The Iraq Study Group brings us nothing but another kind of folly. It states the obvious, that "we are losing in Iraq" by which it means that, given the Bush Administration's definition of "winning" (which apparently the Iraq Study Group is too unimaginative to question), then we, who are failing to achieve what would thereby constitute "winning," therefore "are losing." And this statement of the obvious is considered a great achievement. But the Iraq Study Group report is even worse than a mere statement of the obvious. For along with that statement of the obvious comes so much else that is even more stupid and potentially dangerous than what the Bush Administration it criticizes now offers, that one is left feeling colossally depressed.
There is, for example, the suggestion that Iraq and Syria be "talked to." On the face of it, who can object to "talking to" anyone? But in the Middle East, "talking to" lends legitimacy. It gives support to those regimes that one wishes to isolate or at least to cause to feel isolated. It is not as if there the views of these regimes are not fully known already. They are not hermetically sealed off, like the military regime in Burma. We already know what the regime in Syria wants: it wants as much protection from its enemies, as much power and money, as it can get. It wants to continue to dominate Lebanon. It wants to continue the Alawite dictatorship by doing the simultaneous bidding of both the Shi'a in Iran (who have declared the Alawites to be "true Muslims," which is not what the Sunnis think, and Sunni Muslims constitute 70% of the Syrian population) and the Sunnis, by allowing the latter free entry to leave Syria and go to fight (and, the Alawites hope, die) in Iraq.
As for "talking to Iran," the American government already knows perfectly well what Iran wants. It wants precisely to "talk, talk, talk" with everyone under the sun, in order to keep any attack from actually taking place that would stop its headlong rush toward obtaining nuclear weapons. Only a fool would think otherwise. And only fools would think that formal "talks" would add to the American store of knowledge, or would help the U.S. find out what "Iran really wants" when we know perfectly well what Iran really wants: it wants that weaponry, and the power and the threat that go with it. And the current regime, we have every reason to believe, is certainly prepared to use such weapons against Israel, in a final chiliastic frenzy. The suggestion that the American government "talk to" Syria and Iran sounds perfectly harmless, perfectly fine, unless one thinks clearly about what such "talks" would mean.
Of course, there are "talks" that could be brief, and could go something like this:
To the Syrian regime, the Americans could say: Alawites are not true Muslims. We know this, and the Sunnis know this, despite your attempts to hide behind that single fatwa from Iran claiming otherwise. The Saudis are prepared to use their money to broadcast through the Arab press, in the Middle East and in London, ably assisted by the Jordanians and the Egyptians, that the Alawites, those non-Muslims, must go. You think you can continue to rule, despite being 12% of the population. You think we will not support a Sunni Muslim effort to depose you. At this point, your behavior is such that we regard you as disposable. But it is not we who will do the disposing. It will be the Ikhwan within Syria. We will publicize your permitting Shi'a missionaries to come from Iran. We will have the Saudis and others display the pictures of Mary that hang in every Alawite village. Your Alawite generals will get more and more nervous. They do not all wish to be slaughtered -- which is what the real Muslims will do to you. You have a choice. Leave Lebanon alone. Stop helping Iran. Forget about the Golan Heights; you will never get it back. We will give you a free hand in Syria. But that is it. That is more than enough. That, or a Sunni uprising that will not end in a mere palace coup, but in the mass murder of Alawites everywhere. Your choice.
That would be the way to have "talks" with Syria.
And the "talks" with Iran? Something along the same friendly lines. Something like this: Fifty percent of your population is not Persian. There are Kurds. There are Azeris. There are Baluchis. There are Arabs in Khuzistan, where all your oil is located. We are prepared to arm, through Kurdistan, those Kurds. The mere existence of an independent and American-backed Kurdistan will inspire not only those Kurds, but also those Baluchis and those Arabs and, if we can make a deal with Azerbaijan, possibly even those Azeris as well. The Ottoman Empire dissolved after World War I. What remains of the Persian Empire -- that is, modern Iran -- can dissolve, or be shrunk still further. Could you put down simultaneous revolts among the Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris, and Arabs? You don't think we dare do it? Why not? What do we have to lose? What could you do now that is still worse than what you are already doing? Let's be clear: we are not out to overturn the regime, but we can inflict such damage on your country that others, within, will overturn your regime. And kill the Mullahs in their luxurious homes. Do you want that? Do you want to lose the oil of Khuzistan to the Arabs? We wouldn't dare, you say? Why wouldn't we? Why should we care? We buy oil from wherever, and we pay the market price to you or to them. What reason do we have for keeping Iran together? Instability should worry us? Why? Why should it?
Something like that, to both Syria and Iran, would be the only kind of talks worth having.
As for the sinister business in the Iraq Study Group about Israel, it included all the cliches about a "two-state solution," courtesy no doubt of such operators as that virtual agent of the Arabs, Raymond Close (why has his participation, and his shadowy background, not been made the subject of discussion?). Also involved was Robert Malley, that full-time and tireless promoter of the "Palestinians," who was the behind-the-scenes organizer (the front man was Gareth Evans) of the International Crisis Group's little effort (one of those "signed by World Leaders" things) to demand renewed pressure for Israeli surrender. In that effort one of those
“World Leaders" was none other than Lee Hamilton, famously unsympathetic -- always has been, always will be -- to Israel, though not perhaps for the same reasons as Texas fixer and Saudi-connected ("Our friends in the Gulf") James Baker.
Oh, there's a good deal more to say about the Iraq Study Group, none of it good. The only good thing is that, along with much vicious nonsense, and of course without a hint of comprehension of the nature or scope or instruments of Jihad (these are all Yesterday's Men and Women, and far too famous and busy to have the time to learn, at this point, about Islam), it managed to state the obvious: that the Bush policy, on its own terms, is not "winning" in Iraq.
The more intelligent criticism, the one that requires examination of what should constitute "winning" for the United States in Iraq, was beyond that committee's capacity. After all, that would take real thought. That would take study, and reading, and time. That is not something to be asked of such busy busy people as James Baker and Lee Hamilton and all the rest. They had their "experts" -- such people as Raymond Close and Shibley Telhami. What did you expect?