The fact that the "Baker Report" has become a best-seller reflects how trapped the American people feel by the current Iraqi nightmare and how frantically search for anything that seems to offer a coherent way out. Unfortunately, however, the report has been classified in the non-fiction, rather than fiction section of the bookshop. Despite some refreshingly honest comments about the general state of affairs in Iraq, the proposals it comes up with are pure fantasy. Its power of effect is largely derived from the veracity of a few descriptions of the state of affairs in Iraq, when set against years of lies, distortion and deception from the White House. In terms of really offering a way out it, its about as useful as using a map of Beijing to get around Baghdad. Its findings amount to little more than finely worded contradictions intended to hide the truth that there is no honourable retreat. Its key recommendations are unworkable. The report itself admits that events there may have "already overtaken" its findings. But, in truth, they never came within sight of reading its number plates.
The key military proposal involves empowering the Iraqi Army by installing some 20,000 US army trainers inside Iraqi units during combat missions. However, this idea immediately shrivelled up like a piece of lighted cigarette paper in an ashtray, when an Iraqi government minister asked where they would find the small army of 20,000 translators? To those who like floating ideas in geo-political bubbles, this annoying little technical detail brought down the report like a re-run of the Hindenburg disaster. Think it through! The CIA itself can't find a few hundred Arabic speakers for counter-intelligence in well-paid, cushy surroundings. Where then will the military find 20,000 volunteers, fluent, bi-lingual translators (and, therefore most likely of Iraqi or other Arab nationality,) who are prepared to risk their lives on the frontline, as well as risk death and/or torture at the hands of militia death-squads? Without this huge, elite force of "kamikaze linguists", you might just as well send in another 20,000 Humvees without steering wheels, or 20,000 fighter planes without navigation equipment. It's a non-starter.
Secondly, the Baker report, like Bush, is demanding that the Iraqi government to make "substantial progress" in reducing sectarianism, achieving reconciliation and strengthening "security and governance." Otherwise, it threatens to massively reduce US "political, military and economic support." Apart from the obvious Catch 22, that it will reduce support, while demanding more efficiency from the Iraqi government and then reduce forces anyway if the government isn't successful, the idea that the Iraqi government can fulfil this role is just peddling a lie.
The Iraqi government is suspended in mid-air observing a situation over which it has no control. It is a government in name only. Its writ runs no further than pieces of paper floating in the wind. Every time the government attempts to impose a curfew in Baghdad, it is forced to revoke it, because they have no power to enforce or sustain it. The militias just continue firing mortars across the city and death squads roamed unrestricted carrying out revenge attacks. The police and army are powerless to stop them and prefer to stand aside or participated in the attacks.
At the end of the day, the state boils down to bodies of armed men willing and able to enforce the will of a government or other state institution, which commands it. Where this is not the case, as in times of civil war and revolution, the Army itself sometimes becomes the state. The Iraqi government, however, hasn't an Army or a police force. Neither force is motivated or able to support it and, neither can be depended upon to carry out its will. They are token institutions displayed for symbolic international reasons under US pressure.
In reality, the Iraqi Army couldn't repulse an attack by the Swiss army on bicycles. And the police are little more than a fresh change of clothes for the militias. Furthermore, to imagine the US forces are standing in as substitutes and somehow holding up the Iraqi government, is just gobbledygook. The moment the leaders of the main militias decide to withdraw totally from government participation, the government will just collapse. All the cardboard cut-outs will topple over and all the stage props will fall down. The Iraqi Army will disappear along with its weapons and the police will turn their equipment over to the respective militias. And don't imagine there will be any new elections, because the fact is, NO IRAQI STATE EXISTS to carry them out and no popular demand exists for new ones.
As for the US Army, they are about as effective as the average UN observer force. Worse still, they have, in fact, already become a training force, but one for the insurgents and militias to hone their military skills for use against each other and for the Al Qaeda to its groom its forces for future re-deployment around the region.
Whatever pressure Baker or Bush might like to impose, there simply is no Iraqi government capable of fulfilling any of its roles, be they one's of economics, politics or security. And there is no one individual or group of individual capable of forming a real government. The Baker Commission, and Bush included, might just as well set benchmarks for the Icelandic government to disarm the militias, as expect anything concrete to be carried out by the so-called government in Baghdad! In reality it is a ghost government with a phantom army, which has no hope of taking on substance, let alone fulfilling any of the demands made on it by the Baker Report or the Bush administration.
