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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tomgram: Fiddling While Baghdad Burns


How to Stay in Iraq

The Iraq Study Group Rides to the Rescue
By Tom Engelhardt

Finally, the President and the New York Times agree. In a news conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister last week, George W. Bush insisted that there would be no "graceful exit" or withdrawal from Iraq; that this was not "realism." The next day the Times, in a front page piece (as well as "analysis" inside the paper) pointed out that, "despite a Democratic election victory this month that was strongly based on antiwar sentiment, the idea of a major and rapid withdrawal seems to be fading as a viable option."

In fact, in the media, as in the counsels of James A. Baker's Iraq Study Group, withdrawal without an adjective or qualifying descriptor never arrived as a "viable option." In fact, withdrawal, aka "cut and run," has never been more than a passing foil, one useful "extreme" guaranteed to make the consensus-to-come more comforting.

On Wednesday, at the end of a gestation period nearly long enough to produce a human baby, the Baker committee -- by now, according to the Washington Post's Robin Wright, practically "a parallel policy establishment" -- will hand over to the President its eagerly anticipated "consensus" report, its "compromise" plan that takes the "middle road," that occupies a piece of inside-the-Beltway "middle ground," and that will almost certainly be the policy equivalent of a still birth.

Whatever satisfaction it briefly offers, it might as well be sent directly to the Baghdad morgue. At a length of perhaps 100 pages, evidently calling for an "aggressive" diplomatic engagement with neighboring Iran and Syria -- even unofficial American officials advocating diplomacy just can't seem to avoid some form of "aggression" -- it will also, Washington Post reporters Wright and Thomas Ricks assure us, call for "a major withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq" (no timetables, naturally).

It will evidently suggest the following: Talk to those hostile neighbors; "embed" swarms of still-to-be-trained military advisors with Iraqi troops where, so far, they have had little luck except in generating scads of complaints; pull out (or back into our massive Iraqi bases) American "combat forces," except for those slated to be part of an in-country "rapid reaction force," not to speak of all those American trainers and logistics experts; and accomplish this by perhaps early 2008.

All of this will be termed a "short" period of time to change U.S. policy and the path to be headed down will be labeled "phased withdrawal" or the beginning of an "exit strategy." Oh, and while we're at it, make sure to suggest that we embed many of those "redeployed" troops just "over the horizon," probably in Kuwait and some set of small Gulf states, where they can theoretically strike at will in Iraq if the government and military we plan to "stabilize" there turns out to be endangered (as, of course, it will be).

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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