04/13/2008 by Juan COLE
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney initially rejected the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, which advised that Iraq could not be solved militarily and that regional diplomacy and engagement would be necessary.
Bush chose instead to pursue an escalation of the war, which he euphemistically called a ‘surge.’ This tactic backfired when Bush inadvertently allowed the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis of Baghdad, turning the capital into a playground for the Shiite Mahdi Army. As a result of the Shiitization of Baghdad, violence in the city thereafter declined, since there were fewer Sunnis around to kill (many were cowering in Damascus). The US achieved a ceasefire with the Mahdi Army (and why not, since the US military was disarming its enemies and allowing it to then chase them off to Syria?)
Moreover, Baghdad was only one hot spot in a very complicated country, and security continued to deteriorate in the Kurdish north along the Turkish border and in the southern Shiite oil port of Basra, as I argue in an op-ed today in the Boston Globe.
Even the temporary reduction in violence was more modest than the US press tended to assume. And the death rate may have reached its nadir and begun climbing back up now that the extra troops are being withdrawn. As David Fiderer pointed out, that outcome is precisely what the ISG report predicted.
So now it turns out that recently General David Petraeus has been doing regional diplomacy in an attempt to get local regimes to cooperate in cutting the flow of foreign fighters, money and arms to Iraq.
In other words, the military escalation, which is now getting to be over with, did not do the trick. So the only alternative is to go back to the Baker Hamilton Commission recommendations.