The Ten Wise Men
Both Democrats and George W. Bush seem to be placing an awful lot of faith in the Iraq Study Group, the long-anticipated "Blue Ribbon" Panel (decidely thin on Middle Eastern Credentials) composed of James A. Baker, III, Lee Hamilton, Vernon Jordon (in case the President of Iraq faces a sudden "bimbo eruption"), Edwin Meese (in case the Iraqis need advice on incompetence and corruption in their Justice Ministry), Leon Panetta, Lawrence Eagleburger, Alan K. ("Stick it in his gazoo") Simpson, Chuck Robb, William Perry and Sandra Day O'Connor (Robert Gates has resigned to clean up Rumsfeld's disaster at DOD). Bush needs the panel, so the thinking goes, to give him an "out" from Iraquagmire, a point supposedly driven home hard directly to the President by Baker and Bush 41. The same conventional wisdom says that Democrats need the Wise Men (and one Wise Woman) so that they can avoid having to make the hard decisions on Iraquagmire, now that it's their problem, too. I think both sides' faith is misplaced; I have a hard time imagining that this panel can actually form a consensus, for one thing; for another, Democrats in Congress are demanding a timetable that the White House says is not open for discussion. My best guess is that the panel will recommend opening talks with Iraq and Syria and the White House will comply as slowly as humanly possible, trying to run out the clock on this presidency and dump the disaster on whichever poor dumb bastard is elected in '08. And Democrats can't use the one real tool they have to force Bush to yield, cutting the military budget for Iraq, because that will inevitably be seen as stabbing US soldiers in the back. And, as Michael Hirsch points out, it may well already be too late for anything or anybody to save Iraq from a nasty sectarian collapse. So, unfortunately, panel or no panel, we're likely down to only two options: a bloody, grinding status quo or the political equivalent of nuclear war between a Democratic Congress with a slim majority and a lame duck White House with no credibility and no "political capital."
UPDATE: Oh, yeah, NOW we're saved! Bush has started his own little "Iraq Study Group," possibly as a prelude to ignoring the advice of the Council of Grownups.