The Week in Review
JEFF GREENFIELD, HOST: It's been the kind of week that makes you long for those Fridays when you'd look around the news room and grouse, boy, what a slow week. News from every front this past week, from the other side of the world to the corner mailbox: most of it falling under the title "High Anxiety."
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: ... tested positive for inhalation anthrax.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): From Washington came unsettling news about anthrax and the official response to it. Death and illness struck postal workers at a key D.C. mail facility. And health officials conceded they misjudged the danger.
DAVID SATCHER, SURGEON GENERAL: Clearly, we know now that that is wrong.
GREENFIELD: That anthrax in Senator Daschle's office? Much more potent, much more dangerous than first thought. And traces in a remote facility that handled White House mail, leading to this extraordinary statement by the president.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have anthrax.
GREENFIELD: Anthrax traces detected as well at a facility handling Supreme Court mail, at the CIA, and a matter New York postal facility. The postmaster general said this week he could not, not guarantee the safety of the U.S. mail.
JOHN POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL: And if someone were to say, you know, give me a guarantee that there's no anthrax in any locations throughout America, I don't think there are people who could do that.
BUSH: It is now my honor to sign into the law the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
GREENFIELD: On the home front, President Bush signed the anti- terrorism bill today, a bill passed with broad bipartisan support. But on Capitol Hill, partisan wrangling on how to stimulate the economy.
And the Airport Security bill is mired in debate over whether to federalize security workers.
REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: We had an effort that was successful in the Senate. Shanghai that bill.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Delay and Mr. Armey have made it clear that they don't want federal law enforcement officers doing this security work."
GREENFIELD: From the combat zone, more unsettling news. Military officials say the Taliban is proving to be a tenacious foe.
REAR. ADM. JOHN STUFFLEBEEM, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: It is extremely difficult proposition.
GREENFIELD: Press reports say there have been virtually no defections thus far from the Taliban. A prominent opposition leader who went to Afghanistan on Sunday was captured and executed. And the fierce Afghan winter is just weeks away.
Winter struck early this week, not in Afghanistan, but in the American Midwest. Four people died in a North Dakota storm.
And finally, just put today's concerns into perspective, paleontologists announced Thursday they discovered the fossilized remains of a huge distant relation of the modern crocodile. The Sarcosuchus lived some 110 million years ago and was most notable for a massive growth at the end of its snout that resembled "a huge, scaly toilet bowl."
And one time associate Snuffleuffagus was unavailable for comment.
Now for a look at events much more recent in time. We're joined by Ron Brownstein, "The Los Angeles Times" columnist from Washington. In Philadelphia, Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes, who edits the "Middle East Quarterly" and writes a column for "The Jerusalem Post." And here in New York, back with us again Joshua Ramo, assistant managing editor of "Time" magazine.
Mr. Ramo, let's start with Afghanistan. We've seen press reports now that the war's not going to go quite as quickly as we thought. The Taliban are tenacious foes, that opposition leader goes to Afghanistan, promptly captured and executed. Are we beginning to see the first faint signs of that dreaded Vietnam associate quagmire here?
JOSHUA RAMO, "TIME": Possibly. I think it's a long way from getting the quagmire part. We are starting to see, and I think frankly you'll hear more in the coming weeks, is the fact that in some respect, pieces of this look a little bit like amateur hour over there.
The Northern Alliance, which some people in the Pentagon have been saying is this incredible professional military group that we could count on to move right in. As soon as we bombed that southern rim around Mazar-e-Sharif, they'd be running into the city.
But we bombed the southern rim around Mazar-e-Sharif and they sat around. And so, they hadn't quite decided when they want to take over the town.
Abdul Haq's trip into Pakistan. The guy went in with two cell phones, a wad of cash and with nobody paying any attention to him otherwise. By and large, these are both major setbacks for any plan of having a quick resolution to things over there.
GREENFIELD: Ron Brownstein, you may remember that very early on, President Bush was quoted as saying to congressional leaders, we're not going to send a $20 million missile to knock down a $10 tent. Is there something of that going on now?
