James Baker served under Republicans as the Chief of Staff for President Reagan and Secretary of State under the first President Bush. So what is the aspect of foreign policy under the current Democrat-led administration he’d most like to see changed?
“I would not like to see us ever put a withdrawal date on a decision to send American troops into harm’s way because I think that telegraphs to the enemy what you’re likely to do and it tends to undermine morale,” Baker said.
But talking to reporters before his speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Baker says there are other current policies he does agree with.
Baker served on various committees consulting the US on operations in Iraq earlier this decade. He applauds the end of combat operations in Iraq.
“We should all welcome the end of combat operations in Iraq. But we need to recognize the fact that we still have 50,000 American troops there and the jury is still somewhat out on whether or not Iraq is going to end up as a force for stability in the Middle East. A democratic country in the heart of the Middle East that will be an ally to the United States in the War on Terror,” Baker said.
He says that will be a pivotal issue, and the US will need to have a hand in the process.
“I think the role that the United States is current pursuing as far as assisting Iraq to form a government is the right one. We need to encourage them to do so, we need to try to cajole, encourage and support them at trying to arrive at a unity government in Iraq,” Baker said.
He thinks the approach to North Korea has been consistent.
“North Korea is a force for instability on the Korean peninsula and that we ought not to have a nuclear North Korea on the Korean peninsula is the way to go. That’s the way this administration is going, that’s the way the George W. Bush administration went, that’s the way the George H. W. Bush administration went, that’s the way the Clinton administration went. I think it’s the right approach,” Baker said.
He also supports efforts in the Middle East.
“I think it’s terrific that President Obama has seen fit to take on the Arab-Israeli conflict in his first term. Too many Presidents postpone that until later in their Presidency because of the domestic political aspects of that issue,” Baker said.
Baker discussed a number of other issues with reporters before his speech Wednesday, including America’s interactions with Iran, Bob Woodward’s book on President Obama’s administration, and his time in the George H.W. Bush administration. You can Listen to the complete press conference [12 min MP3]