The endless war becomes a regional war

It is time for Congress to appoint one of their periodic Blue Ribbon Commissions to review all aspects of the Iraq War.  So much has gone wrong that we need to have a big discussion not how just to bring it to a close, but how to prevent it from ever happening again. 

The review should look at everything: from the pre-war build up, to the execution of the military campaign, to the planning for the aftermath, to the horrible aftermath itself.  The nation needs to turn this terrible experience, so expensive in terms of lives, money and our standing in the world into a learning experience for future generations.  If Congress were to do this, and do it well, it would be a tremendous public service to the nation.  And the review could come out in late 2008 or early 2009 so as not to interfere with the Presidential Election, but to assist the next Administration in its own conduct of foreign policy in the post-Bush era. 

Two major stories today highlight the extent of the failure of our policy in the region.  The first, in the Times, details a new report on our reconstruction efforts in Iraq.  Remarkably, the $5.8 billion reviewed in the report is the cost of perhaps 2 weeks of our military efforts there (clearly inadequate btw), and yet it has been a total disaster:

Iraq’s national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed reconstruction projects, forcing the United States either to hand them over to local Iraqis, who often lack the proper training and resources to keep the projects running, or commit new money to an effort that has already consumed billions of taxpayer dollars.

The conclusions, detailed in a report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a federal oversight agency, include the finding that of 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million. Few transfers to Iraqi national government control have taken place since the current Iraqi government, which is frequently criticized for inaction on matters relating to the American intervention, took office in 2006.

The next is a story, widely reported this morning, on how the Administration has made a massive sale of arms to Israel and the Middle East's Sunni governments.  While there is much to discuss about with this move, it has been sold as a way to counter the region's new great threat - the rise of Iran.  What amazes me about our the War Supporters newfound fear of Iran's ascension is how, of course, the rising regional influence of Iran's is the direct result of the Iraq War itself.  Remember that it was our policy to installed in Iraq a Shiite government closely allied with Iran, upsetting the Sunni-Shiite political balance in the region.  When we hear Bush, and Senator Lieberman, go on about Iran we have to ask them was there any other possible outcome of your Iraq policy, which included the instillation of a Shiite-led Iranian-allied government in Iraq, then the regional ascension of Iran?  All of this feels like so much stumbling around in the geopolitical dark. 

And how will our Shiite allies running the Iraqi government respond to the arming of the Sunni governments in the region who are already funding Sunni insurgents in Iraq working to undermine the Iraqi government? Are the Saudi's funding Al Qaeda for example? Will these new arms we are providing to the region's Sunnis end up back in Iraq in Al Qaeda's hands, or other Sunni insurgents intent on killing Americans? Is this move an acknowledgement of our failure in Iraq, that our post-war political strategy in the region has failed, and the establishment of a predicate for withdrawal and abandonment of Iraq's Shiites and their government? Have we, with this act, essential chosen the region's Sunnis over the Shiites and thrown the Iraqi government under the bus?  

The endless Iraq war has now officially become a regional war.  It is long past time for a big conversation not just about ending the war in Iraq, but also for what our vision is for the region in its aftermath.  Bush has layed down a new and powerful marker.  What is the proper response?