RON BROWNSTEIN, COLUMNIST, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, some of the targets that they've released in their daily video from the Pentagon briefings sure look like that. And there is a limit to how much can be achieved from the air is what many analysts are saying.
John McCain today, Senator McCain, went public with a basically a reprise of his criticism of President Clinton during the Kosovo war, when he said in a "Wall Street Journal" piece today that the administration seems to be fighting this by half measures, that we can't only depend only on the air. And also that while we are doing it from the air, we need to do it more vigorously.
So I do think that you are beginning to get publicly what has been there privately, Jeff, for the last few weeks in Washington, which is a concern that the administration may be trying to moderate the pace of the military action too much, while it assembles a political coalition to replace the Taliban if they fall.
McCain went forward today, in effect, publicizing that criticism. We may hear more of it if things don't begin to move faster on the ground there.
GREENFIELD: And Daniel Pipes, what strikes me as so significant about that, just a couple of days ago on this broadcast, I asked General Wesley Clark if the military campaign was being shaped, constrained by the political desires of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. He said well, of course it is. That's what modern warfare is like. Does that philosophy looking a little shaky right now?
DANIEL PIPES, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, Jeff, I think it is. We have to have a campaign with a mission that drives the coalition, not the coalition driving the mission. What I mean by that is that our goals have to decide who our partners are.
But to a certain extent, who our partners are is deciding what our military campaign looks like. And I don't think that's a wise idea.
GREENFIELD: Well, you're on record, Mr. Pipes as being, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think skepticism is a pretty good way to describe your view of the coalition in general. Do you think at this point in Afghanistan, it's time to just say, fellows whether you're with us or against us, we're doing this on our own terms?
PIPES: You're invited to join us, but we don't need you. We're going to do this alone. And you're very welcome to join us, but this is an American problem that we're going to deal with. Absolutely.
RAMO: I think that's a lethal decision. I mean, there's no question it's an American problem. There's no question the U.S. is going to have to execute and orchestrate and lead this operation, but at the same time, maintaining an appearance of aggressively building a coalition, of making the statement over and over and over again that this is not a war on Islam, but a war against terrorism.
PIPES: What's it doing for us?
RAMO: What it does for us, I think is really build a foundation. So that going forward, we can establish moderate Arab regimes in the region. And ultimately is our guarantee of security. The U.S. guarantee of security in that region is not going to be going in and bombing the heck out of Afghanistan and leaving a disaster area behind with no regional support. U.S. success in that region is going to be all about having moderate Arab states that believe the same things we do.
PIPES: Let me make the argument that what we're doing now is likely to lead to the reverse. What we are doing, our campaign in Afghanistan, is leading to tremendous upset in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
RAMO: But are you suggesting, if we say that we're going to go it alone, it's going to lead to the least upset?
PIPES: Yes, exactly.
RAMO: That's absurd.
PIPES: Well, let me explain why it's not absurd. Because if we did not implicate those governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, their populations would be less agitated. So if we did this alone without implicating the Muslim governments, they would be more stable than they are today.
GREENFIELD: Ron Brownstein, I'm sorry. I wanted to get your sense of how-that sounds like what Mr. Pipes said is a pretty radical reversal, at least from what Colin Powell has been pitching from day one?
BROWNSTEIN: Right. And as well as-you know, the other question of course, the short term question for the administration is how much can they rely on the Northern Alliance? What can they really produce?
I mean, the strategy seems to have been to try to focus our involvement primarily from the air and to have native Afghanistan forces do the groundwork, trying to dislodge the Taliban. The last few weeks, among other things, has to raise questions about that.
The Northern Alliance is criticizing the American effort by saying we're not focusing enough firepower on the Taliban forces to clear their way, but there are a lot of people here, as was suggested earlier, who are raising questions about how effective a fighting force they are and whether we can really rely on them in the end, to do this work.
It may be, as McCain was suggesting in his piece today, we have to get our hands dirtier if we really are going to dislodge this government, not only in the short run, but you know, even some time even later on.
