BAKER’S WORTHLESS IRAQ ADVICE By John Podhoretz

YES, it’s been quite a week for the 10 members of the Iraq Study Group, the committee formed last spring to offer recommendations on a path forward in Iraq.

They had a wonderfully invigorating leak session the other day with The New York Times, which was the first recipient of the group’s key top-level save-America recommendation. Co-chairmen James “Is There An Arab Dictator Nearby Whose Butt I Can Kiss” Baker and Lee “Yes, I’m Still Alive” Hamilton didn’t even bother to pretend to brief the president or key lawmakers first.

The president could wait his turn. After all, this is the Iraq Study Group we’re talking about here, buddy. Even the mighty Times was probably kept waiting for its leak, since the only person who could not be kept waiting was Annie Leibovitz, celebrity photographer nonpareil.

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A Perfect Failure by Robert Kagan & William Kristol

After nine months of deliberation and an unprecedented build-up of expectations that these sages would produce some brilliant, original answer to the Iraq conundrum, the study group’s recommendations turn out to be a pallid and muddled reiteration of what most Democrats, many Republicans, and even Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officials have been saying for almost two years. Thus, according to at least six separate commission sources sent out to pre-spin the press, the Baker-Hamilton report will call for a gradual and partial withdrawal of American forces in Iraq, to begin at a time unspecified and to be completed by a time unspecified. …

It’s not as if the Baker commission has accomplished nothing, however. Although its recommendations will have no effect on American policy going forward, they have already had a very damaging effect throughout the world, and especially in the Middle East and in Iraq. For the Iraq Study Group, aided by supportive American media, has successfully conveyed the impression to everyone at home and abroad that the United States is about to withdraw from Iraq. This has weakened American allies and strengthened American enemies. It has exacerbated the problems in Iraq, as all the various factions in that country begin to prepare for the “inevitable” American retreat. Now it will require enormous efforts by the president and his advisers to dispel the disastrous impression that the Baker commission has quite deliberately created and will continue to foster in the weeks ahead. At home and abroad, people have been led to believe that Jim Baker and not the president was going to call the shots in Iraq from now on.

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