Jonah Goldberg

The commissioners are latter-day Laodiceans, whom the Book of Revelation describes as "neither cold nor hot Š (but) lukewarm." As a result, most of the report hits stratospheric heights of banality. For example, the commission put aside partisan differences to reach the startling conclusion that "Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis." If it requires consensus to deliver such Solomonic wisdom, then I say "feh" on consensus.

The group also recommends that "Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation." Phew. Thank goodness Vernon Jordan signed on to that one. If only nine out of 10 had agreed, some people might have concluded that maybe Iran shouldn't do that stuff.

In short, Baker did not seek to find a solution for Iraq at all. His mission was to stuff a grab bag with enough mundane blather that nine graybeards plus Sandra Day O'Connor could assent without really risking anything. Indeed, former Justice O'Connor was a perfect choice given her preternatural gift for reaching decisions with no discernible principle to them other than the need to please everybody a little. Yogi Berra once said, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." That, it seems, was the commission's approach.

According to The New York Times, the findings are "a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March." And because "everyone felt good about where we ended up," according to one member of the commission quoted in the Times, they must have gotten it right. Right?

Unfortunately, that's not right. Nowhere does the commission ever seriously consider how to win the war in Iraq. Why? Because winning is no longer a possible consensus position. And pulling out isn't a consensus position either. So rather than a real strategy about Iraq, we get Laodicean tripe about how the Iraq Study Group is our last best hope to unite Americans. I'm sorry, but that wasn't its mandate.

Some have labeled the commission's plan of handing off Iraq to the Iraqis a replay of Nixon's Vietnamization. But the similarities go beyond that. In fact, the commission is making the same core mistake that was made in the Vietnam era: treating a war like a political problem to be haggled, spun and bartered. It may not seem like it because Baker (AMPERSAND) Co. claim so often to be transcending politics in the name of unity. But in fact, their political values trump everything, including the war.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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