The ISG re­port’s re­mark­able mes­sage to U.S. en­e­mies W

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

ell, the ISG — the Il­lus­tri­ous Se­niors’ Group — have re­leased their 79point plan. How un­prece­dented is it? Well, it seems Iraq is to come un­der some­thing called the “Iraq In­ter­na­tional Sup­port Group.” If only Neville Cham­ber­lain had thought to pro­pose a “sup­port group” for Cze­choslo­vakia, he might still be in of­fice. Or guest-host­ing for Oprah.

But, alas, such flashes of orig­i­nal­ity are few and far be­tween in what’s oth­er­wise a tes­ta­ment to con­ven­tional wis­dom. How con­ven­tional is the ISG’s con­ven­tional wis­dom? Try Page 49:

“Rec­om­men­da­tion 5: The Sup­port Group should con­sist of Iraq and all the states bor­der­ing Iraq, in­clud­ing Iran and Syria .”

Er, OK. I sup­pose that’s what you fa­mously hard­headed “real­ists” mean by re­al­ism. But wait, we’re not done yet. For this “Sup­port Group,” we need the ex­tralarge func­tion room. Aside from Turkey, Syria, Jor­dan, Saudi Ara­bia, Iran and Kuwait, the ISG — the Iraq Sur­ren­der Grand­pas — want also to in­vite “the key re­gional states, in­clud­ing Egypt and the Gulf States.”

Er, OK. So it’s ba­si­cally an Arab League meet­ing. Not a “Sup­port Group” I would want to look for sup­port from, but chaque a son gout. But wait, Sec­re­tary Baker’s still warm­ing up:

“[T]he five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.” That would be Amer­ica, Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia, China. A di­verse quin­tet, rep­re­sent­ing many dis­tinc­tive ap­proaches to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs from stylish hau­teur to polo­nium-210. Any­body else?

“The Euro­pean Union. [. . .]” Hey, why not? It’s not re­ally mul­ti­lat­eral un­less there’s a Bel­gian on board, right? Oh, and let’s not for­get: “[T]he Sup­port Group should call on the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the United Na­tions sec­re­tary-gen­eral in its work. The United Na­tions sec­re­tary-gen­eral should des­ig­nate a spe­cial en­voy as his rep­re­sen­ta­tive.”

In­deed. But it needs to be some- one with real clout, like Benon Se­van, the for­mer head of the Oil for Food Pro­gram, who re­cently, ah, stepped down; or Mau­rice Strong, the un­der­sec­re­tary-gen­eral for U.N. re­form and god­fa­ther of Ky­oto, who for one rea­son or an­other is presently on a, shall we say, leave of ab­sence; or Alexan­der Yakovlev, the se­nior pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer for U.N. peace­keep­ing, who also finds him­self un­der in­dict­ment — er, I mean un­der­em­ployed. There’s no end of top-class tal­ent at the United Na­tions, now that John Bolton’s been ex­pelled from its precincts.

So there you have it: an Iraq “Sup­port Group” that brings to­gether the Arab League, the Euro­pean Union, Iran, Rus­sia, China and the U.N. And with sup­port like that who needs lack of sup­port? It worked in Dar­fur, where the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity reached unan­i­mous agree­ment on the ur­gent need to rent a Zep­pelin to fly over the be­lea­guered re­gion trail­ing a big ban­ner em­bla­zoned “You’re done.” For Dar4.1, they can just di­vert it to Bagh­dad.

Oh, but lest you think there are no min­i­mum ad­mis­sion cri­te­ria to James Baker’s “Sup­port Group”, re­lax, it’s a very re­stricted mem­ber­ship: Arabs, Per­sians, Chi­nese com­mies, French ob­struc­tion­ists, Rus­sian as­sas­si­na­tion squads. But no Jews. Even though Is­rael is the only coun­try to be re­quired to make spe­cific con­ces­sions — re­turn the Golan Heights, etc. In­deed, in­so­far as this doc­u­ment has any nov­elty value, it’s in the Franken­stein-meets-the-Wolf­man sense of a boffo con­ver­gence of hit fran­chises: a Viet­nam bug-out, but with the Jews as the des­ig­nated fall guys. Wow. That’s what Hol­ly­wood would call “high con­cept.”

