Foreign policy naivete
The more one looks at the report produced by Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton and the rest of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), the more incoherent it appears. The childlike innocence of the panel members is pervasive in the ISG recommendations, which read like a “wish list” put together by a high-school social studies class learning about the Middle East for the first time, without any regard for history or geopolitical realities.
For example, the Baker-Hamilton report recommends that “diplomatic efforts” be taken to persuade Iran “to take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq.” Iran, it says, should “stem the flow of equipment, technology and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq”; make clear its support for Iraq’s territorial integrity; and “use its influence” to “encourage national reconciliation” in Iraq. And what if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who routinely calls for Israel’s destruction and questions the Holocaust) did the unimaginable and refused to cooperate with the international community in forging a peaceful, democratic future for Iraq? No worries, because Iranian intransigence “would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation.”
Troubled by Syrian subversion of Iraq? To fix this, the ISG recommends that the United States and other countries “should encourage and persuade Syria” to “work together with the Iraqis on joint patrols on the border” to prevent insurgents from infiltrating into Iraq. Interested in fixing the mess in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, an Iranian and Syrian proxy, is trying to bring down the elected government? Well, the Baker Bunch has solutions for these problems. Syria, it says, should implement a “verifiable” cessation of its subversion of its neighbor, and there should also be a “verifiable” halt of Syrian assistance in funnelling arms to Hezbollah. (As the ISG report reassuringly tells us on p. 56: “This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.”) And Syria should cooperate with “all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel’’ (the Syrian government was almost certainly behind these and other murders of Lebanese who refused to toe its line).
The Baker-Hamilton panel also plunged headlong into coming up with a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The ISG recommends implementing a “verifiable” end to arms shipments through Syria for Palestinian rejectionist groups such as Hamas and urges “A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist.” But back in the real world, Hamas and Iran have been giving their own responses to the ISG report. On Dec. 9, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, often described in the press as a Hamas “moderate,” said in Tehran that his government would defend the Palestinian people’s right to “resistance” (terrorism) and vowed that they would not abide by already signed Palestinian agreements with Israel, which he called a “fake regime.” Mr. Haniyeh also vowed never to recognize the Jewish state. At an official meeting with Mr. Haniyeh held Dec. 9 in Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad called on Palestinians to continue fighting Israel; the Iranian leader suggested that Israel was in danger because the United States “is deteriorating and becoming weak.”
Buried on p. 58 of the ISG report is another potential time bomb for Israel: The panel suggests that a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians include the “right of return” — terminology generally used to describe the Palestinian demand that millions of refugees be permitted to return to their ancestral homes inside what is now Israel — a formula that would effectively end its existence as the world’s only Jewish state. President Bush would do well to keep very, very far away from the delusional thinking manifested in this report.