Thuds and Screams from Inside the Topkapi Palace!
A thud, a choked-off scream, a few running footsteps, a body rolled into a carpet and weighted with stones dropped into the Golden Horn.... And outsiders are left wondering just what has really happened among the competing viziers inside the Topkapi Palace competing to dominate the callow and unwise sultan:
Tom Barnett thinks that Jim Baker is the new Grand Vizier--that the evil vizier Rumsfeld is gone, that viziers Hadley and Rice and Cheney keep their dignity and their offices but lose their power:
Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog: Tough for Rummy, just beginning for Rice: Consensus growing that Rumsfeld had to go to clear way for [Jim] Baker's solution [to Iraq to get] set to fly. No big surprise there. Real clearing is Cheney's, with Rummy as surrogate.
Missing in the analysis so far: with caretaker [Gates] in Pentagon [replacing Rumsfeld], Baker now takes over de facto control of the war, as almost his own national security adviser, SECDEF AND SECSTATE. No big whup for Gates. He knew that coming in. Quiet Hadley will do as told, as will Rice, but in reality, Rice's been replaced without leaving office. Imagine being SECSTATE and kicked off the one foreign policy issue that defines the administration.
Yes, yes, expect many protestations to the contrary and watch Baker go out of his way, using the study group as cover, not to upstage her. But make no mistake, we now have caretakers (and not the real players) in both the Building and Foggy Bottom.
Matthew Yglesias is not so sure:
Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Wishful Thinking on Iraq: I think Steve Teles' views... are largely sound, but I worry about this: "When Rumsfeld out, the most important architect of the Iraq disaster is already gone. The Baker-Hamilton commission is moving, and Democrats should basically get behind what they recommend, so long as it is reasonable."
This is a widespread sentiment... but there's a serious problem -- most indications are that the commission isn't going to recommend any one "thing" that Democrats can "get behind." Instead, it's going to try and clarify two or more different policy options... it would be very, very nice to be able to, in effect, hide behind Jim Baker's skirts on this, but by the same token the commission itself doesn't want to offer up a definitive answer....
A related bit of wishful thinking I've heard from a bunch of people -- particularly strategists associated with the "hawkish" tendency in the party -- is that growing Republican concern with the politics of the war will, in effect, force the Republicans to end it all on their own.... You'll recall that these same people mostly thought Bush would declare victory and go home during the course of 2004. They also thought we'd see troop levels drawn down in 2005. And also that Bush would be looking to wind the war down in time for the midterms in 2006. This prediction keeps getting made, in other words, and it keeps not happening. That's not to say it might not happen yet, but you can't just assume it will.
And neither is Steve Clemons, who writes:
The Washington Note: I suggested that there were three groups in competition around Bush:
- neoconservatives allied with pugnacious nationalists under the guidance of Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others -- and there was a large populatiion of these "types" throughout the administration;
- a small group of neo-realists under Condi Rice who did very little to build a roster of followers
- Secretary of State Colin Powell -- who was a movement unto himself but who had no real followers...
In Clemons's view the followers of Cheney and Rumsfeld still dominate the high levels of the bureaucracy, and will block by bureaucratic means any return to sanity and sane policies proposed by anybody in the reality-based community.
Certainly George W. Bush's attempt one more time to get Bolton into the United Nations is a powerful argument against Barnett's view...