The straightforward and sensible appeal of the
Baker-Hamilton report to President Bush and Congress
four years since our military troops toppled Iraq
dictator Saddam Hussein was to please stop squabbling,
put aside petty partisan differences about the Iraq
quagmire, and help bring our country together to
spread freedom and democracy.
The country wants this. Our people showed with their
votes that they are sick of the juvenile bickering. We
want to win the struggle against terrorist thugs,
wherever they are. We admire our troops and are
grateful for their valiance and perseverance - and the
sacrifice of their families while they are in harm's
way. But we resent the political climate that prevents
our country moving forward, strong and unified.
Do you politicians get it?
The Baker-Hamilton report gives us a good roadmap and
some hope that we can rise above career politicians
and bureaucrats in their crusty straightjackets,
hopefully to get moving forward positively and
unified. We'll see. The devil's in the details.
And with so many politicians of both parties already
running for president in 2008, talking out of all
sides of their mouths, it's tough to know who's really
behind the freedom agenda and who is not.
At least we know where President Bush and Britain's
Prime Minister Tony Blair stand - two good men. Pity
they are lame ducks, and the mass media factotems
don't credit these leaders for tremendous gains they
have scored for freedom and a better life for people
in Afghanistan, Iraq, and our own two countries.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have served
their countries well, and we should be grateful.
The Baker-Hamilton report had 79 concrete
recommendations to further efforts for freedom and
democracy in Iraq.
William Kristol, founder and editor of the
conservative Weekly Standard magazine and chief of
staff for Vice President Dan Quayle during the
administration of President Bush the elder, promptly
called the report "disguised surrender." He complained
the report was "not serious" because it did not
include the words "war" and "victory" with respect to
Iraq, and that it called for phased pullout of
American troops before full military victory was
Well, here's the rub - which Baker-Hamilton commission
members from both parties and all sides of the
political spectrum spoke to December 6 during their
nationally televised press conference as the report
o We are not winning the military situation that has
followed painfully for four years since dictator
Saddam Hussein was toppled in superb fashion by our
American military. We face intransigent sectarian and
cultural obstacles against a democratic solution that
have existed since before the birth of Christ and
o There is no indication that we can achieve a
military or political victory in Iraq, amid continued
vicious sectarian turmoil après Saddam, in any
conventional sense, without suffering unnecessary
American casualties ad infinitum.
o We need to get out of Iraq with dignity, saving our
gains for human liberty and global security from
worldwide madmen, as soon as possible.
The 10-member Baker-Hamilton group unanimously came
together with solid recommendations how to save what
we have achieved to date amid seemingly hopeless Iraq
sectarian violence and power struggle among the
country's various factions, and insurgent terrorism
against innocent Iraqi people themselves and our own
military men and women who are seen as unwanted
They are 10 splendid former high officeholders -- five
Democrats, five Republicans -- including co-chairmen
James A. Baker III, President Reagan's White House
chief of staff and President Bush I's Secretary of
State, and Lee Hamilton, longtime Democratic chairman
of the House International Relations Committee. Also,
President Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese III;
Leon Panetta, White House Chief of Staff for President
Bill Clinton; retired Supreme Court Associate Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor; and William J. Perry, Defense
Secretary for President Clinton.
The report made three very sensible basic major
o Quite quickly strengthen the Iraq military at all
levels by embedding U.S. military troops with Iraq
military troops, right down to the company level -
which has not been done to this point - and train
Iraqi troops to take over from U.S. military forces in
all jobs and in all regions of Iraq, at all possible
This is a proper exit strategy.
Iraq's military should take over from U.S. military
troops in all national security and anti-terrorist
functions ASAP and save the victory our valiant
military forces have achieved so far, while still
quelling the sectarian violence that is perhaps
exacerbated by the reality that most of the Iraqi
populace does not like the presence of U.S. troops as
military occupiers of their country.
o Talk to government leaders of Iran and Syria in
order to stabilize the region and isolate the
terrorists. Keeping channels open and talking is not
giving in to our adversaries, but keeping open avenues
to counter the worldwide terrorist menace that
threatens them as well as us. We must always keep open
diplomatic channels with all countries in the world,
friendly or not. As our parents taught us, don't spite
your nose to hurt your face.
Our country was never afraid to talk to the Soviet
Union's or China's leaders - Nikita Khrushchev during
administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and
Lyndon B. Johnson; Mikhail Gorbachev during the tenure
of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; Mao
Soviet leaders in the 1980s and '90s knew what cards
we held, and our country beat them - economically,
diplomatically, and the militarily -- thanks to the
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) option that critics
called "Star Wars."
Gorbachev blinked at the Reykjavik summit in October
1986, and the Berlin Wall soon came tumbling down
thanks to Reagan's muscular diplomacy, the SDI threat,
and a parallel strategy within the worldwide Catholic
community by Pope John Paul II to topple
Soviet-dominated communist totalitarianism in
then-puppet states of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine,
and other Soviet states.
This is what the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Commission,
in its wisdom, recognized. We won the war in Iraq by
toppling Saddam Hussein, but the aftermath of taking
over and stabilizing a defeated country -- as General
Douglas McArthur did when he took over Japan after its
surrender at the end of World War II - is very
difficult and longtime heavy-lifting,
There is no denying that we are now bogged down in
Iraq as military occupiers of a country torn by
sectarian Muslim divisions, power-struggles, and
insane terrorism. Why stay in the middle of this
idiocy and continue to lose American lives?
It's time, now, for the Iraq government to step up to
the plate firmly and succeed American military troops
with their own trained forces. They must quickly and
expertly be trained, and the Baker-Hamilton report
said this is a main priority. This requires deployment
of much more carefully selected American troops to
Iraq and the region with needed technical, vocational,
and professional skills across the board.
Diplomatically, the United States must tell leaders of
Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt that we
want stability in their region, and will use all
military power necessary to achieve that result. We
want to work together with them towards peace, but the
terrorist enemy will not win because we will not allow
them to get the upper hand.
We have a big stick. There will be no cut-and-run from
Iraq, or anywhere in the world where terrorism rears
its ugly head,
Perhaps the Baker-Hamilton report's most important
recommendation was to our own politicians and leaders:
o Help unify our country.
At the press conference releasing the Baker-Hamilton
report, Leon Panetta, President Bill Clinton's chief
of staff, said he made this plea to President Bush
when the 10 commission members met with him at the
White House to present their conclusions:
"As I told the president this morning, this war has
badly divided this country. This country cannot be at
war and be as divided as we are today," Panetta, a
former congressman from California, said he told Bush.
"You've got to unify this country."
President Bush agreed at a White House meeting with
members of the Baker-Hamilton commission:
"The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure
political bickering that happens in Washington, and
they understand that on this important issue of war
and peace, it is best for our country to work
together," the president said.
We'll just have to wait and see whether the new
Democratic majority in Congress wants that to happen,
or if it will be continued political bickering and
stand-off as usual.