The Congressionally commissioned Iraq study group headed by Baker (R) and Hamilton (D), produced nothing new. They confirm that Iraq is out of control; we have insufficient resources to get it under control on our own; and given that our presence is exacerbating the widening war in Iraq in some ways, they advise we should look to withdraw most of our forces by 2008.
Here is the quagmire in a nutshell. The best outcome America can hope for now, and the vital goals the President cannot, and will not, yield on are; preventing the Iraqi Government from dissolving, and preventing Iraqi oil revenues from being funneled or, otherwise falling, into terrorist group hands. These are interdependent goals. If either fails, the other follows.
But, how can we achieve those goals? The short answer is: We can't. The longer answer is: these goals can only be accomplished and maintained by the Iraqis themselves with tremendous assistance, or at the very least, a total absence of involvement, by neighboring nations and populations. Since, this latter is not a realistic option, neighboring nations and the Iraqis must accomplish our goals for Iraq, or unpredictable, and no doubt long term, immensely threatening consequences will result.
The quagmire then, in a nutshell is: If our goals in Iraq are not accomplished, terrorism in the world will grow immensely. But, to see our goals accomplished, we must be able to lead the Middle Eastern nations toward a solution which insures our goals are met. However, our diplomatic and leadership clout in the Middle East could not be weaker. And therein, lies the quagmire that George W. Bush's administration has created for America, and everyone affected by the outcome of our invasion of Iraq.
It is no surprise then, given these circumstances, that the Baker/Hamilton Report offers no silver bullets, no crystal balls on future consequences, no clearly charted direction or paths to follow, no assurances or guarantees, that anything we do will be successful.
Two facts are clear and straightforward, however! The U.S. cannot sustain this level of spending in Iraq without grave domestic consequences to our own economic challenges facing our 21st century future (now predicted to be 1 trillion dollars). And, the American people will not tolerate the G.I. losses of lives and limbs as are now occurring without signs and clearly defined mileposts of progress made toward achieving our goals in Iraq. 'Stay the Course' is NOT an option!
Change for change sake, is also not going to be a productive option. Some are calling for increasing our troop strength. But, this is a strategy doomed to fail due to our lack of sufficient forces to call up to lock Iraq down under U.S. led martial law 24/7/365 for as long as it takes to disarm the population and rebuild economic and physical infrastructure. The forces necessary to ensure success would be in the neighborhood of another 350,000 to 1/2 million troops. We simply don't have that kind of military resources to put on the ground in Iraq, without opening up vulnerabilities in other parts of the world.
Change in the form of simply pulling out, is also not an option. Pulling out entirely in the immediate future will only defeat our goals in Iraq mentioned earlier. Hence, the very appropriate term for our Iraq situation is quagmire: cross our fingers, say a prayer, and hope that we can muster sufficient international resources and will to assist us in accomplishing our goals in Iraq.
Little else meaningful can be said of the Iraqi situation and our involvement in it. We broke it, we own it, but, we don't have any clear answers on how to act responsibly for it. Indeed, with each passing month, it appears less and less likely that a responsible course of action does exist. It may prove to be the case that, we missed all our windows of opportunity to resolve the Iraq situation in our favor, leaving a foreseeable future of relative stability and security both in and from, the Iraqi neighborhood.
This should be a lesson for Americans regarding her spiraling national, trade, and personal debt levels. Because in this arena also, there are a finite number of windows of opportunity to extricate ourselves from that debt, before passing the point of no return in which the debt crushes America's future, very much as the civil war is crushing our hopes for a stable Iraq favorable to American national security.