The Baker Commission still does not focus
the United States on the urgent need for a
highest level, all out, push for comprehensive
Middle East peace The proposal here first appeared on
thewashingtonnote.com and on the home page of intelligencesummit.org,
where I serve on their Advisory Council, and I am circulating it to high
levels in Washington:
American leaders must lead with boldness, and rally what Thomas
Jefferson called the decent opinion of mankind,to inspire the young
generation everywhere with a panoramic vision for a lasting peace in the
American world leadership at such a critical
moment would look like this:
First, to bring together all four living former
Presidents for a new, bold and bipartisan U.S. policy. Second, for the
former Presidents on
behalf of the U.S. to visit world capitals to
mobilize support and raise substantial money
for a true Marshall Plan. Third, to seek prompt
bipartisan agreement on a substantial bill to
finance a five year rebuild of American military
forces. I welcome all public or private ideas
from all Intelligence Summit participants.
The real America is never a choice between the arrogance of power and
the fear of failure, it is the sustenance of military and economic power
put in the service of great aspirations of good and decent people
President George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Leader John
Boehner should announce together that the United States is undertaking
a great mission to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, with the
active involvement of every living former American President.
They should announce a formal Presidential Council of Advisors that will
include regular, hands-on advice and action from former Presidents
Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill Clinton.
They should announce that the four former Presidents will travel
together on a global head of state mission to obtain commitments for a
five year, trillion dollar economic, hope and reconstruction program
that would become available to all in the Middle East when (and only
when) they reach formal peace accords and implement cease fires.
They should issue an open public appeal to leaders and believers of the
great religions and the generation of young people throughout the Middle
The unity and stature of bringing together our former Presidents will
send this powerful signal to the world: the United States will put the
full force and power of our country behind a historic search for peace,
justice, security and a better life as America's answer to poverty,
bloodshed, hopelessness, and despair.
Many will believe, possibly correcty, that President George W. Bush is
incapable of a truly bipartisan, historic, panoramic peace initiative
mobilizing all living American Presidents from both parties. If he is
not, my advice to Democratic Leaders is to offer this proposal as a
Loyal Opposition alternative that will be far more appealing, credible
and realistic than any version of status quo heavy, or status quo light.
However, there are leading Republicans in the United States Senate and
the Republican national security establishment who would join Democrats
and advise the President to consider this. President Bush need not be
doomed to a historic legacy of a failed and catastrophic eight year
If George W. Bush can emulate the last two years of the Reagan
Presidency, and aspire to the higher expectations of his own version of
Reagan working with Gorbachev to change the world, history will remember
and aspiration of the final two years of the Bush presidency, as much as
the failure of the first six.
John F. Kennedy moved the world in a thousand days and Ronald Reagan
changed history in his final seven hundred and twenty. The POTUS plan
would instantly elevate the President's moral and political reputation
at home and around the world. It would give him the benefit of the best
advice in America, and give him the leverage to achieve key short term
objectives, and raise enormous money first from governments and
ultimately from capital markets, with great impact on world events.
The key that unlocks the door to a revival of true American leadership
in the world would be a sea change initiative that involves the former
Presidents giving regular high level advice, meeting together in
on-going planning discussions, and visiting world capitals to execute a
Presidents and former Presidents are different from the rest of us. They
have exercised the world greatest power in real life, in real time,
shaping real events. The four living American Presidents today have an
unprecedented scope of highest level contacts, highest level prestige,
highest level knowledge, highest level global experience in decisions
about war, peace, and every conceivable military and diplomatic policy
Instead of merely recalling our Guard, Reserve and military troops to
service why not recall our former American Presidents? Why not build on
the growing friendship and professional respect of George Herbert Walker
Bush and Bill Clinton and the long term term collaboration and great
friendship between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter?
Why not inspire the outpouring of support from the American people that
would undoubtedly result from our President working with our former
Presidents, to turn our crisis into opportunity, and resume our true
role of world leadership and appeal in the battle of ideas?
