Iraq’s Third Act

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Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report this Wednesday, even though much of the content has been leaked to the press for weeks now. War weary America hopes that the report will propose some path to the beginning of the end of a war and occupation long gone sour.

But the notion of a quick and painless resolution is most likely wishful thinking, as

Mark Danner outlines in the New York Review of Books this month. Danner says that the architects of the war in the Pentagon and the White House like to think of the the last three years in two acts: the “Real Iraq War,” the successful invastion and overthrow of Saddam, and the “postwar phase,” that is, everything that came after. Which means that now, with the release of the Commission report, we may be about to enter something like Act Three.

In the coming weeks we will hear much talk of ‘exit strategies’ and ‘proposed solutions.’ All such ‘solutions,’ though, are certain to come with heavy political costs, costs the President may consider more difficult to bear than those of doggedly ‘staying the course’ for the remainder of his term. George W. Bush, who ran for president vowing a ‘humble’ foreign policy, could not have predicted this…

If we are indeed in the third act…then it may well be that this final act will prove to be very long and very painful. You may or may not know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

Mark Danner, Iraq: The War of Imagination, New York Review of Books, 12/21/06

Danner will help us parse the report when it comes out on Wednesday, and outline the history of how we got here to begin with. Some starting questions for Danner:

What are the hallmarks of this next phase of the war? And what solutions could we possibly arrive at that would both satisfy American political considerations and effect real change on the ground in Iraq?

Mark Danner

Former staff writer, New Yorker

Contributor, New York Review of Books

Professor of Journalism, UC Berkeley

John Mearsheimer

R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Author, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

Extra Credit Reading

Mark Danner, Iraq: The War of the Imagination, The New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006: “‘Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

–George F. Kennan, September 26, 2002′”

Via Potter: When Iraq Went Wrong, The New York Times, December 5, 2006: “If the details of what happened at Nasiriya had been gathered, recognized and analyzed more soberly early on, instead of trampled on in a rush of triumphalism, coalition forces might have learned useful lessons for the reconstruction of Iraq: the limits of military power, the importance of a proper understanding of the complexity of a place and its people, the perils of underestimating an enemy.”

The Baker Hamilton Commission, Iraq Study Group Report (full text), December 6, 2006.

via Old Nick: The Baker Hamilton Commission, Iraq Study Group Report (Executive Summary), vintage books, December 6, 2006.

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