- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2006

Sen. John McCain, joining a growing list of critics, yesterday said the Iraq Study Group’s widely touted book of proposals for settling the war in Iraq is a recipe for defeat.

“There’s only one thing worse than an overstressed Army and Marine Corps, and that’s a defeated Army and Marine Corps,” said Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee.

“We saw that in 1973. And I believe that this is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq.”

Like several other key members of Congress, Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, said the report’s 79 recommendations include many broad, long-sought goals but very few specific solutions to the concrete problems that have made the situation such a complicated mess.

“It’s about as daring as a glass of warm water,” Mr. Kingston said. “They might as well have come out against crime. Do they think the president doesn’t want to end sectarian violence?”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and a staunch supporter of the war, commended the group for some of the choices it made, but said most of its recommendations are no different from “the policies that we have been following.” And some recommendations, he said, seemed unrealistic.

“I’m skeptical that it’s realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq,” Mr. Lieberman told the group’s co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, yesterday. “They are, after all, supporting Hezbollah, which gathers people in the square in Beirut to shout, ‘Death to America.’ ”

Observed Mr. McCain: “I don’t believe that a peace conference with people who are dedicated to your extinction has much short-term gain.”

Yesterday’s criticism, after a day of enthusiastic plaudits from lawmakers, especially Democrats, when the report was first released this week, suggests that the Iraq war will continue to dominate the political landscape for the foreseeable future. The harsh criticism from Mr. McCain, one of the most talked-about figures to possibly replace President Bush in the White House in 2008, further suggests that it will dominate national politics for at least the next two years.

Still, Mr. Baker warned lawmakers yesterday against taking the group’s suggestions they like and leaving others out.

“I hope we don’t treat this like a fruit salad and say, ‘I like this, but I don’t like that. I like this, but I don’t like that,’ ” said Mr. Baker. “This is a comprehensive strategy designed to deal with this problem we’re facing in Iraq, but also designed to deal with other problems that we face in the region, and to restore America’s standing and credibility in that part of the world.”

The Bush administration, which commissioned the group and expressed gratitude for its report, has indicated that no single study of the situation in Iraq will be taken as a wholesale blueprint for the future. And even Defense Secretary-designate Robert M. Gates, who was a member of the Iraq Study Group until his nomination, indicated that the final report would be more fruit salad than blueprint.

“I am open to a wide range of ideas and proposals,” he said during his confirmation hearings this week.

Many conservatives outside of Congress also railed on the group’s findings.

“As we thought, as the leaks suggested, there’s nothing in here about winning the war,” radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners after the report was released. “These commission members, the ones I heard, especially [former Supreme Court Justice] Sandra Day O’Connor — boy, I wanted to puke.”

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