Why not tap the wisest and most experienced Americans who have served in
our highest office to make an unprecedented show of American commitment
and unity to the world, to generate ideas and credibility in the search
for a better life, and to issue a call to action to offer the young
generation in the Middle East the hope for a better life?
While we seek bipartisan action to rebuild our worn down military, why
not mobilize the living former leaders of the free world to win the
battle of ideas through more schools and hospitals, by championing an
escape from poverty and despair, by building the prospect of peace
empowered by aid, investment, tourism, commerce, justice, dignity, and
Official Washington would be stunned and shocked at the transforming
power of the POTUS plan with an American people who are desperately
yearning for a new spirit of leadership, and a world community that
hungers and thirsts for America to regain its historic role as inspiring
and visionary world leader.
In December of 2006 the battle of ideas is between those who exploit
death, destruction and chaos to promote suicide and murder, versus
incremental variations of a failed status quo with virtually zero appeal
to the generation of young people who turn to violence from their
despair, humiliation and rage.
This need not be; as President Kennedy said we can do better. We can
elevate our debate at home and our vision for the world. We can reach to
lift the common aspirations of people
everywhere, and mobilize with shared purpose the full force and power of
America and the greatest minds, hopes and generosity of spirit from our
leaders and people.
While mobilizing our Presidents would be the first step of a hard
journey, it could translate to near immediate results achieving greater
NATO forces and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan; renewed support for
the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon; and bipartisan action to rebuild our
These actions become far more possible in the context of a sea changed
American policy mobilizing all former Presidents in a powerful, historic
quest for peace. It took nearly a decade for America to fulfill
JFK's dream of landing on the moon, but it took only hours from his
challenge for the impact to felt in our spirit, our science, our
technology and our mobilizatoin as a country.
The POTUS plan would empower President Bush and Secretary Rice with
unprecedented moral, political and economic leverage. They could and
would have full access not only to our former Presidents but to our best
strategic thinkers, negotiators, retired military and great diplomats
who would enlist in the cause and enlarge our domestic poilcymaking, our
moral credibility and our appeal and influence in the world.
Why not enlist brilliant diplomats such as Jim Baker and George Mitchell
to be available on call to participate when necessary for real time
cease fire discussions, or prepatory work for peacekeeping forces from
the United Nations or NATO forces when necessary? Why not enlist
the military and intelligence leaders associated
with this Summit?
Why not announce the immediate convening of a bipartisan conference of
leaders of the appropriate Congressional Committees to seek agreement
and enactment of spending bills that would address urgent military
needs, to rebuild force structures, replace outdated equipment, and
enact reforms proposed by the 9-11 Commission?
If the Government of the United States came together to announce such a
bold and daring vision for a better world and brought together the
power, experience, judgment, wisdom, contacts and crediblity of all
former living American Presidents there would be a standing ovation from
the American people and a surge of enthusiasm from leaders in world
capitals on every continent.
If the Government of the United States moved
with boldness and vision to again act as the
true leader of the free world, as the true and
honest champion of a better life for the next
generation of young people, there would be major pledges of
financialsupport from nations that would join us, some from relief,
others with enthusiasm, all with excitement that there is a new and
powerful alternative to a status quo of carnage, chaos, fear, death,
sectarian bloodshed and religious war.
We are a better country with a better future, than choosing between
incremental variations of failure and crisis, watching leaders position
themselves for blame and defeat, tolerating the biggest untruth of all:
the tired, false and deadly notion that the United States of America can
no longer influence Iraq or any other event.
The hard lesson of history is that we can never dominate the world. The
great lesson of history is that we can always shape it, if we rally the
highest aspirations that have always made America a beacon. We must turn
to first principles and remember that while America must always be
strong, the force of our ideas is always more powerful than the unwise
use of our force.
