"The Pony Fallback"
So I’ve been reading the new Center for a New American Security outfit’s report on Iraq. The bad news is that the lynchpin of the whole thing is a — dum dum! — an intensified focus on training. The report keeps noting that it’s important that we not simply be creating more effective sectarian units prepared to wage the civil war of tomorrow, but it doesn’t have much to say about how their proposed revamping of the advisory mission would achieve this.
The good news is that in a first for reports on Iraq, CNAS acknowledges that their pony might not materialize and that we might need to fall back to their Plan B or Plan C (basically: run away). Similarly, even though Plan A involves a very extended large-scale U.S. military presence in Iraq we do have here deeply establishment-oriented people arguing that at some point (December 2012 in Plan A; early 2008 in Plan C) we should actually not have any more American troops should be genuinely out of Iraq.
Last, it should be said that the conceit of the report is that the Bush administration will take their advice seriously and begin the process of withdrawing troops and transition to a training mission this very summer. That’s a fun conceit, obviously, but equally obviously Bush doesn’t care — at all — about what these people think, what’s right for the country, what’s right for Iraq, what’s right for America’s soldiers, or anything else.
It would be much more productive to write reports addressed at people who matter. A bunch of people are running for president. They could use smart people to think about what they should do about Iraq starting the day after Election Day on the assumption that Bush just keeps running the country into the ground. There are also a bunch of members of congress who are in need of feasible methods for the legislative branch to use the rather crude tools at its disposal (mostly money and time limits) to change policy in a more constructive direction.