Tom Engelhardt, editor of the indispensible TomDispatch considers the significance of Rumsfeld's departure and replacement by Robert Gates as DefSec, James Baker and the ISG's (Iraqi Study Group) forthcoming recommendations for Iraq and the much-hyped sidelining of the Neoconservative cabal that got us mired in the Middle East in a new piece reprinted in The Asia Times.
According to Engelhardt: "We don't, of course, know exactly what plan the ISG will offer, but all reports on its deliberations suggest that, while public expectations are soaring, the actual recommendations "may sound familiar". Actually, they may sound that way because the proposals the group seems to be considering are indeed remarkably familiar.
These range from a bulking up of US troop strength by 10,000-40,000 more soldiers to a far more likely scenario described by Neil King Jr, Yochi Dreazen and Greg Jaffe in the Wall Street Journal just two days after the election. This would involve a long-term drawdown of US forces to the 50,000 level - still 20,000 more than Rumsfeld and pals hoped to leave in-country only months after the taking of Baghdad. Assumedly, these would largely be pulled back into those permanent bases."
Two key points he argues that are salient to any discussion of withdrawal or the beginning of a new military strategy for Iraq that are being purposefully ignored by the media are the fact that the massive military bases constructed by the US military in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion were designed to be permanent, signaling the Pentagon's intention to occupy Iraq for many years to come as well as the fact that the air campaign will likely need to be intensified if ground forces are going to be meaningfully "redeployed".
He concludes his piece with the following passage, which unfortunately sums up the bind the US is in right now thanks to our invasion of Iraq:
In a Washington of suddenly lowered expectations, dignity is defined as hanging in there until an Iraqi government that can't even control its own Interior Ministry or the police in the capital gains "stability", until the Sunni insurgency becomes a mild irritation and until that US Embassy, that eighth wonder of the world of security and comfort, becomes an eye-catching landmark on the capital's skyline.
Imagine. That's all the US wants. That's its dignity. And for that dignity and the imagined imperial stability of the world, the United States' top movers and shakers will proceed to monkey around for months creating and implementing plans that will only ensure further catastrophe (which, in turn, will but breed more rage, more terrorism that spreads disaster to the Middle East and actually lessens US power around the world).
Now, the dreamers [the neocons], the greatest gamblers in the United States' history, are departing official Washington and the "realists" have hit the corridors of power that they always thought they owned. It wouldn't hurt if they opened their eyes. Even imperial defenders should face reality. Someday, it's something we'll all have to do. In the meantime, call in the Hellfire-missile-armed drones.
Update (12/4): Chris Floyd has a brilliant takedown of Tom Friedman's latest Op-Ed arguing that the disintegration of Iraq is all the Iraqi people's fault, not the dreamers in the White House and Pentagon. Go figure.