GREENFIELD: So Joshua, if in fact some of the assumptions under which this battle is being fought don't look quite as secure as they did, and you don't agree with Dan Pipes, and we say OK, we're going to go it alone, what do we do?
RAMO: Well, I think we continue to push ahead and try and retrench. I mean, the nature of these kind of policies is you can't make a decision, push a button, and have things happen. As Eisenhower famously said about D-Day plans, we made the world's best plans and threw them out the moment the first shot was fired.
It's time for the administration to do some recalibration. But I think that recalibration is going to be much better served if it's done in consultation with our allies in the region and with other Arab governments, as opposed to doing it on their own.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Pipes, speaking of powers in the region, we have decided, I guess, in the last few weeks that Pakistan is our new best friend. We've canceled sanctions that we had imposed on them for their development of nuclear capability.
Do you think Pakistan, forget the rest of the coalition, is Pakistan in your view a reliable ally as we go into Afghanistan?
PIPES: Oh, I couldn't imagine a less reliable-I wouldn't call it an ally-coalition partner.
PIPES: It is a country that is ruled by a military dictatorship, where the population has made it very clear that it really dislikes what the United States is doing, putting the Pakistani government into jeopardy.
And I don't see what good can come of our insisting that the Pakistanis are our best friends. It's going hurt them, as well as us. In fact, the very notion of allies in this part of the world is a dubious one. The only real allies we have are fellow democracies. And I can only think of three in this region, Israel, India and Turkey, all of which are peripheral to our coalition strategy.
RAMO: I find that to be an incredibly dangerous argument. Ultimately, what you want to encourage in that region, I think, is more democracy, states that are in line with American values. And again, to try and isolate any given state there strikes me as dangerous.
I completely agree with Mr. Pipes about the vulnerabilities of those moderate Arab states in the region and the potential vulnerabilities of the government of Pakistan, but I think leaving them out by themselves to dry in a very situation doesn't solve the problem. It makes it worse.
GREENFIELD: And now that we've reached complete unanimity on what happens in Afghanistan, we're going to be turn in the next section toward the homeland and ask whether Congress is going to stay unified about the war against Afghanistan. Later, we're going to talk about some of the stories that you might and might have missed this week. That's coming up. Please stay with us.
GREENFIELD: We're back and we're turning our attention to some of the issues here at home. We're talking with Ron Brownstein of "The "Los Angeles Times," to Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum and with Josh Ramo of "Time" magazine.
Ron Brownstein, there's been a lot of talk about the tale of two Washingtons. United at least for now on the war, a bipartisan terrorism bill, but deeply divided on partisan lines on the stimulus and federalizing security workers.
Now the question is, are we likely to see those divisions begin to spill over into criticism of the conduct of the war itself? Or is that still an area that's pretty much off limits to political debate or division?
BROWNSTEIN: The answer, Jeff, is slowly, I think it will move in that direction, although never to the extent that it is on the domestic issues. I was talking to a senator tonight about this past week, which has been, in many ways, disconcerting both at home and abroad. All of the-in your opening spot, when you talked about the acknowledgment from the Pentagon, the Taliban are proving more tenacious and resourceful and difficult than we expected.
The uncertainty and confusion and the response to anthrax at home. There are a lot of questions, really, for the first time. Dick Gephardt, the House Minority Leader, said this week there was a failure of the government that the led to the deaths of the postal workers at the postal facility in Washington.
We talked earlier about Senator McCain going public with questions about conduct of the war, going public with what other senators I think and other policy folks here in Washington have been saying privately, which also came out today at that press briefing at the Pentagon, but the sharpest questions yet for them.
So I do think we are going in that direction, but all of it is tempered, I think, by an acknowledgment on both sides that this is presenting us with some unanticipated and to some extent, unprecedented questions, especially on the home front.
And so, when you saw the President today pleading for patience, you know, he said the American people are going to have to be patient, I think he's going to get patience for a while, but the lesson for me of the last few days is that patience is not unlimited. And you are going to see a return to at least political debate, if not a fundamental crack in the unity of post September 11.
