An attempt to regain the upper hand by the Washington establishment, nostalgic for those halcyon days when the world was supposedly shaped by whispered remarks at Georgetown dinner parties, the Baker report isn’t really serious.

The serious report from serious people came today in a morning session at the American Enterprise Institute. It was put together by retired military officials and scholars, most visibly AEI’s Frederick Kagan; it is titled “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.” I went to hear it explained and it seemed to me that it boiled down to three important points:

1.) Loss in Iraq would be catastrophic.

2.) We are losing now.

3.) We don’t have to lose.

The Baker report agrees with the AEI report only on the second point, and, oddly enough, this point was seized upon rather gleefully in Washington. Kagan noted that many in both political parties want to end the war and stop the pain. But, he said, this would not stop the pain. “Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances,” is how the report puts it.

If you have adobe reader, you can download the entire report (the executive summary is available to all). Refreshingly, it does not traffic in the cliches that are bantered about in town right now. It would require more soldiers, but it explains how they would be used. The U.S. has so far focused in trying to train Iraqis to “stand up” so that we can “stand down.” But Kagan & Co. note that it is just as important to make Iraqis safe from the insurgency, and that the U.S. military must do this. That is the way to render the insurgency ineffective. The report notes that establishing security in Baghdad (which, as shown on a map at the morning presentation, has some violent neighborhoods but also several that are not) has been identified by both the enemy and the U.S. as key.

From the executive summary:

There is a way to do this.

-We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.

-We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.

-These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.

-After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.

-As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government

This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:

-The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.

-Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.

-The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.

-The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age.