For all its deftness and honesty, the Iraq Study Group report flees the hardest choices and leaves us without a credible strategy. It calls for getting American troops out of Iraq, but says we’ll be there for a long time. It calls for more training of Iraqi forces, but doesn’t explain how to make it happen this time. It insists on reconciliation among warring sects, but offers no realistic political power-sharing plan to achieve it. Instead, the group’s gloomy assessment of the situation should have led it to a clear strategy aimed at limiting damage:
First, try for a federal or decentralized Iraq with oil-revenue sharing, as its Constitution provides. Only federalism can prevent partition, though everything’s a long shot now.
Second, provide means, protection and funds for Iraqis wanting to relocate for safety. It’s the only way to stop ethnic cleansing.
Third, make common cause with Iraqi Sunni Baathists, Saudis and others to crush the terrorists in central Iraq. Once our troops start to leave, we can establish this clear common interest, and the Baathists will do a better job than we.
Fourth, ally diplomatically and economically with Iraqi Shiites, who are, after all, Iraqis and Arabs, not Iranians and Persians, and who don’t want to be ruled from Tehran.
This damage-limiting approach fits the facts on the ground described by the group, and may be the only way to avoid a failed Bush policy becoming a strategic defeat.
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