The Iraq Study Group report released today might well be titled “The Realist Manifesto.”
From the very first page, on which co-chairs James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton scold that “our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people,” the bipartisan report is nothing less than a repudiation of the Bush administration’s diplomatic and military approach to Iraq — and to the rest of the Middle East.
The report reflects the foreign policy establishment’s disdain for the “neoconservative” policies long espoused by the President Bush and his aides. But while many of its recommendations stem from the “realist” school of foreign policy, it is unclear at this point whether a radically different approach would make much difference now, nearly four years after the invasion of Iraq.
The administration’s effort to spread democracy to Arab lands is not mentioned in the report, except to briefly note that most countries in the region are wary of it. The report urges direct talks with Iran and Syria, both of which the administration has largely shunned. It also calls for placing new emphasis on resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including pressing Israel to reach a peace deal with Syria, on the grounds that the conflict shapes regional attitudes about the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Overall, it strongly suggests that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have bungled diplomacy in the region with unrealistic objectives and narrow strategies.
“We took a very pragmatic approach because all of these people up here are pragmatic public officials,” Hamilton told reporters today, referring to the five Democrats and five Republicans who unanimously endorsed the report’s conclusions and recommendations. The bipartisan nature of the report — and the fact that Baker was secretary of state for Bush’s father — will make it difficult for the White House to ignore and will help incoming Democratic congressional leaders frame the debate over Iraq as a disaster largely of the administration’s making. more
Democrats have to be careful not to bash Bush too hard. It could backfire. I look for Rush, Sean and Billo to paint James Baker and the Iraq Study Group as old and out of touch. We do live in interesting times.