Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud have the big scoop in tomorrow's issue of The New York Times: leaked details of the forthcoming report from the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker Commission.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel's deliberations.

[...]

A person who participated in the commission's debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, "there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached."

The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.

The devil, of course, is in the details, i.e. what would govern the decision to draw back troops and what would be the safeguard to ensure that American forces are not left in Iraq indefinitely despite this proposal. On the surface it does not appear to be a bad proposal. And yet it does not seem to be a terribly groundshaking proposal, either. It certainly does not appear to contain the type of magic bullet it was assumed to have had by members of Congress from both parties, as well as the establishment media.

In short, the Iraq Study Group appears to be calling for what the majority of Democrats have been calling for over at least the course of the last year: a phased redeployment of troops. If the Democrats had been heeded months ago, there is little doubt that the number of American troops who would have lost their lives would be less than it is today, though there is little indication if there would have been more or less bloodshed among Iraqis. (I suspect that, at least since February, the American presence has done little to abate or enflame the civil war waging in the country -- a belief that is admittedly not informed by first-hand experience or expertise in either Iraqi history or military tactics.)

But my greatest qualm about this report is not so much in its substance but rather in its relevance. I am far from convinced that President Bush has had a change of heart when it comes to Iraq, that he will be willing to accept the recommendations even from James Baker, who has so often bailed out both he and his father. In and of itself the Iraq Study Group report will not cause the President to change course, just as the situation on the ground has failed to, just as the clear implications of November 7 have failed to.

If there is to be change in American policy towards Iraq it must come from decisive action from the Democratic Congress, both in the form of strenuous oversight and meaningful legislation. I do not believe that the time has come to begin to defund the war effort through acts of Congress (it's not at all clear to me that this could be done without the agreement of the White House, which would certainly not be expected). Nevertheless, just as America must make it clear to Iraq that it is resolute in its determination not to maintain troops in the country indefinitely in an effort to cajole the Iraqi government into action, so too must Democrats make it clear to President Bush that they have the same determination in order to cajole his administration into action.

Tags: Iraq, iraq study group (all tags)

Comments

16 Comments

Iraq Study Group will be told to 'stuff it'...

Hell, The Decider done decided....This ain't no Deeeeeemocracy no more homer. We done crossed da Rubicon wit the 109th Congress and only the netroots stand between this nation and Bush deeeclarin' himself President-fer-Life. As Abu Gonzales has said: If the President does it...that's OK!

I imagine Poppy and his punch Bar are a leetle put out dat Junior has fucked up so bad and now won't even take Jimmy Baker's help.

Well hang on you ReichWing fuckjobs 'cause when Sadr eliminates the Green Zone, or one of his militias does it in hopes of currying his favor, all bets are off.

$10.00/gal gas anybody?

by Pericles 2006-11-29 06:46PM | 0 recs
Pullback isn't a withdrawal

I don't think pullback means withdrawal. I think it means moving troops WITHIN Iraq to more secure positions in order to have Iraq take more responsibility. I think this ISG report is no more than Stay the Course 2.0. I mean 'more diplomacy' and 'Iraq takes more responsibility' isn't exactly new.

Leaving is losing for the Boy King. This report is a fig leaf that buys him another six months of staying. Early next year becomes next spring becomes next fall becomes 2009 and the problem of the next President.

This report is more disappointing than the 4th Star Wars movie. It's sad. Deadly sad.

by joejoejoe 2006-11-29 07:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal
The questions that need to be asked, surely, are whether Maliki is any position at all to reach a 'political settlement', whether urgently or otherwise, and whether he is in any position at all to 'crack down' on the violence or even lessen it to a small degree. So far as I can see nobody seems to be asking them - and the fact that these questions are not been asked by American journalists and others strikes me, as an Englishman living in Japan, as being indicative of the strange blindness as to the nature of reality, or lack of interest in it, that seems to afflict rather too many American people who are in positions where one should have thought that an awareness of reality, its complexities and recalcitrance, was important. In all honesty, rather too many Americans (and not just the present American administration) seem to live in a dream world (and let me say that there are many things about the United States I hugely admire, that I have many American friends, and that I am not indulging in chauvinistic point-scoring: this blindness genuinely alarms and puzzles me). Maliki is surely in a very weak position, and this talk of bringing 'pressure' to bear in order to get him to do things is ridiculous and futile - unless of course it is designed to persuade the American people that it is not the present American administration (and its journalistic cheer-leaders) who are responsible for the mess in Iraq, but the Iraqis and their perversity.  
   
