The fix: A hy­per­power that’s all hype and no power?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

James Baker’s “Iraq Study Group” seems to have been cast on the same ba­sis as Liza Minnelli’s last wed­ding. A stel­lar line-up: Donna Sum­mer, Mickey Rooney, the Doo­bie Brothers, Gina Lol­lo­b­rigida, Michael Jack­son, Mia Far­row, Lit­tle An­thony and the Im­pe­ri­als, Jill St. John. That’s Liza’s wed­ding, not the Baker Com­mis­sion.

But at both gath­er­ings ev­ery­one who was any­one was there, no mat­ter how long ago it was they were any­one. So the fab­u­lous Baker boy was ac­com­pa­nied by Clin­ton of­fi­cials Leon Panetta and Bill Perry, Clin­ton golf­ing buddy Ver­non Jor­dan, Bill Clin­ton’s fel­low sex fiend Chuck Robb, the quin­tes­sen­tial “mod­er­ate” Repub­li­can Alan Simp­son, Supreme Court swing vote par ex­cel­lence San­dra Day O’Con­nor. [. . .]

God, I can’t go on. I’d rather watch Mia Far­row mak­ing out with Mickey Rooney to a Doo­bie Brothers LP. As its piece de re­sis­tance, the Baker Com­mis­sion con­cluded its de­lib­er­a­tions by invit­ing tes­ti­mony from — drum­roll, please — Sen. John F. Kerry. If you’re one of those dum­mies who goofs off in school, you wind up in Iraq. But, if you’re so­phis­ti­cated and nu­anced, you wind up on a com­mis­sion about Iraq.

Round­ing it all out — play­ing David Gest to Jim Baker’s Liza — is, in­evitably, co-chair Lee Hamil­ton, for­mer Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tive from In­di­ana. As you’ll re­call, he also co-chaired the Septem­ber 11 Com­mis­sion, in ac- cor­dance with Ar­ti­cle II Sec­tion 5 of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion which states: “Ye mo­nop­oly of wis­dom on ye for­eign pol­icy, na­tional se­cu­rity and other weighty af­fairs shall be vested in a re­tired rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the 9th Dis­trict in In­di­ana, if he be suf­fi­ciently ven­er­a­ble of mien. In the event that he be­comes in­ca­pac­i­tated, his place shall be taken by Jill St. John.” I would call for a blue-rib­bon Com­mis­sion to look into whether we need all th­ese bluerib­bon Com­mis­sions but they would prob­a­bly get Lee Hamil­ton to chair that, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a Fri­ars’ Club Roast as much as the next guy, and I’m sure Jim Baker kib­itz­ing with John Kerry was the hottest ticket in town. But doesn’t it strike you as just a tiny bit parochial? Aside from Mr. Kerry, I won­der whether the com­mis­sion thought to hear from any­one such as Goh Chok Tong, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Sin­ga­pore. A cou­ple of years back, on a visit to Wash­ing­ton just as the Democrat­media head­less-chicken quag­mire-frenzy was get­ting into gear, he summed it up beau­ti­fully:

“The key is­sue is no longer WMD [weapons of mass de­struc­tion] or even the role of the U.N. The cen­tral is­sue is Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity and will to pre­vail.”

As I write in my new book, Sin­ga­porean Cabi­net min­is­ters ap­par­ently un­der­stand that more clearly than U.S. sen­a­tors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and for­mer sec­re­taries of state. Or, as one Baker Com­mis- sion grandee told the New York Times, “We had to move the na­tional de­bate from whether to stay the course to how do we start down the path out.”

An “exit strat­egy” on those terms is the path out not just from Iraq but from a lot of other places, too — in­clud­ing Iran, North Korea, Su­dan, Venezuela, Rus­sia, China, the South Sand­wich Is­lands. Amer­ica would be re­vealed to the world as a fraud: a hy­per­power that’s all hype and no power — or, at any rate, no will. Ac­cord­ing to the New York Sun, “An ex­pert ad­viser to the Baker-Hamil­ton com­mis­sion ex­pects the 10-per­son panel to rec­om­mend that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion pres­sure Is­rael to make con­ces­sions in a gam­bit to en­tice Syria and Iran to a re­gional con­fer­ence.”

