New “Baker-Christopher Commission” to Probe Constitutional Power Allocations on War-Starting, War-Waging, and War-Ending

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baker christopher.jpg
(Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Washington Moroccan Club President Hassan Samrhouni, and Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III)
The University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs — of which Philip Zelikow used to serve as Director before becoming Condi Rice’s Counselor — has announced the creation of a bipartisan commission that “will examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.”
Former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher will co-chair this enterprise.
Regarding non-traditional wars, the Miller Center announcement states:

When armed conflict is looming, debates about separation of powers and the uncertainty they often generate can impair relations among the branches of government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of government action, and prevent focused attention on policy. Armed conflicts with non-state actors and other non-traditional “wars,” as well as the courts’ involvement in war powers questions, make the Commission’s work relevant.

It will be important for the Commission to deal squarely and up-front with non-traditional wars as well as the ability of the President to issue “findings” ordering covert military action, military actions that are not officially called wars but often seem worse, and conflict conducted through proxies armed, funded, and virtually commanded by the White House and Pentagon. This group, it it is to be taken seriously, needs to consider the “privatization of war” and the many players — not just on the other side of conflict but on our own side — that are mercenaries hired to perform military and security functions.
Traditional war is not something about which there should be much concern on the Constitutional front. What is worrisome in 21st century conflict and Constitutional legitimacy are all the gray areas that have emerged and which power centers are exploiting.
On the Commission will be:

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III co-chair
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher co-chair
Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton
Former Member of Congress Lee Hamilton
Former US Trade Representative Carla Hills
Former Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr.
Former US Attorney General Edwin Meese III
Former Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals Abner Mikva
Former Commander-in-Chief of the US Atlantic Fleet J. Paul Reason
Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft
Woodrow Wilson School/Princeton University Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter
Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott

Doris Kearns Goodwin will serve as “historical adviser” to the Baker-Christopher Commission, and Andrew Dubill, Juliana Bush, and W. Taylor Reveley IV will staff the project.
I had the pleasure of participating in a small dinner hosted by the Stanley Foundation on Monday evening with featured speaker Philip Zelikow, who offered a fascinating talk about the limits and opportunities of deployed force and power in today’s world. I get the sense from his speech, which I may write about another time, that Zelikow is crafting a major article informed by his experience as one of the key players in the Bush administration’s national security bureaucracy on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to state-building, wars, and transnational institution building.
As a friendly nudge to the project, i think that the Baker-Christopher Commission is making a mistake by not inviting Zelikow to serve as one of its members. While I don’t agree with all of his views, Zelikow is one of the few power players in this G.W. Bush era who has thought deeply about America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and how these have seriously shaken and, in some cases, confused and bewildered legal experts whose frames were guided by experience with more normal, classic wars than we are engaged in today.
Two other good resources for the Commission would be the incumbent Legal Adviser to Condi Rice, John B. Bellinger III, and the previous occupant of his job, William Howard Taft IV, who have both had to struggle with the legal mess of these wars — and who both did battle with Cheney’s staff on everything from authorizations for war and the treatment (and potential torture) of prisoners.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

54 comments on “New “Baker-Christopher Commission” to Probe Constitutional Power Allocations on War-Starting, War-Waging, and War-Ending

  1. Pissed Off American says:

    What I find interesting about Steve’s glowing endorsements of personages such as Hagel,or Reid, (or any of the other unlikely recipients of the adoration of an “unbiased” blogger), is the almost non-existent defense he offers when challenged about the rationales for his praise. A staunch admirer of Reid, he has never been able, or made an effort to, communicate his reasons for such admiration. Same can be said for many of his endorsements. When faced with a “mutiny of opinion” about his endorsements by the regular posters here, he usually responds with a personal “confidence” about his own “techniques” in seeking enlightenment, rather than by directly defending, or explaining, what exactly an individual has done to deserve his endorsement. And when specific reasons or past historys are pointed out that would seem to disqualify an individual from recieving the admiration or endorsement, Steve more often that not ignores the points, and moves on to another topic. A prime example of that was his testimonial to Rudy’s “brave and decisive” handling of the 9/11 event. When queried about WHAT exactly was “brave and decisive” about Rudy’s leadership, he was mute. And when Hagel’s connections to ES&S were pointed out, (as well as his seemingly unethical handling of his disclosures of his financial interests in ES&S), once again, Steve offered no comment. I have seen that scenario unfold here time and again, where only flattering portraits are offered, with the warts and blemishes missing from the pictures, treated as if they don’t exist. Steve’s infamous “more later” more often than not could more appropriately be penned “Uh oh, lets move on to other things, theres nothing to see here folks”.
    Its no suprise to most here, but of special interest to me is Steve’s complete avoidance of visiting the issue of AIPAC’s, and Israel’s, influence on the MAJORITY of the people he discusses here. It truly is the elephant in the room, and despite the fact that the elephant is dripping sweat on virtually every item in the room, Steve acts as though if he simply ignores the mess, no one else will notice it either. As much as I despise the Bush Administration, and its corrupt and treasonous leadership, I cannot fail to note that the Israeli lobbys have recieved a bonus by the birth of a democratic majority, and the total subservience the majority of the Democratic leadership displays towards Israel and its lobby organizations. To discuss the various individuals in the leadership roles of the Democratic party without discussing the depth of their loyalty to AIPAC and Israel is like discussing the disease of AIDS without discussing the role sexual intercourse has in contracting it. For Steve to consistently ignore the issue OF AIPAC’s role in supporting our various candidates, both left and right, completely negates any possibility of him presenting us with an honest critique of the individual candidates qualifications or suitabilities for ANY political position, never mind the Presidency of the United States.

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  2. The Skeptical Cynic says:

    This group could be aptly called the Holes in the Head Gang particularly so since it has every commission’s Token Stooge – Lee Hamilton. One might as well have picked Terry Schiavo – in her current condition!

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  3. Marky says:

    Rich,
    I don’t see any point of disagreement with you.
    I certainly wasn’t suggesting that someone is giving kibbles to Oakley and Annie to get Steve to write something positive about some right winger. It’s exactly the issue that the sponsor of a conference directly or indirectly excludes certain voices from being heard, and that is antithetical to Steve’s professed values.

