Consensus to surrender?

Will inviting Iran and Syria to join an "Iraq Support Group" reduce Iranian influence in the region?

baker report 88 (photo credit: AP)
baker report 88
(photo credit: AP)
"The United States must build a new international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. In order to foster such consensus, the United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support ... [which] should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors - Iran and Syria among them. Despite the well-known differences between many of these countries, they all share an interest in avoiding the horrific consequences that would flow from a chaotic Iraq, particularly a humanitarian catastrophe and regional destabilization." - The Iraq Study Group Report How embarrassing. Senior figures from both major American parties have, in broad daylight, betrayed such staggering naivete that their report might not have passed muster with a reasonably discerning high school teacher, let alone offered a serious basis for US foreign policy. One wonders whether a single Iraqi, Jordanian, or Saudi with whom the committee spoke believes that Iran "has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq." The report itself delicately admits that Iran "supports various Shia militias in Iraq." It is difficult to believe that anyone seeking to reduce Iranian influence in the region would advocate inviting Iran and Syria to join in an "Iraq Support Group." For what purpose? On what basis? Here, the report admits that its recommendations are "controversial," but argues that "Although Iran sees it in its interest to have the United States bogged down in Iraq, Iran's interests would not be served by a failure of US policy in Iraq that led to chaos and the territorial disintegration of the Iraqi state." On this, the ISG sages are right: rather than see Iraq disintegrate, Iran would be greatly pleased to see its neighbor ruled by an allied radical regime - as Iran is currently attempting to also engineer in Lebanon and Syria, and even in Afghanistan and Gaza. What they fail to explain is why the policy they suggest would not further such an Iranian goal, in direct opposition to US interests. We can only hope that the unrealistic nature of such proposals will shock Americans from both parties out of their faddish swooning over the "realist" camp. It does not take too much scratching under the surface, after all, to discern that what this camp is trotting out is more surrender than solutions. As Robert Kagan and William Kristol put it in the Weekly Standard: "So let's add up the 'realist' proposals: We must retreat from Iraq, and thus abandon all those Iraqis ... who have depended on the United States for safety and the promise of a better future. We must abandon our allies in Lebanon and the very idea of an independent Lebanon in order to win Syria's support for our retreat from Iraq. We must abandon our opposition to Iran's nuclear program in order to convince Iran to help us abandon Iraq. And we must pressure our ally, Israel, to accommodate a violent Hamas in order to gain radical Arab support for our retreat from Iraq." There is something fundamental, however, that the Baker-Hamilton report did get right, that "US foreign policy is doomed to failure - as is any course of action in Iraq - if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus." America is indeed in dire need of a consensus foreign policy. The question is: Can President George Bush build that consensus around something other than the Baker-Hamilton call to surrender? From what we know about the great American nation, we have to believe that even now, even in the current politically polarized atmosphere, a consensus can be built over the need to lead free nations in using their ample economic, diplomatic, and, if necessary, military power to confront a single rogue regime that threatens to sow death and destruction under a nuclear umbrella. Such a course may fail, but it has not been tried. Moreover, any chance of success is preferable to a course that assumes and guarantees failure. If it does fail, it would not be because it could not succeed, but because democracy has proven to be as weak and feckless a system as its adversaries assume. The jihadi's theory of victory is simple; the West can be bullied into not lifting a finger to defend itself. The Iraq Study Group's counsel notwithstanding, it is not too late to prove the world's latest totalitarians wrong.