ISG = Stay the Coruse

After looking at the contents of the Iraq Study Group, I've changed my estimation of its recommendation. It still does political damage to the Bush Administration's Stay the Course strategy, since it has significantly moved the debate with it's sober factual account of the conditions within Iraq and Baghdad, specifically. The conventional wisdom now has significant momentum towards declaring Iraq a loss - chaotic beyond redemption. The ISG describes the conditions as "Dire and Deteriorating," which can only mean things are getting worse. That puts the happy-talk about "Winning in Iraq" to bed, which is a significant victory for our side of the argument.

Furthermore, since the bipartisan group appeared to recommend two things the Administration refuses to consider - a pullout and negotiations with Syria and Iran - it looks like the Bush Administration is filing this report in the circular filing cabinet. For the record, Bush's responses to these two proposals of the are:
"Iran knows how to get to the table with us, and that is to do that which they said they would do, which is verifiably suspend their [uranium] enrichment programs."
"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," he told reporters. But "this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."
Furthermore, when Iraq is finally and totally lost, the fact that Bush ignored this bipartisan report can be used as ammunition against him in the inevitable argument over who is to blame.

But, despite the fact that the public perception of the report damages the Administration politically, when you read the actual report it actually supports the President's current plan - Stay the Course, or "We'll Stand Down as They Stand Up." The troop withdrawals contained within the report are tied to "conditions on the ground," which is exactly what Bush has been saying for years. Amazing, isn't it, that what is essentially a complete vindication can be played as such a resounding rebuke?

So what really happened here? I've got my theory: the panel members were sober people, with no ego-skin in the game, allowing them to attempt a dispassionate appraisal to arrive at the optimum policy. This allowed them to see the reality - that the War in Iraq has entered a new phase of civil war which we have no power to shape. Since we don't posses the troops to significantly surge numbers for a sustained period, we cannot implement a policy that has a hope of success, so we must withdraw. However, the participants of the panel were still political men and women, so tying the withdrawals to conditions on the ground was a precondition placed by one of the Republican members in the hopes of blunting the political impact of the report. Unfortunately for them, that is one too many steps of subtlety for the conventional wisdom narrative to follow. A political defeat is what has been perceived by the public regardless of the literal verbage and nuance of the report. This turned out to be an interesting mini lesson in the conventional wisdom narrative that is all our media can coherently present.

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