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  4. MP says:

    There was most definitely A HUGE FAILURE on the part of the foreign policy establishment, not to mention the press and Congress and the country as a whole, to keep us out of Iraq. Huge.
    Post 9/11, Bushco was simply able to play the country like a fiddle with only a few voices pointing out how out of tune it was.
    So yes, widening the circle of respected opinion would help a lot. But the other side has to learn to play hardball politics as well as Bush and friends.
    Already, it seems to me, that Mitch McConnell is exerting his power more skillfully than the Dems did when they were in a pretty similar minority position just a little while ago. As far as I can tell, Murtha botched the introduction of his initiative, even keeping his allies in the dark as to its contents. Idiocy.
    The Republicans have this advantage: They were in the minority wilderness for so long, they learned to do a lot with a little. They were, of necessity, scrappier, tougher fighters. The Dems rolled over them simply by virtue of superior numbers. But they never learned to fight. And so now, when they don’t have the numbers–overwhelming majorities–they don’t really know what to do to get their way.

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  5. rich says:

    MP:
    Agree w/ you about “the center.” I often see it as those closer to the establishment, but further from the Constitution as read by the ‘left’ and ‘right.’
    Though I disagree w/ Mark re the outright financial interest, I will say this.
    Anne Marie-Slaughter’s recent conference, self-advertising as ‘radical centrists,’ and posted about on this blog–was financed by David Rubinstein of the Carlyle Group.
    Now, that’s not an automatic indictment. It could even be a good thing. The guest list though, IIRC, as is customary, consisted of the same names drawn from the same reservoirs, who generally already agree with each other.
    Russ Feingold wasn’t invited. Ron Paul wasn’t invited. Nor was Alfred McCoy. Nor was Juan Cole. Nor Amy Goodman or Robert Parry. Clearly oversights. (even if these names weren’t a perfect match, point is on-topic candidates exist)
    The better target is probably the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which seems to turn out non-experts like Donnie Kagan to muscle public debate on tactical military strategy at critical moments. Their funding, their role, more obviously runs counter to the available facts and traditional American political principles.
    Would it be possible, Steve, to offer some insight into how to read these matters?
    It would help ameliorate your critics and shed some light on how to better read the interplay between these Washington figures and civil organizations.
    Since NO one in the press identifies the corporate affiliations of Woolsey, etc., when they’re named as sage, responsible Commissioners–or talk show guests, or expert analysts.
    Wouldn’t a ‘centrist’ really invite–and hear voices of ‘left’ and ‘right’? Since both aren’t so much extreme as just willing to stick more closely to the Constitution, rather than ‘interpretations’ of it that cavalierly frittered it away?
    Wouldn’t a centrist really draw from more institutions, colleges, and civic groups–rather than the same establishment circles?
    Wouldn’t a centrist really seek non-aligned money, and funding from corporations less deeply in-hock to existing power relations?

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  6. MP says:

    Mark writes: “It seems to me—and I would love to be proven wrong—that most posts by Steve, and a big majority of the guest posts here, are produced in part because of a financial interest. Of course the foundation has a viewpoint, and so does Steve, but too often I feel that money changed hands, somewhere, before a post was published.”
    Money changed hands? How so? A contribution to NAF? To one of Steve’s events? Deliveries of kibble for Annie and Oakley?
    The problem with concepts like the “vital center” is that, for most people, the center is where they are, and they look out to the left and right at the “extremists.” Even Jerry Fallow thinks that “most Americans” agree with him.

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  7. Marky says:

    Now HERE’s a hopeful development: “Rice engineered with human genes okayed”.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/01/AR2007030101495_pf.html
    Let’s hope the treatment works in time to stop Armageddon. Also, will the treatment humanize Cheney too?

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  8. MP says:

    Maybe these sorts of Commissions CAN do some good…
    From MJ Rosenberg, Missive #312, “Blue Moon”
    “On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. would send a representative to attend a March 10 “neighbors’ meeting” in Baghdad, called by the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, to help stabilize Iraq. The Iranians and Syrians will also be in attendance. And, in Israel, Rice’s counterpart, Tzipi Livni, revealed that her government – after ignoring the Saudis’ peace initiative when it was issued in 2002 – is now seriously considering it and will tell the Arabs “which parts [of the plan] are acceptable to Israel and what seems to us like an absolute red line.”
    In both cases, a plan that looked like a dead letter – the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and the Saudi (Beirut) initiative – is roaring back to relevance.
    In April, Rice herself will represent the United States at a security conference in Baghdad. Rice will sit at the same table with the Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers.
    Rice, in Congressional testimony announcing US participation in the Baghdad meetings, conceded that she was influenced by the Baker-Hamilton’s call for just this kind of communications with the Iranians and Syrians. Other officials, speaking on background, were quick to reject speculation that the Baghdad meetings could turn out to be a forum where the Baker-Hamilton call for movement on the Arab-Israel front could be advanced. But Iran expert Ray Takeyh, told Time magazine that Rice is “ready to negotiate without preconditions.” In that case, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be on the table.
    Read more at IDF…

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  9. Marky says:

    POA,
    Frankly, Kucinich comes across as an extreme fruitcake to me. Not because of his politics on the war, but some of his other new-agey comments and associations are downright bizarre. But that’s my opinion.
    I know you are interested in seeing his views here, so mentioned people I would like to see. I would like to see Murtha and Ryan represented, for example. But more viewpoints are needed–on that we are both in agreement.

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  10. Pissed Off American says:

    “I don’t know that I’d care to see Kucinich’s views on here…………..”
    Hmm, doesn’t that statement imply the same kid of bias you are accusing Steve of exhibiting?
    I don’t disagree with the gist of your comment, but was somewhat taken aback by the portion I quoted.

