the iraq study group: the new dream team

the iraq study group headed by james a. baker III have released their recommendations on the quagmire that is the iraq war, the most divisive military conflict since vietnam. the recommendations are actually quite blunt and refreshingly embedded in logic and reason, something that seems to have escaped the administration over the past few years. the report doesn't call for the foolish outright immediate withdrawal that some democrats have been proposing, nor does it support the ludicrous stay-the-course mantra that president george w. bush has been repeatedly cheerleading for. instead, the report calls for a dramatic change of direction that follows a timeline based on several different factors, and argues for the slow and gradual withdrawal of troops over the next fifteen months.

the highlights as taken from an article from the new york times:

- a call for direct negotiations with syria and iran and a clear declaration that the united states would reduce its support to iraq unless that weak and divided government makes “substantial progress” on reconciliation and security in coming months.

- while americans will be in iraq for years to come, the iraqis must understand that the american military commitment is not “open ended.” it is time, the panel said, to “begin to move its combat forces out of iraq responsibly.”

- the commission also abandoned the definition of “victory in iraq” that president bush laid out as his own strategy a year ago, and its report did not embrace the white house’s early aspiration that iraq might be transformed into a democracy at any time in the near future.

- their findings left washington awash in speculation over whether mr. bush, who thanked the members for their work and, in a private meeting, did nothing to push back against their findings, would embark on a huge reversal in policy. to do so would represent a admission that three and a half years of strategy had failed, and that mr. bush’s repeated assurances to the american people that “absolutely, we’re winning” were based more on optimism than realism.

- mr. bush can easily embrace some of the findings, including a call for a five-fold increase in embedded american trainers in the iraqi forces, which the panel said should happen down to the level of companies of iraqi military.

- the commission’s report included blistering critiques of current policy. it said that intelligence agencies had far too few people working on the causes of insurgency. it noted that the total cost of the iraq invasion and its aftermath could be “as high as $2 trillion,” or 20 times higher than some bush administration estimates in 2003.

- it proposed the creation of an Iraq support group of neighboring nations, including iran and syria. but it left unclear how those countries would be persuaded to be helpful.

and finally, here is a quick rundown of the members of the iraq study group, which is composed of both democrats and republicans. the study group is bipartisan and united in its recommendations. the new american dream team, if you will. just click on the jpeg for a larger view.