It’s dangerous to draw strong conclusions about what public figures are thinking based on a half-hour blogger conference call. However, I think that ISG members William Perry and Alan Simpson gave themselves away during the blogger call earlier this week.
Simpson seems like a great guy for whom collegiality and congeniality are paramount. Just as he admitted he had no idea what we should do if things come completely apart in Iraq, I suspect he has little idea how we should try to prevent that from happening. For Simpson, I’m guessing, the ultimate goal of the ISG was to reach a bipartisan consenus and that the substance of that consensus was secondary. Simpson may figure that what happens in Iraq will happen in Iraq, and the important thing is to restore civility and bipartisanship to our own politics.
Perry, I believe, comes at this from a very different place. I’m guessing that he sees Iraq as a huge and virtually certain failure, and wants us to cut our losses and get out. When asked whether Iraq “is dead,” the best Perry could say (and not very convincingly) was that it has a shot. When he described that “shot,” Perry said nothing about diplomatic initiatives with Iran or anyone else. He focused entirely (and correctly) on developments within Iraq — the government’s willingness to follow through with national reconciliation and our ability to help it build a national army.
My guess is that the ISG recommendations are the product of a not-so-grand bargain between Jim Baker and the cut-and-run Dems like Perry. The latter group was willing to endorse Baker’s absurd diplomatic fantasies in exchange for his willingness to agree that our combat brigades should pull out of Iraq in short order.
This compromise produced something like the worst of all possible recommendations — we’ll pull out of Iraq and try to make concessions to Iran and Syria in the process. On the other hand, Baker’s diplomatic vision is so far-fetched that it should help undercut the report’s credibility, thus enhancing the administration’s prospects of avoiding a 9/11 Commission-style stampede in favor of the defeatist recommendations.
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