Waiting for Baker
British online commentators sniff change in the air at the White House at the hands of Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
The British speculation was ignited by last week's report in the Los Angeles Times that a bipartisan panel co-chaired by Baker was considering recommending two options that "would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting."
But commentators seem more certain of a change in policy than Baker himself, who told ABC News earlier this month that he was "not sure" the Bush White House would follow the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, the panel Baker co-chairs with former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton. Baker has not said what those recommendations might be, only that a "change of course" may be necessary in coming months.
The panel has attempted to stay above the political fray by holding its recommendations until after the midterm elections, but as sectarian violence continues to worsen, the U.S. strategy has remained a major issue in the U.S. and abroad. The LA Times story, said The Independent(as republished in the New Zealand Herald) , "paved the way for a large-scale withdrawal of US forces and a dramatic shift of US policy."
"Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic believe there is an endgame being played out for Mr Blair and Mr Bush and a policy shift is growing nearer," said the liberal London daily.
The White House dismisses talk of a withdrawal timetable, but assertions by Bush that no "dramatic shift" in policy is being contemplated and by Blair that the British will "hold their nerve" are not given much credence.
"The President and the Prime Minister were left clinging to the dream of establishing a lasting democracy in Iraq as their advisers urged them to look for a more realistic exit strategy," said the Independent.
The editors of the Daily Telegraph, who strongly supported the U.S. invasion in 2003, declared Monday that "Withdrawal from Iraq is the Best Option." They said the U.S.-British policy of establishing a stable democracy had failed and predicted "a new approach...will probably be adopted only once America's midterm elections are safely out of the way." The commission's proposals, said the Telegraph, will likely fall "somewhere between 'cut and run' and 'stay the course.'"
"The Bush administration's exit strategy increasingly coincides" with Baker's group, said The Times this weekend.
"The group will report in January and is believed to favour setting political and military 'benchmarks' enabling US forces to withdraw to its bases -- and ultimately to nearby countries such as Kuwait -- leaving US military advisers embedded with Iraqi forces," reported Sarah Baxter, Washington correspondent of the London daily, which also supported the war.
"Key differences remain over the wisdom of talking to Syria and Iran about the future of Iraq. Bush and Rumsfeld are sceptical of the idea floated by Baker, but Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is 'interested and wants to be engaged,'" the newspaper reported.
David Mack, a diplomat and consultant to the ISG who served in the first Bush administration, told the Guardian: "We are really at a point where any talk of victory is an illusion."
Mack, who said he was expressing personal opinions that did not necessarily reflect the views of the panel, "insisted the Bush administration would have to redefine victory. It would have to give up its rhetoric about spreading democracy, as well as its aversion to talking to Syria or Iran - both central planks of the Bush Doctrine, which emphasises the muscular use of US power to isolate enemy 'rogue regimes.'"
Mack said that success might then be achieved in the form of "an orderly exit from the country that doesn't make a bad situation worse."
The Guardian added that "those involved with the Baker commission hope that its recommendations, coming from friends and camouflaged as tactical tweaks, could offer President Bush a face-saving way out of the current bloody impasse. But they concede there is no guarantee of a decisive change."
By Jefferson Morley |
October 24, 2006; 12:08 PM ET
Previous: Is Iraq's Civilian Death Toll 'Horrible' -- Or Worse? | Next: More on Counting Civilian Casualties
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: P. J. Casey | October 24, 2006 01:17 PM
Posted by: gregdn | October 24, 2006 01:56 PM
Posted by: Robert Rose | October 24, 2006 02:01 PM
Posted by: 274627 | October 24, 2006 02:18 PM
Posted by: Jim Preston | October 24, 2006 02:22 PM
Posted by: jaime - california | October 24, 2006 03:09 PM
Posted by: LJPipes | October 24, 2006 04:05 PM
Posted by: Jiminy | October 24, 2006 05:51 PM
Posted by: OD | October 24, 2006 09:47 PM
Posted by: Buzz Baer | October 24, 2006 10:02 PM
Posted by: I would | October 24, 2006 10:23 PM
Posted by: regarding the Holocaust... | October 24, 2006 10:27 PM
Posted by: my | October 24, 2006 10:32 PM
Posted by: sometimes the same things show up together... | October 24, 2006 10:38 PM
Posted by: or look at this | October 24, 2006 10:40 PM
Posted by: Anagadir | October 25, 2006 06:58 AM
Posted by: Jiminy | October 25, 2006 07:37 AM
Posted by: Ben James | October 25, 2006 10:19 AM
Posted by: dearest boneheads | October 25, 2006 10:38 AM
Posted by: Sully | October 25, 2006 11:02 AM
Posted by: A Soldier... | October 25, 2006 11:49 AM
Posted by: Muhammad Azeem Akhter | October 28, 2006 04:30 PM
Posted by: gift | November 25, 2006 04:51 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.