With the war in Iraq obviously failing to attain the desired goals of Iraqi stability and self-government, as well as the fact of mounting casualties of US soldiers and Iraqi citizens, the United Sates Congress on March 15, 2006 moved to appoint a ten-person panel, charged to deliver an independent assessment of the situation in Iraq and the US-led Iraq War. The commission was proposed initially by Virginia Republican Representative Frank Wolf.
Though the panel fails to carry the authority to change the war-policies or war strategies in Iraq, the recommendations from this pi-partisan commission are expected to provide options and political cover for the Bush administration which recently embraced, publically, the idea of course correction: “Iraq has been sinking into a quagmire of sectarian and terrorist violence since the successful December national elections. ” (“Group Seeks Iraq Solution,” 2006, p. A15)
For the President and the Republican-led Congress the Baker commission stands not only as an indication that the hitherto embraced “stay the course” policies implemented in Iraq have failed to generate successful conditions for a declaration of victory but that new policies and solutions are desired. “Many policymakers are looking for solutions here, and they genuinely want some guidance,” Mr. Hamilton, a Democrat, told reporters at the United States Institute of Peace. “Everybody knows we are in a difficult spot over there,” he said.
“We think the work we can do, if we do it right, will be of great help to the policymakers. We hope that is the case. ” (“Group Seeks Iraq Solution,” 2006, p. A15) The relatively short window for exploration (commencing March 2006 with a full report expected in December 2006) indicates the urgency with which conditions in the Iraq war are considered to be regarded and also the urgency for finding a politically viable war policy that will Iraq Study Group Page -2-
incorporate consideration of the rapidly diminishing domestic public support for the war among US citizens “With the president’s “war on terror” ratings down to 36 percent, the Iraqi “rethink” group came not a moment too soon. Much bigger threats than civil war in Iraq already loom on horizon 2007. Israel is marking its new frontier with a 420-mile, $2. 2 billion barrier that leaves Hamas free to cobble together a state from the patchwork of land left, sans East Jerusalem (“The Fifth Horseman,” 2006, p. A19).
Another crucial factor is the diminishing support for the US occupation by Iraqi citizens and also members of the newly elected Iraqi government, as well as insurgent and sectarian leaders, whose participation in the fledgling democracy in Iraq seems crucial to its eventual success or failure. “We will proceed with great sense of urgency, but the complexity of the issue and scope of it requires that we be careful and deliberate in our work,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Mr. Baker and I are doing our very best to keep open minds. ” (“Group Seeks Iraq Solution,” 2006, p. A15)
The Iraq Study Group comprises a bipartisan panel, led by co-chairs “James A. Baker, III, the nation’s 61st Secretary of State and Honorary Chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and Lee H. Hamilton, former Congressman and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. ” (USIP) The membership extends to individuals whose foreign policy experience seems dubious or non-existent; however, the key Co-chair member, James A. Baker III (a Republican) boasts a reputation as an expert on Middle-East affairs, and also an expert on Syrian politics and international negotiations.
Baker “served in senior government positions under three United States Presidents[… ] as the nation’s 61st Secretary of State from January 1989 through August 1992[… ] Iraq Study Group Page -3- as the 67th Secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan[… } as Under Secretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford. ” Baker also served as White House Chief of Staff to President George Bush, senior from August 1992 to January 1993.
Other relevant foreign policy experience includes baker’s tenure from 1997 to 2004, “as the Personal Envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to seek a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara. In 2003, Mr. Baker was appointed Special Presidential Envoy for President George W. Bush on the issue of Iraqi debt. ” (UIP) The Commission’s other Co-chair, Lee H. Hamilton (a Democrat), functions as the Director for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and enjoyed a thirty-four year tenure in the US Congress as a representative of Indiana.
He chaired (and was ranking member) the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and also chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East from the early 1970s until 1993. “He was chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, and the October Surprise Task Force. Hamilton is also a “leading figure on economic policy and congressional organization, he served as chair of the Joint Economic Committee as well as the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, and was a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee.
” Baker-Hamilton have worked together formerly as Co-chairs of the “Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos. ”(USIP) Obviously, the Co-chairs of the Iraq Study group bring formidable experience and skill in foreign policy matters, as well as solid credentials on bi-partisan cooperation and each of the Co-chairs enjoys a favorable reputation across both aisles of the Congress. Iraq Study Group Page -4- Other members of the study group carry less profound or credible experience in foreign policy issues.
One exception to this, however, is Lawrence S. Eagleburger, “a former U. S. Secretary of State, who served in this office under President George H. W. Bush. A career diplomat, Eagleburger held numerous high-ranking positions in the presidential administrations of both Republicans and Democrats” (USIP). William J. Perry – Member Former Secretary of Defense is an expert in U. S. foreign policy, national security and arms control. He was the co-director of CISAC from 1988 to 1993, during which time he was also a professor (half time) at Stanford.
He was a part-time lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Santa Clara University from 1971 to 1977. Perry was the 19th secretary of defense for the United States, serving from February 1994 to January 1997. He previously served as deputy secretary of defense (1993-1994) and as under secretary of defense for research and engineering (1977-1981). Commission members such as Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Boast extensive lists of credits and awards, as well as experience in non-elected positions and honorary degrees. Jordan served as an “Advisor to President Clinton[… ] president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, Inc.
; executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Inc. ; director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council[… ] Georgia field director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” and maintained a private practice as an attorney. Jordan’s extensive list of presidential appointments includes: “the President’s Advisory Committee for the Points of Light Initiative Foundation; the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa; the Advisory Council on Social Security; the Presidential Clemency Board; the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; the National Advisory Committee on
Iraq Study Group Page -5- Selective Service; and the Council of the White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights. ” (USIP). Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III brings experience as “the 75th attorney general of the United States from February 1985 to August 1988. As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, he directed the Department of Justice and led international efforts to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime[…]
From January 1981 to February 1985, Meese held the position of counsellor to the President,” (USIP). The commission’s only female member, Sandra Day O’ Connor “retired as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court[… ] O’Connor was previously appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Governor Bruce Babbitt (1979-1981), and served as judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona (1975-1979). She served as Arizona state senator in 1969 and subsequently reelected to two two-year terms (1969-1975) and was assistant attorney general in Arizona” (USIP).
Former White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta presently “serves as distinguished scholar to the chancellor of the California State University system, teaches a Master’s in Public Policy course at the Panetta Institute, is a presidential professor at Santa Clara University, and created the Leon Panetta Lecture Series. He was vice chairman of the Caucus of Vietnam Era Veterans in Congress and a member of the president’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies” (USIP). Though such credentials are impressive they scarcely seem relevant to urgent foreign-policy issues.