On the face of it, this sounds an ad­mirably hard-headed con­fir­ma­tion of James Baker’s most cel­e­brated sound bite on the Mid­dle East “peace process”: “[ex­ple­tive] the Jews. They didn’t vote for us any­way.” His rec­om­men­da­tions seem in­tended to [ex­ple­tive] the Jews well and truly by mak­ing them the des­ig­nated fall guys for Iraq. But hang on: if Is­rael could be forced to give up the Golan Heights and other land (as some fan­ta­sists sug­gest) in or­der to per­suade the Syr­i­ans and Ira­ni­ans to ease up on killing coali­tion forces in Iraq, our en­e­mies would have learned an im­por­tant les­son: The best way to weaken Is­rael is to kill Amer­i­cans. I’m all for Bakerite cyn­i­cism, but this would seem to [ex­ple­tive] not just the Jews but the Amer­i­cans, too.

It would, fur­ther­more, be a par­tic­u­larly con­temptible con­fir­ma­tion of a line I heard Bernard Lewis, our great­est Mid­dle East­ern scholar, use the other day — that “Amer­ica is harm­less as an en­emy and treach­er­ous as a friend.” To pun­ish your friends as a means of re­ward­ing your en­e­mies for killing your forces would seem an al­most lu­di­crously par­o­dic il­lus­tra­tion of that dic­tum. In the end, Amer­ica would be pun­ish­ing it­self. The world would un­der­stand that Viet­nam was not the ex­cep­tion but the rule.

It has been strange to see my pals on the right approach Iraq as a mat­ter of in­ven­tory and per­son­nel. Many call for more troops to be sent to Bagh­dad, oth­ers say the U.S. armed forces over­all are too small and over­stretched. Look, Amer­ica is re­spon­si­ble for 40 per­cent of the planet’s mil­i­tary spend­ing: It spends more money on its armed forces than the next 43 big­gest mil­i­taries com­bined, from China, Bri­tain and France all the way down the mil­i­taryspend­ing hit pa­rade to Mon­tene­gro and An­gola. Yet it’s not big enough to see off an in­sur­gency con­fined to a 30-mile ra­dius of a desert cap­i­tal?

It’s not the planes, the tanks, the men, the body ar­mor. It’s the po­lit­i­cal will. You can have the best car in town, but it won’t go any­where if you don’t put your foot on the pedal.

Three years ago, when it was ob­vi­ous Syria and Iran were vi­o­lat­ing Iraq’s borders with im­punity, we should have done what the Bri­tish did in the so-called “Con­fronta­tion” with In­done­sia 40 years back when they were faced with Jakarta do­ing to the newly in­de­pen­dent state of Malaysia ex­actly what Da­m­as­cus and Tehran are do­ing to Iran. Bri­tish, Aussie and Malaysian forces sent troops on low-key lethally ef­fec­tive raids into In­done­sia, keep­ing the en­emy on the de­fen­sive and win­ning the war with barely a word mak­ing the pa­pers. If the strate­gic pur­pose in in­vad­ing Iraq was to cre­ate a re­gional domino ef­fect, then play­ing de­fense in the Sunni Tri­an­gle for three years makes no sense. We should never have wound up hun­kered down in the Green Zone. If there has to be a Green Zone, it should be on the Syr­ian side of the border.

Per­haps the Baker Com­mis­sion pro­pos­als will prove not as empty and ris­i­ble as those leaked. But if they are, the pres­i­dent should pay them no heed. A bi­par­ti­san sell­out — the Repub­li­cans cut and the Democrats run — would be an awe­some U.S. self-hu­mil­i­a­tion. And once the rest of the world fig­ures it out, Amer­ica will be the Green Zone.

Mark Steyn is the se­nior con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for Hollinger Inc. Publi­ca­tions, se­nior North Amer­i­can colum­nist for Bri­tain’s Tele­graph Group, North Amer­i­can ed­i­tor for the Spec­ta­tor, and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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