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  11. Marky says:

    POA,
    I come to TWN because I find some interesting posts, and often a lively, information discussion in the comment sections. But like you, I have my concerns about the nature of the enterprise represented here.
    It seems to me—and I would love to be proven wrong—that most posts by Steve, and a big majority of the guest posts here, are produced in part because of a financial interest. Of course the foundation has a viewpoint, and so does Steve, but too often I feel that money changed hands, somewhere, before a post was published.For a blog which aims to find the “vital center”, I see a lot of input from the loony right wing warmongering fringe, some constitutional conservative analysis, and from the left… you tell me. I don’t see the contribution from the left which would help one find the “vital center” of American politics. If there is a view critical of the war, apparently it must be expressed by Hagel or Chafee before it can be taken seriously.
    I don’t know that I’d care to see Kucinich’s views on here, but what about Murtha or Jack Ryan?
    Rep. Jack Ryan is a true patriot, and incredibly eloquent. Why not use TWN to showcase his views.
    And, last, the balance on this blog suffers when paeans to a Giuliani or Zelikow are not answered by informed criticism in the blog itself.
    One of the problems with the right wing in this country is that they virtually never have to answer criticism from the left. People like Gingrich, for example—a truly fringe lunatic—are allowed to babble incoherently without challenge in the mainstream media.
    TWN would get a LOT more interest, IMO, if Steve posted more direct challenges to conservatives from left or liberal types.
    I remember some time ago that Steve really had it in for profiteering warmongers such as Woolsey and Perle. More of that—please! My pet peeve is that I see a parade of rational sounding “experts” on the ME who have zero credibility based on their past record—Ken Pollack is a great example.
    I would like to know what kind of confluence of money and politics continues to put Pollacks on our TV at the expense of hearing informed commentary. The story of war profiteering pundits is surely not all told yet.

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  12. Pissed Off American says:

    “And, I do believe that any honest and informed American can with conviction place any trust in Baker or Zelikow.”
    meant to say… “CANNOT with conviction”…

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  13. Pissed Off American says:

    I agree with most of the above, with exception of Steve’s PR work, and MP’s transparent attempt to plant seeds of trust towards a cabal that has earned no such trust.
    The problem with any examination of “what works and what doesn’t” when using the current situation in Iraq as a model is that the examination starts within a fantasy. The only way to legitimately examine the situation in Iraq is by beginning with the truth. And the truth is that this war was launched by lies and fabricated intelligence. And those lies and fabricated intelligence have shaped events ever since. Who knows what support we may have had from the world community if the invasion was based on a true threat from Saddam? Who knows what post invasion plans may have been laid if the premises for the invasion were not fabricated? The whole adventure is based on deception, and as such, it needs to be examined as a deception. Steve states a desire to know the truth, yet he relies on the liars to supply the truth. Does he really think Baker will preside over a panel that begins an investigation that is founded in the fact that this nation was LIED into this costly disaster in Iraq? The ONLY conclusions that can be reached by an impartial and fact-based examination into the history of this mess is that it was criminally instituted, and the administration responsible for those crimes should be impeached, indicted, and punished. And to think Baker, or any of the other puppets listed as participants, are going to publically recognize the crimes of Bush/Cheney is pure fantasy.
    My roommate thinks Steve is a PR man, and is funded by the institutions and people he writes about. I have disagreed with her for some time now, but my resolve is weakening.
    You do not turn to known liars for the truth. Both Baker and Zelikow have not earned America’s trust, and any conclusions reached by either person, or any panel they may participate in, will be deceptive and designed to excuse the actions of this Administration.
    And, I do believe that any honest and informed American can with conviction place any trust in Baker or Zelikow. Any stated opinions of trust towards these people is simply salesmanship.

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  14. epv says:

    That Bush 41 has engineered his corrupt Crime Family consiglierie Baker to continue the quest to rescue his imbecilic son Bush 43 from self-made follies, costing the lives of tens of thousands of innocents, is nauseating.
    In the “search” for “clarification” via-a-vis constitutional powers– We the People deserve an independent assessment by genuine constitutional scholars– not political hacks on a raving mission to pull George W. Bush’s chestnuts-out-of-the-fire.
    It is clear to many legal scholars that Bush should be impeached and put on trial for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. This current Baker-xxx commission is another diversionary tactic devised to lull us into a false sense of complacency regarding the abuses of power by this neo-con regime.

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  15. rich says:

    Steve,
    I won’t write an essay–no time.
    But don’t get distracted by these all-out attacks. It’s easy enough to grasp that not all silent admin officials have mal-intent. Many stay on to mitigate/balance bad actors.
    That doesn’t mean your critics don’t have a point. You yourself said after your afternoon wine event, that the real inside players confessed to you “they’d exhausted every option they could conceive of.”
    Yet out of 300 million Americans, we’ve got the same lineup that pops up on every other crisis-prompted Commission. Drawn from the same cast(e) of establishment characters that so loved the status quo they got us into this mess, through inaction, actively, or by facilitating those who did. Whose ideas are, in their own words–reported by you–“exhausted.”
    Is it even remotely credible to think these guys are the ONLY American citizens with the gravitas, intellect, and integrity to serve or find solutions to this crisis?
    I think not. Same buncha guys that are on EVERY deep-diggin’ commission. And yet:
    Kevin Phillips–Repub strategist & Nixon admin official–says “Lee Hamilton is somebody who’s made a name in Washington for being somebody who never follows the trail close to the White House or anybody important. .. He was the chairman of the House Select Committee on Iran-Contra and he didn’t find anything. Then he was the head of the task force of the House of Representatives on the October Surprise.” And the 9-11 Commission. And the Iraq Study Group. Now, this. Teh point isn’t to find anything.
    Frankly, I’m in no mood to go into chapter-&-verse right now. But, really: isn’t Doris Kearns Goodwin just the longtime “beard” (or fig-leaf) for essentially ahistorical processes/dealmaking? The happy face of policies un-moored from the Constitution?
    There are other historians. Shouldn’t their voices be heard?? If UVA cared about history or the War Powers, wouldn’t they get Alfred McCoy?
    Aren’t there hundreds of historians available? Constitutional scholars?
    James Baker’s up to his eyeballs in conflict-of-interest. The clientele at Baker Botts, Carlyle Group, oil dealings, his intimate relations with Bush & the architects of this mess–is Baker an appropriate choice? Does he have sufficient distance?
    Anne-Marie Slaughter: wrote “No More Blank-Check Wars” w/Gelb–but her ‘radical-centrist’ conference (via yr post) was financed by David Rubinstein–of the Carlyle Group. How–responsible.
    We don’t need any Commission to read Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution FOR us. That’d be the antithesis of a public service.’ “Interpreting” it out of existence is not within their capacity.
    Course, the Baker-Christopher Commission has no authority. None. Not elected. Not appointed. It’s a pre-emptive attempt at damage control–one that can only short-circuit legitimate, Constitutionally-based Congressional action.
    I can’t impute bad motives w/o evidence. But it’s past time to get on with it. The documentation available does indicate some members are, & the “Commission” is, compromised. Fresh blood; new ideas.
    Not long ago, military leaders ordered officers handling the nuclear suitcase not to turn it over, when Nixon was at his least stable, w/o alerting them. Maybe that’s why there haven’t been resignations among the Joint Chiefs.
    This stuff is very plain. More later.

