Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bring Back Rummy

If you think DU is too hard on James Baker, here's Michael Young - a Lebanese national - in today's WSJ ($, my ellipsis).
In 1990, (Baker) was a leading light in President George H.W. Bush's administration, which ceded Lebanon to Syria in exchange for President Hafez Assad's agreement to be part of the international coalition against Iraq. An inveterate "realist," Mr. Baker is not likely to balk at negotiating with Mr. Assad if it means the U.S. can buy some peace of mind as it transforms its presence in Iraq.

His proposal is unpopular at the White House, and last week Mr. Bush made that known to Mr. Baker and his colleagues. However, because of his electoral defeat, the president, pressed by a Congress avidly searching for new ideas, might find less latitude to ignore Syria down the road.

Mr. Baker and his fellow realists, custodians of stalemate in their own way, want the U.S. to return to its previous approach to the region, where interests defined behavior more than values -- particularly democracy.

But if engagement with Syria, or even Iran, is on the cards, then the U.S. might have to surrender the one genuine triumph it can point to after Mr. Bush formulated a democratic project for the Middle East: the peaceful, popular overthrow by the Lebanese of Syria's debilitating domination.
If the president wants to avoid a legacy of the bloody collapse of Mideast democracy and a nuclear war between Iran, Israel and maybe France, he has to get a grip.

He should start by bringing back Rumsfeld to oversee Gates - perhaps via a recess appointment.