James Baker, personal fixer for the Bush family, currently has the unenviable job of bailing H.W.’s undertalented kid out of Iraq. Baker’s commission was more or less doomed from the start since all of our Iraq options basically boil down to 1) leave and accept the consequences, or 2) create a winning force out of troops that don’t exist. Option (3), stay the course, doesn’t actually exist since troop and materiel shortfalls will soon mandate option (1) regardless.
We know that Bush (correctly) views option (1) as a personal defeat so that choice has always been off the table. Option (2) sounds too much like Hitler shoring up the western front by moving around divisions that don’t exist (pardon the Godwin violation, it’s a tactical comparison). So it always seemed likely that Baker’s commission, bound on one side by the unacceptable and on the other by the impossible, would essentially use its brain trust to come up with some way to disguise option (1) enough that junior could dodge the appearance of total capitulation.
Impressively, Baker’s commission has apparently accepted option (1) as inevitable and made the only possible conclusion: Iraq will partition itself along ethnic lines.
AN independent commission set up by Congress with the approval of President George W Bush may recommend carving up Iraq into three highly autonomous regions, according to well informed sources.
[…] The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls “cutting and running” or “staying the course”.
“The Kurds already effectively have their own area,” said a source close to the group. “The federalisation of Iraq is going to take place one way or another. The challenge for the Iraqis is how to work that through.”
This strikes me as a relatively mature perspective on our current situation. We will leave, Iraq will split up (migration due to ethic cleansing is accelerating) and so we may as well try to shepherd it constructively while we still have any influence at all. That sound like more or less what I would recommend at this point.
Sadly, Juan Cole points out that even the best strategy is now pretty much bubkis. Like JC it occurred to me that some parts of Iraq, for example the mixed cities of Kirkuk and Baghdad, will not go easily into one federal classification or another. Any one of these contested zones could easily set off a full-on civil war if any effort is made to shoehorn them into one or another ethnic group’s territory.
You have to wonder whether Baker’s time would have been better spent discouraging Bush fils from going into Iraq in the first place. At this point his job seems about as useful as junior smashing the family car into an oncoming freight train and then commissioning Baker to figure out how to get it started again.