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  16. Pissed Off American says:

    “……and frankly, I’m deeply interested in how people in power framed and rationalized their positions and need to know what the terms of debate inside the administration were.”
    Well and good, Steve. When you get through sorting through the lies they will feed you, let us know what line of crap you bought, will you?.

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  17. Pissed Off American says:

    “The true recipient of the screwing is the American people.”
    Well, only if you ignore 650,000 dead Iraqi non-combatants.

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  18. Den Valdron says:

    It’s a vulgar metaphor. But Bush has no interest in Osama Bin Laden. He’s made that very clear.
    The true recipient of the screwing is the American people.
    To be fair, the question this Committee is addressing is long overdue. It’s been overdue since 1950. The US has during the last half century engaged dozens of foreign military actions. Not an official war in the group.
    This is a situation of way late.

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  19. DB says:

    Any commission with Ed Meese on it is a joke.
    With regards to Steve’s comments about competing players within a given administration… let’s not forget that this administration is the one that asked people about their views on Roe v. Wade before giving them jobs in Baghdad. This is the same administration that screens people before allowing them to witness political rallies. This is the same administration that has spent the past few weeks firing U.S. Attorneys, quite possibly for not towing the line.
    Sure there are different ideas that some people may have. Zelikow might have a different perspective than anybody else in the administration. Probably does, since he was driven out.
    But let’s not get carried away thinking that this administration is a petri dish for great ideas. It’s a graveyard for original thinking.

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  20. AG says:

    Steve:
    Please respond.
    How does Zelikow explain that the “9/11 Commission Report” that he oversaw failed to disclose the emergency briefing on intelligence threat warnings that CIA’s Tenet and Black gave on 11 July 01 to WH national security officials?
    And how does Zelikow explain the fact that Rice and Ashcroft lied about it — pretending not to recall any such event — when they were initially confronted about it?
    Reportedly, Zelikow personally, in his capacity as 9/11 Commission staff executive director, received the 11 July 01 PowerPoint briefing from Tenet.
    The report that Zelikow oversaw was published 22 July 04, slightly more than three months before the presidential election.
    There had been a huge public flap when Rice — forced by public pressure to testify to the Commission in public — disclosed the title of the PDB of 6 Aug 01, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
    If the American people had been told by the 9/11 Commission about the 11 July 01 emergency briefing, Bush might have been defeated.
    What has Zelikow said, and isn’t he shown to be a Bush-Rice shill?

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  21. Robert M. says:

    And so as to avoid “hasty retreat” THEN, how about a redeployment NOW?
    And just who will bring the news of “We’re doing this NOW, sir” to the feckless Undecider? Petraeus has the stones but this needs a politico. Mitch McConnell and John Warner? Where is the Barry Goldwater from the Hill to bring the reality home to clueless George? Or is this 41’s Last Service to his country?

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  22. km4 says:

    Screw the blowhards at the New “Baker-Christopher Commission”…
    Military chiefs give US six months to win Iraq war
    Simon Tisdall
    Wednesday February 28, 2007
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2023541,00.html
    An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq – or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

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  23. km4 says:

    > In such a case, Steve’s whole point of diversity and dialogue becomes nothing more than a sort of foreskin. A useless piece of flesh offering a degree of cosmetic protection and concealment for the missile right behind it.
    It’s a vulgar metaphor indeed. But sadly, it has become all too appropriate. Steve’s ‘chattering class’ has become the Bush administration’s foreskin. That’s why the world is being fucked.
    Posted by Den Valdron at February 28, 2007 01:15
    **************************************
    Den you graphic analog brought this to mind…
    Instead of capturing and/or killing OBL Bush wants to screw him in the ass.
    Impeach Bush and Cheney because it’s the right thing to do.

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  24. MP says:

    I dunno. Isn’t it sort of obvious why one sees the same names over and over? They are all in the same “industry”–the foreign policy industry. They know each other. They respect each other’s expertise and experience. And they distrust the people they don’t know–or rather, they don’t believe these others will bring anything useful to the table. And they distrust the people whose opinions they’ve long ago written off, say, a Howard Zinn, for various reasons. These folks are no different from any other professional or business group, in that sense.
    Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of these people (compared to, say, doctors), so they quickly start to recycle a lot of the same ideas, but with some variations. I find nothing remarkable in this.
    (On these comments, for example, the range of opinion–with the exception of a few outliers–is pretty limited as well.)
    Unfortunately, with Iraq, or even Iran, there AREN’T that many different choices (imo) even for folks who are diametrically opposed to each other. Change happens, mostly, when one or the other side changes what it’s willing to do or allow, and the “new” things become possible.
    Having said that, Jimmy Carter thought pretty highly of Warren Christopher–gave him the Medal of Freedom–and so did Justice William O Douglas. So I’m willing to listen to what these guys come up with.
    Mostly, though, I’m reminded again of how much elections (especially for President) matter and how dangerous it is to be cynical about the process and to say there are no differences between the candidates. With a President Gore, Clinton (either one), Kerry, Mondale, Obama, Vilsak, Kucinich, Ford, Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Dean, Kennedy, Carter, even an HW Bush god help me…and the world looks a WHOLE lot different than it does today.

