Thursday, December 07, 2006

... Or Realism With a Few Flaws

Robert D. Kaplan writes quite favorably of the Iraq Study Group Report in this Atlantic Online article. Kaplan is not your average neocon hack. He has “traveled to and reported on more than 80 countries,” and has great expertise on the Middle East. Kaplan was an ardent supporter of the Iraq war, and worked secretly with the Bush administration “to help develop a case for the invasion of Iraq.” In so doing he damaged his reputation of journalistic independence.

Kaplan calls the report “a tough, intricate policy statement, albeit with serious flaws.” But he’s not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as he says so many other conservative pundits seem ready to do. This morning, for example, Bob Lonsberry said on his radio show that the report was greeted with equal enthusiasm by the MSM and by terrorists. (Those are code terms conservatives greet with equal disdain.) Kaplan says that in actually reading the document, you discover that it’s no cut-and-run plan.

Kaplan claims some humility about the whole Iraq affair. Having been one to provide key support in getting the mission off the ground in the first place, he now says that it is possible to believe that “the frequency and magnitude of the mistakes [in Iraq] indicate a hubristic flaw in the concept of regime change itself….” He comes off as being angry with the administration for messing up something he helped start, saying that an alternative acceptable belief is that “toppling Saddam Hussein was a wise decision, incompetently handled in its occupation phase.”

The report’s flaws include an unrealistic reliance on Iran, Syria, and others that the group relies on to help accomplish indispensable portions of its blueprint. However, unlike those I cited in yesterday’s post that see nothing good in engaging Iran and Syria diplomatically, Kaplan enthusiastically supports attempting to do so, but with our eyes wide open. He thinks that the study group is engaged in fantasy when they claim to understand Iran’s and Syria’s motivations.

While conservative pundits throughout our great nation roundly blast the study group’s report and call for the Bush administration to immediately chuck it in the round file, Kaplan argues, “The Administration should co-opt this report—with adjustments, of course.” He warns that if the President fails to incorporate major portions of the report into his policies, “he will be truly on his own, utterly isolated.” I guess Kaplan thinks the President’s not already there. At any rate, those are harsh words from a war hawk. Perhaps they contain some wisdom.

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