Columnists David Brooks and E.J. Dionne discuss the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the role of international leaders in seeking a diplomatic solution and the confirmation hearings of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
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And to the analysis of Brooks and Dionne, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Mark Shields is off tonight.
David, first, on President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, how well did you think they did today explaining what their position is?
DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:
I think they did well in the abstract, as usual. And the abstract, I think, is right, that you don't declare a cease-fire that's not going to last.
Israel and Lebanon have had a series of cease-fires, none of which have lasted because none of which have addressed the underlying problem. And they're right in the abstract, that if we declare a cease-fire now and Hezbollah and Nasrallah become the winners, that's just disastrous.
Hezbollah will overshadow the Lebanese government; he will become the giant in the Middle East; and the extremists of all sorts will have this tremendous boost, as well as Iran.
Now, where I would fault them — and where I would fault the whole administration understandably — is actually, how are you going to affect the alternate strategy?
And the alternate strategy is two stage, or maybe three: one, let Israel pound Hezbollah to weaken them; two, get some humanitarian aid in there; and, three, create this international force to create a better future after the fighting is done.
Now, that structure is frayed. Can we really count on the Israelis to pound Hezbollah? Are they going to be able to do that successfully? That's a question. And then, as we just heard, is there actually going to be an international force? That's a huge question.
My sources in government sound a lot more optimistic this week than last about the Israeli military possibilities, but they're much more pessimistic than last week about the international force.