — in bed. I was driven under covers several times, wincing at GW Bush’s struggle to actually say something coherent.
Mostly, I was embarrassed for Blair, who is clearly a much smarter guy. But I guess not that smart after all considering what class of ally he has chosen.
I’m glad to see that the New York Times heard what I heard. Bush basically rejecting the two main points of the ISG report: no commitment to troop withdrawal and no acceptance of open-ended talks with Iran and Syria. If that holds, it means of the 79 recommendations put forward by Baker-Hamilton, the only one Bush will comply with is flossing after eating kebab.
Bush is going to have to do something, of course. I think my old pal Bill Arkin makes the best prediction as to what is coming:
Here’s how I see Iraq playing out in the short term: The president makes an announcement within a month about his “new” plan. Washington is ever so pleased with a new approach. But the a la carte plan is seen by the Iraqis for what it is; it is not a U.S. timetable for withdrawal. It is not an unequivocal pledge not to establish permanent bases. It is sovereignty and authority in name only for Iraq with continued American control behind the scenes. I can’t see how any of this equivocation will deflate the insurgency or stem the hatred for America that is fueled by our presence.
The “plan,” in other words, is neither what the American people nor the Iraqi people want.
Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan takes my off-the-cuff notion from yesterday that the ISG report, in the end, was so ambiguous that it hardly mattered and filled in the details. Kaplan calls the report “an amorphous, equivocal grab bag” that offers no discernible course different than the status quo.
Its outline of a new “diplomatic offensive” is so disjointed that even a willing president would be left puzzled by what precisely to do, and George W. Bush seems far from willing.
Its scheme for a new military strategy contains so many loopholes that a president could cite its language to justify doing anything (or nothing).
Contrary to the leaks of the last several days, the report does not call for a pullback of American forces in Iraq. One and a half sentences in the executive summary seem to do that: “By the first quarter of 2008 â€¦ all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces.”
Make sure you read the entire article. I have to say that two days after the fact I remain deeply pessimistic about how this is all going to play put. Bush, as we have noted before, seems particularly autistic in his response.
And the Democrats, I wholly believe, have already punted and have become Jim Baker’s mascots. Listening to Keith Olberman in the background as I worked last night, I think he came up with a great point. Paraphrasing closely, he said that the British reporters at the Bush-Blair press conferences asked tougher questions about the ISG report than the Democrats have. Indeed.
The true outstanding exception to the Democrats stupidity on this is Senator Russ Feingold who issued a blistering statement on the ISG report. Read it.
Meantime, a record number of American troops killed in one day. Eleven.