Kaplan on the ISG

Robert Kaplan “reads the Iraq Study Group”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200612u/kaplan-iraq report.

bq. The mistakes made in Iraq since 2003 were so many and so serious that it is reasonable to argue that toppling Saddam Hussein was a wise decision, incompetently handled in its occupation phase. It is also possible to argue that the frequency and magnitude of the mistakes indicate a hubristic flaw in the concept of regime change itself, which I supported. Thus it is with humility and open-mindedness that I read the report of the Iraq Study Group.

A web-only special from “The Atlantic”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200612u/kaplan-iraq. I leave you with this as I will be gone for the next few days, visiting relatives.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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24 Responses to Kaplan on the ISG

  1. Dan tdaxp says:

    The Study Group says a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq could be so catastrophic that it might force the U.S. military to eventually return there. The Group dismisses the partitioning of the country as an unwise policy goal, since it would lead to the collapse of the security forces and is, in any case, impractical because of mixed populations in so many Iraqi provinces.

    Mixed populations won’t be a problem for long.

    The only legitimate interest we have had in fighting Iraq (from a domestic-Iraq point of view), for the last year and a half, has been to prevent an ethnic cleansing of a small but militant ethnic group concentrated in western and central Iraq. Peace in Iraq means abandoning that policy.

  2. Chris says:

    KAPLAN ADMITS TO HUBRIS? My heavens, the world is back on its axis, the sun is 98 million miles away, it’s bright and sunny this December morning! Thank God!

  3. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Dan tdaxp: My God how stupid you are.

  4. IJ says:

    Why not have an Afghanistan Study Group in addition to the Iraq Study Group, asks “Slate”:http://www.slate.com/id/2155060/

  5. Rommel says:

    “The report says that the main benefit of gradually reducing our military footprint in Iraq will be to free up forces to secure Afghanistan. For it isn’t just Iraq that is in the balance, but Afghanistan, too.”

    I wish I could figure out how to insert the nifty quotation device that tdaxp used above and everybody else seems to be able to figure out. Ah well.

    Anyhow I thought the above was the most interesting point he made. If one good thing comes from the inevitable drawdown (read retreat/evacuation) of US troops in Iraq, it will be the reinforcements available for the inadequate NATO force.

    More troops – on the scale Mr. McCain champions – may or may not help in Iraq. Personally, I fail to see how more troops can stop the internecine fighting from happening if the Iraqis can not or do not wish to stop it themselves. That said, the presence of US forces in Iraq right now is all that is stopping a region wide Islamic civil/religious war. The Second Battle of Kerbala is all but ready to play itself out if a power vacuum develops – and make no mistake, the Shia will be the losers. If I’m correct about the Persians, the general population will have no stomach for martyrdom for the sake of their Arab co-religionists (even if the regime has other ideas). The Shia Arabs, already surrounded by hostile neighbors on most sides, will fall back under the sway of Sunni Arab hegemony once and for all.

    The above assumes a great many things, but one thing is pretty clear – we need a vast surge in troop levels in Afghanistan. Nothing short of a functional (as much as possible) cordon of the southern and eastern borders, eradication of all poppy cultivation (with a corresponding effort to encourage viable alternative crops) and a military readiness to intervene in Pakistan in case the worst happens. There are many reasons why a large troop presence (though perhaps not a large VISIBLE presence to some extent) in Afghanistan makes more sense than Iraq.

    Worst case scenario: We purchase the opium from the Pashtun farmers ourselves, manufacture it into heroin and proceed to smuggle and disperse as much as we can into Iran.

  6. Rommel says:

    BTW, that last bit was something of a distasteful joke for those who didn’t realize it.

    I second the suggestion that an ASG be formed and ASAP at that.
    In such a case, I believe it would be critical that the commission be composed of not just Americans but of at least some representation from all the NATO countries seriously engaged in the mission in Afghanistan. Sadly, as the theater there tragically and senselessly continues to be marginalized and forgotten it is unlikely to happen soon.

    von Kaufman-Turkestansky,
    Good sir, where are your manners!

  7. IJ says:


    The recommendation for an international Afghanistan Study Group will surely get increasing support. However the dismissal within the US of its national Iraq Study Group report, and the experience of the international Middle East Quartet – whose road map is reported to have led nowhere in three and a half years – is not encouraging.

  8. Curzon says:

    von KT: ??

  9. jon says:

    If there is an ASG, may I suggest that it not be populated entirely by people that are at lest 60. I think, the co-chairs, should be about that age, but the rest in my mind should be at most in their early fifties. The people that lead the ISG will not have to deal with the long term consequences of any reccomendations. Also, we don’t need people whose seminal experiences were Korea, Vietnam, and the cold war.
    We need innovative younger figures. We also need to have a more diverse panel. A journalist, an active or recently retired career military figure, among others. Also, representation from the country being “Study Grouped”.

