In Washington, sometimes it's preferable to be wrong in a group than to be right alone.
Nothing demonstrates the triumph of this truism better than the release Wednesday of the final Iraq Study Group report. The commission's chairman, James A. Baker III, could not have been more obvious if he had used hand puppets to illustrate what he thought was most important about this supposedly momentous occasion: the fact that all the report's authors actually agree with its contents.
Their product, Baker gushed, is "the only recommended approach that will enjoy, in our opinion, complete bipartisan support, at least from the 10 people that you see up here." Whoop-de-do. No one in the media was sufficiently motivated to ask the emperors why they had no clothes on, or to raise the simple question, "Who cares?"
Instead, viewers at home (all three broadcast networks broke in to cover the "news" live) watched as one commission member after another grew misty-eyed over their own statesmanship. Former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta waxed lyrical about how this document represented "one last chance at unifying this country on this war." Heads sagely nodded at the relentless self-adulation of commissioners who put their "partisan differences" behind them in the spirit of unanimity, unity, bipartisanship, comity, handholding and all around mutual respect and love.
(It's no wonder one of their key recommendations is to form an international Iraq "support group." Who can resist the image of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whining about how his father never loved him, only to be interrupted by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia complaining that the Zionists ate all the good doughnuts?)
At the end of the day, the report reflects the man who put the deal together. Baker is a deal maker, a power broker, a difference splitter. And that's the real spirit of the Baker-Hamilton commission.
Some people want more troops in Iraq, so it calls for some more troops at first - so as to better train the Iraqis. And then, because other people want far fewer troops, it calls for a timetable for far fewer troops by 2008. Because no foreign policy commission could ever be complete without blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for something, the group throws a bone to that crowd as well. And because Baker thinks everything is a negotiation, he sees nothing wrong with chatting up everyone - including terrorist militias and our enemies in Iran and Syria.
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