James Baker

25 Years Since The Middle East Crisis Which Led To Persian Gulf War Against Iraq, Led By President George H. W. Bush

It was 25 years ago this week that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, invaded Kuwait and incited US intervention by January 1991, in what became the six week Persian Gulf War.

Iraq had even been supported by the United States during the Iran Iraq War in the 1980s, but it now became the major menace of the Middle East, and forced the United States to intervene, with the backing of Saudi Arabia, which feared it would be the next victim of Iraqi aggression.

So President George H. W. Bush created a United Nations coalition, and with the assistance of General Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, James Baker, and Dick Cheney, and others, the fear that it would be a long war turned out not to be the case.

The UN went into this war, the first since the Korean War, with the understanding that the goal was to force Iraq out of Kuwait, and nothing more, so Saddam Hussein was able to remain in power, cause more trouble, and lead to another Iraq War, which would go on for many years under his son George W. Bush, and be ended under Barack Obama.

The whole mess in the Middle East became much more complex as a result of all of these circumstances, and helped, as we look back, to the rise of ISIL (ISIS), with not only the continued disarray in Iraq, but also with the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and the horrific civil war in Syria.

Despite all these circumstances, George H. W. Bush, now 91, is seen as having done the right thing a quarter century ago, and keeping the limits set up by the United Nations coalition that fought the war in true unity with the United States. It is still one of his greatest accomplishments as President.

Secretary Of State: More Prominent Public Figures Historically Than Presidency!

The Secretary of State serves at the will of the President of the United States, and its ranks have included future Presidents; Presidential candidates who were Secretary of State and later lose the Presidency; Presidential losers who then become Secretary of State; and Presidential contenders who do not get nominated for President, but later become Secretary of State. The Secretary of State also is often a great public figure who becomes notable for his background, without having sought the Presidency. Witness the following:

Presidents who were Secretary of State—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan

Presidential candidates who were Secretary of State and later lose the Presidency—Henry Clay, James G. Blaine

Presidential Losers who then become Secretary of State—Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Lewis Cass, James G. Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, Charles Evans Hughes, John Kerry

Presidential contenders who do not get nominated for President, but later become Secretary of State—John C. Calhoun, William Seward, Edmund Muskie, Hillary Clinton.

Great public figures notable for their background, without having sought the Presidency, but become Secretary of State—John Marshall, Edward Everett, Hamilton Fish, William Evarts, Richard Olney, John Sherman, John Hay, Elihu Root, Robert Lansing, Frank Kellogg, Henry Stimson, Cordell Hull, James F. Byrnes, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, George P. Shultz, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.

So 42 of the 68 people who have served as Secretary of State are prominent in American history, while some of our 43 Presidents have NOT been notable in their careers or in their Presidency!

As John Kerry Becomes Secretary Of State, An Assessment Of The Most Influential Secretaries Of State In American History

With Hillary Clinton leaving the State Department, and John Kerry becoming the 68th Secretary of State, it is a good time to assess who are the most influential Secretaries of State we have had in American history.

Notice I say “most influential”, rather than “best”, as that is a better way to judge diplomatic leadership in the State Department.

Without ranking them, which is very difficult, we will examine the Secretaries of State who have had the greatest impact, in chronological order:

Thomas Jefferson (1789-1793) under President George Washington—set the standard for the department, and was probably the most brilliant man ever to head the State Department.

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) under President James Monroe—brought about the Monroe Doctrine, treaties with Canada, and the acquisition of Florida.

William H. Seward (1861-1869) under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson—brought about the neutrality of Great Britain and France in the Civil War, and purchased Alaska from Czarist Russia, a fortunate development.

Hamilton Fish (1869-1877) under President Ulysses S. Grant—involved in many diplomatic issues in Latin America, had America become more engaged in Hawaii, and settled differences with Great Britain, and often considered the major bright spot in the tragic Grant Presidency.

James G. Blaine (1881, 1889-1892) under Presidents James A. Garfield and Chester Alan Arthur briefly, and full term under President Benjamin Harrison—helped to bring about eventual takeover of Hawaii, and promoted the concept of a canal in Central America.

John Hay (1898-1905) under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt—-involved in the issues after the Spanish American War, including involvement in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and a major influence over TR’s diplomatic initiatives in his first term.

Elihu Root (1905-1909) under President Theodore Roosevelt—-a great influence in TR’s growing involvement in world affairs in his second term in office.

Robert Lansing (1915-1920) under President Woodrow Wilson—a major player in American entrance in World War I and at the Versailles Peace Conference.

Charles Evan Hughes (1921-1925) under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge—-had major role in Washington Naval Agreements in 1922.

Henry Stimson (1929-1933) under President Herbert Hoover—-was a major critic of Japanese expansion, as expressed in the Stimson Doctrine of 1932.

Cordell Hull (1933-1944) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt—-was the longest lasting Secretary of State, nearly the whole term of FDR, and very much involved in all of the President’s foreign policy decisions.

Dean Acheson (1949-1953) under President Harry Truman—-involved in the major decisions of the early Cold War, including the Korean War intervention.

John Foster Dulles (1953-1959) under President Dwight D. Eisenhower—had controversial views on Cold War policy with the Soviet Union, including “massive retaliation”.

