U.S. legislators fail to meet key political benchmarks on Iraq

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News The Congressional debate over withdrawal is coming to a head faster than anyone expected, but the quality of discussion is far from impressive. The White House is terrified about the rising number of Senate Republicans defecting to the Democratic position on withdrawal in one form or another. One prominent bill under ...

600617_070712_salazar_05.jpg
600617_070712_salazar_05.jpg

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

The Congressional debate over withdrawal is coming to a head faster than anyone expected, but the quality of discussion is far from impressive. The White House is terrified about the rising number of Senate Republicans defecting to the Democratic position on withdrawal in one form or another. One prominent bill under consideration in the Senate is the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act of 2007, known as the Salazar amendment because it was introduced by Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as an add-on to the Defense Authorization Act. It failed a procedural vote yesterday, but the bill has an appealing bipartisan sheen and could thus make a comeback. Like its House equivalent, it would turn the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into official U.S. policy. In announcing the legislation last week, cosponsor Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander declared, "The Iraq Study Group report is a strategy for tomorrow."

Actually, it's a strategy for yesterday. 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

The Congressional debate over withdrawal is coming to a head faster than anyone expected, but the quality of discussion is far from impressive. The White House is terrified about the rising number of Senate Republicans defecting to the Democratic position on withdrawal in one form or another. One prominent bill under consideration in the Senate is the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act of 2007, known as the Salazar amendment because it was introduced by Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as an add-on to the Defense Authorization Act. It failed a procedural vote yesterday, but the bill has an appealing bipartisan sheen and could thus make a comeback. Like its House equivalent, it would turn the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into official U.S. policy. In announcing the legislation last week, cosponsor Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander declared, “The Iraq Study Group report is a strategy for tomorrow.”

Actually, it’s a strategy for yesterday. 

The Iraq Study Group report is now eight months old, yet it just won’t die. A lot has changed since it was introduced in December 2006, most notably the Iraqi central government’s slide into irrelevance. Gen. David Patraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has mostly ignored the administration of Shiite leader Nuri al-Maliki and cut deals with local Sunni potentates to isolate al Qaeda. The few genuine successes touted in today’s White House progress report are due to Petraeus’s pragmatism, not to anything Maliki has done. Which is why the debate in Congress over “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government is so absurd. As military expert Anthony Cordesman notes today in his scathing critique of the White House’s progress report, “It was all too clear that [the] Iraqi central government still remained too weak and divided to make the agreements and compromises required.” Too bad Cordesman isn’t writing Congressional legislation.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.