Now that the Iraq Study Group report is out, conservatives are no happier than they were with the leaked information about it. Many say it amounts to a call for surrender. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been among those calling for more U.S. troops to fight the insurgency.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And now for reaction from some conservatives, who have been increasingly unhappy with the war in their own way. Republican senators including John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been among the voices calling for more U.S. troops there.
NPR's David Greene went online after the report was released today to see how it was received by the right.
DAVID GREENE: One of the leading conservative blogs online is Redstate.com where one posting said today that the blue-blooded wise men of the Iraq Study Group have produced a recipe for defeat. You will excuse me, the blogger wrote, if I believe that talking to Syria while it's in the process of gobbling up its tiny Lebanese neighbor is one of the most cynical, immoral and ill-considered diplomatic ideas in a generation.
ERICK ERICKSON: Um, pulling up the site meter here, we are for the day at about 9,000 people thus far, and I'm not aware of a positive comment yet entered into any of these pieces about the ISG report.
GREENE: That's Erick Erickson, the managing editor of Redstate.com. He says many conservatives have expressed a feeling of disappointment with the report, much as he expected.
ERICKSON: Because this is the way James Baker has always operated, that's the general sense over the Internet this morning is - always try to get a Palestinian state, try to make Israel take its share of the blame for what's going on in the Middle East, and try to negotiate as best we can with Syria and Iran.
GREENE: So what do these critics think should be done in Iraq?
ERICKSON: Redstate put up a poll last week asking should we reduce troops, increase troops, have a summit, cut and run or actually unleash hell. And like 66 percent said it's time to finally unleash hell, which we - there's a strong opinion that we have not done.
SIEGEL: Unleash hell, not the exact words conservative scholar Frederick Kagan might choose, but Kagan, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute, has become a hero among conservative bloggers. He's argued that it's time for the U.S. to send more troops into Iraq rather than talk about ways to bring them home.
FREDERICK KAGAN: What the Baker group is saying is that in the context of this sectarian violence, where various groups have taken up arms to gain leverage in the political process, what we should do is get everyone to sit down and be reasonable, and then the violence will stop. That's not the way these things work.
GREENE: Kagan has come up with a model that calls for an injection of 50,000 or so new U.S. forces. The only way, he says, to make Iraq peaceful enough that diplomatic talks can begin. Kagan rejects the position of lawmakers and some military commanders that the U.S. simply doesn't have fresh troops available.
KAGAN: The notion that we can't find an additional 50,000 troops to send to Iraq, if this were a real priority and we really needed to do that to win, is just laughable.
GREENE: But Kagan says more National Guard units would have to be called up, and thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq now would have to extend their tours. I asked him whether President Bush could actually proposed that.
What do you say to Americans if you're the president and you decide to go that route?
KAGAN: You tell the American people above all that you are not simply continuing with the same old, same old and hoping that things will work out, nor are you simply going to try to subcontract our problems in Iraq to Iran and Syria and various other bitter enemies of the United States.
GREENE: So far, President Bush has made it clear he's not keen on the idea of engaging Iran and Syria, and for many conservatives that was the only silver lining on this day.
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A long-awaited report by the Iraq Study Group paints a bleak picture of the situation in Iraq. The 10-member, bipartisan panel says the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating" and could provoke a slide into chaos. The report, handed to President Bush and Congress Wednesday morning, lays out 79 recommendations to try to pull Iraq back from the brink.
The opening line sets a sober, grim tone: "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq."
It describes those problems as enormous: Violence in Iraq, fed by an insurgency, militias and crime, is increasing in scope and lethality. The Iraqi military and security forces are ineffective and corrupt. About 2,900 U.S. soldiers are dead so far, with another 21,000 wounded. There's no sign the situation will change anytime soon.
The panel's co-chairman, James Baker, the Republican who once served as a U.S. secretary of state, makes it clear the Bush administration's handling of the war is not working.
"We do not recommend a 'stay the course' solution," Baker said Wednesday. "In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable. "
In its report, the study group lays out three key recommendations.
First, the United States must help Iraqis take responsibility for their own destiny.
Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the Democrat from Indiana who serves as the other co-chairman of the group, says that the Bush administration must send a strong message to Iraqi leaders to make substantial progress on national reconciliation, security and improving daily lives of Iraqis.
"If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones, the United States then should reduce its political, military or economic support for the Iraqi government," Hamilton said.
A second recommendation calls for a renewed, immediate push by the United States on the diplomatic front, including reviving Arab-Israeli peace talks and opening a dialogue with Iran and Syria.
The Bush administration has steadfastly refused to enter into talks with either country. Hamilton says both countries have enormous influence in the region and a lot of impact in Iraq.
"We will be criticized, I'm sure, for talking with our adversaries," Hamilton said. "But I do not see how you solve these problems without talking to them."
Hamilton and Baker are skeptical that Iran will come to the negotiating table. Baker holds out more hope for dealing with Syria's leaders.
"They could... be in a position to help us and might want to help us," he said. "But we're specific in the report. There must be 10 or 11 or 12 things... that we will be asking of Syria... We're talking about tough diplomacy."
And the study group also recommends that the United States make a fundamental change in its military operations by gradually shifting its troops from combat missions to training and advising the Iraqi army.
The commission suggests a five-fold increase in the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis. That would mean 20,000 U.S. trainers instead of the current 4,000. If all goes well, the report suggests, combat troops could begin leaving Iraq in early 2008.
Study group member Charles Robb — the Democrat who served Virginia as a U.S. senator and governor — says "embedding our forces at greater levels in the Iraqi military" will create "more capacity, more trust, more capability in the Iraqi forces."
Robb says a number of U.S. military officials agree that more trainers are needed.
The Pentagon, State Department and the National Security Council are due to release Iraq strategy reviews sometime in the next few weeks. President Bush has said he will look at all options before making any decision on Iraq.
Panel members on the Iraq Study Group said their plan didn't offer any guarantees, but that it would certainly improve the chances for success in Iraq.