Mistakes were made. I based my decisions on information available at the time. Stuff happens. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I never called T.R. Knight a faggot. Oh, and my priest molested me, I was drunk, and I'm going to rehab. I'll call after I detox, Sugartits.
What I'm trying to express, in terms everyone will understand, is that I was wrong and I apologize.
Late last year, I incorrectly wrote that the Iraq Study Group would give President Bush and congressional Republicans domestic political cover to begin a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq. Political cover was necessary, I wrote, because Bush and his allies have spent the past few years saying that anyone who supports a pullout is a pussy.
I was wrong. Bush did not in fact use the ISG's December report to politically cover a withdrawal. In fact, Bush ignored the report's key recommendations and announced that his "way forward" in Iraq was a troop increase.
The troop increase, known as the surge, is supposedly intended to stabilize Baghdad. Flood Baghdad with extra U.S. troops patrolling its most violent neighborhoods, the theory goes, and you can take back Baghdad from the insurgents and sectarian militias.
To carry out the surge, Bush replaced the commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, with a new guy, Gen. David Petraeus. Since Bush's announcement, countless talking heads have called Surgin' Gen. Petraeus "brilliant" and "energetic," describing him as the United State's last best hope. But if Petraeus is so manifestly awesome, why didn't Bush put him in command earlier? Notice that the people who talk about how awesome Petraeus is never seem to ask that question.
Page 50 of the ISG report supports a possible surge, but only in the context of ISG's main military recommendation that the United States embed more U.S. forces inside Iraq's military while reducing the overall U.S. military presence in Iraq. No such plan has emerged from the White House.
The ISG doesn't call for an immediate withdrawal. It calls for deadlines and force reductions. "The United States should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq," the report says. Doing so distracts the United States from other military operations and puts a strain on the U.S. Army that, in the report's words, could "take years to reverse." Most importantly, the report argues, Iraq's sectarian civil war will have to be settled by Iraqis. "An open-ended commitment of American forces would not provide the Iraqi government the incentive it needs to take the political actions that give Iraq the best chance of quelling sectarian violence."
Just as Bush has ignored the ISG's military recommendations, he has also largely ignored the ISG's nonmilitary recommendations. Recommendation No. 9 is for the United States to negotiate directly with declared regional enemies Iran and Syria "to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq." That hasn't happened. Instead, the United States positioned two carrier groups off Iran's southern coast that last week carried out a "major" naval exercise off Iran's coast designed to demonstrate to Iran that the U.S. Navy still has a pantry full of laser-guided whoop-ass. Not quite what the ISG meant by diplomacy.
The most important ISG recommendation on which progress has been made is No. 28: "Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population." In other words, revenue from the oil-rich Kurdish north and Shiite south must be shared with the oil-poor Sunni middle. Under U.S. pressure, the Iraqi government drafted such a proposal last month that spelled out just such a formula. If the law passes, then great, but Iraq's government can't even get the country's electricity grid working. What makes anyone think it will run its oil industry fairly or efficiently?
The ISG's recommendations, though ignored so far, aren't completely dead. It's possible that the White House's surge and its saber-rattling at Iran are attempts by the White House to stake out a better position from which to initiate the diplomatic talks and force reduction that the ISG recommends. But don't bet on it, Sugartits.
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