by tim harris 2006-11-29 09:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq war funding

Don't forget funding for the entire Iraq war is entirely "off budget". It's being done via "emergency supplemental appropriations" to the Defense budget. In practical terms what this means is the regular 400-500B DoD budget is being touched hardly at all.

Dems need only to refuse to consider or approve the
supplemental budget requests and make DoD fund the war out of its regular appropriated budget to put the squeeze on. Force DoD to make the hard choices between hiring a dizzing array of consultants, privatizing defense functions (which is a huge duplication of effort of what the government already does) and unneeded and unwanted weapons systems and
paying for the war.

by phillydem 2006-11-30 12:20AM | 0 recs
Pentagon "General" Funds?

I don't think (legally) the Pentagon can even fund the Iraq War effort out of "regular" funds, assuming a Democratic-controlled Congress is at all competent. There are line items for just about everything, even including the secret/black items. If the Secretary of Defense or his subordinates spend money on something besides the line items they're in serious hot water, legally.

Politically it's another question, although I think Americans would support Congress over an thoroughly  stubborn President. (The public has been way ahead of the politicians the whole way on Iraq.) But I do think Congress has plenty of budgetary power here, and I don't see a legal way the President could stop a determined Congress.

Let's hope it doesn't come to a budgetary showdown like this, and that the President takes the Commission seriously.

by BBCWatcher 2006-11-30 04:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Money moves within and between accounts

It is true that money is appropriated for specific purposes in mind-numbing accounting detail, but it can be, is and has been transferred between accounts. Money can also be used to fund things that it's not meant to with a little creative
justification. It's a bit harder, but still doable.

OMN accounts are always the most vulnerable to budget raids because they are the day-to-day funds and therefore have "today's" money in them.

by phillydem 2006-11-30 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

I don't know, I think the flabby timeline leaves a loophole for Bush to jump through.

He can always say, "Just as I said, when they stand up, we'll stand down...when the job is finished and not before...blah, blah, blah."

In fact, unless there's other stuff in the plan that is more hard hitting, I wouldn't be surprised if Snow tried to spin this as an endorsement of Bush.

Oh well, events may be outstripping our ability to control the situation anyway.

by Bush Bites 2006-11-30 12:29AM | 0 recs
Ability to control

I think we're past the tipping point in terms of who is "in control" of Iraq. WE have no ability to control the situation. At this point, neither the U.S. nor Maliki's government are the major players in Iraq. Instead, the major players are the sectarian groups, which are now the dominant forces in Iraq. The U.S. is a factor, Maliki's government is a (much smaller) factor, but the sectarian militias are the determining forces shaping both the reality on the ground and Iraq's future. We are essentially "along for the ride" now.

Expect a long, bloody war involving ethnic cleansing and genocide, followed by partition into three separate countries, one of which will be an Iran-dominated nation and a training ground for anti-American terrorism.

George W. Bush and his cabal have single-handedly disrupted an entire region, exponentially increased danger to America and its citizens, and may very well have precipitated a global backsliding into a new Dark Age. So begins the third millennium of the modern world calendar.

by LiberalFromPA 2006-11-30 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

I suggest we look at the ISG report not as a solution to Iraqi policy but rather look at it as a factor in creating dynamics.  Up til now it has been Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld saying my way of the Highway, and Congress conned into not uttering much of a peep.  But come January, Come Biden's long hearings, that report becomes a point of departure -- the on the table alternative that whether you agree with it or not says there must be alternatives.  So out of the Box what Biden may do is call the members to testify, dig into their thinking on every point, and further push the policy question into the realm of new alternatives.  

