The Iraq Study Group’s 79-point plan that landed on the nation’s doorstep last week was received with mixed, but very predictable, reactions. The Left was elated and assumed that finally President Bush will have to admit his mistakes, start withdrawing troops and kow-tow to the Iranians and Syrians while asking for their help to get us out of the mess “he” got us into. The Right jumped on the same two recommendations from a different direction, ridiculing the recommended 18-month drawdown of troops as unrealistic and the suggestion that Iran and Syria would even consider helping us as ridiculous and recklessly dangerous.
President Bush might have had an easier time going along with some of the ISG’s plans if James Baker hadn’t had the incredible arrogance of presenting the recommendations as a package deal that will only work if implemented as a whole: no “cherry-picking” Baker said and he said it not to the President in private but to the world through the press corp. He forgot who’s the President and forgot that advisors are supposed to advise, not dictate. It looks very much now that President Bush will either dismiss the ISG report as unworkable or perhaps (more likely) “reinterpret” some of the ISG’s recommendations so they can be used as part of a new plan of action.
Ultimately, the problem with the ISG’s plan is not the fact that it was presented wrong or that it was presented as a complete, unamendable package deal; the problem with the ISG plan, from the president’s point-of-view is that the one option it does NOT have is victory, and President Bush will not settle for anything other than something he can at least ‘interpret’ as a victory. Whatever form that final version of “victory” takes, if it comes at all, it is destined to be a hollow victory because regardless of the outcome in Iraq, the true enemy is not terrorist forces operating in Iraq; the true enemy is radical Islamic fundamentalism itself.
Iraq is just a symptom of a possibly fatal disease that has infected Islam. The free world will never achieve a victory over radical Islamic fundamentalism unless and until Islam has the will to rise up and eradicate that mutant strain of it’s religion. Until such a time, every non-Islamic culture is in danger, a danger clearly stated by the radical extremists themselves, and as a result, every non-Islamic culture must view all of Islam with suspicion.
As for the United States, Iraq is just the opening volley in a war that may, depending on the actions or inaction of moderate Muslims, last for decades. If some future President decides that this is a war we can ignore, that decision will, almost certainly, eventually be taken away from him or her by radical Islam in a way that will make the continuing threat impossible to ignore.
Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times: ISG must stand for, uh, Inane Strategy Guesswork
BBC News: Iraqi leader criticises US report
From the blogosphere:
Fold/Spindle/Mutilate 2.0: The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq
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