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  25. Frank says:

    What I want to know is who is going to play the piano. What a freaking joke.
    I wish there was a commission to study the collapse of WTC bldg 7. Now that would be interesting.
    Zelikow missed his calling. He should have been a hollywood script writer based on the 9/11 commission report.

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  26. Robert M. says:

    Steve,
    From THIS historian’s POV (& boy, is Doris short! Standing next to her in the old CFPL lobby, when she was checking out all the Kennedy books, made me feel like a giant), why, yes, its important to know of & understand the diversity of opinion on war power issues at the senior levels of the B/C admin, so as to understand why those never had a snowball’s chance in hell of coming to fruition or in checking the misguided maunderings of power-panderers like Yoo. But the key to that understanding already exists in our present knowledge of the B/C dynamic–as stated above, retention of political power for ideological reasons, the Constitution and established American political mores be damned. Cheney has been pursuing this operational loophole zealously since the Ford Administration–at the least.
    (An American example of what Simon Schama described as the “tipping power” of Anne Bolyen over Henry VIII re destruction of England’s Catholic structure, carried to fruition by H’s Machiavel-Cromwell. Or perhaps I should say the “tupping power” of said Boleyn younger sister.)
    If there is need, and there is, for a better understanding By The American People of the Executive’s war powers in relation to The Congress, than let The Congress conduct such hearings for revision of the War Powers Act. Bring Yoo and all the Now Known Unitary Executive Usual Suspects (including Addington and Cheney) before the bar for sworn depositions. Let us hear just what people think was said in The Federalist; what SCOTUS has writ; what the Congress has actually sanctioned; what treaties aid or limit exercise of the war power, etc. Do this by Constitutional Means, not some ad-hoc commission of no weight nor prospects. Bush, or any president, will do to its results just what Lincoln did with the Peace Commission.
    For all the reasons cited above, this commission is a JOKE, and, your support of it, a low point in your relation to your readers. Oscar Wilde could not have created a better cast of characters for his new play, “Vice-President Cheney’s Fan-dango”.
    Delenda est Unitary Executive.

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  27. Marcia says:

    “ It will be important for the Commission to deal squarely and up-front with non-traditional wars as well as the ability of the President to issue “findings” ordering covert military action, military actions that are not officially called wars but often seem worse, and conflict conducted through proxies armed, funded, and virtually commanded by the White House and Pentagon. This group, it it is to be taken seriously, needs to consider the “privatization of war” and the many players — not just on the other side of conflict but on our own side — that are mercenaries hired to perform military and security functions.
    Traditional war is not something about which there should be much concern on the Constitutional front. What is worrisome in 21st century conflict and Constitutional legitimacy are all the gray areas that have emerged and which power centers are exploiting.”
    I would not say these grey areas have emerged, but rather that they have been wrested by the executive branch from the two other branches of government, that offered no resistance, to establish the new all powerful anti-constitutional ruling presidency.
    It is in this frame that a private mercenary army is now operating, controlled directly by the WH and their corporate gang members and that since their hidden crimes in South America in the fifties and the endless list of interventions on almost every continent, the CIA is now a tool used in secret and against whomever it is directed. People are already being detained on our soil in camps and prisons. Who will be next?
    American citizens are serving as ATM machines to finance this empire and are being led to the slaughter house as docilely as domesticated animals. Our democracy is being sacrificed to empire by individuals concerned only by their insane lust for power presented as “American Interests.” Hunger and poverty will soon rule in our land as they rule in all countries functioning as Banana Republics.
    The serious studies such as those of Steve’s colleagues Peter Bergen, Paul Cruickshank, Flynt Leverett are put aside in favor of those furnished by political Soviet-styled valets, just as Federal judges are summarily dismissed. Why? The Yoo’s and Gonzales know the answers and we can see the ugly head of the beast creeping upon us step by step.
    Now we have another “bi-partisan” commission that lacks only Joe Lieberman to be truly bi-partisan. Is there anyone left who does not understand that the US intends to stay in the ME and especially to use Iraq as a base? The Republicans and Democrats both understand this quite well. Tomorrows arrives one by one and now they have their sights on Iran.
    .

    Reply

  28. David N says:

    I really agree with the concensus of these comments. The same people will suck up a couple more million dollars to come up with conclusions they have already reached, when the problem is now and always has been obvious.
    Bush and Cheney do not listen to anything and anyone that does not agree with their prior conclusions. Just like this study commission.
    Thus, the conventional nonsense wins again, nothing changes, more lives are lost to support a failed policy and a failed president.
    Bush has spent his entire life running businesses into the ground, then getting Daddy’s friends to buy him out at a profit so he could call himself a “success.” The trouble is, even Daddy doesn’t have the money or the friends — not even pal Abdullah — to buy us out of what Junior has done to our country.
    The commission will then come up with a “bi-partisan” — i.e. corporate — appology, emphasizing “institutional” problems, when we all know that the real problem is that Bush and Cheney have ignored all institutional and legal checks on their power, and the Congress and the courts — paid servants of the corporate interests — let them.
    We know what the solution is. Only trouble is, we’ll have to wait twenty months (plus another three) to carry it out. And that only because the Democrats don’t have the spine to do the right thing and impeach both Bush and Cheney, and then take them and everyone else in the administration to court for their crimes, including treason.

    Reply

  29. Marky says:

    I’d really like to know what a “Centrist” solution to an out of control, lawless Republican administration, and a GOP Senate which operates as an arm of the exective branch is.
    Why listen to both sides if one side says “don’t mind our lawbreaking—and by the way, the attack on Iran is coming when we say it is”.
    I just don’t get it.
    There is an enormous difference between calling oneself centrist and saying one is solution-oriented.
    In fact, to belong to the GOP is to recite a creed which asserts that the government can solve no problems. Is that one of the allowable inputs to a solutions-oriented analyst?