Why would any­one — even a short­sighted in­com­pe­tent po­lit­i­cal fixer whose bril­liant ad­vice in­cludes telling the first Ge­orge Bush no one would care if he aban­doned the “Read my lips” pledge — why would even he think it a smart move to mort­gage Iraq’s fu­ture to any­thing as in­tractable as the Pales­tinian “right of re­turn?” And, in­ci­den­tally, how did that phrase — “the right of re­turn” — get so care- lessly in­serted into a doc­u­ment signed by two for­mer sec­re­taries of state, two for­mer sen­a­tors, a for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, Supreme Court jus­tice, de­fense sec­re­tary, mem­ber of Congress, etc.

Th­ese are by far the most prom­i­nent Amer­i­cans ever to le­git­imize a con­cept whose very pur­pose is to ren­der any Zion­ist En­tity im­pos­si­ble. I’m not one of those who as­sumes that just be­cause much of James Baker’s post-gov­ern­ment ca­reer has been so lav­ishly en­dowed by the Saudis that he must nec­es­sar­ily be a wholly owned sub­sidiary of King Ab­dul­lah, but it’s strik­ing how this doc­u­ment frames all the is­sues within the patholo­gies of the en­emy.

And that’s be­fore we get to Iran and Syria. So tough-minded and spe­cific when it comes to the Is­raelis, Mr. Baker turns to mush when it comes to Bashar As­sad as­sas­si­nat­ing his way through Le­banon’s shrink­ing Chris­tian com­mu­nity or Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and the mul­lahs paint­ing the fin­ish trim on the Ira­nian nukes. Syria, de­clare the Sur­ren­der Grand­pas, “should con­trol its border with Iraq”. Gee, who’dda thunk o’ that other than th­ese ge­niuses?

Ac­tu­ally, Syria doesn’t need to “con­trol its border with Iraq.” Iraq needs to con­trol its border with Syria. And, as long as the traf­fic’s all one way (be­cause Syria’s been al­lowed to sub­vert Iraq with im­punity for three years), that suits Mr. As­sad just fine. The Sur­ren­der Grand­pas as­sert Iran and Syria have “an in­ter­est in avoid­ing chaos in Iraq.” This, to put it mildly, is news to the Ira­ni­ans and Syr­i­ans, who have con­cluded that what’s in their in­ter­est is much more chaos in Iraq. For a start, the Amer­i­cans get blamed for it, which re­duces Amer­ica’s in­flu­ence in the broader Mid­dle East, not least among Iran and Syria’s op­po­si­tion move­ments. Fur­ther­more, the fact they’re known to be fo­ment­ing the chaos gives the mul­lahs, Mr. As­sad and their prox­ies tremen­dous cred­i­bil­ity in the rest of the Mus­lim world. James Baker has achieved the per­fect re­duc­tio ad ab­sur­dum of diplo­matic self-adu­la­tion: he is less ra­tio­nal than Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

If they’re lucky, this doc­u­ment will be tossed in the trash and th­ese men and women will be the laugh­ing­stocks of pos­ter­ity. But, if it’s not shred­ded and we em­bark down this path, the Baker group will be em­blem­atic of some­thing far worse.

The “Sup­port Group” is a “peace con­fer­ence,” and Mr. Baker wants Wash­ing­ton to sue for terms. No won­der Syria is al­ready de­mand­ing con­ces­sions from Amer­ica. Which is the su­per­power and which is the third-rate bas­ket-case state? From the Mid­dle East­ern and Euro­pean press cov­er­age of the Baker group, it’s kinda hard to tell.

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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