Since today is being hyped as Bow to the Iraq Study Group Day, we should note that this is not a White House commission, but a group assembled by Congress. It’s also affiliated with the U.S. Institute of Peace. (Not all of those affiliated commissions get massive hype from journalists. For example, take Newt Gingrich and George Mitchell’s commission on United Nations reform last year.) Gail Russell Chaddock of the Christian Science Monitor explained recently it began with veteran Republican Rep. Frank Wolf of northern Virginia:
The Iraq Study Group is the flip side of the usual blue-ribbon panel, whose launch is often its high point. It began modestly as a one-line earmark in last spring's emergency defense spending bill - "$1 million ... for activities relating to Iraq."
It was born from the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad in 2005, which Wolf says was a sharp contrast to his second visit in 2003, with Rep. Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut. While even then they traveled anonymously in old, beat-up vehicles for security reasons, they could visit villages, homes, hospitals, and schools relatively freely. In Al Kut, they were welcomed to join a wedding celebration and told how people loved America.
After his 2005 trip, Wolf urged Mr. Bush to select a group of "capable and distinguished individuals" to go to the region to "comprehensively review our efforts" in Iraq. He also began rounds of quiet consultations on the idea from Congress to the State Department, the Pentagon, and private think tanks....
Launched last spring, the ISG took on a much higher profile this fall, as elections neared and the situation on the ground got worse in Iraq.
"No one paid attention to this until the fall when it became clear that the Republican majority was going to fall and Iraq was the issue over which Republicans would lose," says Ivo Daalder, a senior fellow at Brookings in Washington, D.C.
Wolf says he welcomes the high profile his simple idea has assumed. "I get amused when I think how we struggled to get it done, and now even Senator Kerry is supporting it," he says. "I think the attention will make the report even better."
Can anyone remember a commission getting this much hype during the Clinton administration, one that Clinton had better listen to or see his "legacy" ruined? I don't.
(This is Miles O'Brien on CNN this morning: "The Iraq Study Group's findings will no doubt have a big impact on how we view the war in
The suspicious left-wing take on it is here.