Wednesday, February 28, 2007

James Baker's Foreign Policy Timewarp

This evening I went to the Henry Kissinger Lecture, given by former Secretary of State James Baker. Much of the Washington foreign policy glitterati were there, including Kissinger himself. Jack Kemp, John Negroponte (Bush's new Deputy to Condi), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson heard Baker give a homily on how America should be developing its foreign policy. He called for positive dialogue and engagement with Syria but his call to arms was for a 'pragmatism idealism' in foreign policy - not something which means much to anyone. He's an advocate of 'realpolitik' and was quite open about the need to engage with regimes which America might not approve of. He felt that the Bush administraton was successfully rebuilding fractured relationships with former allies, although he was scathing about France's role in the build up to the war in Iraq.

All in all, this was a speech from a very wise man, but from someone stuck in a timewarp. His solutions were those of the 1990s. We live in a very different world today, a world in which the western nations need to understand the threat to them that Islamacist fanatics present. It's not a war in the conventional sense and it's a war that demands unconventional defence mechanisms. Baker didn't seem to understand that, although he was willing to concede that the US had the right to 'go it alone' when absolutely necessary.

What the audience wanted to hear was a defence of his report on the War in Iraq, but it was barely mentioned. He avoided any discussion of the fact that President Bush has ignored most, if not all, of its recommendations.

This was not a speech with any of what Bush 41 (as some Americans now refer to George Bush senior) called 'the vision thing'. Perhaps it was too much to expect. I left rather disappointed.

Click HERE for a fuller report on the speech.

11 comments:

verity said...

"need to understand the threat to them that Islamacist fanatics present".

There is nothing to "understand". All Islamacists are, by definition, fanatics.

One. More. Time. Islam believes the entire world has to submit to islam.

Their allah has willed it.

Whatever it takes.

There is no way out. There is no accommdation except dhimmitude, which is acknowledging islam and undergoing humiliations, as in not being allowed to wear shoes, and paying jizyah - a tax on Christians and Jews and people of no faith.

And always stepping back to allow a muslim to enter a door before one, and push into a queue before one, and agreeing to be elbowed off the pavement without complaint if a muslim is walking past.

How have you people, despite some excellent writer in the English language, managed to remain so uninformed?

Why don't people in the West take this in?

raincoaster said...

James Baker hasn't had, or needed, a new idea since 1984. The ones he had then served him, if not the world, very, very well.

Baker is acquainted with a friend of mine, a staunch Democrat from Texas, and nothing the Republicans have done or will do could possibly disconcert her as much as the impeccable politeness and friendliness with which James Baker greets her every time their paths cross. He knows quite well what she thinks of him and what he's responsible for, but he's far too crafty to give her visible opposition. Carville knew that Baker's seemingly spontaneous hospitality is his greatest weapon; it is, however, a generousity and friendliness that is only extended to people who might come in handy some day.

doddlefrotbottle said...

"We live in a very different world today, a world in which the western nations need to understand the threat to them that Islamacist fanatics present"

I would be interested in what you mean by this.

Are you advocating more wars and more invasions? Baker also said:

We cannot be, even if we wanted to be, the policeman for the world"..and he is right.

The USA has failed to understand that very threat. It is not about waging war in countries where the tinpot leaders are savages dressed in suits, it is about the war here..at home. You cannot execute Operation Shock and Awe in Hackney or Peckham, you need something a bit more subtle and clever, and I am afraid that looking to the US of A for subtle and clever is a busted flush.

Indigo said...

Verity is talking utter drivel. Please let me introduce the Introducing Islam blog.

Why don't people in the West take this in?

Because it isn't true. Do humanity a favour, please, and desist from propagating disinformation.

Anonymous said...

But isn't Baker's 'realpolitik' just an acknowledgement that the USA is not some colonial power with control over all she surveys ? We had to learn that lesson with Northern Ireland and a number of other countries.

verity speaks as though islam only exists outside the USA, but only a proportion of the USA are Christian.

Others are Moslems, Sikhs, Hindus and so on. So surely there has to be some form of accommodation, as many of these so-called Islamacist fanatics are living within the borders of the USA doing dangerous things like, er, working at the Post Office, or serving coffee in Starbucks.

Giovanni said...

Baker is an old Cold Warrior who comes from a age of locked blocs and process over results. He knows how to work international diplomatic machinery, which is why he was so succesfull as Secretary of State under Bush 41. Look at how they built the coalition against Hussein in 1990. Especially if you compare it to Bush 43's rather shaky grasp of diplomatic relations.
However, Baker, like Bush 41, lacks the "vision" thing. And is mistrustful of anyone who claims to have it. More of a policy executor rather then a policy maker.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, Iain, but you sound like Tony Blair. There is no defending the indefensible and the Iraq war, though it was defended uncritically by IDS, DD and a number of other muscular Tories, falls firmly into that category. The Middle East was and remains a powder keg and it is more dangerous thanks to Bush, Blair and their right-wing allies than it was in 2003. Baker-Hamilton was a ray of sunshine. Even Blair seemed to recognize it (Major, Hurd, Rifkind, and Heseltine all did but then they never sought to "defend" the Iraq war). Views such as those you've expressed are a measure of how shallow Tory thinking still is. It's stuck in the era of the Conrad and Barbara Telegraph and its favorite politician is Liam Fox.

Anonymous said...

"...We live in a very different world today, a world in which the western nations need to understand the threat to them that Islamacist fanatics present..."#

It's a very grey world out there. These "Islamicist fanatics" were paraded around as heroes when the target was the Soviets. It's all about one's own self interest. Some people can't handle that and need and to paint their enemies with labels like "Islamacist fanatics". Makes it easier to stomach the sordid stuff done in our name.

Ewan Watt said...

"He's an advocate of 'realpolitik' and was quite open about the need to engage with regimes which America might not approve of. He felt that the Bush administraton was successfully rebuilding fractured relationships with former allies, although he was scathing about France's role in the build up to the war in Iraq."

Yes, where's the problem in dealing with regimes that American might not approve of? These regimes aren't our real enemey - it's al-Qaeda that's our enemy. Just because we're engaging with these regimes doesn't mean we have approve of them. I for one hate what Russia's doing in Chechnya, but if criticising them prevents me from getting an agreement on non-proliferation then I'll keep my mouth shut.

Let's be honest - we can call Baker's viewpoints decadent, but it still doesn't excuse the fact that Bush's world vision - and policies - have failed. Miserably. I for one think Baker's on the money.

Steven_L said...

the neo-con ideal was good, but was corrupted by greed in my view.

After 9/11 the USA should have spent 2 weeks supposedly in mourning whilst secretly working out the best way to pull all foriegn investments and maintain oil supplies.

Then annouced a policy of 'tough love', pulled all the cash out, and said 'we're re-arming'.

And watched the world cak itself for a couple of years whilst it slowly took its allies back on board behind the scenes.

Then, when it was ready should have surrounded it's enemies in the Middle-East and made its demands.

Bush is a pussy but he's the best they've got.

Anonymous said...

You should have gone to the Oscars, Iain, to cheer on the Queen of your birth county, Essex girl Helen Mirren.

Lord Hanningfield is so impressed with, Lee On Sea born, Helen's Oscar triumph that he's asked Blair to allow him (Lord H) to declare an extra Bank Holiday, just for Essex, in honour of Helen.

If you're reading this blog, Helen, congratulations on your Oscar from another Essex girl, please come and visit Essex on your very own Bank Holiday!

I don't suppose you might get and interview with Helen while you're in the US, Iain?