The Great Conflation

Baker Just heard the sainted James Baker on "Hardbrain."  He said that:

1 – He is a friend of the dynasty.

2 – The prez has blessed his effort.  Paraphrasing – "You come back, Jim and tell me whut yuh got."  (That was the sum total of his guidance)

3- He does not know if the prez is going to like what they write.

4- Paraphrasing – "If we pull out of Iraq, the Terrorists will take it over  and make it into a base to attack us again."  (and the world).

There it is again.  The great conflation.  Forget about the Sunni insurgents who said today that they are willing to negotiate with us.  Forget about the interests and friends of the Iranian government in the country.  Forget about the "sectarian violence" that drills kneecaps and ribs and then shoots in the head by the thousands.  Forget all that.

Not a surprise that he said #4?  Good.  If you are not surprised it is because you are not simple minded, but here we have the "last great hope" selling us this bullshit.

Too bad.

Pat Lang

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40 Responses to The Great Conflation

  1. semper fubar says:

    Well, he’s the Bush family fixer. Did anyone think he was really going to give an honest assessment of the situation? He’s only in there to try to salvage the Bush family name and reputation, not to help America actually deal with the huge disaster the Idiot Son has created.

  2. Richard Whitman says:

    Pat, lets not prejudge the ISG. They may actually come up with something “less stupid” than what we are now doing.

  3. T-Bone says:

    Col, you are the man.

  4. James Pratt says:

    Baker has devoted most of his career to promoting the financial interests of the wealthiest members of the oil industry. His actions, and the continued pro-war political campaign contributions of those oil people, speak louder than words in defining the real attitude of Big Oil towards the Iraq War,(despite numerous public denials). This war is the biggest subsidy they have gotten from the American taxpayer and soldier to date and Baker can be trusted to guard the gravy train for them. They can’t expect new discoveries to fulfill new oil demand anymore.

  5. John Howley says:

    The conflation is also present in the routine news coverage of the “violence in Iraq.” Typically, there is a reference to sectarian violence, perhaps a mention of U.S. casualties and then, invariably, there is a mention of something related to AQII — another suspected Number Three was arrested or whatever. The impression in the mind of the listener is that our soldiers are being killed by AQII.
    Most experts tell me that foreign fighters (organized by AQII) are less than ten percent of the problem. So, who is this mysterious 90 percent of the enemy attacking and killing our soldiers who is never identified?
    “Insurgents” and “militias” are nameless and meaningless. The only NAMED enemy is AQII and sometimes Muktada.
    I guess this is why it was so important for DoD to hold a press conference annointing the successor to Zarqawi after he was killed.
    The Conflation you have identified is implicit in the news coverage most Americans get.

  6. Yohan says:

    No surprise at all, just another Team B.

  7. lina says:

    “There it is again. The great conflation.”
    They will rewrite the script after the election – especially if they lose big. Because let’s face it, the ONLY thing the Bush crowd has done well is win elections. If this one goes as it is projected to go, they will have finally failed at the only thing they know. Post Nov. 7, the players will change and the slogans will change.
    I was struck during that interview by the sheer absurdity of having to appoint a blue ribbon commission to formulate a war strategy. I don’t even think Lyndon Johnson had to stoop that low.
    The Baker group is supposed to be providing political cover, but instead it simply underscores how weak, ineffectual and clueless this Commander in Chief really is.

  8. wtofd says:

    I listened to Baker on the News Hour and thought, He drank the kool-aid.
    But do you think anything good can come from this man? In other words, are you impressed with his history of forcing Shamir to freeze settlement expansion by withholding loan guarantees in 92? Is there any realpolitik in him?

  9. arbogast says:

    The senior President Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, did business with the Nazi’s throughout World War II.
    These people are dirty, dirty, dirty.

  10. anna missed says:

    Well PL,
    as usual, and in addition to #1,#2,# and 3, its really all about US, is’nt it? Everything we do “over there” is about US. And they, “over there” know as well as anything under the sun, that its all about US, and so will act accordingly, and in their own time eventually cut US out. And why shouldnt they?

  11. sbj says:

    Col. Lang,
    I’ve had the sense for quite a while that there’s a battle going on between, (for lack of better monikers), the Neocons and the Carlyle Group type crowd for control of US policy and action abroad.
    It is perhaps a testament to how bad things are with the current bunch in charge that James Baker and the so-called “foreign policy realists” look so good by comparison.
    Might it be that James Baker, by hawking this “beware the terrorists lest they take over” line, is just threading the needle with respect to trying to get control of “Bush’s Brain” by saying such things so as to not publicly challenge the current Bush position too soon? I think if I were trying to get this particular president to stop listening to Cheney and his Jacobins I might resort to saying such things to reassure him I didn’t intend to turn over the whole applecart.