RAMO: I actually on Monday of this week had breakfast with a very senior Fed official. And they're very worried about the economy.
GREENFIELD: This was the Federal Reserve.
RAMO: Yes. And one of the ideas they have is actually trying to figure out if there's a way the President can channel some of his success, some of his political success, on the military front in order to remove that debate, which they see as being poisonous on the economic front.
And this person suggested to me that what the President should do is have come back from Shanghai and said the war is my number one priority. I'm going to spend 20 minutes of every hour being briefed on it, but frankly, Secretary Rumsfeld and Powell are doing a very good job of handling that. Now I'm turning my attention to the economy.
And if he did that, he would then be able to lead a charge in that area, which would completely obliterate all the political atmosphere that's been filled with tension and problems there.
BROWNSTEIN: No, I don't agree. Really, you know, when you get away from the war, the instinct on both sides to reaffirm differences is really strong. I mean, to some extent, you know, the natural instincts of people in Congress and in politics is to look, at least in the modern era, is to look for a way to affirm the differences between the party. And that's being suppressed almost across the board in anything to do with the war.
There is, I think, both a genuine philosophical difference when it comes to the stimulus plan and how to deal with the economy that is real between the parties, but it's also a desire to draw some lines of distinction again.
And we saw that in the House, where the House Republicans pushed through a stimulus plan this week, that they knew, that they designed, in effect, to minimize Democratic votes. It really was the first thing since September 11 that cleared either house of Congress on a party line vote.
Bush has been pulled in that direction. I mean, he has leaned toward the Republicans on their version of the stimulus plan in a way that is probably going to produce more conflict with the Democrats in the Senate. Although maybe as Josh suggested, in the end, he may try to use some of this popularity to craft a deal behind the scenes.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Pipes, let me ask you if, in fact, the divisions we're talking about begin to divide the country on the conduct of the war, is this something to be feared? Or is an open political debate on what we are doing in combat, from your perspective, to be welcome?
PIPES: As someone who came of age during Vietnam, I can't say I look forward to a very intense political debate. I found the last seven weeks to the heartening. The solidarity has been a wonderful thing. I don't look forward to that breaking.
And the problem in my mind is that we had a government that was unprepared, unprepared internationally, unprepared domestically, not taking these threats seriously for two decades. And now, scrambling to make up for it. And it's just not ready for primetime.
GREENFIELD: But how do you simultaneously be heartened by a kind of feeling of unanimity? And you yourself are raising questions about the conduct of the war? I'm not suggesting they're illegitimate, but isn't what you're doing, in part, encouraging people to say, wait a second, this administration doesn't know what it's doing?
PIPES: It's not this administration. It goes back before January 20.
PIPES: The government, as a whole, has not been prepared. Both Democrats and Republicans have not been prepared. We are now scrambling to catch up, but it's going to be hard. And our discussion a few minutes ago about the way the campaign is going in Afghanistan points to the fact that we're just not ready for this.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Ramo, take the homeland discussion. And now take that around the world. Is there a reason to worry that the people that you say we must keep this part of the coalition as they watch the United States response to anthrax, as they watch the way the war's being conducted, is there a concern on your part that their support for the United States may waver if they think we don't know, in fact, we don't know what we're doing?
RAMO: I think it's a completely legitimate concern that comes back to the definition of leadership. And it's really time, I think, for the Bush administration to begin to step up, to begin to think aggressively for the first time, about what it is they want to do overseas.
The message they've been sending to the American public has been, so far, as both guests have pointed out, a very successful message in keeping the country aligned behind the war. Now it's time for the President to take that message on the international stage. It's a much trickier stage, but I think it's something they've got to do to make this work.
GREENFIELD: Ron, you know, in the wake of the President's speech to the joint session of Congress, a lot of the early criticism of him, that he really wasn't an effective communicator went away, because the speech was such a success. Are you seeing any signs at all of that particular criticism creeping back into Washington conversation?
