Friday, December 08, 2006

Critics of Baker Study Return Fire from the Right

Conservatives are up in arms over the Iraq Study Group's proposal for Middle East diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria, according to this Los Angeles Times report:

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh called it "The Iraq Surrender Group."

The conservative New York Post tabloid doctored a front-page photo to depict the co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group in primate fur, under the headline "Surrender Monkeys," inspired by a frequently quoted line from "The Simpsons."

And conservative commentator William J. Bennett vented in volcanic fashion. "In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority," Bennett wrote on the National Review website. "Self-congratulatory. Full of itself.

Horrible."Howls of protest echoed across the right side of the political spectrum as conservatives voiced dismay with the findings of the bipartisan Iraq panel, released Wednesday.

The commission's report depicts Iraq as a country sliding into chaos, saying conditions are "grave and deteriorating."

Many conservatives agree with that assessment. But the report's other findings and recommendations, which declare the approach they have backed for nearly four years all but bankrupt, clearly struck a nerve with the most ardent supporters of the war.

That diagnosis has compounded the pain for conservatives who saw voters turn control of both chambers of Congress over to Democrats last month, largely because of mounting frustration with the war in Iraq.

Conservatives were particularly incensed at the study group's recommendation that the United States engage Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, as part of a broad new diplomatic push to enlist other countries, even those that see themselves as enemies of the United States, to try to solve the Iraq problem.

That advice is particularly difficult to swallow for neoconservatives and others who believe U.S. diplomacy should be grounded in a moralistic view of the world, as opposed to the more pragmatic and compromising "realist" approach championed by the Iraq Study Group's most prominent members. The group's chairmen are Republican former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.

Conservative bloggers pounded away at this point."We are fighting the spread of radical Islamist terrorism, and the two major production centers for that very problem are Tehran and Damascus," read a posting on the conservative site "Holding a regional conference with them to determine anything but their surrender in that war only encourages the spread of the terrorism that we seek to end."
The ISG controversy is the big story this week, and there's a lot of critcism and commentary to digest. One penetrating analysis can be found over at Betsy's Page, where she cites Eliot Cohen's Wall Street Journal yesterday criticizing the folly of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.

See also the week's Newsweek cover story, which provided an excellent background analysis on the philosphical and political underpinnings of the Baker Commission.

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