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The ISG’s Raj

By Matthew Yglesias

"The ISG’s Raj"

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Fred Kaplan details the conceptual morass of the Iraq Study Group. One point is this: “Will Bush drop his avowed desire for “regime change” in Tehran in exchange for Tehran’s help in stabilizing Iraq? That’s the big question. Every time it’s come up so far, Bush has firmly said no. Will he make a fundamental shift now? Doubtful. And what is Tehran’s view of a stable Iraq? Is it the same as Washington’s view? Again, doubtful—which is one reason Bush probably won’t make a shift.”

More to the point, though, the ISG is at war with itself over this. The headline call to withdraw all-or-most US combat brigades from Iraq by 2008 is actually pretty misleading. This is supposed to be combined with embedding something like 20,000 American soldiers directly inside the Iraqi Army. We’re also supposed to go forward with the plan to build this giant embassy with thousands of people working in it. They also want us to increase the quasi-civilian presence in Iraq by sending FBI, DOJ, and other people to build up Iraqi law enforcement capabilities. And to increase the level of intelligence assets in Iraq. What’s more, special operations forces, air power, etc. are all supposed to remain available, though perhaps based just over the border.

The upshot of this if you could really pull it off would be to create something akin to the British Indian Army, where the United States would have effective control over the institutions of the Iraqi state. America’s embedded officers — down to the company level — would be in de facto command of a large body of Iraqi cannon fodder, with US civilians similarly embedded throughout many of Iraq’s civilian agencies. Whatever you think of this idea (and I don’t think much of it) the government of Iran certainly isn’t going to think much of it. One could imagine them helping us do something in Iraq, but creating a stable, effective government controlled from Washington, DC isn’t on that list.

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