Sunday, November 12, 2006
Donald Rumsfeld Vs. James Baker III - Whose Legacy Will Define Republican Foreign Policy?
It's been Rumsfeld who led America's War on Terror going into Afghanistan and Iraq and delivering the shockingly quick defeats of the Taliban and Saddam's Republican Guard. Once the youngest Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld was under consideration by Ronald Reagan as his Vice President. Instead Reagan picked George Bush Sr, a CIA hack with all the charm and personality of well... Vladimir Putin.
Bush Sr. only managed to survive a single term in office and dedicated much of it to bailing out his Saudi friends when Saddam came calling. As part of that package though, the George Herbert Walker Bush administration focused on appeasing the Arabs by pressuring Israel and solidified the presence of the most Anti-Israel elements in the Reagan Administration. Despite the showy Clintonesque bombing of Libya under Reagan and a lot of patriotic rhetoric, the Reagan Administration had been all too willing to bend over backwards for the Arabs in order to keep the USSR at bay.
Beginning with backchannel negotiations with the Iranians before Reagan had even been elected, Arms for Hostages, arming the Afghan resistance, protecting the PLO in Beirut; the Reagan Administration for all its rhetoric took a very much realpolitik view of the Middle East. The Bush Sr. Administration kept the realpolitik and bent over backwards for the Arabs but without any real foreign policy agenda or the excuse of Soviet deterrence. It was an Administration that serviced the Arabs because from the President on down it consisted of foreign policy personnel who enjoyed visiting Riyadh and Cairo and having tea with Sultans and Sheikhs. Virtually indistinguishable from their counterparts in the British Foreign Office, they were Colonial Officers without any Colonies (except perhaps growing in their inner ears.)
As the Secretary of State, James Baker the III embodied that attitude. From his endless friendships with Saudi Princes, his "F___ the Jews they don't vote for us anyway", his willingness to cater to an oilman's agenda and blame Israel for everything; he represented that was wrong with conservative foreign policy.
Then came the Clinton Administration which drowsed while our enemies gathered their plans and tried to claim that the real terrorists threat were Republican Talk Show Hosts and the Militia Movement. Then came the Bush Administration and 9/11. The Democratic Party went on sticking to their policy platform that Republicans are the real threat to American except they discarded the 'growing militia threat' in favor of the 'growing government threat.'
Even after 9/11 the Bush Administration proved all too willing to cater to the Saudis and the Arab Sheikhs but they also aimed for strong military reform and put Donald Rumsfeld in charge. Now the prospect of Iraq as a viable nation seems more and more doubtful and James Baker has returned like a malignant ghost to explore an 'exit strategy.' But his ghost has been here for a while.
Halfway through Bush's term, longtime advisers and allies like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove became increasingly distanced and there seemed to be one woman who had Bush's ear above everyone else. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, James Baker's old student filling James Baker's old job. Her deputy Robert Zoellick was one of Baker's most closely trusted aides. Rice built up close ties with trusted Bush adviser Karen Hughes and came to outright dominate Bush's inner circle.
Around the same time the Bush Administration shifted from fighting terror to funding it. There was a renewed bid for Middle East peace. In Iraq instead of killing terrorists we began paying them to stop engaging in terrorism. The Mahdi Army was repeatedly allowed to go untouched. Top Iraqi figures who preached terrorism and violence were left in peace. Afghanistan began going to hell.
Rice did not succeed in her plan to force Rumsfeld out and replace him with Jakes Baker, but she has shifted the decision making from the Pentagon back to the State Department. The more influence she gained, the worse America did and the more the terrorists became encouraged. Under her influence the US began pressuring Israel to arm Fatah terrorists to serve as a police force and now is actually arming them directly. Under her influence we pursue useless UN resolutions over North Korea and Iran, even as they get closer to developing nuclear weapons.
From the Rumsfeld Doctrine a formerly strong President has moved to the Rice Doctrine which is really the Baker Doctrine, and it says, Kowtow to the Arabs, Talk to Everyone, Do Nothing. This is the doctrine that has plummeted Bush's approval ratings, reduced Iraq to chaos and destroyed the Administration's legacy.
If the Republican Party is to have a foreign party legacy it has to choose between James A. Baker III and Donald Rumsfeld, between Condoleeza Rice and John Bolton. History will not long wait for a decision and time is running out.
With Bush's firing of Donald Rumsfeld last week and replacing him with a stooge from his father's administration, Bush has clearly made his choice.