James Baker’s Terrible Iraq Report

Posted by permission from Dr. Daniel Pipes. Its appearance is independent of this blog, and should not be construed to either agree or disagree with the opinions expressed on this blog, or on any other website.

by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
December 12, 2006

[NY Sun title: “Baker Report Would Turn Failed Ideas Into Policy”]

The Iraq Study Group Report, cobbled together by ten individuals lacking specialized knowledge of Iraq, dredges up past failed U.S. policies in the Middle East and would enshrine them as current policy.

Most profoundly, regarding the American role in Iraq, the report moronically splits the difference of troops staying or leaving, without ever examining the basic premise of the U.S. government taking responsibility for the country’s minutiae, such as its setting up public works projects. Instead, the report unthinkingly accepts that strategic assumption and only tweaks tactics at the margins.

A preposterously lengthy list of 79 recommendations lies at the heart of the report. These include such gems as bringing in the (Saudi-sponsored) Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League (no. 3) to decide Iraq’s future. Another creates an “Iraq International Support Group” that includes Iran, Syria (no. 5), and the United Nations secretary-general (no. 7).

Other brilliant recommendations call for the UN Security Council to handle the Iranian nuclear problem (no. 10) and for the support group to persuade Tehran to “take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq” (no. 11). Right. The Iranian regime, whose president envisions a “world without America,” will save Washington’s bacon. Such counsel smacks at best of what the Jerusalem Post calls “staggering naïveté” and at worst of ghastly foolishness.

Of course, small minds assert that problems in Iraq are “inextricably linked” to the Arab-Israeli conflict – thereby repeating the precise mistake that lead co-chairman James A. Baker, III, made in 1991. He then led the effort to abandon the Persian Gulf and turn to the Palestinians, leaving Saddam Hussein in power for another dozen years and contributing directly to the present mess. In the new report, Mr. Baker and his colleagues call for a Palestinian state (no. 12) and even demand that a final settlement address the Palestinian “right of return” (no. 17) – code for dismantling the Jewish state. They peremptorily declare that “the Israelis should return the Golan Heights,” in return for a U.S. security guarantee (no. 16).

Besides the astonishing conceit of these Olympian declarations, one wonders how exactly the Iraqi civil war would be ended by pleasing the Palestinian Arabs. Or why the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict is any more relevant to Iraq than the unresolved Azeri-Armenian conflict, which is closer to Iraq.

James A. Baker, III, instructs the president how to use the “Iraq Study Group Report.”

To make matters worse, Mr. Baker had the nerve to admonish the Bush administration not to treat the report’s 79 recommendations “like a fruit salad,” choosing one idea while rejecting another, but to accept it as a whole. Even in Washington, a town famous for arrogance, this statement made heads turn. That Mr. Baker and his co-chairman, Lee Hamilton, sat for a picture spread with famed photographer Annie Liebovitz for Men’s Vogue, a fashion magazine, only confirms the vacuity of their effort, as does their hiring the giant public relations firm, Edelman.

In all, the Iraq Study Group Report offers a unique combination of bureaucratic caution, false bi-partisanship, trite analysis, and conventional bromides.

Although the press reacted to this drivel, in the words of Daniel Henninger writing in the Wall Street Journal, with “neurotic glee,” Robert Kagan and William Kristol deemed it “dead on arrival,” and Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, called it “dead in the water.” One hopes they are right, that President George W. Bush ignores its recommendations, and that this “new lipstick on a very old pig” (Spencer Ackerman) quickly disappears from sight.

That’s not to say that Mr. Bush should “stay the course,” for that course has not worked. A host of creative ideas have been floated by individuals knowledgeable about Iraq, sympathetic to the administration’s goal of building a free, democratic, and prosperous Iraq, and not tempted to see their role as an exercise in preening. The White House should call on these talented individuals to brainstorm, argue, and emerge with some useful ideas about the future American role in Iraq.

