We pretty much know that young Mister Bush had very little to do with formulating his foreign policy. Much as he "developed" a set of personal "values" by adopting the evangelical agenda as he entered middle age, he bought the neoconservative policy farm when the key members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) hand picked him to be their finger puppet for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination bid. Once in office, he became an enthusiastic if often awkward front man for Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Scooter Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad and a host of other PNAC luminaries whose names we've grown so familiar with.
It has been the under the influence of these ideological fanatics that Mister Bush launched America's woebegone misadventure in Iraq, and has steadfastly stood by his "stay the course" and "bring 'em on" and "dead or alive," "Cut 'em off at the pass," and other rabid rhetoric that his Rovewellian speech writers cribbed from old Hoot Gibson and John Wayne movies.
Now, supposedly, Bush the younger has brought in his dad's trusted adviser to help him out of the mess his own trusted advisers got him into. And based on early reports of what Baker will advise him to do, Mister Bush, at the ripe old age of 60, will have to make the first real choices of his life.
Chosen to head a bipartisan panel charged with reassessing the Iraq strategy, Baker is lately famous for saying, "I believe in talking to your enemies."
That's a radical concept for an administration that only talks to screened audiences of the faithful autistic right and Big Brother Broadcast yahooligans like Rush Limbaugh and its Gollums at Fox News.
And we need no further proof that the Bush administration doesn't want to talk to its "enemies" than the fact of Condi Rice as Secretary of State and John Bolton as Ambassador to the United nations. Nobody wants to talk to those two.
So Jim Baker and a couple handfuls of his friends are shooting the breeze about what Bush should do about Iraq before they go out and whoop it up in Georgetown. It's comforting to see that the American system of government is finally kicking in, isn't it?
As best we can tell, here's what Baker and his Iraq Study Group (ISG) have come up with so far.
According to Kenneth T. Walsh of US News and World Report, the ISG report criticizes "what they consider a series of mistakes in occupying the country, including lack of sufficient U.S. troops and failure to stem sectarian violence."
Is that so? Can we have (and pay for) a few more high-powered blue ribbon panels to confirm that?
Baker says, "there are alternatives between stay-the-course and cut-and-run." There's another revelation we didn't need a former Secretary of State and a bunch of his cronies to tell us.
The BBC reports that Baker's commission is expected to produce a report in the "next few months," and that it will recommend "significant change" from Mister Bush's stay-the-course policy, but Baker insists that the ISG has not come to a "definitive conclusion."
Baker's mum's-the-word stance is somewhat puzzling considering how much time he's spent granting interviews to the media over the last week or so. Puzzling, that is, until you consider that he's hitting the airways to sell his new book, not to discuss the Iraq situation. That gives me more than a little heartburn about Baker's priorities and motivations. I don't know about you, but I give a heck of a lot more hoot about the Iraq situation than I do about sales of James Baker's lousy book.
An October 12 article by Eli Lake of the New York Sun may be our best glimpse behind the ISG curtain.
A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials…
… the 10-member commission…is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.
"Stability first," according to Lake, "argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents."
That sounds identical to the strategy Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki launched last summer, a strategy that's already a proven failure.
"Redeploy and Contain" is exactly what Congressman Jack Murtha proposed back in November of 2005, an option that was immediately dismissed by the Bushmen as a "cut and run" option.
I've played this half-mooned "recommend courses of action" game--albeit at a much smaller table than the one Baker and his pals are sitting around--more times than you can shake a green tambourine at. When you first convene as a part of these planning cells, you're told that the boss wants to hear some "out of the box thinking," but if you really think the boss wants you to think out of the box, you're out of your mind.
The boss wants to hear that he's been right all along, and your job is to prove it by spinning alternative options that are unacceptable and by crafting one option that's just like what the boss is already doing and giving it a different name. That way, the boss can carry on doing what he was already doing and claim that he's doing something "new" under advice of "wise counsel."
So I'm not the least bit optimistic that James Baker's gentleman's club will change our course in Iraq. At the end of the day, the Rovewellians will use whatever they report to justify their woebegone strategic vector.
"See? Even Daddy's old horse holder says we're doing the right thing. Keep bringing them on!"
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.