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Penndems Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-08-06 11:25 AM
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Washington Monthly Magazine/"A Higher Power" (re: James Baker)
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James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab.

By Robert Dreyfuss

Amid the highly charged political infighting in Washington over what to do in Iraq, you might be excused for not noticing that a bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war. Of course, anything labeled "bipartisan commission" seems almost guaranteed to be ignored by a highly partisan White House that is notoriously hostile to outside advice and famously devoted to "staying the course." But what makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.

Since March, Baker, backed by a team of experienced national-security hands, has been busily at work trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in--or, perhaps, to get the hell out of--Iraq. But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well. "Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home--that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008. "I guess there are people in the party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

The fact that Baker is involved has sent the Washington rumor mill buzzing with the theory that the commission is really a Trojan Horse for the views of Baker's friend and former boss, George H.W. Bush. It has been widely speculated that the former president never agreed with his son's decision to invade Iraq, and the son appears to have repaid that perceived dissent by largely refusing to reach out to his father for advice on national security, despite the elder Bush's knowledge and experience. In any case, for reasons that may be Oedipal or that may have to do with neoconservatives' disdain for realists associated with Bush 41, or both, Bush 43 has so far kept the 41 circle at arm's length--including Baker; his confrere Brent Scowcroft; and even, during his ill-fated tenure as secretary of state, Colin Powell. But with the situation in Iraq sliding towards irretrievable chaos, a moment of receptivity may have arrived.

It's hard to know what the commission is really up to because its inner workings are nearly as secretive as those of the White House. Baker has imposed an ironclad gag order on all of its participants. The 60 people involved in the effort have been instructed, in the strongest of terms, not to comment to reporters on the task force's work. Every one of the participants I spoke to flatly refused to comment for the record, and several did not want to talk even off the record. Some were palpably nervous. "We're not allowed to talk about it," said one person involved. "We get about every month a warning: 'Do not discuss in any context the substance of what is happening in this group.' You know how bad it is? Initially they wanted us to end all of our contacts with the media, make no statements, write no op-eds--in other words, become monks. Then they realized, how can you take the entire community of Iraq experts in the United States and have them all stop talking?"


Link:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0609.dre...
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A lengthy, but informative and excellent, piece.
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