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Brzezinski and Mead on Day 2 of Iraq War

March 20, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: We are about 24 hours into the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. Today, there were more air strikes on Baghdad, and ground troops moved into southern Iraq. We’ll look at the latest developments in the region and at home with reporters and military analysts.

But first, with us now and throughout the hour are Zbigniew Brzezinski, counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington– he was the national security adviser during the carter administration; and Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. His recent book, “Special Providence,” is an historical look at the U.S. and the world. Mr. Mead, has the war begun about the way you expected it to?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: I guess I thought we’d see a little more shock and awe in the beginning, that they would have gone in with the massive attack. So this has been, this kind of first attempt at surgical strike was a surprise.

JIM LEHRER: How about you, Dr. Brzezinski?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think the war has started in a way that probably wasn’t anticipated by Pres. Bush or Sec. Rumsfeld – namely they got the sudden intelligence; they decided to take advantage of it. We still don’t know how effective it was, but it may have created opportunities for signaling to the Iraqi forces that it may be in their interest to disengage because their regime may be decapitated.

JIM LEHRER: So there’s flexibility in this battle plan clearly if what you’re suggesting is correct, that this wasn’t the original idea.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: That’s right. I mean, we’ve come a long way from 1914, when the great armies had these plans for mobilizations and they couldn’t be changed, even months in advance. War – they now seem to be able to turn a war on a dime.

JIM LEHRER: But, as you say, there are still many unknowns at this point, but the early evidence is that people are at least talking or thinking about throwing up their hands to the liberators, we’ll see, huh?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I thought it was quite remarkable today the way Rumsfeld was in effect negotiating with the Iraqi commanders. If you read or listen to the statement, it was clearly designed to establish a dialogue. My guess also is that our plans were somewhat disrupted by the Turkish decision, which forced us to in a sense reconsider the nature of the military plan, and this may be partially a cause for what appears to be a slight delay.

JIM LEHRER: The Turkish decision will not allow our troops –

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: To go in from the North.

JIM LEHRER: That’s right. The decision today to let our planes use Turkish air space is not the same thing by a long shot.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: That’s right. I mean, the original plan saw the attack coming down from the North as being almost equal in importance to the attack coming up from the South and once the Iraqis know that they’re not facing this kind of giant pincers movement, then the Iraqis can also make some changes in what they’re doing.

JIM LEHRER: But the strategy you think now, Dr. Brzezinski is to say wait and see if there can be massive collapse of the government and the Iraqi army, right?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: This integration of any united stand by the Iraqis and perhaps piecemeal capitulation by individual units as our forces move forward. But this may not come to pass. There may be only fragmentary capitulations. So my guess that we will still see the real military showdown.