The Iraq Study Group's recommendations leak out

So, 9 months of meetings and what are the bold recommendations from the ISG about our great struggle in Iraq?  Regional talks and a phased pullout.  That's it.  Something as obvious as the sky is blue.  And, of course, even as innocuous as the recommendations are, Bush immediately tossed cold water on them. 

As I've been writing these last few weeks, events in the Middle East seems to have made the framework of this whole debate seem less relevant.  From the Times story today a telling quote: “I think we’ve played a constructive role,” one person involved in the committee’s deliberations said, “but from the beginning, we’ve worried that this entire agenda could be swept away by events.”

Unless the final report due out next week offers some guidance on how to deal with Iran's regional ambitions, rising regional Sunni-Shiite tensions, the viability of a Shiite-led Arab state in the heart of the Middle East, what to do about the growing Al-Qaeda presence in Western Iraq, the rise of Hezbollah and the growing instability of Lebanon, how this all impacts Israel and Palestine, and whether it is possible, or advisable, for the UN or other international body to help facilitate a regional peace process I worry that these 9 months of the ISG will be yet another missed opportunity of the Bush era. 

But perhaps that's all we can really expect now, and for the next two years. 2006 brought a major era of American politics, one we call the era of conservative ascendency, to a dramatic close.  The conservative movement has been intellectually discredited, the Republicans have suffered their greatest political defeat in two generations and Bush has been personally repudiated by the American people.  There is no blueprint for their government any more, no sign posts, no easy path forward. We should expect the Administration and the Republican Congress, still shellshocked by their defeat, to remain in a defensive crouch while their Presidentials and thinktanks work to reinvent their politics.  In essence we have to realize as a nation that our government, and its party, have no idea what to do about the major problems facing the nation today.

Of course this gives progressives an extraordinary opportunity over the next two years to imagine, define and fight for a new agenda that helps our great country tackle the great challenges of our day.