After reviewing the report of the Iraq Study Group, released Wednesday, New York Post editorial page editor John Podhoretz declared: "The nation's capital hasn't seen such concentrated wisdom in one place since Paris Hilton dined alone at the Hooters on Connecticut Avenue."
Stratfor, a private intelligence service, said the ISG report was "underwhelming." Retired Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters called it a "muddle of truisms and bad ideas." The conservative National Review called it "an analytic embarrassment." Fred Kaplan, military writer for the liberal Webzine Slate, said its recommendations were "a useless grab bag." T. F. Boggs, an Army sergeant recently returned from his second tour in Iraq, said the recommendations were a "joke" that "could only have come from a group of old people who have been stuck in Washington for too long."
The always entertaining Mark Steyn focuses on how the document screws Israel:
Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."
Robert Tracinski says the recommendations are vague aspirations:
What the ISG offers us are mere aspirations, with no serious consideration of the concrete means required to fulfill those aspirations.
A real change in policy for Iraq wouldn't start and end with a collection of vague aspirations. It would start with a clear-eyed, realistic assessment of the facts that explain the chaos in Iraq--the facts that explain why all of the aspirations stated by the Iraq Study Group have not yet been met.
The basic fact is that the conflict in Iraq, from the very beginning, has been stoked by Syria and Iran. These dictatorial regimes are stoking the conflict because the success of the American mission in Iraq is an obvious threat to their very existence. They can't afford the example of a free nation in the region, nor can they afford the example of a successful exertion of American power on their doorsteps.
Elan Journo points out that the report misses the essential:
The Iraq Study Group has issued many specific recommendations, but the options boil down to a maddeningly limited range: pull out or send more troops to do democracy-building and, either way, "engage" the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria. Missing from the list is the one option our self-defense demands: a war to defeat the enemy. If you think we've already tried this option and failed, think again. Washington's campaign in Iraq looks nothing like the war necessary for our self-defense.
As Andy at Charlotte Capitalist notes, the purpose of the report is to nation-build a secure Iraq. Both Bush and the report focus on America sacrificing for a better Iraq. This is the wrong purpose, the wrong expenditure of taxpayers’ money and the wrong reason to send men and women in the military to die. Our purpose should be to destroy the enemy and make America safe. We are not doing this and the ISG Report will not advance the cause of American security.
The Iraq Study Group is not a group of wise men (and one woman); it is a group of politicians who cannot think in principle. People like James Baker and Lee Hamilton really know about one thing: how to succeed in Washington, D.C. They know the ins and outs of government, bureaucracy, media and so on. They know how to do the things necessary for a long career in government: getting past the daily crisis with minimum damage, shmoozing, brown nosing, getting good press and speaking in banalities that will anger as few people as possible. These are people who have spent decades watching the government grow and our freedoms erode; they didn't just watch, they caused it. Judged by the standard of liberty, their lives are miserable failures. Does anyone think they will suddenly become wise and noble?
I’d like to note just a few passages in the report. From p. 23:
There are proposals to redistribute a portion of oil revenues directly to the population on a per capita basis. These proposals have the potential to give all Iraqi citizens a stake in the nation’s chief natural resource, but it would take time to develop a fair distribution system. Oil revenues have been incorporated into state budget projections for the next several years. There is no institution in Iraq at present that could properly implement such a distribution system. It would take substantial time to establish, and would have to be based on a well-developed state census and income tax system, which Iraq currently lacks.
Did it not occur to anyone on the ISG that this is communism? It's not Stalinism, but redistribution of wealth is basically communism. Is this how to run an oil company? Did anyone think to consult a good economist on this scheme?
Are Americans dying to bring communism to Iraq? I guess it really is Vietnam -- 58,000 Americans died there and it ended up communist, too.
How about this from p. 58:
RECOMMENDATION 66: The United States should take the lead in funding assistance requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian agencies.
Take the lead? Who already has the lead? Let me rewrite this recommendation so that it makes sense.
RECOMMENDATION 66: The United States should continue its altruistic policy of the last 50 years of taking money from American taxpayers and throwing it down the sewer that is the United Nations. It won’t do a damned bit of good, but it might appease the hell-holes of the world until tomorrow afternoon.
I hope the ISG Report was printed on soft paper. They can ship it to the Middle East and the people there can use it as toilet paper.
UPDATE: Slight revision.