11.27.2006

Iraq Study Group falls a little short

Don't expect much from the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission. Although I have the utmost respect for many of the members of the group, I question whether or not they are the best qualified to analyze the war in Iraq.

Certainly Baker and Hamilton have the foreign policy experience to address the political ramifications of the war, as does Lawrence Eagleburger - a former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush. The political consequences of the war are only part of the problem, however. Only one member of the ISG has any prior experience dealing with military operations: President Clinton's former Secretary of Defense William Perry. The remaining six members of the ISG, although extremely bright and intelligent individuals, have no substantive foreign policy or military experience.

According to the commission its focus has four main parts: the strategic environment in and around Iraq, the key challenges to security within Iraq, the political developments and formation of a new government in Iraq, and the economic reconstruction of Iraq. Obviously these issues are extremely complex and require input from a variety of backgrounds to provide any legitimate recommendations on how to move forward in Iraq.

The problem I see with the ISG is that there is no input from anyone with any extensive military experience. Why are there no retired generals on the commission? Why not General Tommy Franks, or General Anthony Zinni, or General Wesley Clark, or Colin Powell? Men like Zinni and Clark are certainly not supporters of the Bush administration, but they are well qualified individuals when it comes to military tactics.

I don't want to sound like I am downplaying the experience of Baker, Hamilton, Eagleburger, and Perry. On the contrary, just these four men are probably the most qualified group of foreign policy experts that exist in the United States. All of them are universally respected politically and around the world. My problem is that the other members of the ISG, like Vernon Jordan or Leon Panetta or even Ed Meese, are there only to make the group "bipartisan" and palatable to members of congress. The group's focus is extremely important and will mean a lot for the next step in Iraq, we don't need a bipartisan commission we need a commission of experts, and that includes the military.

The generals I suggested are not all Bush administration supporters. Zinni, Clark, and Powell have all been critical of the handling of Iraq. It is clear that we need a fresh perspective on Iraq, and I think that the ISG can provide some of that, but it is also clear that the members of the group show that President Bush is more concerned with how the commission will play politically than whether or not it seriously addresses the military situation as well.

I guess we have to just wait and see.