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Brzezinski, Kissinger Debate U.S. Role in Mideast Crisis

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, and Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state and national security adviser for presidents Nixon and Ford, discuss the crisis in the Middle East and what America's role should be.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now the perspectives of two former U.S. diplomats who have been closely involved in Middle East diplomacy in the past. Henry Kissinger was secretary of state and national security adviser for Presidents Nixon and Ford. Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Carter.

    I talked with them earlier this evening, before the interview with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    There's a report late today, Secretary Kissinger, that Secretary of State Rice is going to go to the Middle East late this week, possibly as soon as Friday. Is that the right thing to do?

    HENRY KISSINGER, Former Secretary of State to Presidents Nixon and Ford: I have very great respect for Secretary Rice. If she thinks she can come to some conclusion and if she can have an impact on the situation, then it will turn out to be the right thing to do, but what we don't need is a high-level visit that leaves the situation unchanged.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    So something firm would have to be almost worked out in advance so there would be — it would be considered a success or she shouldn't go in the first place?

  • HENRY KISSINGER:

    Well, I would think that, when the secretary of state visits the region, some significant progress towards a cease-fire ought to result from it.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Dr. Brzezinski, how do you feel about that?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, Former National Security Adviser to President Carter: I feel she's right in going, because for her not to go would indicate a degree of U.S. passivity, even disengagement, which I think would be counterproductive. I think it's clear by now that the issue is not one that the parties themselves can resolve, so some international involvement is needed and, above all else, American involvement.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And do you think she would bring, Dr. Brzezinski, enough to the table to get something done, like a cease-fire?

  • ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI:

    I have the sense that all of the parties involved realize that this conflict that is now under way is not to escalate, insofar as their interests are concerned.

    So that for different reasons each of the parties to the conflict might be receptive to some arrangement that can provide for a cease-fire, some reciprocal gestures, perhaps not simultaneous exchanges of prisoners, for example, but sequential arrangements, things of that sort, which obviously are needed if this conflict is to be contained.