Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The danger of James Baker

From The new Republic; Post date: 21/11/06, Issue date: 27/11/06, by Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief ...

The man who has come to rescue U.S. policy in Iraq is actually the man who rescued Saddam Hussein twice. The first time came early during the presidency of George Bush père. ..... The second time was toward the close of the first Bush presidency, and Baker was still in charge. Iraq had been forced back from the invasion of a country it had intended to annex .... the victors .... maintained Saddam in Baghdad with the goal of keeping him on a tight rope and constraining his economy by a regime of sanctions. Such a regime has rarely worked.....

The primary consideration of Saudi Arabia, for example, was that a Sunni government .... not be displaced ..... A neighboring Shia state would be an enormous discomfort for the royals in Riyadh......Almost uncannily, Baker's instincts and convictions meshed (and mesh still) with the House of Saud.

.....Let's face it: The Baker-Hamilton Commission is a desperate rescue operation for the Iraqi Sunnis. George W. Bush has gotten us all into trouble, and he will now be taken to the woodshed by his father's faithful but resentful lieutenant.

.... although former Virginia senator and presidential son-in-law Charles Robb (age 67) is a fresh face in the pool of Washington Wise Men.... But ..... aside from Baker, two other members of the commission have sins to atone for with regard to Saddam as well: Larry Eagleburger and Alan Simpson, who, in April 1990, lectured the "haughty and pampered" Western press that dared report Baathist abuses. And what, by the way, is Vernon Jordan doing on this particular commission of sages? .... It is true that this group is numerous and various. But several names ring alarms: Chas Freeman, Shibley Telhami, William Quandt, Phebe Marr, Marina Ottaway, Augustus Richard Norton--all fading apologists for the exhausted Sunni solution to everything.

What I fear is that the thrust of the moment is to restore as much of the old orthodoxies as possible..... Inevitably, Baker will deploy the only trick he knows: force Israel to retreat to the 1967 lines. OK, it can't be forced. Then at least hold a peace conference. The 1991 peace conference actually accomplished nothing, except to pay Bush-Baker's debt to their partners in the Kuwait coalition. And the Oslo accords--also nothing. In any case, although many people believe a resolution of the Palestine question is the key to everything, it is actually a key to nothing but itself. It would not affect the bloodshed in Iraq. It would not even affect the strife in Lebanon. It also would not calm the anxieties of the Saudi monarchy. Or the clamor for freedom in Egypt. Well, if a peace settlement doesn't douse these fires, another blue-ribbon panel surely will rise to the challenge.

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