Friday, October 27, 2006

Administration Neo-Cons Undermining James Baker

Salon Magazine has published an essay by Sidney Blumenthal about "Bush's Policy Quagmire" that unveils the reason for Bush's flip-flops on "stay-the-course" rhetoric:

Bush is engaged in a shadow politics of fending off Baker that he can't admit and that require new disingenuous explanations for rejection even before receiving Baker's report. But will consummate political player Baker permit a dynamic in which he is humiliated and join the ranks of the dismissed and discarded, like "good soldier" Colin Powell? If Baker, taking his cue from Bush's rebuke, simply closes ranks, what would have been his point, except to highlight his failure at an attempted rescue? By undermining Baker, especially beforehand, Bush sends a signal that he is determined to maintain his counterproductive strategies in Iraq and the Middle East. Yet his tightening coil will trigger further attempts among U.S. allies and Arab governments to disentangle themselves.

In a small office of the U.S. Institute of Peace in downtown Washington, the Baker-Hamilton commission (aka Iraq Study Group) has been listening to the unvarnished assessments of Middle East experts, former intelligence officers and other government officials, and a host of journalists with experience in the region. Though its report is yet unwritten and none of the witnesses have divulged their testimony, the commission's recommendations are apparent from Baker's statements and those close to him. Baker has made clear that stabilizing Iraq demands a new strategy for the whole Middle East. He favors restarting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian territories with a strong U.S. hand. And he urges direct diplomatic negotiations with Syria and Iran. "I personally believe in talking to your enemies. Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians want a chaotic Iraq," Baker has said.

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