  12. James Pratt says:

    #4 Doesn’t scare me because I’ve heard that line before, something about fighting them over there so we wouldn’t have to fight communist armies on the beach at Waikiki. I was fooled until 1969, when I saw the pictures of My Lai and realized we were fighting to repress the popular will, not liberate it. Now after I get home from shopping and look at the labels closely I find out I wear Vietnamese made clothes and eat Vietnamese grown food.

  13. dano says:

    It’s all about the GOP retaining power in both ’06 and especially ’08. Planning now for the election then. Aside from Papa Bush, Baker is the most prestigious “traditional” Repub around – and 41 can’t publicly humiliate 43. (He’s not as good as Baker with the smooth tv appearances anyway.)
    This isn’t really about Iraq, it’s about retaining political power in the US.

  14. Walrus says:

    Nothing is going to change. The Republicans are owned by big oil and the rest of the military industrial complex.
    The Democrat party is owned by the Israeli lobby, which is why they always seem like the clown in the circus who is always looking the wrong way to the amusement and frustration of the kids in the audience. No Democrat can tell Israel where to get off.
    So you have the Republican backers and the Democrat controllers in furious agreement that America must attack Iraq and Iran because its in Israel’s interests, and the daddy warbucks interests.

  15. zanzibar says:

    IMO, the Iraq policy is too far gone for real changes anytime soon. There does not seem to be anyone in political leadership in the US who can be change agents to focus attention and build consensus to get it right. The domestic political climate today prevents it. Complex scenarios with many shades of gray are not amenable to black & white rhetoric and 30 sec soundbites. All that is being done is to provide political cover. Its either pull out or keep the charade, nothing about recognizing what the problems are, who the stakeholders are, what are their interests and how to draw compromises. How to bring stability to the ME? The Jim Baker bi-partisan group is no different than the 9/11 commission. It will not get to the bottom of the issues. Negotiating with Sunni insurgents, talking to Iran and Syria, working with SCIRI and Mahdi is all hard work and requires real leadership. We are on auto-pilot now. It seems that Iraq has to exhaust itself with a genocide that is underway. The repercussions of this bloodshed will be felt long after its all over. Are there lessons from the Lebanese civil war that can be brought to bear in Iraq?

  16. Soonmyung Hong says:

    Richard Whitman.
    I think he is trying to balance between Bush43’s acceptance and national interest.
    But ‘lesser stupid’ is not enough…

  17. pbrownlee says:

    More incestuous amplification with JBIII as this election cycle’s Colin Powell the Great Salesman and Cheney/Rumsfield under tarpaulins pro tempore.

  18. Will says:

    Interesting things excerpted from newspaper article
    Baker discusses his life, work and new book
    “I’m honest that we underestimated the cost of winning the peace in Iraq,” Baker said in an interview. “I also make it clear that I’m not implicitly criticizing the president. I don’t seek to determine at what levels the mistakes are made.”
    Age: 76
    Family: Wife, Susan Garrett, and eight children
    On Iraq
    “The Defense Department made a number of costly mistakes, including disbanding the Iraqi army, pursuing de-Baathification too extensively (and thereby prohibiting many qualified Iraqis from serving in a successor Iraqi government), failing to secure weapons depots, and perhaps never having committed enough troops to successfully pacify the country. One thing is for sure: the difficulty of winning the peace was severely underestimated.”
    Turf battles
    “As sorry as I am to say it, the scrimmages between State and Defense in the first four years of the George W. Bush administration hurt the president and made it more difficult for him to win public, congressional, and international support for U.S. foreign and security policy, particularly for U.S. operations in Iraq.”
    The Five P’s
    Baker says his father had an austere manner and was a strict disciplinarian who liked to say, “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.”
    “He called this ‘the Five Ps.’ It’s a simple aphorism, the sort of thing adults tell children, then forget. People are often surprised to hear a man my age recite it, and without embarrassment. But this is a gift from my father that has helped me in one way or another almost every day of my adult life.”

  19. BDF says:

    Just came across this:
    Combined with your post it seems that Baker may be looking for a way to save face for Bush administration while still pulling the chestnuts out of the fire…so to speak.
    I wonder if the kinds of deals that the “Iraq Study Group” is talking about would give Iran more influence in Iraq and the ME. Not that the US would ever admit to that kind of deal in a public forum but such is the situation we have found ourselves.

