If the final recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton New-ideas-for-Iraq Study Group are correct as outlined by unnamed leakers in thismorning’s New York Times, is this anything at all?
“The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deliberations.”
In other words, plan to start leaving, but not at any particular time.
“The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries.”
And “pullback” doesn’t necessarily mean out of Iraq. Maybe, but not necessarily.
“‘I think everyone felt good about where we ended up,’ one person involved in the commissionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s debates said after the group ended its meeting. “‘It is neither ‘cut and run’ nor Ã¢â‚¬Ëœstay the course.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢’ Ã¢â‚¬Â
I’ve been asking for some time whether there really was something between those two policies. Apparently there is, if you just say there is and don’t ask too many questions about what it is.
A person who participated in the commissionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, Ã¢â‚¬Å“there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So this is not really a recommendation of a change in U.S. policy, strategy or tactics, but an attempt to motivate al-Maliki by creating an impression that Bush doesn’t really mean what he says when he says “IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Maybe the leaks are wrong. But if they’re correct, am I missing the secret substance and potential impact of these new ideas?