Quin, I’m not so hagridden with doubt over Baker. April Glaspie said what she said (you can read the Wikiversion here), but my understanding is that the alleged US “green light” for an Iraqi move on Kuwait was based on the consistent understanding that at issue was no more than a border dispute. My understanding is that this border dispute involved claims that Kuwait had been oil drilling, at an angle, across the (disputed) borderline — that is, down into Iraqi deposits. According to this interpretation the United States took the not inane stance that if Iraq wanted to move troops a mile or so into Kuwait to correct this scheming behavior then America would not rain holy hellfire down on Baghdad.
It thus (as I understand it) came as a rude embarrassment when Saddam decided to move not a mile into Kuwait but a mile within the Saudi border. At that point Baker really took over — crafting the first and last multinational alliance to include both the USA and the Soviet Union. (Although Baker’s superhuman efforts fell short of the likes of Yemen he roped in Syria, too.)
So the remnant question, as you put it, is whether anything short of “victory” is acceptable. Well, according to Bush himself, Concept A is that the US stands down as Iraq’s national army stands up. That is, as soon as a national Iraqi government — however its people decide to posture it — reaches the point of sufficient self-defense, we pull up stakes and declare the job done. Although this could be termed victory under the circumstances, it is an unusual victory under traditional terms. But this has been an unusual war. It’s conceivable that Baker could suggest pulling out before Iraq can hold itself together, but based on his realist credentials and superlegitimacy among the Middle Eastern kingdoms — particularly Jordan and Saudi Arabia — it seems far more likely to me that Baker won’t present the Sunni monarchies with a plan that will play the south of Iraq straight into the hands of Shiite theocracy. This is their nightmare scenario. And it might as well be ours, in several significant ways.
So I have to ask: what sort of plan would reassure our modern-day Arab allies that would work against American interests? I’m not persuaded there is one. Baker is that rarity among American power-brokers — the statesman — and though some might question his willingness to think outside the box of a very venerable foreign-affairs tradition, his chops as a negotiator and problem-solver are unquestioned. And there isn’t any doubt that right now we could all use a gentlemen like that.