    Reply

  30. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Ian —
    Thanks for your note — thoughtful, straightforward.
    The reality is that I’m a secular, centrist who believes in solutions oriented thinking.
    I once headed the Nixon Center — and I talk to all sides, or try to, in these debates. I’m not a normal liberal. I don’t belong to the Liberal Blog Ad Network for exactly the reasons you state.
    But very much appreciate the note…and am very close to Josh Marshall and am glad you support TPM as well.
    But there are differences — because, umm…we are different.
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  31. Roscoe Strut says:

    Yada, yada, yada… the usual cast of characters, then we come to Doris “Is she really an historian?” Goodwin. Well, I guess she can help read the books authored by real historians. I find it hard to believe that Doris is the best “historian” that the Miller Center could draft for this project.

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  32. Den Valdron says:

    *Strobe* Talbot?
    Anne Marie *Slaughter*?
    *Slade* *Gorton*
    What the hell is it with your country, Steve? Can we stop with the obviously goofy 3rd rate Bond villain names.
    Honestly, whats next. Michael Killallt-Heragheads, or Stephanie Setswinosonfire?

    Reply

  33. Linda says:

    I agree with much of the above. Remember that every university in order to be in the top tier of research universities has to have its international relations/public policy center and then do programs that gain attention. And these centers are really think tanks. So that’s what the Miller Center and UVA are doing, and if not there, then one of these centers or think tanks would have come up with something similar as this is a “hot topic.”
    And indeed they have come up with a rather tired old group of the same usual suspects to be on the Commission. I’m not sure what Carla Hills is doing there because this isn’t about global trade–except that they needed a woman. Madeline Albright would have been more interesting. Or perhaps Howard Baker, Sam Nunn, William Cohen–though some of those, I think, have ties to programs at other universities. It’s pretty much a matter of “have credentials, will travel and serve on Commission.”
    An excellent Republican choice would have been Tom Campbell who while in the House from No Cal unsuccessfully sued Clinton for violating the War Powers Act re: Kosovo. Campbell lost Senate race to Feinstein in 2000 and returned to his prior academic appointment at Stanford Law School and now is Dean of the Business School at UC Berkeley. He clerked for Whizzer White at SCOTUS. I don’t think military people are important for this as it is a civilian constitutional issue of Executive v. Legislative branch.
    And for most of us, it becomes a bit tiresome to have so much study, production of reports and recommendations, and so little action.

    Reply

  34. eCAHNomics says:

    “It does always seem to be the same people serving on these commissions.”
    The fix is in.

    Reply

  35. susan says:

    The goal of the new committee’s proposals will be the same as goal of the last Iraq Study Group: continue this crime and, under the mantle of bipartisanship, pursue the original objectives of the war—conquering a country with the world’s second-largest oil reserves as part of a strategy of using US military superiority to establish the global hegemony of American capitalism.
    In presenting the first report, the panel’s Republican chairman, James Baker, dismissed any idea that it represented a call for an end to the US intervention. “This report does not in any way call for a graceful exit,” Baker declared. “In fact, we specifically say we agree with the president’s articulated goal.”
    Baker added, “The report also makes clear: We’re going to have a really robust American troop presence in Iraq and the region for a very long time.
    Maybe Steve could use his influence to get his old friend Chalmers Johnson to serve on this new study group. Johnson clearly understands what is wrong with our Iraq policy and what must be done to extricate ourselves from the mess Bush created.

    Reply

  36. Den Valdron says:

    Steve’s notion that there are multiple schools of thought on every issue, dominated by a handful of personalities in a fundamentally schizophrenic administration is interesting.
    On the other hand, I’d take issue with it in a number of respects. First and foremost, I’d argue that within the American elite and policy circles, there is a remarkable degree of consensus and uniformity.
    Taking Steve as an example, there might be debate over what steps to take on Iran, when and how, but there is no debate over whether Iran is a threat or needs to be confronted. Steve’s social or elite consensus never contemplates any other meme than that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, is in imminent danger of obtaining one, and that Iran is a threat to American interests for which a response is required.
    In short, the schizophrenic diversity that Steve sees is, in the eyes of people like me or Pissed Off American, a gamut that runs from A to B&1/2.
    Secondly, I think Steve fundamentally mischaracterizes the policy and decision making process of the Bush administration. It is driven exclusively by two criteria – ideology and loyalty.
    Indeed, we know from Iraq that the Green Zone administration was populated with second or third rate functionaries whose chief asset was their ideological purity or party loyalty. Interviews for Iraq occupation personnel included on occasion whether they supported Roe v. Wade.
    Dissent or dissenting views were never welcome. Bush’s response to the “Osama Bin Laden intends to strike INSIDE the United States” was ‘well, you’ve covered your ass.’ General Shinseki, when he demurred over troop numbers required for an occupation, was shown the door. Joe Wilson was punished, even if that meant destroying major CIA assets and projects.
    The range of viewpoints that Steve makes so much of, truly has never been very wide. And under the Bush administration it has narrowed astonishingly.
    I’m sure these people are all civil and broad minded when it comes to the sort of cocktail party chit chat that forms much of the interaction for Steve’s social class. But lets be real.
    Take Iran for example… if the only acceptable parameters of discussion are that Iran is a threat to the US and the region, that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, and that Iran is in imminent danger of acquiring one, and that Iran will then use its nuclear weapon to threaten and destabilize the US and the region…
    Well, that’s a question that poses its own answer, doesn’t it?
    In such a case, Steve’s whole point of diversity and dialogue becomes nothing more than a sort of foreskin. A useless piece of flesh offering a degree of cosmetic protection and concealment for the missile right behind it.
    It’s a vulgar metaphor indeed. But sadly, it has become all too appropriate. Steve’s ‘chattering class’ has become the Bush administration’s foreskin. That’s why the world is being fucked.

