Thursday, December 07, 2006

ISG Report "minimizes its discrepancy" with reality

The Iraq Study Group is one of those high-level national commissions made up of Wise Men of the Washington political establishment -- in this case joined by one Wise Woman, who had to prove her gravitas by serving on the Supreme Court. They're experienced enough to mask the essentially political nature of their appointment and their recommendations with a dash of rhetorical flair, even if the rhetoric runs more toward euphemistic bureaucratese than spellbinding eloquence. Like other commissions before them, they've added an expression to the language -- in their case, a new definition of lying.
Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.
In other words, a lie is just a falsehood presented in a way that "minimizes its discrepancy" with the truth.

This remarkable sentence appears near the end (page 62) of my downloaded PDF version of the ISG Report, which can be bought in book form at Amazon for $6.57 or downloaded as a free PDF here.

"Minimizing discrepancy" is also a pretty useful concept in describing the nature of the ISG Report itself. Although talk about the report dominated the airwaves and the headlines, with lots of talk about what a significant breakthrough it was, all of this tended to obscure the fact that the report is not only being rapidly outpaced by events but that its recommendations are basically an exercise in "minimizing the discrepancy" in regard to Iraq between what is politically acceptable at this point in time and what is actually possible.

Perhaps the most glaring example is the focus on training the Iraqi military. It's hard to believe that anybody on the commission really believes this will work. The point is, they don't need to believe it -- they just need to present it as an interim goal to provide political cover for our retreat.

Russ Feingold cut through the spin on Countdown.
So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened - that's fairly accurate - but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq. This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.
Talk Left has more, as well as a link to the video. Also, don't miss Matt Rothschild's scathing analysis of the "Fantasies of the Baker Report" at The Progressive.
But having made its criticisms on the margins, the Baker Report is trying to silence others about the fundamentals.

“Success depends on the unity of the American people in a time of political polarization,” James Baker and Lee Hamilton declare in their opening note. “Americans can and must enjoy right of robust debate within a democracy. Yet U.S foreign policy is doomed to failure—as is any course of action in Iraq—if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus.”

That’s a bunch of crap.

The U.S. is going to fail there regardless of dissent here. And the Baker Report should not be used as a gag in the mouths of the majority of Americans who want all troops out within a year.

Just because James Baker and Lee Hamilton have spoken doesn’t mean the rest of us have to shut up and get in line.
And that, of course, is the greatest discrepancy of all that the report tries to minimize -- the discrepancy between today's public opinion about the total futility of the war and the Washington establishment's need to believe that there still something to be salvaged from it. In short, the ISG Group is still presenting information about Iraq in a way that "minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." Not to mention its discrepancy with reality -- a gaping void so great there's little these Nine Wise Men and One Wise Woman can do to paper it over.

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