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Poltical Analysts Discuss Middle East, G-8 Summit and Plame Lawsuit

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks look at the Middle East conflict, the upcoming G-8 Summit, the Valerie Plame lawsuit against Dick Cheney and the new policy on terror detainees.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, I'm going to read you a quote. "The level of pessimism is extreme." A Wall Street broker said that on the wires this afternoon. He was talking about the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, North Korea. Is that a justified feeling on this Friday night?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I think it is, Jim. I mean, a week ago, it looks like things with North Korea and Iran and Russia, which Ray just finished discussing, were about as bad as they could get. This week they got worse.

    And candidate George Bush ran in 2000 pledging a humble foreign policy with no illusions about nation-building. And today, after five years of a foreign policy, which I think even his friends and admirers would acknowledge has been aggressive, assertive, oftentimes arrogant, it's a humbled foreign policy.

    We see the limitations of the United States. Militarily, we are tied down. We are Gulliver. And that is seen not simply by us.

    We don't have — I was talking this afternoon to the Armed Services Committee. We don't have ammunition at Fort Hood for our troops to train with unless they're being deployed, immediately have orders to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, our equipment is run out.

    I mean, and the reality is North Korea and Iran see this. And to compound, to complicate, and exacerbate, and make even more tragic, we have the Israeli, what's going on.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You see things as grimly as he does?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    More or less, though I'd put it in less partisan terms. You know, I was a foreign correspondent from '90 to '94, and I covered the collapse of the Soviet Union, the birth of democracy. I covered the Oslo process in the Middle East, Mandela coming out of South Africa, European unification. It was good times.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    It was great times.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And since then, European unification has sort of fallen apart. The Oslo process has certainly fallen apart. And the Middle East, as we heard earlier in the program, Iran, and Syria, and Hezbollah are on the march.

    And the reasonable people to deal with, even Fatah, and the PLO, and Egypt, and Jordan, they're sidelined right now.

    And then you go to Russia. And what was a democratic moment, as we just heard, turning the '90s into a period of chaos, which discredited the West in Russia. And now we have a resurgence autocracy.

    So in Russia, in Iraq, certainly, in the Middle East, we've had bad trends; there's no question about it.

    I would say to countervail that, that the spread of globalization has reduced the poverty rate in half, mostly in Asia, and that the forces that created the democratic surge in the '90s have not disappeared. I don't care what country you go to: People in every country want to have choice and democracy. They don't want chaos.

    But some of the surging is still there. And take for the example of Russia. You do have a rising middle class there. Those people do want to have some sort of a democracy. It's just going to take a long time to have democracy with some sense of social order.

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