By its own admission, the Iraq Study Group (ISG) has submitted a "flawed" report to the president, to Congress and to the American people.
While the report properly calls for the Iraqi government to do more to reconcile warring factions, take greater control over its defense and defeat insurgent-terrorists, the ISG falls into a trap set by panel co-chair James Baker, who has long believed that what the United States and Israel do determines the behavior of unelected dictators and religious fanatics.
"Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq," the report says, "the United States should try to engage them constructively." The ISG must not have noticed that Iran and Syria are largely responsible for destabilizing Baghdad. Syria is simultaneously using its Hezbollah proxy to undermine the elected Lebanese government. What possible reason would Iran and Syria have to stabilize Iraq so that the United States can leave behind a free nation? Iran and Syria would see a free Iraq as a threat to their own dictatorial regimes.
Here's another flaw, straight from the familiar Baker playbook: "The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability." Among other things, that means "a commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine." Leaving aside the historical argument that Israel is Palestine, that approach has been tried (and has failed) over several administrations. That is because the only formula the "Palestinian" side will accept is one that obliterates the state of Israel.
There are noble calls for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats and between the White House and Congress, but the problem is not on our side. It's on the other side. The ISG failed to deal with the religious motivations of those who believe their God wants us dead and who have no qualms about devising weapons of mass destruction to wipe out millions of us. "Infidel" diplomats are not about to influence dictators and mullahs who believe their "holy book" commands them to lie to the "cross worshippers" and "crusaders" in their own crusade for world dominance by force.
Weak European governments, which are busy capitulating to their growing Muslim populations, won't help us. Neither will Russia and China, which need oil and don't think much of America. What kind of "diplomacy" will work to bring them on board?
It is not the United States that has caused regional instability in the Middle East, as suggested by the ISG. If that were the case, who was to blame for instability before this Iraq war, or the previous one; indeed, who was to blame for instability before Israel became an independent state in 1948. The region has always been turbulent. Turbulence is their problem, not ours. The United States is a convenient excuse for the failures of numerous regimes to use their vast wealth and their once-proud heritage to secure a better life for their people. Dictators must always blame someone else for their failures to avoid being blamed themselves. It has always been so, whether the dictator is Islamic, communist, or fascist.
The incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, may have the best short-term approach. To my surprise, Reyes is breaking with many of his Democratic colleagues, telling Newsweek Magazine he wants to increase the number of American troops in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 to help "dismantle the militias." Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., has been saying much the same thing for many months.
Enemies like this understand only one thing: power. They do not keep promises, or honor treaties and agreements that do not serve their primary interests. For them, those interests include humiliating the United States, securing Iraq for the acolytes of Osama bin Laden and then moving on to challenge America in other places and finally on our own soil. The problem is that if we wait to crush them until they reach our shores (and too many are already among us), it will be too late.
George Orwell said, "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." The Iraq Study Group Report won't contribute to our safety. Finishing the job we started, by whatever means necessary, will.