The almost instant reject of the central recommendations of the ISG Report by key officials in Iraq and Israel, and serious observers of the war is a refreshing bit of resolve. The criticism is withering and deserved. “A fatuous process yields, necessarily, fatuous results,” writes Eliot Cohen in today’s Wall Street Journal, a piece I hope the editors make available to the public generally. He continues:
War, and warlike statecraft, is a hard business, and though this is supposed to be a report dominated by “realists,” there is nothing realistic in failing to spell out the bloody deeds, grim probabilities and dismal consequences associated with even the best course of action. Indeed, some parts of the report read as sheer fantasy — Recommendation 15, for example, which provides that part of the American deal with Syria should include the latter’s full cooperation in investigating the Hariri assassination, verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah, and its support for persuading Hamas to recognize Israel.
“All conducted under the watchful eyes of Unicorns,” Lileks adds in reviewing the ISG’s many pronouncements on what needs to happen.
Cohen and James are hardly alone in condemning the report as a massive bit of unintentional parody. Watching the replay of the ISG’s press conference last night, with solemn pronouncement after solemn pronouncement from somnambulist after somnambulist, I was struck by how absolutely feckless this entire exercise was. Because the ISG was not serious about the nature of the double-headed enemy –al Qaeda-allied jihadists and the Iranian mullah-led Shia radicals and their Syrian thugocrats– it could not be serious about the way forward.
Now comes Israel’s newest cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose portfolio is strategic affairs and includes Iran. He is visiting the U.S. From the New York Times today:
In an interview on the eve of his trip, he said, “Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem,” which he called “the biggest threat facing the Jewish people since the Second World War.”
He added, “We must also be prepared to deal alone with this problem.”
For now, Israel’s policy is to remain relatively low-key and to work with the United States and Europe in search of a way to halt or contain Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Lieberman says he supports this position, while making clear he has no faith in the diplomatic efforts.
“The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea,” said Mr. Lieberman, who came here from the Soviet Union in 1978, was first elected to Parliament in 1999 and served in the cabinet of the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
“A Perfect Failure” is, coincidentally (or not, in some feverish circles), how Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan describe the report, but that is agenerous description. At a time of extraordinary danger, and not just to the democratic government of Lebanon and Israel, but to the United States, 10 of its aging elite sign on to an invitation to return to the holiday from history we took in the ’90s. “The report doesn’t offer a plan,” Ralph Peters notes, “but a muddle of truisms and truly bad ideas.”
“The nation’s capital hasn’t seen such concentrated wisdom in one place since Paris Hilton dined alone at the Hooters on Connecticut Avenue,” adds John Podhoretz.
Retired Senator Alan Simpson predicted the ISG would be attacked by the far left and the far right. He was quite wrong. The ISG Report has been embraced by Nancy Pelosi and Jack Cafferty and the political and media know-nothings they represent, and scorned by the people serious about the nature of the enemy.
Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens share very little in common except an understanding of the enemy. They are neither far right nor far left. They are far-sighted on the war and the consequences of defeat, and their scorn for the ISG Report is complete.
So into the vertical file with this enormous waste of time and media attention, and await the Pentagon’s strategic review of Iraq. It would be very useful for the president to make a speech warning Syria that it will not be allowed to re-annex Lebanon, and Iran that its provocations in Iraq are being noted and totalled. Book mark RegimeChangeIran and CounterTerrorismBlog, and wait for the State of the Union. The appeasement caucus has had its day and its appeal has failed to persuade anyone who was not already signed on to the concept of retreat. The braying of the Beltway-Manhattan media elite has persuaded everyone trapped in its extended Green Room that President Bush is on the verge of a “180.”
I don’t think so.