I remember an old joke about how an economist would advise a castaway on a deserted island to open a can of peas that had washed onto the beach. "Assume," he would say, "that you have a can opener."
This seems to be the approach of the Iraq Study Group. Are Syria and Iran destabilizing Iraq (the ISG acknowledges that they are)? The solution is for them to stop. Why will they stop? The ISG's answer is, literally, because they should. Is sectarian violence preventing the unification of Iraq? The ISG thinks that those responsible should cut it out or ... we'll leave. In other words, if you don't quit trying to throw me out the door, I'm walking.
It's solution is hard to distinguish from no solution. We should embed more troops with Iraqi units but not send in any more to replace them and to protect the trainers from the sectarian violence which the report acknowledges is currently out of control. We should set deadlines, but there is really nothing in its seventy-nine recommendations that makes it any more likely that they will be met.
John McCain is, I think, right is suggesting that the ISG recommendations would ensure defeat in Iraq. It may be that the ISG has adopted them because it cannot figure out a way to win. If there truly is no path to victory, then maybe Feingold and Murtha are right. We should simply cut and run.
Of course, what Feingold and Murtha will not admit (and the ISG, to its credit, does) is that this will lead to further chaos in the Middle East, bloodshed in Iraq and strengthen the Islamofascists (or, if you prefer, the "terrorists.")But if we're going to bug out, why not minimize American casualties by quitting sooner than later?
This is why the ISG report is likely to satisfy no one. It is an incoherent mash-up. Maybe it is right to surrender. Maybe it is right to press on and win. But it is certainly not right to cover up, take a few more rounds of beating (hoping, I suppose, that our opponent will see the error of his ways) and then throw in the towel.