They scurried off Bush's sinking ship, but are still trying to stop a reversal of his Middle East policy
A GOOD COMMENT
Thursday November 16, 2006
"Even before the electoral repudiation of President Bush, the guardians of the Bush family trust surfaced as the presumptive executive committee of the executive branch. For years, George Bush Sr and his former national-security team have tried to rescue the president from himself - and from the clutches of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their neoconservative centurions. Earlier this year Bush Sr quietly approached a retired four-star general to inquire if he would be willing to replace Rumsfeld, but that premature coup came to naught. Several of the father's associates personally warned Bush Jr before the Iraq war that it would lead to sectarian civil war, only to be dismissed with disdain.
James Baker - the elder Bush's campaign manager and secretary of state, charged for decades with cleaning up family messes - is now chairman of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) and has assumed the aura of a regent. He is burdened with more tasks than those specified in his commission's brief about Iraq. Not only is he developing a whole new US foreign policy, he is trying to salvage whatever can be retrieved from the wreckage of Bush's presidency for its last two years and to prevent the Republican party, having lost the crown jewel of the Congress, from being permanently tainted.
The neocon logic in favour of the Iraq war was that the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad: an invasion would install an Iraqi democracy that would force the Palestinians to submit to the Israelis. Now near-unanimity exists on Baker's commission to reverse that formula. The central part of a new policy must be, they believe, that the road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem.
In an article in the Washington Post in July, Brent Scowcroft, the elder Bush's national security adviser, who is very close to Baker, spelled out the notion that security and stability in the region, including Iraq, can only be achieved by re-establishing the Middle East peace process. Scowcroft's piece is a precis of Baker's views as well. On September 15, Philip Zelikow, Condoleezza Rice's legal adviser and a former Scowcroft protege, echoed Scowcroft's ideas in a speech at Washington's Middle East Institute. Afterwards, Cheney pressured Rice and she rebuked her closest deputy, underlining her own weakness.
Then the electoral catastrophe intervened, giving Baker leeway (and sidelining Rice). Baker even summoned Tony Blair to testify on Tuesday in order to support a restart of the Middle East peace process. If Baker were to propose that, he knows - although he will not explicitly say so - that its enactment would require the firing of neocons on the national security council and Cheney's staff, in particular Elliott Abrams, the NSC's near-east affairs director.
If Baker actually advocates what he thinks, Bush will have to either admit the errors of his ways and the wisdom of his father and his father's men - or cast them and caution aside once again."