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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ignatius Right?

I don't generally agree with columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, but maybe today he's right, that Congress, and the President, need to find a common ground to work from in Iraq.

He suggests the Baker Hamilton report issued last year. The Democrats claim to be invoking it with their milestones and withdraw deadlines, but the truth is both of those items were written as hard and fast in the congressional legislation, which isn't what the report recommended.

Baker Hamilton does call for deadlines and milestones in Iraq, however they suggested they be worked out between the US and Iraqi governments, not mandated by either of the two. Unlike what the Senate has passed, March 2008 was listed as a "goal date" for beginning to withdraw combat troops, based on progress on milestones, progress on the ground, and mutual agreement between the governments. The House bill is even worse, with March as the pull out date either because we can't win or we already did, ignoring anything that might resemble progress in between those two ends.

Ignatius also wants to see us, as the report called for, negotiating with Iran and Syria to stem the flow of insurgents and weapons. The problem with that proposal has always been that we have no position to bargain from. Congress' actions over the last few weeks have made that abundantly clear, obviously more to Iran and Syria than US congressional leaders.

Yes, we've met with both in Baghdad, but one time, with nothing new scheduled. My guess is because both Iran and Syria; despite evidence to the contrary; denied they are either implicitly or explicitly helping with the insurgency. Until they are willing to admit their own parts in the insurgency, the President is right, and further meetings aren't going to be useful.

Here's my suggestion to Congress, and the President. First, Congress, get the bill sure to be vetoed to the White House quickly, so it can be. Then Harry, Nancy, George, Condi and President Talabani or Prime Minister al Maliki of Iraq all need to spend a week at Camp David working out a set of goals for the new legislation. Ban the press from the event, which will piss them off, but who cares, and get a workable solution for all parties to present to Congress.

That solution does need to contain goals for the Iraqi's to meet, and some target dates for those goals. It needs to contain updates to Congress on Iraq's progress on them. Those goals require some carrots and some sticks, to help hold the Iraqi's to them.

It needs to contain funding for the surge, which Baker Hamilton did say was a possible solution in Bahgdad, but should also set some limits on deployability of troops (training, etc.). It also needs to recognize (unlike either bill in Congress) that the military leaders in Iraq are much more qualified to tell congress what progress is being made than CNN or Fox News.

Comprise, and a lasting solution for Iraq, are possible, but only if all sides work together on it, instead of playing one upsmanship in the media and chicken with the forces on the ground.

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