What has to happen is Bush has to be forced out of the catbird's seat and into a real semi-public debate about alternatives.  If Biden plays off this alternative by committee properly, he forces Bush to engage and accept alternatives.  

by Sara 2006-11-30 03:33AM | 0 recs
About That "Timetable"

I'm concerned that the Study Group might not set a starting date for beginning a phased redeployment. Here's what I'd like to see:

1. Phased redeployment "to commence no later than (date within six months)."

2. Redeployment at an average pace of X units/soldiers/brigades per month.

3. End date determined by the Pentagon (although point 2 mathematically sets an outer limit).

Unless you have points 1 and 2, you don't have a phased redeployment plan. You have a "My New Year's resolution is to lose weight someday" plan.

Said another way, the Pentagon should have some control over the slope of the curve, but there must be a downward sloping curve starting by a date certain, not a continuing horizontal line.

by BBCWatcher 2006-11-30 04:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

Quick comments on two things said in the last paragraph.  First, let me address the statement, "I do not believe that the time has come to begin to defund the war effort through acts of Congress (it's not at all clear to me that this could be done without the agreement of the White House, which would certainly not be expected)."  If this is not the right time, then when would be?  The war should have been defunded before it got started, and any time that passes without its being defunded is time wasted.  Now is a better time than later to defund the war.  As to whether it could be done without the agreement of the White House: All congress needs to do is not to pass funding legislation.  This leaves the White House with nothing to veto.  There also would be nothing for Bush to add his "signing statements."

Now, let's turn to the following statement: "America must make it clear to Iraq that it is resolute in its determination not to maintain troops in the country indefinitely in an effort to cajole the Iraqi government into action."  This is a version of the notion voiced both by Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the Senate that the US somehow has been "coddling" Iraq.  Absurd!  The US is complicit in the deaths of probably over a million from the embargo during the Clinton years, and of up to 700,000 directly as a result of the US/British invasion and occupation, and now the US needs to be srolute to cajole the Iraqis into action?  Iraqis clearly have been engaged in action for a long time: They have been resisting the occupation of their country.  We already have "cajoled" them into this resistance by the invasion and occupation.

What sort of nonsense are you peddling here?  The US (and Britain) need to get out fast, apologize for the war crimes committed both before and after the invasion and occupation, and start paying hundreds of billions in reparations for the damage and losses caused.  This notion that the US has some sort of right to "cajole" the Iraqis is beyond nonsense.  It's pure b.s.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-30 06:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal
They finally got one tiny thing right:
unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, "there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached."

The Democratic Congress gets the leverage they need to hold shrubby's feet to the fire for withdrawal.  Iraqi's will not accept responsibility for their country as long as we are there to blame for all their problems.
by Tim Hendricks 2006-11-30 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

Iraqis to a large extent are taking responsibility for their country.  They are resisting occupation.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-30 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

Point taken.  However this is, in the end, hurting the progress in Iraq as it creates chaos and destroys infrastructure.  Once we are out of there hopefully they can adopt a broader view of their country, work together politically and build something they can feel good about.

by Tim Hendricks 2006-11-30 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Withdrawal

Who knows.  Iraq is an artificial creation of the post WWI powers, particularly Britain, and to a somewhat lesser extent France.  Didn't exist beforehand.  Kuwait was cut off from Iraq at that time, leaving Iraq with little access to the ocean, and giving Britain control of the oil resources.  It's not clear that there really is such a country at all, and the so-called "sectarian strife" reflects the artificiality of the entire edifice.  At any rate, the US and Britain have no legitimacy in occupying the place and it's not up to the occupiers to decide anything about the place or its peoples.  The US and Britain are there for essentially the same colonialist reasons that the British turned the are into Iraq in the first place.  The US and Britain need to get out now.  After that, it's up to the people who life there to find their own accommodations to one another.  By the way, before Britain moved in the 1918, it was the Turks who controlled the place (the Ottoman Empire), so the local folk haven't had a chance at self-rule for hundreds of years.  It's about time they had such an opportunity.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-30 01:26PM | 0 recs
by polutukor 2007-01-09 11:32PM | 0 recs

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