The Baker-Hamilton Report, entitled “The Way Forward,” finally made it to President Bush’s desk this morning, and is already rapidly circulating on the Web (the complete report can be found here). The report calls for launching a “diplomatic offensive,” the fostering of bipartisanship in Congress, and withdrawing American troops from Iraq by the first quarter of 2008. After meeting with the members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in the dining room adjoining the Oval Office, President Bush characterized the report as a “tough” assessment, and vowed to take its recommendations seriously.
Early today, bloggers have been responding to both the report and the ISG’s 11 a.m. televised press conference in real time. Though expectations were relatively low to begin with, most are greeting its release with cynicism and questioning what (little) impact it will have on actual policy.
The prevailing logic seems to be that Bush will simply ignore the report.
“The report is out, now officially in the hands of the White House. And nothing will really change,” writes the Left Coaster. “In fact, we will now send another 20,000-30,000 troops to Iraq from somewhere to fight the militias. This will be against the wishes of the Iraqi government and their Shiite power base, who insist that we fight the Sunni insurgents. And it will be against the wishes of the moderate Sunnis in the region, who are more concerned about Iran suckering us to go after the Sunnis for them. No matter what is said over the next couple of days about what the report recommends, or what Robert Gates will do once he is formally aboard, it doesn’t really matter. There won’t be a major course change from what Cheney wants to do, and Gates is somewhat irrelevant. The same media cheerleaders who supported this war and now have egg on their faces and blood on their hands, are spinning that the report and Gates’ ascension mean a change in course. Wrong.”
But that’s not the only reason its findings won’t be practicable.
“Baker and some other old guy are having a press conference about that ‘report,’” writes Gary Carson at American Tradition. “First he says that they agreed at the beginning that they would leave politics out of it, hence not completing the process before the election on purpose. But then he says one of the goals of the recommendations was to achieve recommendations that would have bipartisan support. That’s not political? Then he said nowhere in the report do they use the term ‘civil war.’ That’s not political. The whole damn thing is political. What’s this nonsense that it’s not political? They might have waited until after the election because of a fear that putting a focus on Iraq before the election might hurt Republican election chances. That’s not avoiding politics — it is politics. We’re screwed.”
Perhaps the most controversial passage envisions a rapid drawdown of U.S. troops.
“The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations,” the report says. “By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat bridges not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”
Even still, most gave it a big yawn.
“This report seems like more of the same, only with a sterner delivery and much more gravitas than previous advocates,” writes Edit Copy. “The Iraqis are told to reinforce the unifying aspects of the unity government. James Baker just said that American policy must be focused ‘more broadly’ than on just military action. Reducing the combat formations in the country makes sense, after all there are insufficient combat formations in the country as is … These recommendations would have been great in 2003 or 2004.”
“Wow,” writes Rick at One Little Victory. “We waited all this time for this? If this is what a ‘think tank’ produces after all this time, then I need to get into international politics — I could have done this in much less time and come up with much stronger ‘recommendations.’”