The Baker Commission’s realist take on the Middle East is unrealistic. WSJ editors claim here that Iran’s track record demonstrates that the realist’s Holy Grail of directly engaging Iran diplomatically won’t work.
Washington Times writer Joel Himmelfarb asserts here that the entire basis for the Baker Commission’s deliberations “is absolutely false.” Himmelfarb notes that we have had direct diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria for six decades, but that this has never overcome even our small differences with these regimes, let alone our major differences. Our multi-decade attempt to get these regimes to renounce terrorism has had zero success. In fact, it has had inverse success. (That’s a euphemism for abject failure.)
WSJ Editor James Taranto critiques the Baker Commission’s recommendations here. He believes the plan has some good suggestions, but he also believes that it has major flaws. One flaw is that the realists in Baker’s group conclude that the only way for the U.S. to achieve its goals in the Middle East is to employ all of its capabilities to achieve Arab-Israeli peace.
After noting that we have actually been seriously working on Arab-Israeli peace using the methods prescribed by the realists for decades with no satisfactory results, Taranto asks, “Why is it "realistic" to think that more of the same will magically transform the region now?”
Taranto claims that the “the so-called realists make two unrealistic assumptions.” The first violates principles of realism (i.e. that nations act only in their own self interest). The realists assume “that Arab nations, far from being concerned only with their own interests, have a sentimental attachment to the Palestinian cause.” They do not. They only use it as an excuse. If they were truly concerned, they would open their own borders and work to relieve Palestinians rather than making sure their plight remains desperate.
Taranto writes, “The second goes to a fundamental problem with realism: a failure to distinguish between nations and regimes. It’s obvious that it would be in the interest of Arab nations--especially the currently nonexistent Palestinian one--to coexist peacefully with Israel. But the regimes that rule those nations are concerned above all with self-preservation.”
One self-preservation tactic is to deflect criticism by using Jews as scapegoats for their own problems. (Sound familiar?) Thus, the Arab regimes act in their own interests rather than in the interest of the nations they rule. Regardless of what would be good for the nations they rule, it would be antithetical to the interests of these regimes to actually resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The solution, as Taranto sees it, is democracy. “Democratic regimes are far from perfect, but by providing for popular accountability, they align the interests of the regime with the interests of the nation better than any other system that has been devised.” Thus, Taranto appears to promote the Bush policy of creating a sustainable democratic regime in Iraq.
There has been a veritable love fest for the Baker Commission’s suggestions by the MSM and gushing politicians on both sides of the aisle for weeks. And the report was only released today! I am grateful that the administration has no requirement to actually follow the commission’s suggestions.
I believe it is important for our leaders to get good input so that they can make the best possible decisions. However, they did not run and we did not elect them to merely rubber stamp ideas and decisions made by unelected independent commissions. We hired them to lead and to make the hard decisions. (We also didn't elect them to pass the buck and say that the generals are making all of the decisions. That's not leadership.)
We have gotten into the habit of thinking that independent commissions are good things because they remove the issue at hand from the heat of politics. The MSM assiduously supports unelected independent commissions. We have come to believe that politics is bad whenever there is heated debate, impasse, or power struggles.
But kicking decisions to unelected groups passes the buck and reduces accountability. The Founders intended for us to have spirited debate and even exercise of political power. They felt that this would go a long way toward providing the checks and balances required for good government. Although it might not always be pretty, the decisions should be left in the hands of those that are accountable to the voters.