By Kenneth T. WalshFri Dec 8, 9:42 AM ET
Former White House advisers to George H.W. Bush are keenly disappointed and concerned about the current President Bush's initial reaction to the report by the Iraq Study Group.
They consider him rather dismissive of the group's conclusions, issued yesterday, which include the view that current Iraq policy is failing. The group recommends a variety of important changes, such as assigning U.S. troops to play more of an advisory and training role and less of a combat role. The ISG also recommends that the United States withdraw most of its combat brigades by early 2008 and that the administration increase diplomatic efforts, including starting talks with Iran and Syria and energetically working toward an Israeli-Palestinian solution.
Adding to the unease were President Bush's comments at his Thursday news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he avoided commenting on specifics in the ISG report.
"We have a classic case of circling the wagons," says a former adviser to Bush the elder. "If President Bush changes his policy in Iraq in a fundamental way, it undermines the whole premise of his presidency. I just don't believe he will ever do that."
White House advisers say Bush won't react in detail to the ISG report for several weeks, while he assesses it and awaits various internal government reports on the situation from his own advisers. Bush tells aides he doesn't want to "outsource" his role as commander in chief. Some Bush allies say this is a way to buy some time as the president tries to decide how to deal with rising pressure to alter his strategy in Iraq and hopes the critical media focus on the Iraq war will soften.