Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Sir Gasbag and the ISG

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, December 1, 2006

I don’t know if Jim, Ed, or Cindy will be talking about the upcoming release of the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) report due December 6th.  The New York Times is printing a lot of leaked advance reports on the contents.  Those NYT articles are sparking a lot of speculation among the intelligensia on the right and the left.  It is funny to read such divergent opinions on a report that hasn’t even been issued yet.  However, there is some decent commentary coming out on both sides of the spectrum. 

I did find it odd that Steve Fine ridiculed Newt Gingrich for the headline of his article regarding the ISG in which Newt said the ISG report must contain 11 items in order to be valid.

“What if There Had Been a Baker-Hamilton Commission Advising Gen. Washington?” You just can’t make this stuff up! Perhaps Jon Stewart is his ghostwriter?”

Gingrich is a history professor, an expert in early American History, and had just come back from a presentation on Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware River on a Christmas eve.  This crossing and surprise attack led to Washington’s first major victory of the revolutionary war which turned out to be a turning point in gaining American Independence.  For Gingrich to create an analogy between Washington and the ISG is not rare and certainly doesn’t make him ridiculous.

Though Steve posts a link to Gingrich’s article Steve’s lack of comments on Gingrich’s thoughts suggest that Steve didn’t read the article.  Steve offers no commentary (only what I posted above) on Mr. Gingrich’s Eleven Key Tests for the Baker-Hamilton Report (ISG) of which Mr. Gingrich says:

These 11 steps would be a powerful basis on which to move forward in Iraq and in the world. What’s more, they reflect the spirit of Gen. Washington when he chose “victory or death” as the motto of the campaign that led to the founding of America despite overwhelming odds.

In short, Steve is taking a swipe at Gingrich and offering no meaningful dialogue on Mr. Gingrich’s thoughtful article.

The 11 points are as follows:

  1. Does the Commission Have a Vision for Success in the Larger War Against the Dictatorships and Fanatics Who Want to Destroy Us?
  2. Does the Commission Recognize That the Second Campaign in Iraq Has Been a Failure?
  3. Does the Commission Recognize the Scale of Change We Will Need to Adopt to Be Effective in a World of Enemies Willing to Kill Themselves in Order to Kill Us?
  4. Does the Commission Describe the Consequences of Defeat in Iraq?
  5. Does the Commission Understand the Importance of Victory?
  6. Does the Commission Define What It Means to Win, or Simply Find a Face-Saving Way to Lose?
  7. Does the Commission Acknowledge That Winning Requires Thinking Regionally and Even Globally?
  8. How can the Baker Hamilton Commission seriously suggest that two dictatorships described like this are going to be “helpers” in achieving American goals in the Middle East?
  9. Does the Commission Believe We Can ‘Do a Deal’ With Iran?
  10. Does the Commission Believe We Are More Clever Than Our Enemies?
  11. Does the Commission Recognize the Importance of Working With the Democratic Majorities on a Strategy for Victory?

 As far as “Sir Gasbag’s” questions go I think they are all valid.  In fact they are very similiar to the commentary coming from all quarters.  So it suggests to me that Mr. Gingrich’s thoughts are aligned with other commentators who are waiting for the release of the ISG report.

How much weight the ISG will have with President Bush remains to be seen.  I think indications are that they will carry a lot of weight.  First, given Secretary Baker’s influence in the administration and second the fact that a former member of the ISG is the nominee to be the new Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates.

Most of the commentary I have read focuses on two aspects:

Troop withdrawl and increased responsibility of Iraqi forces.

This is obviously the key concern of most people.  What would the consequences be of a rapid or gradual withdrawl of our troops?  It seem that the consensus is that a gradual troop reduction is in order.  A rapid reduction would lead to a great deal of additional instability in the entire region.  Some suggest that a rapid withdrawl would enhance Syrian, Hamas, Hezbullah, and Iranian influence throughout the region and undermine Saudi, Jordanian, and Egyptian influence.  It would also put additional pressure on Israel in that Syria, Iran, and their surrogates would have a stronger hand to play.

One commentator suggested that the position held by isolationists like Pat Buchanan who insist that the US withdrawl completely from the Middle East would lead to an Arab and Iranian war against Israel who would then be forced to use its nuclear arsenal to protect itself.  Under such a scenario we would certainly enter into WWIII.

Believe it or not the Bush Adminstration has always had a 6 to 18 month troop withdrawl plan.  However, the realities on the ground have continued to keep those plans on the back burner.

Whether to engage directly with Syria and Iran.

That is just as difficult of a topic as the first.  Do we negotiate directly with these two countries presents a lot of conflicting thoughts in me.  Of course we all would like to gather around the table and shake hands, come to an agreement, and walk away as friends.  That is not going to happen.

How we engage with Syria and Iran is a serious question and one in which I will be very keen on seeing how the ISG addresses.

Newt Gingrich asks very important questions.  He doesn’t offer any solutions just some thoughtful questions that everyone else is asking.

I will relate a personal story about Newt Gingrich in a later post.

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