  10. Rommel says:

    Jon wrote:
    “We need innovative younger figures. We also need to have a more diverse panel. A journalist, an active or recently retired career military figure, among others. Also, representation from the country being “Study Grouped”Â?.

    Sounds like a job for Mr. Kaplan.

  11. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Dan tdaxp: I hereby aplogize to you for my stupid remark.
    To all readers I apologize. I won’t do that again.

  12. jon says:

    Sounds like a job for Mr. Kaplan.

    Exactly what I was thinking.

  13. IJ says:

    “The Economist”:http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8382325 comments on the ISG report:

    “By the end of this year America should launch a “new diplomatic offensive”Â? to address “all the key issues in the Middle East.”Â? In particular, the ISG wants America to renew its commitment to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, based on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. As part of a comprehensive peace agreement, Israel should return the Golan Heights to Syria.”

    However the “NYT”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/08/world/middleeast/08mideast.html?_r=1&oref=slogin reports today that the Prime Minister of Israel disagrees with the Iraq Study Group’s report that linked the turmoil in Iraq with the need to resolve the conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

    Has Israel a veto?

  14. Dan tdaxp says:

    von Kaufman-Turkestansky,

    Your penance is penning a substantive reply. :-)

  15. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Dan: You have shown great character in your response (and have implicitly disproved my outburst, the contents of which I hope all readers will recognize that I withdraw), and I will try to rectify. Again, I have tried to be an advocate of civil discourse and I failed not only you and CA but myself.

    What prompted my (uncivil and therefore unjustified) outburst was a percieved contradiction in the content of your blog (I had quickly looked at the link higher up). I know that your theme is “shrink that gap”. I am a skeptic about the gap premise, despite the various arguments that you and also the authors of CA have brought forward. That is not to say that I do not think there is a large part of the world that is crying out for better governance; there is. But at the same time it was the notion of “the Gap” (not in those words, but in the realm of discourse) that comprised a great deal of the rhetoric that lead to the invasion of Iraq and much of the strife that we see now. For all the harm that Hussein did, I do not see much improvement in the lives of even many of the Shiite Iraqis now. Thus high-level theory when put into action (like the Bolsheviks in Russia, for example) leads to tragic loss. I saw more theory yesterday (the discussions on these blogs are valuable, but sometimes I have wondered if we are not justifying future horrors) and reacted to it viscerally. It was the irony around this that made me throw up my arms.

    My comment was nevertheless not justified. And I thank you for your invitation to respond more properly. I hope that my blunder (and your generous reaction) will serve as an example to other bloggers about the value of maintaining civil discourse.

  16. jon says:

    I wish I could figure out how to insert the nifty quotation device that tdaxp used above and everybody else seems to be able to figure out. Ah well.


    If you want to do the “nifty quotation device”, here is whatyou need to do. I am including spaces between the words block and quote so you can see the code.

    Insert the text you would like to quote here. To end the quote, type

    Also, if there is any feature a commenter uses that you want to copy, you can find it in page source. Which is at least for Microsoft Explorer, you would go to View, then go down to either source or page source. You then need to look through the comments of the post. It can be a time consuming hassle to find the info the first time, but it can allow you a handy little tool.

    Hope that helps.

  17. jon says:

    Sorry, it didn’t print the code I was trying to give you. But the source info field I mentioned worked. You just need to find a comment that used it, and copy the codes that are between and

    This is the text I am quoting

    You just need to eliminate all spaces that are not a part of the text you want visible in the sentence above.

  18. Dan tdaxp says:

    The tag hould be

    <blockquote>Whatever you want to say</blockquote>

    And it will look like:

    Whatever you want to say

  19. Dan tdaxp says:


    the preview lies! It lies!

    To start the quotation, type the less than symbol, then blockquote, then the greater than symbol. Don’t use spaces.

    Here’s an example

  20. Rommel says:


    Thanks guys.

  21. IJ says:

    Never mind the recommendations of the US’s ‘Iraq Study Group’. China thinks the Middle East troubles should be sorted out as soon as possible. Therefore, “a high-level meeting of Israeli and Palestinian delegates”:http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/HL19Ad06.html was held in Beijing this month.

    _A joint Israeli-Palestinian statement issued after the seminar said, “We ask China to take practical steps to increase its influence in the region, such as joining the Middle East quartet of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, in order to make its interest in stability and peace in the world bear upon the future of our region.”_

  22. Bearing in mind the Chinese contribution to peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, are we going to see China try to establish itself as an honest broker in the Middle East?

  23. IJ says:

    Yes, China is taking a bigger interest in global stability. Hence the appeal from the Israeli-Palestinian delegation this month that it should join the Quartet.

    After all, China was the 14th biggest volunteer to UN Peacekeeping missions in November. Members of the Quartet have a mixed loyalty to the UN: the European Union (for example Italy 10th, France 12th, Spain 16th, Germany 20th), the United States (42nd) and Russia (44th). “Peacekeeping”:http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/contributors/2006/nov06_2.pdf