    Reply

  37. Marky says:

    The problem is simply this: the panel seeks to form a bipartisan solution to a completely polarized, partisan problem. The Bush GOP’s lawless power grab will only be solved by the Democrat’s winning and exercisint power. To call for a bipartisan panel to examine the GOP’s fascism is to insist that nothing be done. Look at the latest news about the US attorney firings —US GOP congressmen pressured a US attorney to issue indictments against Democrats on the eve of the November elections. The attorney refused, and now he’s among the fallen.
    Repeat after me: the GOP is the problem. Hagel is the problem just as much as Bush.

    Reply

  38. daCascadian says:

    A very right of center “commission” is going to tell “We the people…” what their Constitution says ?
    This is a big insiders joke, correct ?
    Get off your high horse folks, inside the Beltway is NOT the real world. That includes you Steve so quit being an apologist for rightwing trash.
    James Baker, Slade Gorton, Edwin Meese ?
    Jeeze, I suppose it could be even more rightwing but only by adding Rush Limbaugh & Pat Robertson.
    Time to consider kicking in the door…
    “All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

    Reply

  39. spk says:

    It does always seem to be the same people serving on these commissions. One wonders why there aren’t other qualified people in the country. Specifically on this issue, which is one of the most important we face today, organizations like Human Rights First, the Center for Costitutional Rights, and the ACLU, among others, are working in very direct ways on these issues and confronting the ramifications of current Administration policies. Why not invite someone, or some people, from these organizations to participate?

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  40. Dennis says:

    It is unfortunate that these “committees” do not read these comments. My life experience says they wouldn’t give a damn anyway.
    Like Ben Franklin(?) said in effect [Everybody on a committee has his own agenda]. The agenda for these powerplayers is to protect their own turf first, then after that, whatever happens happens.
    One thing for certain, the “herd mentality” that the American people are supposed to follow isn’t working – at least, right now.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

    Reply

  41. Ian Kaplan says:

    Steve, I’m sorry to say that your soft Republican
    tendencies are slowly undermining any credibility
    you have. Only someone who is part of
    the Washington establishment would even pretend
    to believe that a committee that has Baker and
    the infamous Edwin Meese on it would come up with
    anything but Republican window dressing. Yes,
    I notice the other names (Strobe Talbott
    Anne-Marie Slaughter and Christopher). All this
    means is that these people will come up with
    something tepid at best. All this is damage
    control to try to contain the wreckage that
    G.W. Bush has done to the “conservative cause”
    and our nation as a whole. But there will be
    no honest discussion of how this happened. Or
    how the conservative establishment has been an
    enabler and architect of the disaster that is
    G.W. Bush.
    There is a real difference between The Washington
    Note and a publication like Talking Points Memo
    (by Josh Marshall). The difference is that
    Josh Marshall makes his money as a journalist. He
    is not part of the Washington think tank
    establishment, which must raise money to pay
    salaries. If you’re a think tank that angers
    the political establishment or appears too “radical”
    There’s a good chance that your funding will
    dry up. In this vein your approach is perfect.
    There are times when The Washington Note poses
    as a journalistic enterprise. But this is just
    a pose because you, Steve, are as much a
    Washington insider as the Washington press corp
    which is constantly currying favor with their
    insider sources (in contrast to Seymour Hersh,
    for example).
    I’m sure that this is going to piss you off,
    Steve. How dare I suggest that you’re tainted
    by your association with the Washington power
    establishment and the exigencies think tank
    employment! Well, look in the mirror.
    This does not mean that I will not read The
    Washington Note. But I will always remember the
    difference between The Washington Note and
    Talking Points Memo. Although I will admit that
    The Washington Note has better dog pictures.
    Ian

    Reply

  42. spk says:

    It does always seem to be the same people serving on these commissions. One wonders why there aren’t other qualified people in the country. Specifically on this issue, which is one of the most important we face today, organizations like Human Rights First, the Center for Costitutional Rights, and the ACLU, among others, are working in very direct ways on these issues and confronting the ramifications of current Administration policies. Why not invite someone, or some people, from these organizations to participate?

    Reply

  43. Carroll says:

    When do all these “committies” end?
    What the is the purpose of this one? Who asked them to study who has what kind of war powers for what chosen war? What will be done exactly with whatever they come up with? Will their finding be inserted into the constitution, presented to the Supreme court, used by or against the congressional powers? What exactly will this committee change..anything?
    Jesus christ on a stick!…will this incessent never ending gazing at our hubristic navel “industry” ever end?…Ever?
    Sign me up for the committee to take Washington’s farewell warning and shove it down all the DC throats till they choke.
    Study Period is Over. The Frame Shop is closed. So sayth the majority of the American people.

    Reply

  44. Garland Tomlin says:

    It is most distressing after being an authorized country in the eyes of the world for 230+ years and some 8+ wars, this Nation’s government, assorted federally associated organizations and several university studies on the subject of distribution of government organization powers there is another study being proposed to identify governmental separation of powers. Are we just plain and unbearably stupid. The U.S. Congress performs declaration. The Office of the President administers the declaration. If Congress is opposed to what it previously declared, it can void previous declarations based on citizens desire and support. Remember the People decide what the government is to do. It is sad the citizens don not enforce their authority.

    Reply

  45. JoMoHo says:

    The administration is surely not a monolithic entity as Steve states but it seems to increasingly resemble a monarchical/nobility based government.
    Instead of Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons making up a (familial) peerage system we have the modern day equivalents to “life Lords”, as seen in the UK today (meaning non-inheritable titles) but behaving more like those have have inheritable Honours. With names like William Howard Taft IV and John B. Bellinger III; along with the Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton dynasties of recent years our so-called democracy resembles 18th century UK.
    Just look at the inbred, recycled dingle-berries that have made up the government since and including Nixon. Despite the multitude of High Crimes and Felonies (let alone Misdemeanors) since Watergate and through Iran-Contra through Iraq II we witnessed a bunch of criminals who’ve had their wrists slapped only to have them go back into circulation. Once an Earl, always an Earl. “Nobody above the law” is a hollow joke in the US.
    King George II (Bush), the House of Lords (the Senate), and the pathetic parliament (the House). We need another Glorious revolution I am afraid…