  20. backsdrummer says:

    Does the ISG not have at least one representative from the “sovereign” Iraqi government? I could be wrong, but I didn’t see one name on the list:
    So do I understand correctly the goal of Baker and Co. is to plan a “free” and “sovereign” Iraq that provides the US military bases, control of its airspace, prohibits all criminal and civil prosecutions of Americans, an economic policy friendly to US companies, and a foreign policy in virtual lock-step with the US? And all this without a single representative from the Iraq government? I’m eager to hear this one.
    On a side note, I thought this article on counter-insurgency, found in the March-April 2006 edition of Military Review, might be of interest to the group:'military%20review%20The%20Paradoxes%20of%20Counterinsurgency
    On page 50, “Isolating insurgents from their cause and support”, I found the reference to redressing grievances heartening, but also found the reference to “biometric identification cards” creepy.
    In light of this article, has any strong effort begun to provide local commanders at least one American staff officer who has a deep understanding of the local languages, religions, cultures, history, and politics so they can make the kind of changes needed quickly without relying totally on hired locals whose loyalty and impartiality is in question? (Think Chalabi) I understand that thousands of Americans were taught Japanese language and culture in WW2. Why is there no similar effort today, given the stakes and necessity of getting it right?

  21. salsabob says:

    AQ2 or Sectarian?
    Is it not most likely that the truth lies in the middle?
    AQ2 is there in the mix, currently aligned with the secular Bathish and doing its best to stimulate Naji’s “Management of Savagery” strategy and Zar’s “Work Plan” for civil war between the Sunni and Shia. If we leave, sure, the Shia skull drillers will continue to fight them and many of their Sunni head choppers will turn on them, but do you think AQ2 will really become a non-factor overnight? More imporantly, do you not think AQ2 knows where its credibility/survivability lies, and that they will do some pretty nasty things to provoke us into staying in our role as their giant recruiting machine?
    Is there not also a middle ground between ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut n’ run’? Can’t we be smarter (and more ruthless) at playing their game — e.g., redeploy to ‘Kurdistan’, and embrace,promote and contain conflation to Sunnistan and Shiastan?
    I’ve grown so weary of baby boomer Tinkerbell thinking (i.e., “if we all just clap our hands and really, really believe …”) on both sides. Are there not any Cold War SOB thinkers left? I’d be more optimistic if it was Brzezinski rather than Baker.

  22. Got A Watch says:

    Just one big smoke and mirrors scheme to try to rescue Republican (really should change their name to Restupidican or Rethuglican) chances in 08.
    As others have noted, how farcial is a “US Study Group” deciding on the “future” for Iraq without input from Iraq or its neighbors. This “Report” is purely for US domestic consumption, and most likely will have no resemblance to reality, as usual. Just another act in the ongoing kabuki tragedy that is the US government.

  23. John Robb says:

    Here’s an alternative explanation. The word “terrorist,” to Baker, may apply more to Iran than to Sunni extremists. He thinks in terms of nation-states and not non-states.

  24. Michael says:

    Given Bush just signed his new Anti-terror bill – a bill that I didn’t believe congress would allow in a million years – I wouldn’t be surprised by anything this administration does anymore. Its very discouraging to see my US neighbor (I’m in Canada) going down this road.
    Col. Lang, do you have any thoughts regarding the DPRK? Would they consider a ‘pre-emptive strike’? (the irony there is overwhelming).

  25. John Howley says:

    Also note the ISG includes no UK representatives. I guess it’s logical based on recent experience to assume that the Brits will go along with whatever we decide to do.
    Recent reports indicate the Army is planning for the maintainance of current troop levels (140,000) through 2010.
    Yes, it’s just a planning exercise but does it presume the British Army stays in Basra for another four years?
    Perhaps General Sennatt was speaking to James Baker.

