Ira Smolensky


                        Iraq Study Group flunks out


         Great expectations often lead to even greater disillusionment.

         ThatÕs just what has happened with the Iraq War Study Group, the Ōblue-ribbonĶ bi-partisan panel of statesmen who were expected to put their heads together, research the situation, and find a clever (and hopefully easy) path out of the Iraq war quagmire.

         It hasnÕt worked out that way.

         First of all, the president seems not to want to listen to anything the study group has to say unless it fits in snugly with his own unalterable conclusion that the war effort is just a tad behind schedule, with a glorious victory just around the corner if we stay the course (more or less).  Since there seems to be little or no support for this optimistic viewpoint in the study groupÕs report, it seems to be falling on deaf ears, at least as far as the White House is concerned.

         Congress is a different story.

         While there are certainly a handful of congressmen who still sound very much like the president, or who, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, have committed themselves (and their future political ambitions) to an alternative strategy for revitalizing the war effort, many in congress, perhaps a majority, are very much willing to look at the study groupÕs proposals with an open mind.

         Which brings us to the real problem: the Iraq Study Group really hasnÕt offered much that is new.

         I donÕt mean that the groupÕs work has been totally fruitless.  The mere fact that so prestigious a group of notables has confirmed the warÕs sad reality increases the odds that the nation as a whole will come to its senses about what is really happening.

         But the study groupÕs core recommendations are old and/or problematic. 

         Others have suggested working in concert with IraqÕs neighbors to bring the conflict under control, but who really has any idea of how get Syria and Iran to be interested in alleviating a situation that is weakening a country and a president to which they are hostile and who is hostile to them?  ItÕs a great idea to get Sunnis and Shiites to settle their differences—but who knows how to do that?  It sounds sensible to embed American troops with Iraqi police and troops, and vice versa, but how would you maintain the safety of embedded troops and host American units?  And so forth.

         Nor is my skepticism unique.  In fact, itÕs hard to find widespread enthusiasm for anything the study group recommends except the suggestion that we start the ball rolling on a troop withdrawal.

         The question is-- why has the Iraq Study Group come up dry?

         Well, part of it is the rotten situation that the war has put us in.  ItÕs hard for anyone to imagine a graceful solution partly because there may not be one.  That certainly seems to have been the case in Vietnam.

         But there was no way the bi-partisan group was going to say this.  The Republicans canÕt commit political suicide by admitting their partyÕs leader has made the blunder of the century.  And Democrats, likewise, must remain mute because of their complicity in this blunder and because they do not want to appear defeatist, something voters are unlikely to appreciate.

         Nor, for similar reasons, would the study group suggest a brash solution that might make a difference.  That is: impeach, try, and remove the president and vice-president from office so that new leaders can pursue peace free of the Bush administrationÕs arrogant image and desperate desire to save face.

         It might work, but even a thoroughly bi-partisan study group wonÕt recommend it, for the simple reason that the two major parties have a shared monopoly of political power in the U.S.  They do not want to disturb the status quo.  As a result, both the 9-11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group ignored the most important conclusion to which their work should have led them—the failure of our two party system to address the fundamental needs of the American people.

         9-11 should never have happened.  The war in Iraq should never have been started.  The war on poverty should never have been aborted.

         American democracy is systematically failing to achieve its promise.  The results are nothing short of tragic.