During the 2004 election, it was painfully apparent that the Democratic presidential candidate had no credible response when President Bush and the Republicans asked him the ultimate question about the war in Iraq: "What exactly would you do?" Unable to advocate immediate withdrawal, unwilling to suggest a specific timetable, John Kerry and his party were stuck, able only to grouse about the failure to find WMDs or to criticize inadequate troop levels.
But now the left has been given a built-in response to the question of what should be done. All they now have to say is: "Implement the Baker Report." With the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll (taken December 8-10, 2006) suggesting that support for the Baker Report now tops 70%, the left finally has the answer that has so long eluded it.
Obviously, Bush cannot implement the report's proposals. To do so would transform him into a premature lame duck and mark the effective transfer of power in Washington from Bush to Baker.
And, to his credit, the president realizes as Baker and former Indiana Senator Lee Hamilton do not that negotiating with Iran is tantamount to permitting it to have nuclear weapons. He also grasps that there is little difference between a timetable for withdrawal and an admission of surrender and failure.
But the Baker Report has clearly empowered the left by giving it a place to stand. During the Vietnam War, nobody urged unilateral withdrawal. So the left had to invent halfway positions like a bombing pause or entering into serious negotiations to give it an alternative policy to the Administration's escalation. The Baker Report serves much the same function.
Remember how the inchoate concerns of many people about the seemingly laggard pace of homeland security preparations in the aftermath of 9-11? When the 9-11 Commission finally rendered its report, those worries crystallized into a sound-bite: "Implement the 9-11 Commission's Recommendations." Now the left has a new Iraq sound-bite.
Consequently, the Baker Report will fundamentally alter the terms of the Iraq War debate. Forget that its members included a former Attorney General who left office one step ahead of the grand jury or a retired Supreme Court Justice whose foreign policy experience is nil. The fact that James Baker III was Bush the elder's Secretary of State, President Bush's attorney in Bush v Gore, and the president's debate negotiator in 2004 gives him the perfect credentials to knife the president in the back. He cannot be dismissed as a partisan nor can he be attacked without making Bush explain why he has trusted him so in the past.
Baker personifies real-politick and has always been willing to cut a deal. His notion of realism apparently includes going begging to Teheran to ask them to pull us out of the Iraqi fire while, at the same time, implicitly guaranteeing that we will take no action to prevent them from acquiring the nuclear weapons that they seek in order to keep their promise to wipe Israel off the map.
For his part, incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates, went out of his way during his confirmation hearings to reassure Iran's rulers that their nuclear program would not draw a military response from the U.S.. Not only did he say that military action was a "last resort," but, more incredibly, he seemed to defend Iran's decision to go nuclear saying that the poor Ayatollah is "surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."
Yes, but neither Pakistan nor Russia nor the U.S. has stated that it will destroy Israel!
Can we stop Iran from getting the bomb? You bet we can.
Highly regarded intelligence estimates indicate that Iranian nuclear facilities are still vulnerable to air attack and will be for the next year at least. But while we are dithering, they are digging their facilities ever deeper into the ground, rendering them less accessible with each passing month.
Iran pumps 2.7 million barrels of oil per day (about 3% of the world production). Oil industry analysts suggest that global oil production will rise by 2.6 million barrels per day during 2007. All throughout the world, nations are stepping up their oil drilling responding to high market prices. Brazil, for example, has increased its production from 500,000 barrels per day to almost 2 million in the past ten years. With a little bit of belt tightening, we can organize a global boycott of Iranian oil.
From Frank Gaffney, formerly of the Reagan Defense Department, comes www.disinvestterror.org, an organization that urges investors to stay away from anything that can help terrorist nations, like Iran. Dependent on global investment to access their oil and gas reserves, a cutoff in the flow of funding to Iran could have a huge effect. Modeled after the disinvestment in South Africa that forced the end of apartheid, www.disinvestterror.org has succeeded in getting UBS and its $4 billion portfolio to refrain from such investments. Credit Suisse has followed suit and, under the leadership of State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, so has Missouri. If other state, federal and union pension funds follow suit and other banks join in too we can, in Gaffney's words "privatize" the war on terror.
But from the Baker crowd we can only expect appeasement. One can only hope that Bush remains Bush and that Israel shows the courage that Defense Secretary Gates seems to lack and attacks Iranian facilities and eliminates its nuclear capabilities.