Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fatuous in, fatuous out

Eliot Cohen in the WSJ Online has another take on the ISG report. The part of his piece that jumped out at me was this:

...A fatuous process yields, necessarily, fatuous results. "Iraq's neighbors are not doing enough to help Iraq achieve stability" -- a statement only somewhat ameliorated by the admission that some are even "undercutting stability," which sounds as though Syria and Iran were being downright rude, rather than providing indispensable assistance to those who have filled the burn wards of Walter Reed, the morgue in Baghdad, and the cemetery at Arlington. The selected remedy is, first and foremost, rather like the ISG's credo for its own functioning, consensus. "The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region," as if our chief failure with Bashar Assad or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lies with the hitherto unnoticed laziness or rhetorical ineptitude of our diplomats, or as though Europe, Saudi Arabia and Israel have not yet figured out that stability in Iraq is a good thing. "Syria should control its border" and "Iran should respect Iraq's sovereignty."

No kidding -- but who is going to make them? That perennial solution, "resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict," makes its appearance, including direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, but only with "those who accept Israel's right to exist." The report conveniently forgets that the elected leaders of Palestine do not, in fact, accept Israel's right to exist. And it also neglects the grim reality that one of the most terrible things about Gaza, and possibly the West Bank as well, is that no one, not even Hamas, is really in charge.

Part of Iran's price for easing up on us in Iraq is pretty clearly taking the heat off its nuclear program; the ISG recommends that that issue "should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany." Well, what deal should the U.S. be willing to cut on Iranian nuclear weapons? Do we think the Iranians would deliver? And what are the long-term consequences?

War, and warlike statecraft, is a hard business, and though this is supposed to be a report dominated by "realists," there is nothing realistic in failing to spell out the bloody deeds, grim probabilities and dismal consequences associated with even the best course of action...

Betsy Newmark summed it up well. "The commissions seems to have just decided how they would like Iran and Syria to behave in their fantasy world: not aid the insurgents in Iraq, stay out of Lebanon, not develop Iranian nuclear weapons, not attack Israel, the whole shebang of dream-world wishes about how some alternate universe Iranians and Syrians might want to behave. This is no way to win a war"