One Cheer for the ISG?

by Jonah Goldberg

I’ve been thinking. As many have noted, the ISG’s recommendations are mostly nothing new. The draw down of troops, the imbedding, the training, the pressure on the Iraqis etc etc: all of these things are either already being tried, have been tried or are about to be tried. The report undercuts the Murtha crowd by delegitimizing the quick bug-out (AKA redeployment) option and makes staying in Iraq at least until ‘08 the “conventional” or “mainstream” point of view.

For Bush, isn’t this the only part of the ISG report that matters? And when it comes to the actual situation in Iraq, the report basically confirms established policies of the White House and the Pentagon. So, in effect, doesn’t the heralded bipartisan commission in effect give Bush the leeway to — ahem — stay the course?

Of course, the ISGers want Bush to endorse the entire report, hence all of that boilerplate about how everything reinforces everything else etc etc. They could never contemplate that such Olympian wisdom might be dissected. Could it be that this was the price Baker had to pay to Panenta and others to get agreement? Because it seems to me that Bush is perfectly at liberty, politically speaking, to cherry pick policies from  the report that  he likes and disregard the rest. And when he does so he can say he is following the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Critics can complain he’s not buying all of them, but that’s hardly going to be a devastating complaint. Indeed, what are critics going to say? That he can’t follow the ISG’s advice on increasing troops for training without also haggling with Syria over Israel?  I doubt it.

I’m still noodling all of this, and I still think the ISG is a pretentious affair. But it is an angle worth contemplating, whether it was Baker’s intent or not. 

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