No American policy will succeed without a clear, couragous and
far-sighted project to address the great issues that tower over all
events in the Middle East, beginning with and especially the need for
permanent safety for Israel and honorable solutions for the
Any policy towards Iraq, especially what should be an American push for
a cease fire and a true reconciliation among Iraqis, would have far
greater appeal to Iraqis and far more support from our people and allies
in the context of a sea changed strategy for the Middle East as a whole.
Our ability to pressure the Iraqi government, to appeal to the Iraqi
people, and to determine rational policy affecting American troop
levels, are all improved with the changed context, of a sea changed plan
for the Middle East, that is a game changer for every participant in
Our ability to inspire worldwide political support, to unify the family
of free nations, to leverage this support into dramatic economic
programs with widespread multilateral financing will have far-reaching
impact with every player in the neighborhood, friend, foe and neutral.
Yes these are hard, tough, brutal, ugly, issues surrounded with
malevolent forces that create and exploit them, made worse by obvious
and disastrous mistakes of American policy. But history has a habit of
great leaders, of great nations, with great vision, overcoming their
seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Who would have thought in 1948, 1960, 1975 that Menachem Begin and Anwar
Sadat, sworn enemies, would be brought together by an American President
for an agreement that was a historic triumph for Israel and Egypt alike?
Things change. Great deeds are accomplished only after the first steps
are taken, by those with the daring and courage to transcend the limits
of the conventional wisdom of their times.
Remember the endless bloodshed between sworn enemies over Ireland; that
Remember the endless apartheid, death and Nelson Mandela in prison in
South Africa; that changed.
Remember when Havel and Walesa were
jailed as political prisoners; that changed.
Remember the crimes against Allende and
the disappeared in Pinochet's Chile; that changed.
Remember when American children were taught to hide under their desks in
school in fear of nuclear extermination; that changed.
Remember when black children in America were whipped, beaten, bitten by
dogs and murdered in churches; within a generation that changed so
powerfully that an African American is now one of the leading candidates
to be President of the United States and the leader of the free world.
Things change, with great risk, great cost, great danger and great
vision by those who fight for those changes and make them happen.
In America many of us have our own personal Presidents, those who had
special impact on our lives, on our generation, that we carry with us.
My personal President was John F. Kennedy.
George W. Bush's personal President was Ronald Reagan.
There are lessons and legacies from both that would serve us well today.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the younger generation within the great
generation, fighting against fascism in the South Pacific, rallying the
spirit of freedom at the gates of the Berlin Wall.
JFK knew from war and peace, that our military must always remain second
to none, but our spirit, our ideals, our dreams for the world would lift
the aspirations of people everywhere and lead to our ultimate victory in
the battle of ideas.
Ronald Reagan fought for one of the greatest military build-ups in the
history of the world, but always believed in negotiating with our
enemies from strength, with vision, courage daring for the ultimate goal
not only of victory in the Cold War, but nuclear disarmament that would
make the world safe from Armageddon.
It is time to enlarge our discussion, our vision, our politics, our
thinking, and our aspirations for our country and our world.
The POTUS plan would mobilize the enormous experience and crediblity of
former Presidents from both political parties to restore our spirit of
national unity, our sense of higher purpose, and our renewal of national
The POTUS plan would lift the American people, win support from
governments around the world, and rally the aspirations of a generation
of young people who want a better way than the death of the suicide
bomber and the mass murder of carnage, chaos and religious war.
President Bush stands on the brink of taking
our country into historically dangerous waters
with a Presidency that is not only failed but
potentially catastrophic. The Baker Group
did its best, but we will need far greater vision
than the lowest common denominator seeking
incremental change from catastrophic policies.
It is time to learn from Lincoln, to think anew, begin again, and take
risks for peace, as we take risks for war. It is time to create a new
spirit of American world wide diplomatic and
moral leadership and a genuine search for peace, with highest level
involvement of all former Presidents, which moves far beyond
the shallow and deadly debates in official