Monday, October 09, 2006

Iraq alternatives.... after the election

I've written before about the Iraq Study Group, a commission headed by James Baker that is looking at alternative strategies regarding Iraq.

But now it seems that one of the goals listed in the earlier post -- preventing a GOP train wreck in November -- won't be achieved.

Why? Because it won't issue its report until after the November elections.

There are a lot of ways to interpret that, but none of them particularly favor Bush. By the simple fact that it exists, a Republican-led commission of experts who think the current course is misguided undermines the administration position. The fact that they won't release the report until after the elections also suggests that what they're coming up with wouldn't prove helpful at the polls. For certain, sparking an internal GOP debate over Iraq right before the elections might hurt more than it helped, no matter how good his recommendations are.

Baker is spinning the change as best he can, of course, saying he wants to "take this thing out of politics". Maybe he really is, or maybe he's doing it at the behest of Democratic commission members. But I doubt it.

And it's telling that the administration is so insulated from new thinking that an outside commission is needed to come up with new ideas. By setting up the ISG, Bush has essentially outsourced the policy-making work of two Cabinet posts -- Defense and State -- as well as the National Security Advisor. Arguably he's also abdicated much of his own responsibility to lead in this matter. After all, blue-ribbon commissions are where difficult political questions are usually sent to die. And while the commission has pursued its work over the months, U.S. policy has remained relatively unchanged. Either Bush really believes the current course is the right one -- in which case the commission is irrelevant -- or he's waiting for someone to tell him what to do. Neither choice inspires much confidence.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

The only benefit to the GOP that I see is that, if Bush follows the recommendation and does something different, it might help the presidential candidate in 2008. Otherwise, it makes no sense to release the report after the election. It's pretty obvious that the GOP is not going to be able to turn around opinion on the war itself--the only thing it can do is sow doubts about the Democrats' overall credibility on foreign policy. It's pretty hilarious to see the Republicans running away from the administration as fast as they can.

10/10/2006 2:25 PM  

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