It seems as though poison is much in vogue at the moment. For example, Russia's emerging dictator, Vladimir Putin, appears to be offing his enemies left and right. One instrument for doing so is a radioactive substance called Polonium 210, stuff so toxic even the assassins seem to be dying from it.
Unfortunately, the American body politic is under assault as well from a poisonous offering. It comes in the form of the fruits of the nine-month-long fulminations by the Iraq Study Group (ISG, more accurately known as the Iraq Surrender Group). This advisory commission was mandated by the 109th Congress and its deliberations and report were clearly dominated by co-chairman and former Secretary of State James Baker.
Mr. Baker's pride of authorship is evident in his characteristically arrogant assertion that President Bush has no choice but to adopt every last one of the ISG's 79 recommendations. As he contemptuously put it last week: "I hope we don't treat this like a fruit salad and say, 'I like this, but I don't like that. I like this, but I don't like that.' "
Mr. Baker and his fellow commission members have suggested Congress compel Mr. Bush to accept their report in toto if the commander in chief has the temerity to take advice from other sources -- for example, his generals in the field or his National Security Council -- and reject the poisoned fruit in Mr. Baker's salad.
Among such fruit is the ISG's central idea of a "New Diplomatic Offensive." What would be "new" about this "offensive" would be the ill-conceived idea of negotiating terms of our retreat from Iraq with two of our most implacable regional enemies: Iran and its wholly owned subsidiary, Syria. Like much of the rest of the ISG report, this recommendation is rooted in a laughable proposition, namely that "Iran and Syria [have an] interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." Therefore, "the United States should try to engage them constructively."
The Baker Surrender Group proposes to do this by convening a regional conference and "Iraq International Support Group" in which the regimes that have, arguably, done most to instigate chaos in Iraq, Iran and Syria, would have plenty of company. As the inimitable Mark Steyn has observed, everyone imaginable will be invited to attend -- from the Arab League to the European Union to the Chinese and Russians to the U.N. Everyone, that is, except the one country Mr. Baker insists must lubricate our deal with Tehran-Damascus by making still-further, strategically dangerous territorial concessions: Israel.
The good news is that this idea's absurdity has begun to penetrate even official Washington. The imperious Mr. Baker and his taxpayer-underwritten PR operation have responded to the ridicule (the most devastating was the New York Post's depiction on its front page of the ex-SecState and his co-chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, as "Surrender Monkeys") with the last refuge of scoundrels: a claim to bipartisanship.
Baker-Hamilton's theory goes that, since they have come up with a lowest-common-denominator report, there is no alternative to its adoption as U.S. policy. As Mr. Hamilton put it, theirs is the only approach with any chance of bipartisan support.
Happily, a second opinion was offered over the weekend in an Open Letter to the President signed by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and former Clinton Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey. Writing in their capacities as the Honorary Co-Chairmen of another bipartisan panel, the Center for Security Policy's National Security Advisory Council (http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/WoolseyKyl.pdf), the two distinguished security policy practitioners wrote:
"People of good will and expertise from both parties can -- and in many cases do -- come to very different conclusions than those offered by the ISG. In particular, members of our Council on both sides of the aisle strongly disagree with what is, arguably, the Baker-Hamilton commission's most strategically portentous recommendation: [negotiating with Iran and Syria].
"As the ISG's own report documents, far from being proponents of stability, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its de facto colony, Syria, have gone to great lengths to destabilize the Middle East and, in particular, to prevent Iraq from becoming a free, democratic and peaceful nation. Americans have been murdered for nearly three decades by Iranian operatives and Tehran's proxies. U.S. and coalition personnel and civilians in Iraq are being slaughtered today by deadly Iranian IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and other weapons provided to like-minded Islamofascist groups.
"At the same time, the Iranian regime is working to acquire nuclear arms and long-range ballistic missiles with which to deliver them. When combined with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated threats to 'wipe Israel off the map' and bring about 'a world without America,' we face the prospect that, in due course, the mullahs running Iran will have the means to carry out their apocalyptic intentions."
President Bush has every right -- and, indeed, a profound responsibility -- to decide which, if any, of the recommendations of the Iraq Surrender Group to adopt. If he continues to believe an American rout in Iraq, particularly one that enhances the power and ambitions of Islamofascist Iran, is unacceptable and adopts improved strategies designed to prevent that from happening, he will enjoy ample support on both sides of the aisle and from the public.
Were Mr. Bush not to pick Mr. Baker's poisonous "fruit" out of the salad, however, he will be condemning to death at the hands of our Islamofascist enemies and their enablers large numbers of freedom-loving people -- in Iraq, in Israel and in America. He will also assure a blighted legacy for his presidency that will make his difficulties to date in Iraq look like a bowlful of cherries.
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