The wise men cometh ...

What with James Baker's Iraq Study Group report turning out to be a total dud and Brent Scowcroft's risible op-ed in today's Times, I think we can wave goodbye to the idea that the president's dad's friends are going to step in and bail him out with their wisdom and gravitas.

Baker and Scowcroft, along with new defense secretary Robert Gates and White House adviser Henry Kissinger, are known as "realists," a term that makes them sound very appealing after six years in the Bush administration's fantasyland. But Scowcroft's essay serves as a reminder that, in the foreign-policy world, the word realist has a special meaning: it refers to someone who believes in putting U.S. interests, narrowly construed, above other goals. A foreign-policy "realist" can be just as disconnected from reality as a batshit-insane neocon.

Scowcroft's solution to the Iraq quagmire is as follows:
Step one: bring about a peaceful settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Step two: provide training and support to the Iraqi army while it defeats the insurgents and the militias.
Step three: everyone gets a pony.

It says something about the dreadful pass we've come to that an ostensibly serious person like Scowcroft can begin his plan with three paragraphs that boil down to "solve the Palestinian conflict." He writes:

What is required is to summon the will of Arab and Israeli leaders, led by a determined American president, to forge the various elements into a conclusion that all parties have already publicly accepted in principle.
Oh, so that's all it's going to take! What a relief! I thought it might be, you know, way harder than that.

As for the Iraqi army: the last time I looked, it was decimated by desertions, lethally underequipped, and, oh yeah, in many places a front for Shiite militias. (Scowcroft explicitly rejects the "let-the-Shiites-win" strategy being mooted by Dick Cheney's office.) So, you know, good luck with that.

I don't mean to say that Scowcroft is an idiot for not having a better suggestion. The brutal truth about the state of Iraq is that we're all out of non-horrifying options. But at a certain point, offering absurd fantasies as though they were feasible strategies has got to dent your wise-man reputation. It was, after all, the confusion of wishful thinking with reality that got us into this nightmare in the first place.