Doing so means breaking with a presidential tradition, going back at least to 1919, of what I call a “know-nothing” Middle East diplomacy. Woodrow Wilson appointed two completely unqualified Americans to head a commission of inquiry to the Levant on the grounds, an aide explained, that Wilson “felt these two men were particularly qualified to go to Syria because they knew nothing about it.” This know-nothing approach failed America 87 years ago and it failed again now.

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Posted on December 12, 2006, in News and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. That’s not to say that Mr. Bush should “stay the course,” for that course has not worked.

    Of course, Mr. Pipes fails to mention that Mr. Bush’s “stay the course” plan was not working before the election. What happened Mr. Pipes? Were you concerned that telling the truth before the election would somehow effect the election?

    Woodrow Wilson appointed two completely unqualified Americans to head a commission of inquiry to the Levant

    Eh, nothing new there. We’ve not improved, still listening to “completely unqualified Americans” on the Middle East, like Mr. Pipes who thinks total war is what is best for the Middle East. And he calls himself an expert.

  2. Dan, you are wrong on both your points about Mr. Pipes. First, he certainly did criticize Bush before the election and many times since taking office. And if the US & Israel did listen to Pipes, peace in the Middle East would have been the result and 9/11 could have been prevented. And since you have publically admitted you intend to remain unlearned, therefore ignorant regarding Pipes positions and policy recommendations, you will continue to make specious statements about Pipes work and I’m all to happy to correct you over and over and over …

  3. Unlearned, eh?

    To this point, I’ve been proven right again and again ever since Bush took office, to the detriment of our country.

    Secondly, I’ve just looked over Mr. Pipes’s articles and he’s been rather kind to Bush. I saw nowhere, in any of his previous articles that he thought Bush’s policies “did not work.” His article on staying the course but changing it agrees with the premise of Bush’s argument that he needs to stay the course on Iraq. The problem is that the whole course on Iraq is a failure, based on flawed ideologies and assumptions.

    Thirdly, Mr. Pipes shows how little he knows about how to end terrorism, when he can’t really describe WHY terrorism is used. I don’t mind him comparing our current enemies to enemies of the past. That’s a fairly common tactic, even though in this case attempts to compare to past enemies tends to overhype the current enemy and understate the past enemy. There is no way in hell that Islamic terrorists are anywhere near as powerful as Nazi Germany was. Here is where people like Mr. Pipes show their lack of knowledge. The reason Nazi Germany was so powerful is because they ruled over a state, owned monopoly on violence within that state, and could mobilize the entire state to war at will. As such their use of violence was state sponsored, through conventional armies, the most powerful kind of force still. Terrorists, i.e. non-state actors, are in a very weak position. They do not control any state. They do not have the capabilities of a state to mobilize to war at the level a state can. For example, could terrorists attack, destroy and overtake a stable country, as say, Mongolia? They don’t have the means. IF they cannot even do that, they are far weaker than any country in the world right now.

    Why do these people resort to terrorist acts?

    1. Because their enemies have too powerful of armies. If these guys go head to head against a mobilized state, they will lose every time. Thusly, they resort to non-conventional means, because they cannot take their grievances out through any local political process.

    2. They generally come from states with authoritarian rule. Because their own state does not allow for a political process whereby aggrieved individuals could take out their anger politically, those individuals resort to unconventional tactics to get their message across.

    Mr. Pipes does not talk about these in his flawed article. Interestingly he argues that modern Islamic thinkers who back the Caliphate do so because of their anger at “traditional, modernist, and centrist approaches to Islam,” however that’s not true. These guys are arguing against very corrupt governments in places like Saudi Arabia, where concern for oil and a hold on power are of greater concern to the Saud royal family than the people themselves. I’m not advocating the cause of extremists, just explaining who they are really fighting against, because Mr. Pipes will not be truthful to you.

    Then again, why do I even continue trying to persuade you to the truth of things. You really are blinded, LDSPatriot. I fear you’ll never see the light of things until it is too late. Oh well.

  4. LDS Patriot, 9/11 would not have been prevented since it was carried out with the knowledge and backing of our government. There is an orgy of evidence out there, but many are not yet strong enough to see the truth.

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