  26. Byron Raum says:

    backsdrummer, I read your post with great dismay. Partly in context, I regret to report something profoundly depressing: I have just had a “discussion” (i.e. shouting match) on Slate with someone who claims to be a military advisor in Iraq. He explained that the recent report about deaths in Iraq is unreliable because the Arabs are a hysterical and emotional people and therefore prone to exaggeration. When I pointed out that the Arabs had had a very significant part in building the foundations that today’s technology and science, he explained that actually if I looked at a map, I would see that Arabia lay at the crossroads of many trade routes and what we think of as Arabic science was actually transmitted by travellers who happened to be passing through, not the Arabs themselves. Also, I have learnt that Arabic is a language that does not lend itself to logical thought.
    As I said, it is profoundly depressing to think that this person serves as a military advisor in Iraq. Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe otherwise.
    As for the ISG, I am starting to side with the people that the only reason for Mr. Baker’s presence is to be able to say “Wise heads have considered the matter in great detail. We have talked with everyone, including the Iranians and various factions. Our conclusion is that the only option is to stay the course.”
    Everyone keeps forgetting that this mess wasn’t the inevitable result of the Iraq invasion! It was not necessary to disband the army, it was not necessary to allow the infrastructure to be looted. If we had invaded Iraq wisely, there is no reason to believe that we could not have helped turn it into a somewhat-functioning democracy. Democracy is inherent in human nature; it is difficult to believe it would not have worked in Iraq under the right circumstances – the people were already somewhat secularized, well-educated and used to all the concepts we like to think of as Western. It is people like my genius friend mentioned above who created this great mess.
    Assume that Bush was impeached and someone really intelligent and competent took power. What could such a person do under the circumstances we have today? Other than stay the course?
    Why would the Iranians want to negotiate with us? What do we have to offer? For that matter, why would al-Qaeda? We have done everything they wanted. What else can we offer?

  27. Will says:

    John Patrick Murtha, Jr. on Iraq
    Confessions of a “Defeatocrat”
    A man of valor tells the Chickenhawks where to get off
    Other intersting news today
    Italian premier promises to sell Lebanon Aster 15 SAM’s. This are hot items that defend the aircraft carrier le general Charles de Gaulle and some RN destroyers. Imagine Leb having some air defense. Some things never cease to amaze.
    Best Wishes

  28. searp says:

    I thought that Baker, and for that matter the fellow-traveller Lee Hamilton, said nothing at all that pointed in the direction of serious thought on Iraq.
    They apparently believe that there is some middle ground that is “sensible” as opposed to stay-the-course or get out ASAP.
    This suggests that they are engaged in the production of a politically acceptable document as opposed to determining a course of action that would be best for the country.
    Didn’t we see this in Vietnam? Peace with honor? Vietnamization? These ostensibly plausible policy choices failed to account for the actual realities of the situation, and I see the same thing coming down the pike now.
    Our influence in Iraq must already be decaying by the hour. The only way to get back in the game is to formulate a sustainable policy as opposed to a political band aid.
    All those brave soldiers, all that blood, for this? Colin Powell must be apoplectic.

  29. MarcLord says:

    dano @ 01:02AM,
    “This isn’t really about Iraq, it’s about retaining political power in the US.”
    Exactly. I have tremendous respect for JB-III as a negotiator. His objectives are to position the Republican Party as strongly as possible for November 7th, and to get access for American and western companies to as much of the ME oil as possible, including Iran’s. Then he’s got his own objectives. This is no different than fixing one of Dubya’s DWIs or muffling Poppy’s mistress story before it hit the presses. Just a different scale, is all.
    Baker’s totally threading the needle by repeating the Jacobin talking point about Iraqis coming to get us. If you were the Bush family lawyer, wouldn’t you make the same statement? It’s a fig leaf for Dubya’s crotch.
    Meanwhile, the USS Eisenhower carrier battle group should arrive on station in the Persian Gulf in about 4 days. It sailed 6 months before its crew expected it to deploy. I’m not real sure there are going to be elections. Would Cheney and Rumsfeld start another war to avoid bad domestic political outcomes? Ummm, let me think. Yes. These men were participating in government-replacement drills with the Pentagon in the 80s, when they didn’t even hold government offices. (Google it.)
    The USS Maine in Havana harbor. The Gulf of Tonkin. All starting a war with Iran will take is for them to “sink” one of our ships. Probably a submarine, because that one hasn’t been done before, and it doesn’t need to be real.
    That’s why I’m rooting for James Baker. That’s what he’s up against.

  30. anna missed says:

    The 9 paradoxes of counterinsurgency, mentioned above from Military Review –would confirm the “its all about us” type thinking. And is’nt it an example of “conflating” to enter into, with regards to military action, any of the paradoxes — with a preconcieved intent (the “all about us” part) that trumps the facts on the ground? What other possible explanation could there be for either the dogged pursuit of such counter-productive military tactics or its mirror image political farce? Unless of course, the “conflation” is the necessary fog machine to shield the true intentions from ourselves in some kind of epic tale of “bad faith”. As in which case we stumble blindly and thrash at the demons of our own imagination. At a cool 2 billion a week, it seems we should look into this.

