Sunday, December 10, 2006

With Left Now Taking Out Against Baker Report As Much As The Right, It's A Dead Letter

Events in the Middle East are in the saddle, and, despite wishful-thinking such as represented Saturday in Tim Rutten's column in the L.A. Times, the Baker Commission report is already a dead letter.

In the Sunday New York Times, the left is taking out after the Baker report as strongly, although from a different perspective, as the right did last week.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah warns an Arab Gulf state summit today that it will only take a spark now to ignite a Sunni-Shiite war all over the Middle East.

The New York Times reported a few days ago that the sectarian civil war now roiling Iraq has already sent 1.6 million fearful Iraqis swarming over the country's boundaries. About 600,000 of them have gone to Syria and 700,000 to Jordan, threatening to destabilize those countries.

Such events are far more important for the moment than the policy of weakness enunciated for America by the ill-fated Baker commission.

Today, two noted New York Times writers, Frank Rich and Roger Cohen, both discuss left-wing reaction to the Baker report, and it is just as vitriolic as the right-wing reaction.

Rich writes, notably, "Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there's no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed."

As for the Baker commission suggestions in general, Rich is caustic.

"Its recommendations are bogus." he writes, "because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country's warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to influence events for America's benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas."

Meanwhile, Roger Cohen, quotes a possible future Democratic secretary of state, Richard Holbrook, the architect of the Bosnian settlement, as calling the Baker report a weak Washington-style compromise.

Holbrook is ready, just as Rutten was, to call the Baker commission report well-written. It just doesn't propose anything that's the least bit workable.

Please do not get me wrong, I'm not saying that President Bush's policy has been adequate. It seems like the President is in a quandary as to what to do, and he has fought three and a half years in Iraq without positive results. A more intelligent man would have tried new policies there long ago.

For now, however, we're just going to have to await developments to dictate our next steps. As the King of Saudi Arabia suggested, they may not be long in coming.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times today sticks most of the critical Middle Eastern news well back in Section A. Are new editor James O'Shea and new publisher David Hiller crazy? You bet, they are. They no more realize what's important than their inept director, Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons.

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