Dean Rusk (1961-1969) under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson—highly controversial advocate of the Vietnam War escalation, but served under the complete terms of two Presidents, and never backed away from his views on the Cold War.

Henry Kissinger (1973-1977) under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford—-easily one of the most influential figures in the shaping of foreign policy in American history, earlier having served as National Security Adviser.

George Shultz, (1982-1989) under President Ronald Reagan—-very close adviser to the President on his major foreign policy initiatives.

James Baker (1989-1992) under President George H. W. Bush—very significant in Persian Gulf War and end of Cold War policies.

Madeleine Albright (1997-2001) under President Bill Clinton—-first woman Secretary of State and played major role in many issues that arose.

Colin Powell (2001-2005) under President George W. Bush—-involved in the justification of the Iraq War based on Weapons of Mass Destruction, which undermined his reputation because of the lack of evidence on WMDs.

Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) under President George W. Bush—second woman Secretary of State and intimately involved in policy making.

Hillary Clinton (2009-2013) under President Barack Obama—third woman Secretary of State, and hailed by most as a major contributor to Obama’s foreign policy initiatives.

This is a list of 21 out of the 68 Secretaries of State, but also there are 15 other Secretaries of State who were influential historical figures, including:

John Marshall
James Madison
James Monroe
Henry Clay
Martin Van Buren
Daniel Webster
John C. Calhoun
James Buchanan
Lewis Cass
William Jennings Bryan
George Marshall
Cyrus Vance
Edmund Muskie
Alexander Haig
Warren Christopher

So a total of 36 out of 68 Secretaries of State have been major figures in American history, and contributed to the diplomatic development of the United States in world affairs!

The Battle Between Bush I Loyalists And Bush II Loyalists Begins Over Chuck Hagel Nomination For Defense Secretary

Hard to conceive, but the battle between loyalists to President George H. W. Bush and loyalists to President George W. Bush has begun over the nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense in his second term in the Presidency.

The “old guard” Establishment Conservatives around the first President Bush, including Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and the former President himself, have no major problems with Hagel.

On the other hand, the neoconservatives, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and conservative ideologues like Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Frank Gaffney, John Bolton, and Charles Krauthammer all will find Hagel wanting in his foreign and defense policy views. It is not clear where President George W. Bush will come down, but in theory, he would agree with his key advisers and consultants mentioned above. Note that Powell and Rice are more linked to father Bush, and both were certainly involved in major battles with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others during the second Bush Administration.

It will be an interesting battle, and it is likely that many Republican Senators will refuse to back Hagel, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, newly sworn in Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has particularly gone on the attack already against Hagel.

A key person to watch will be Senator John McCain of Arizona, who still harbors resentment that Hagel backed Obama over him in the 2008 Presidential campaign, and vehemently disagrees with Hagel on issues involving Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran. McCain has been attacking Obama on every front lately, but will he concede that Obama has a right to the Defense Secretary he wants?

Stay tuned for the fireworks, particularly to wonder where Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will take their stand–with the old line establishment figures, which include also many military and naval leaders; or with the neoconservatives who brought us into long, drawn out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with very little success!

The Republican Presidential Race And Foreign Policy: What A Change For The Worst!

The Republican Party since World War II has built its reputation more on foreign policy than domestic policy, being seen as the stronger party in shaping our relationship with the outside world.

Republicans can rightly brag about Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Senator Bob Dole, President George H. W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of State James Baker, Senator Richard Lugar, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as brilliant examples of people who shaped and understood foreign policy.

Today, we have a motley group of Republicans running for the Presidency, with Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum showing no evidence of even a clue as to how to deal with the outside world! Instead, their primary idea is to attack Iran and discipline Pakistan, the two most dangerous nations at this point for the United States.

Instead, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush understood the need for diplomacy and to attempt alternatives to the use of force, except when unavoidable.

Only Mitt Romney, somewhat, and Jon Huntsman in a major way, have the skills and common sense to deal with foreign policy, and this indicates the sad, pitiful situation we are in, when six “dangerous” people are considered possible Presidents, without any understanding of diplomacy!

God forbid that the United States gets one of these six “losers” in the Oval Office!

The Death Of Warren Christopher: Memories Of The 2000 Presidential Election!

The death of former Secretary of State Warren Christopher at the age of 85 brings back many memories.

A key adviser to President Jimmy Carter and the first Secretary of State in the Bill Clinton Administration, Christopher always came across as a thoughtful, dedicated public servant who served his Presidents with distinction.

But what the author remembers even more is the legal battle waged by Christopher for former Vice President Al Gore in the contested Presidential Election of 2000, when the battle over the electoral votes of Florida dragged out the election controversy for 36 long days, but with James Baker, who was Secretary of State under George H. W. Bush, and the leader of the legal team for George W. Bush, ultimately being victorious when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush over Gore, despite Gore having a popular vote margin of over half a million citizens!

So Christopher’s passing brings back wistful memories of what might have been, had Al Gore been President in the first decade of the 21st century, rather than George W. Bush!

How different would the history of the United States be, both domestic and foreign, if Al Gore had been in charge? That is all speculation, and excellent for a potential political novel, a “What If?” book, similar to Jeff Greenfield’s new book, THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED: STUNNING ALTERNATE HISTORIES OF AMERICAN POLITICS: JFK, RFK, CARTER, FORD, REAGAN.