  31. mike says:

    regarding five Ps: Back in the 1960s in my platoon we used to call it the six Ps. It was drummed into the head of all, even the lowest private.
    “Prior planning prevents p!ss poor performance”

  32. billmon says:

    “If you are not surprised it is because you are not simple minded, but here we have the ‘last great hope’ selling us this bullshit.”
    At a very attractive mark up for the Carlyle Group, I might add.

  33. Soonmyung Hong says:

    Let me know about your “aster-15” information.
    is it from DEBKAfile only? or other sources also did confirm this?

  34. ikonoklast says:

    Mr. Cheney (speaking with Limbaugh today):
    “If you look at the general overall situation, they’re [the Iraqi government) doing remarkably well. It’s still very, very difficult, very tough. Nobody should underestimate the extent to which we’re engaged there with this sort of, at present, the ‘major front’ of the war on terror. That’s what Osama bin Laden says, and he’s right.”
    Dick and Osama and Baker and Bush all in agreement. Talk about conflation.
    Everybody’s engaged with this sort of major terror front at present … oh please. Try moving your lips a little less, Dick; maybe no one will be able to tell you’re lying.

  35. zanzibar says:

    All intelligence out of Iraq suggests this is no longer a functioning state.
    ‘Consigliere’ draws up routes out of Iraq for embattled President
    Talabani backs ‘Iran-Syria plan’

  36. jonst says:

    What, if anything, do you, PL, or the readers, make of the premise in this post?

  37. Will says:

    you got my number. I get a lot of my disinformation from Debka which if not a MOssad site is directly wired into it. The Aster 15 SAM, SAAM info cam from it.
    I’ve been reading about the Aster 15, 30. very very remarkable system, capable of last minute course corrections, 90 degree turns. The italian techs will be keeping tight control over them. And the Chechen Russian battalions in Sidon will be watching them very carefully. (unless the Russkies have already gotten their hands on Asters).
    Best Wishes
    But now the Jerusalem Newswire has picked it up
    Best Wishes

  38. Soonmyung Hong says:

    Thanks for URLs.
    DEBKA said “Ground to Air” Aster-15.
    Aster System has 3 kind of platforms.
    1) SAAM
    SAAM is point defense(shorter range) naval air defense system.
    It is using Aster-15 only.
    2) SAAM AD
    SAAM is area defense(longer range) naval air defense system.
    It is using Aster-15/30.
    3) Land SAAM AD(SAMP/T)
    “Land SAAM AD(SAMP/T)” is Aster’s the only land-based platform. It used Aster-30(longer-range version), not Aster-15.
    So it must be ‘SAMP/T’.
    According to manufacturer “Eurosam”, SAMP/T system is not fully developed yet. It just started operational-test.
    “On December 20th 2005, the Franco-Italian SAMP/T medium-range land system successfully fired an ASTER 30 missile on the CELM Landes test site. This firing is part of the qualification tests of the SAMP/T system, which will enter into operational evaluation with the French and Italian Armed Forces during the second 2006 semester.”
    I can’t believe it is exportable now.

  39. chew2 says:

    Scenarios for the Insurgency in Iraq
    One of the scenarios is:
    “Descent into Hell
    The insurgency leads to a regional war.”
    Worth reading for it’s efforts at thinking out how each scenario would play out given the forces operating in Iraq.

  40. SteveGinIL says:

    “Forget about the Sunni insurgents who said today that they are willing to negotiate with us.”

    Pat –
    Since the Republican Guard and Baathists went to ground and sequestered all the armamanents they could, this – negotiation – has been the inevitable end of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
    We sat down with the North Vietnamese, after a long time of pretending that we were too important and dominant to sit down and talk to lessers.
    We have never, ever (in spite of shock and awe and dominance of their air space) been in a situation in Iraq to do anything but sit down, have a cease-fire, and then somehow turn Iraq over to the parties other than Chalabi and his crooked puppet friends. (Even if we DO manage somehow to give it to Chalabi, his people won’t control the country and will be out within a year or two – Chalabi’s head will be on a pike shortly after such a turnover.)
    Yeah, the oil is in the way. But, in the end, we DO sit down, tails between our legs, and humbly give them what we don’t want to give them. And all the Bush changes to their laws allowing the US oil companies to own their oil fields will be swept away.
    It is either negotiate or we will see a repeat of the helicopters on the top of the US Embassy, ala Saigon 1975.

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