In 2000, in Florida, James Baker III rode to the rescue of George W. Bush, spearheading his drive to secure Florida's electoral votes and thus the Presidency, notwithstanding that Al Gore had won the popular vote. James Baker thus bears singular responsibility for foisting the incompetent, unqualified George W. Bush on the American people, and, indeed, the world as a whole. No matter that Baker would never have invaded Iraq had he been President. He, along with Jeb Bush and 5 members of the U.S. Supreme Court, put George W. Bush into a position from which he could invade Iraq and with that all the sorry damage and destruction of the past 4 years.
So it is perhaps fitting that Baker co-chaired the panel that has at last said out loud what 2/3 of the American people have concluded: George W. Bush and his Iraq War are disasterous failures and things must change for the survival of this country, let alone Iraq and the Middle East. And that, as I opined last week, is the most important accomplishment of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, to declare Iraq officially a failure. But the B-H group went much farther than that; they repudiated the most fundamental characteristic of the Bush years, the go-it-alone, my-way-or-the-highway style with which he, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld engaged everyone else, at home or abroad.
U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure--as is any course of action in Iraq--if if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus.
So said the letter transmitting the erport to the President. Commission member Leon Panetta, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, put it more succintly:
"Policy in this town has been determined by those who have very simple ideas," said Panetta, who was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.
The sentiments were echoed by former Senator Alan Simpson:
Alan Simpson, the retired Republican senator from Wyoming, lambasted "100-percenters" -- people who took inflexible views on Iraq policy and refused to consider alternatives.
"A 100-percenter is a person you don't want to be around," Simpson said. "They have gas, ulcers, heartburn and B.O. They're not seekers; they're seethers."
Panetta said in an interview with The Chronicle that Simpson had made it clear during the study group's meetings that he had some neoconservative policymakers and Republican hard-liners in mind.
In addition to publicly condemning the style, content, philosophical underpinnings and consequences of Bush's approach to Iraq, the Commission also condemned by implication its irresponsible approach to the Israeli-Palestine issue. Its recommendations, discussed here and here, are perhaps the best part of the report.
Although most of its recommendations may not work and may be outrun by events on the ground, the Commission has at least helped official Washington define and acknowledge the problem, and as everyone knows, that is the first step towards solution. "Stay the course" is officially dead. The world knows we are getting out. Bush knows it inside, even though he may never acknowledge it publicly. The military above all knows it. And the U.S. public, who will give Bush and Congress a few months, are waiting for results.