As for calling for discussions with Iran and Syria, this is both an admission by the US that the situation is out of its control and a rather vain and desperate, last ditch attempt to limit the damage to the US and the region. But even if certain insurgent and militia groups are aided in by open borders or supplies of equipment and training, the truth is that the scale and determination of the insurgency is not controlled by, or dependent on, any outside nations, and is not motivated by them. It doesn't really matter whether Syria or Iran are interested in fermenting unrest or prefer seeing it reduced. Whatever influence they do have, still won't fundamentally alter the final outcome of events.
The only perspective for Iraq now, and the only central question deliberately ignored by the Baker Report, is the break up Iraq into three separate states. Its omission from the report is quite incredible. Even if they don't think it likely, nobody can ignore the fact that it is very real possibility, with huge consequences for Iraq, the US, the region and the world as a whole. To simply ignore it, because they won't entertain the idea, don't want it to happen, or don't fancy dealing with it, is astounding. Arguably, it is not just stupidity to omit it, but a dereliction of duty from such supposedly, high servants of the American state who are entrusted with the responsibility of delivering such an important report.
Indeed all the report really says is what everyone knows. That the situation is "grave and deteriorating". The Report acknowledges that " A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of the Iraqi government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighbouring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations..." By this do they mean that Iraq will split into three states? If so what are the implications in terms of a rethinking of America's military priorities as stated in the objectives of the committee and its report? Silence. Nothing to recommend? If the situation is "grave and deteriorating", how will it be after the year it takes to begin putting their proposals into effect? Are we supposed to imagine that "grave and deteriorating" is a condition in suspended animation? Couldn't it well be that US troops will still be on the ground when the government falls and Iraq breaks into 3 states? What will they do then? What does the committee suggest as America's military priorities if this happens in the next few months?
How should they react? Should they leave Baghdad and mixed areas to descend into sectarian genocide? Should they simply accept the Shia state ? Should they try to forge alliances with current nationalist insurgents to fight Al Qaeda in the Sunni state or simply give up Al Anbar and re-deploy special forces to neighbouring states? How will they respond if other countries in the region begin to break apart? This we suppose is beyond the remit of the Iraq Study Group, which only rethinks American military strategy one year in advance according to condition remaining exactly in correspondence with their proposals. Otherwise, some committee will have to deal with it, no doubt?
Of course, the Iraq Study Group are well aware that this is the likely scenario. Their denial of it is not accidental. In fact, the ramifications are so devastating for the US and the consequences so grave for the region and the world, that the Study Group have evidently thought it prudent not to present this before the American people, at this time. Obviously, it would mean admitting total and utter defeat. They would have to explain how the war on terror and with invasion of Iraq had resulted not in a model democratic state , but the creation of an Al Qaeda state in the heart of the region, strengthening global terrorism and increasing the threat against the United States itself. They would have to explain how the world's most powerful army crumbled under attack from urban insurgency and sectarian militias. How a Shiite theocratic regime hostile to the US and friendly to Iran came into being and how the hitherto almost unknown conflict between Sunnis and Shias had mushroomed into a destabilizing force throughout the region. Finally, how, not only did Iraq became a battleground for foreign powers, but how continental-scale civil war and regional wars engulfed the whole region, destabilizing oil markets and the global economy, pushing the US and the world into recession or even a new economic depression. Clearly, the Group was unable to deal with this or felt it better brushed under the carpet for the time being. The only thing it can suggest is to call for a regional conference on stability. Set against the Armageddon-like scenario, this single, rather limp recommendation sounds like a rather feeble admission of impotency.
Nevertheless, despite not entertaining the full implications of the catastrophe in Iraq, the report lets seep out some of the very real concerns of the American ruling class for the stability of their system. In the words of the report, "our ship of state has hit rough waters," "The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized." Behind the scenes even more blunt and hard words are being expressed. There is palpable concern that an unacceptable level of damage is being done to the credibility of the US, its institutions - most notably the Presidency- and the standing and morale of its Army. This is not only of concern globally, but also domestically, where the faith of the American people in the whole American system is being put to test.
Consequently, the report serves the purpose more of a domestic tactically weapon, than the global, strategic document it has been blown to be. The purpose of the report is to corner a President who is not prepared to privately heed instructions from the shrouded inner circles of the American ruling class. Bush is, therefore, being given a public, last chance. But so far, and not totally unexpectedly, his response has served not only to divorce him further from the ruling elite, but from the American people as a whole. Increasingly, he appears divorced from reality, looking less like a person in denial and more like someone in a state of clinical delusion. Between the lines of the report, the true message is not whether American forces will be withdrawn by 2008, but whether the President will have to be stood down before that. http://stephenjmorgan.tripod.com/