    Reply

  46. PUBLIUS says:

    “Iraq and the ‘Bush Doctrine’ of Pre-emptive Self-Defence”, August 20, 2002, Thomas Franck, Murray and Ida Becker Professor of Law, New York University Law School, author of the forthcoming RECOURSE TO FORCE (Cambridge University Press).
    http://www.crimesofwar.org/expert/bush-franck.html
    “It’s much more important to see a process at work here than to see a rule. The rule of course is important but the rule is going to have to be interpreted flexibly – and the key question is not, what are the terms of the rule now that it’s being interpreted flexibly? The really important question is, what is the process by which the rule is interpreted? And if the process is an entirely unilateral one, in which the strong do as they will and the weak have to accept it, then we’re right back to the Peloponnesian wars and I think most countries would resist that and therefore if the United States were to move in that Peloponnesian kind of fashion, it seems to me highly likely that everybody else will line up in opposition. And quite aside from the interests of lawyers in the matter, the United States couldn’t win a war in Iraq except with a very high body count if it has no support at all from the rest of the world.”

    Reply

  47. Zathras says:

    Interesting that a commission convened to consider separation of powers includes only three former legislators (two of them long since retired) as members.
    That’s just an aside. The main thing I wanted to say was that “more normal, classic wars” in the Constitutional sense haven’t happened in a really long time. The last war declared by Congress and concluded by treaty short of surrender was the one against Spain in 1898. The last two wars to be declared ended with the occupation, by America and its allies, of the countries against which the declarations were made. The next war after them, the one in Korea, was not declared at least in part because the United States wanted to avoid giving the impression that it intended to fight to a finish (against the Chinese, then, as well as the North Koreans who had started the war) as it had in both World Wars. Conflicts since then have followed that precedent, except for the Panama invasion of 1989 and, of course, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
    The point is that from the standpoint of the Constitution’s language granting Congress power to declare war — which reflected 18th century practice among European states — all of these conflicts are anomalies. European wars in the 18th century were mostly not fought to the point where one of the combatants was destroyed, as in the World Wars, nor was combat among states often conducted in the absence of some kind of declaration. The United States did, of course, conduct numerous military operations against entities not recognized as states during the first century or so after independence; while many of these had explicit Congressional authorization none had a formal declaration.
    It seems to me that the formation of this Commission is less a product of any Constitutional confusion about war powers than it is of a consensus — outside the Bush administration, anyway — that the prevailing dispensation, under which the Defense Department is dominant in the implementation of foreign policy and Congress is mostly an observer, has placed the country in situations that do not serve its interests. Legal questions, and even structural questions, are secondary; they arise from a political environment in which foreign policy was an afterthought for most elected officials throughout the 1990s, and remains a subject that most of official Washington approaches without a frame of reference dating back before September of 2001.

    Reply

  48. Brigitte N. says:

    It is a good idea to take a fresh look at power sharing between the two political branches in matters of war and peace and have no problem with a bi-partisan panel of well-known Washington insiders. But I regret that there is not an equal number of first-rate constitutional/legal scholars. Only if they are well represented in the group will the panel’s conclusions be credible and useful.

    Reply

  49. Dennis says:

    I’m on POA’s side. These “power people” play with human lives like they are nothing but pawns to be thrown away. Other than their “authority”, they don’t feel anything. Baker is a joke.
    Edwin Meese? Jesus Christ!
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

    Reply

  50. Pissed Off American says:

    Steve, do you really think the Bush family consigliere, Baker, is going to preside over, or frame any conclusions here that are truly subjective? I realize there are polar schools of thought within the Bush Administration, but our current situation is not a result of polar schools of thought reaching compromising policies through intellectual give and take. We are currently suffering the effects of unilateral policy decisions determined by a select few. Zelikow happens to be one of those select few. A PNACer, Zelikow has been board with the massive deception known as the GWOT since its inception. Also Steve, you cannot possibly believe that someone such as Zelikow, who has been so deeply into the inner sanctums of this treasonous anmd criminal regime, does not have the information and the intelligence to tell the American people EXACTLY what deceptions and intelligence fabrications were used, criminally, to take this nation to war. Any member of our government, that has such information, and does not use it to seek the impeachment and indictment of Bush/Cheney is COMPLICIT in the war crimes and deceptions launched by this Administration. And, in light of their complicity, to think that any forum, investigation, or panel they participate in will be subjective or thorough, is asinine.

    Reply

  51. liz says:

    Oh great, I am terribly impressed that Baker Hamilton is reconvening to try again *(harder this time maybe)?>

    Reply

  52. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — You seem to think that every actor inside a Bush administration simultaneously hold the same views and are equally responsible for the outcomes of policy. I don’t agree. There are passive players in policy battles and active ones. There are some that were heroes in the debate about torture and the Geneva Conventions — and others who weren’t. Every presidential administration is essentially schizophrenic — with multiple personalities competing with one another. Some are dominant personalities — and others are subordinated, for a while. So, I don’t see this the way you do — and frankly, I’m deeply interested in how people in power framed and rationalized their positions and need to know what the terms of debate inside the administration were.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com

    Reply

  53. Pissed Off American says:

    “…….that Zelikow is crafting a major article informed by his experience as one of the key players in the Bush administration’s national security bureaucracy on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to state-building, wars, and transnational institution building.”
    ROFLMAO!!!!!! Tell me Steve, in light of these past six years of one huge clusterfuck after another, how in God’s name do you expect Zelikow to be able to tell us “what works and what doesn’t”? If these clowns knew what worked and what doesn’t this nation wouldn’t be in this situation.
    One thing is for damned sure, those that KNEW what wouldn’t work are being ignored, both here and in the MSM.
    Instead of another mind meld of the kinds of thinkers that got us into this mess, how about we pool the minds that recommended AGAINST the policies of the Bush Administration? And lets throw the Bakers and the Zelikows out with the rest of the trash.

    Reply

  54. eCAHNomics says:

    Ah yes, another commission whose results will be ignored. Hopefully they’ll let Zelikow author the report–he is a fabulous fantasy writer.

    Reply

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