"I believe this is a recipe that will lead to our defeat ... in Iraq," said John McCain. He has a point.
For what does the Iraq Study Group say?
We are not winning this war. Our situation is "grave and deteriorating." Yet we may succeed if only we will withdraw all U.S. combat brigades in 15 months and bring Syria and Iran to the table to resolve the political crisis. This is simply not credible.
Nowhere in this report are there any "disincentives" to cause al-Qaida, the Sunni insurgents, the militias, the Mahdi Army or sectarian death squads to call off their campaigns to inflict a historic defeat on the United States and expel us from Mesopotamia.
The closer one studies the report, the more the truth emerges. These "realists" think Iraq is a lost cause, that Americans will not pay the price in blood, treasure and years to win it. And in this conviction the Baker Commission, too, may be right.
This deepening fissure in the GOP presages a civil war inside the party by 2008, over whether to stay in Iraq -- or, if the war has ended in a debacle or defeat, over "Who Lost Iraq?"
In urging intensified training of the Iraqi army and an expedited withdrawal, the Baker Commission is laying down the predicate for the case that America did not lose this war, Iraqis lost their own war.
This ISG report is less about saving Iraq than about saving the U.S. establishment from being held responsible for the worst strategic blunder in U.S. history. It is about giving Bush and Congress a "decent interval" before Iraq goes down and a Saigon ending ensues.
The neocons are also preparing their defense before the bar of history. Realizing the Baker Commission recommendations point to slow-motion defeat, they are savaging Baker and calling for tens of thousands more U.S. troops to be sent to Baghdad and a new strategy of victory, no matter how much it costs or how long it takes.
If Bush fails to follow their counsel, they will then say: "It was not our fault. It was Bush's rejection of our advice that lost the war."
Neoconservative Ken Adelman, on Sunday's "Meet the Press," was calling for 20,000 to 30,000 more U.S. troops, saying Iraq had been a wise and winnable war, but the administration mucked up what should have been a "cakewalk."
The Democratic establishment, which gave Bush a blank check to take us to war, "to get the issue out of the way" before the midterms in 2002, is also preparing its defense of the role it played in plunging us into Mesopotamia, the "if-only-we-had-known" defense.
"If only we had known then what we know now -- that there was no hard evidence of WMD, no hard evidence of al-Qaida ties to Saddam Hussein -- we would never have voted for the war." "If only we had known how incompetent Rumsfeld's Pentagon would be in managing the war, we would never have given Bush a green light."
This Kerry-Edwards defense is a version of the 1967 defense advanced by Michigan Gov. George Romney to explain his earlier support of Vietnam. Said Romney, "I was brainwashed" during a trip to Vietnam, prompting the cruel retort of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, "In Romney's case, a light rinse would have sufficed."
The Democrats' defense begs these questions: Why didn't you know? Why didn't you find out? Why didn't you do your constitutional duty and refuse the president the power to go to war until he had convinced you that only war could spare the republic worse horrors?
What the Baker Commission is ultimately all about is providing political cover for a bipartisan retreat from Iraq.
For what was the one issue the Iraq Study Group would not and will not address? The crucial question: Was the Iraq war a blunder to begin with? The commission seeks at all costs to avoid the judgment of the nation that today's establishment that took us into Iraq served America as badly as the Best and Brightest who marched an earlier generation into Vietnam, then cut and ran and called it "Nixon's War."
The media are celebrating the ISG for its "bipartisanship" and the "consensus" achieved. But was it not a bipartisan consensus that produced the war: a Democratic Senate failing in its duty to ascertain the necessity of a war to be launched by a Republican president, because Democrats feared that telling a popular president "no" would reinforce the party's reputation as being soft on national security?
The people who were right about Iraq were those who rejected bipartisanship to warn that invading Iraq was an unnecessary, unwise and, yes, even an unjust war that would inflame the Arab and Islamic world against us. Unsurprisingly, this group had no representative on the Baker-Hamilton Commission.