Iraq: Jonathan Steele Asks Why Bother With The Baker Report ?
He was also the Guardian's bureau chief in Washington (1975 to 1979) and Moscow (1988 to 1994).
In the 80s he reported from southern Africa, central America, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe. In the 90s he covered Kosovo and the Balkans.
Since 9/11 he has reported from Afghanistan and Iraq as well as on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
And, he has written several books on international affairs, including books on South Africa, Germany, eastern Europe, and Russia.
Sounds like Mr Steele sure has some seriously, credible credentials, eh? Seems the sort of media man who knows what he's talking about, too.
Take this excerpt example, from his piece published in today's Guardian.
Predictably, the Baker report does not come to any radical conclusions about Iraq. But did it serve any of its underlying purposes?
James Baker is a lawyer, a fixer, a Republican, a friend of the Bush family, and a deeply political animal. He is not an independent radical or a man known for original thinking. So the question in the wake of his Iraq Study Group's predictably uncontroversial is: why was it ever set up?
Critics of his disastrous strategy in Iraq could be told that Bush was listening to the American people and understood their concerns. That is why he had set up a blue ribbon panel to evaluate all options. Nothing was taboo.
The tactic did not work, and Bush and his Republican party took a heavy beating. It was not Baker's fault so much as a sign that voters felt they had to send a message to Baker as well as to Bush. A majority of Americans as well as Iraqis want US troops to leave.
The second purpose behind the study group was to co-opt the Democrats behind Bush's war.
But it gets better as it goes along.
The third purpose in appointing Baker's panel is the most extraordinary.
The country's political elite wants to ignore the American people's doubts, and build a new consensus behind a strategy of staying in Iraq on an open-ended basis with no exit in sight.
If you're interested in reading the rest of Steele's super-insightful and surprise-filled piece, grab a quick gander at this final teaser first.
"Success depends on unity of the American people at a time of political polarisation ... Foreign policy is doomed to failure - as is any action in Iraq - if not supported by broad, sustained consensus," say Baker and his Democratic co-chair, Lee Hamilton, in their introduction.
In other words, if things go wrong, it will be the American people's fault for not trusting in the wisdom of their leaders.
Fudging the end-date or hoping it need never be promised will not end the war. Baker is not suggesting anything as radical as this, of course. No one should ever have thought he might.Now go read it all; it's good.
In fact, like ourselves, you may rate it better than good.
Tsk, tsk. Talk about Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.