And if the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fails to "make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security and governance," declares the commission, "the United States should reduce its political, military or economic support for the Iraqi government."
But if we pull the rug out from under Maliki, and his regime and army collapse, who moves into the vacuum? Would it not likely be Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army of 60,000 fighters, a force far superior to the Mahdi units that U.S forces eviscerated in Najaf?
If America pulls its combat brigades out of Iraq, who will protect the U.S. support troops, civilian contractors, aid workers and diplomats in the Green Zone? Would we not be risking an American Dien Bien Phu?
And what is to prevent disloyal Iraqi army units and sectarian allies from fragging U.S. advisers embedded to train them, after U.S. fighting brigades have gone home?
Throughout the report there appear inherent contradictions.
The situation is "grave and deteriorating" but will get better if we pull our finest fighting forces out. Iraq is "vital to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests," but if Maliki malingers, we should pull the rug out from under him. An Iraqi army trained by Americans can win a war that Americans could not.
The Baker-Hamilton commission has told us in brutal frankness that the patient is dying, for which we are grateful. But the commission is, in its own way, as much in denial as George W. Bush. For the surgery it recommends for Iraq looks more like a mercy killing than a miracle cure.
It is a time for truth. The strategic retreat recommended by Baker-Hamilton is not going to win this war, or end it well for the United States -- it is going to advance the timetable of our impending defeat.
When U.S. combat forces leave, Iraq is going to be lost to those who ran us out. Our friends there are going to endure what our abandoned friends in Vietnam and Cambodia endured. The forces of Islamic radicalism will be emboldened to take down our remaining allies in the Middle East. Our days as a superpower will be over.
For it is the definition of a superpower that once it commits itself to a war, it does not lose the war.