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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

David Brooks: "But as long as Assad is in power, he creates a situation where you can’t get rid of ISIS, because the moderate, the normal Sunnis will not rebel against ISIS as long as they’re the victims of this horrific campaign from Assad.".

From the PBS Newshour on November 21, 2015 (the week following Paris):

DAVID BROOKS: And I think the good news is that there’s beginning to be some sort of bipartisan, cohesive thinking on this.

And so this week, Hillary Clinton, and earlier Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush gave talks. And they had different policy emphases. But they had the basic frame. And the frame is, you can’t — the tempting thing is to just say, let’s bomb ISIS, let’s bomb ISIS.

But as long as Assad is in power, he creates a situation where you can’t get rid of ISIS, because the moderate, the normal Sunnis will not rebel against ISIS as long as they’re the victims of this horrific campaign from Assad.

And so what we need is an uprising among the normal Sunnis, the way we had in Iraq starting in 2007. And Clinton emphasized this in her speech. So, you have to limit ISIS. You also have to limit Assad with sanctuaries and no-fly zones and opposition to him. And it’s a very complicated dance to be against both sides of a civil war, but, nonetheless, that is the only policy that has any prospect of success. And both parties are really orienting around that position.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying, among all — what all the candidates are saying, what Hillary Clinton is saying makes more sense, holds together?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think her speech was exceptional. It was complicated, but coherent.
She wants to do some of the things, like the sanctuaries and the no-fly zones, against Assad. Rubio would go a little further and more troops and more things against ISIS. But the basic frame is the same for both those candidates.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

MARK SHIELDS: I thought that Senator, Secretary Clinton made a strong — a strong statement. I thought it was coherent.

I think the argument in the debate about a no-fly zone is a real one. And I think there is a real case to be made against it. And the question of risk and reward is a very serious one, I mean, no doubt about it. The sanctuary zone, especially that embraced by Dr. Carson, which is going to be administered by local…

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is along the border between Turkey and Syria.

MARK SHIELDS: … who are going to administer this and impose it.

A beautiful safe zone, Donald Trump has endorsed, which is his consistent support of three-syllable adjectives, fantastic, successful, a beautiful safe zone. I mean, these are just — these are not serious — I don’t see an emerging consensus that David sees.

We have right now — Judy, the worst time to make policy is a week after an event like this, because there is an emotional reaction in the country. There is not a consideration, a reflection upon what we’re willing to do.

Has anybody suggested that we might have to pay another dime in taxes? We have spent $4 trillion in the last 14 years in war without paying for it, without paying for it. And now we have a big debate about the national debt. And we ask where the national debt comes from, how it grows, how it swells, when you have wars for 14 years, you deplete an army, you destroy an army.

The United States Army is hollowed out after 14 years, and it is tired. And you have these people urging, let’s go into combat. And as soon as we do and things go wrong, they are — as Bob Gates, the secretary of defense, said, they’re nowhere to be found.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let — go ahead.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I would just say nobody is in favor of the sort of action we had in Iraq in 2003. But I do think what Paris has done is, it was possible before Paris. And maybe it’s still possible, but I think it’s less — harder to make this case — to say, ISIS is so crazy, Syria is just so messed up. Let’s just let ISIS collapse under its own craziness. Let their own internal weaknesses take them down. Let Assad’s internal weaknesses take it down. It’s just some crazy Syrian thing.

What Paris has done is show that it’s not just a Syrian thing, that ISIS has now — time is not on our side. ISIS is now going off and doing this sort of activity. God knows what happens if they get their hands on biological or chemical weapons. For these people, there are no limits. And so time is not necessarily on our side anymore.

And, therefore, you have to — I don’t know what the action is. But you have to think more about the action.

MARK SHIELDS: OK, just on ISIS, I stand in total agreement with David on ISIS.

I mean, you look at 43 blown up in Beirut, a nation of four million people that’s taken a million Syrian refugees.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which we had almost forgotten about. That’s right.

MARK SHIELDS: And 200 wounded.

You have 224 blown up on the Russian plane, and you have now 130 in Paris. No, it is — it is — there is no question — unlike al-Qaida, where it was micromanaged by Osama bin Laden, this is — these are autonomous groups that are doing it and indigenous — obviously, as seen by Paris, indigenous recruits.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one — the other thing I do want to ask you about in just a little bit of time left, and that is we are watching this debate, David, play out over refugees and what to do.

And there, you do have Republicans saying don’t let them in, and even Democrats joining in and saying hold off on any more Syria or Iraqi refugees.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it’s appalling. The idea we’re doing national or religious profiling or even thinking about that is wrong.

We have got — the refugees are the least likely way they’re going to get in here.

MARK SHIELDS: Exactly.

DAVID BROOKS: The perpetrators in this case were from Belgium and France. Are we going to stop the Flemish from coming in?

It’s just — it’s not a carefully thought-through reaction. The process we have to get people into this country through the refugee, it takes a long time. It’s probably the hardest way to get in. And so this is just a native reaction that has been an unpleasant one.

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