"Powerful" ISG Report a "Rebuke for Bush"

The Times is enthusiastic about the ISG report: "Instead, the report confronts the president with a powerful argument that his policy in Iraq is not working and that he must move toward disengagement."

After an extended rollout of leaks and publicity, the Iraq Study Group has officially issued its report - a 142-page apotheosis of center-left conventional wisdom hashed out among five Democrats and five Republicans.

National Review Online's media bloggerStephen Spruiell contrasts media enthusiasm for the report with the raspberry it's getting from political thinkers left and right: "The releaseof the Baker-HamiltonCommission report on Iraq yesterday was greeted by most conservatives and liberals with utter disdain....Yet the beltway media, as personified by NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, couldn't stop gushing about the commission's 'passion' and 'boldness.'"

At the Times, David Sanger's lead story Thursday has a sub-headline that certainly leans on Bush: "Rebuke for Bush - Situation Is 'Grave.'"

Sanger has high hopes for the report and emphasizes in his lead sentence the report's "rebuke."

"A bipartisan commission warned Wednesday that 'the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,' and it handed President Bush both a rebuke for his current strategy and a detailed blueprint for a fundamentally different approach, including the pullback of all American combat brigades over the next 15 months."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg's news analysis makes the same strong case for the ISG report: "In 142 stark pages, the Iraq Study Group report makes an impassioned plea for bipartisan consensus on the most divisive foreign policy issue of this generation. Without President Bush, that cannot happen.

"The commissioners gave a nod to Mr. Bush, adopting his language in accepting the goal of an Iraq that can 'govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.' But the administration's talk of Iraq as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East is absent, as is any talk of victory.

"Instead, the report confronts the president with a powerful argument that his policy in Iraq is not working and that he must move toward disengagement. For Mr. Bush to embrace the study group's blueprint would mean accepting its implicit criticism of his democracy agenda, reversing course in Iraq and throughout the Middle East and meeting Democrats more than halfway.

But Times reporter and military specialist Michael Gordon provides a more jaded military analysis alongside Stolberg's enthusiastic political one: "The military recommendations issued yesterday by the Iraq Study Group are based more on hope than history and run counter to assessments made by some of its own military advisers.

"Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has struggled in vain to tamp down the violence in Iraq and to build up the capacity of Iraq's security forces. Now the study group is positing that the United States can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three."

An accompanying editorial callsthe ISG document"Welcome Political Cover" in the headline and ponders Bush's failure to talk to the authoritarian regimes of Iran and Syria, while declaring for good measure that victory is impossible in Iraq: "And the study was never going to change the basic facts: there is no victory to be had in Iraq, and however American troops withdraw, they will leave behind a deadly mess."