BROWNSTEIN: Not so much about Bush. But certainly, there have been concerns about the way the White House and the administration's institution has communicated on the domestic threat.
I mean, in some ways, the contrast between the assuredness and certainty of the Pentagon briefings and the, you know, the visibly, almost sweating under the lights of the Tom Ridge and the domestic folks, as they try to get their arms around anthrax.
And obviously, things go awry in Afghanistan as well. There are bombs that are misdirected. And there's this whole question of whether the day-to-day tactical operations really are leading anywhere strategically.
But nonetheless, that looks to be a lot more in control. Rumsfeld at his briefings, up until a few days ago, has felt so in command, that he, you know, would be joking with reporters. You don't see any of that in the way that Tom Ridge is answering questions, because they've had a lot more trouble getting their arms around the story. And I think there's been a lot of criticism of that, but it hasn't reached the level of criticism of the President yet.
PIPES: Jeff, could I point out another difference, which is the State Department versus Defense Department? It is the most thorough-going philosophical difference between two major arms of government that we've seen in decades. And it could potentially be a significant problem in the months ahead.
GREENFIELD: OK, thank you for that. We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we're going to ask, what were the week's story that we, that is the media, may have overlooked? We'll ask our guests, and I'll throw my two cents in, right after this.
GREENFIELD: We're back. And now we are asking what stories we should have told you more about, according to Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times," Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum and Joshua Ramo of "Time" magazine.
Mr. Pipes, your first thought, your candidate?
PIPES: I think it was first reported by the BBC that the anthrax-laden letter sent-posted in Atlanta and sent to Nairobi, Kenya was dated September 8.
September 8: September 9th was the murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the United Front military. And of course, September 11 saw the hijackings in the United States.
That suggests to me that the anthrax campaign is tied to the hijackings, tied to Afghanistan, tied to Osama bin Laden.
GREENFIELD: OK. Now that's what we call in the law, circumstantial evidence though. Right?
PIPES: It is. I said it suggests. I didn't say it proves.
GREENFIELD: OK. And it may turn out to be a biggie.
Mr. Ramo, your candidate?
RAMO: Yes, this week was a difficult week in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. There was very close to something resembling an Israeli invasion of the West Bank. There was occupation going on in several of the key towns there.
But this week, the Shin Bet, which is the Israeli secret service, acknowledged for the first time the existence of what they believe to be four Israeli terror cells operating inside the West Bank and Gaza. That's a hugely important story because it represents a real shift inside Israel and a legitimization of far right wing attacks on Palestinians by Israelis. It's a sign of potentially much worse things to come in that area.
GREENFIELD: It also suggests that, if you're looking at how these players line up, that as the United States tries to broker between the Arab world and Israel, Sharon himself has political pressure coming at him.
GREENFIELD: OK, Mr. Brownstein? Ron?
BROWNSTEIN: Jeff, to me, the big story of the week was it gave us, amid all of this flow of news, a first real sense of how great the cost of this is going to be, abroad and especially at home. When the postal service says it has to take on the incredibly daunting task of trying to sterilize the mail, it's really a reminder that this is not-terrorism is not only a form of psychological and physical warfare, it's a form of economic warfare.
And we are seeing these terrorist acts having enormous leverage, enormous ability to generate responding costs here in the U.S., as we try to harden our systems that the price tag of this is getting very big. And it could get a lot bigger if other targets are aimed at in the future and we have to respond to those as well.
GREENFIELD: Now I think, Ron, that you're on a subject that we've been trying to focus on almost from day one here. And that, if every airline passenger is delayed an hour, that's a million man-hours or person hours per day. If the postal service slows down 30 percent, the impact on productivity is-may be incalculable. And I take it what you're saying, this may wind up being the single biggest home front story of them all.
BROWNSTEIN: I think that the cost of this, in every way, both public and private costs, is only going expand. And it's something that in the flow of events, we're losing sight of. But when the postal service says it's going try to sterilize the mail, we are definitely in a new era and one that is very expensive with a lot of costs that we weren't anticipating a few months ago.
GREENFIELD: Well, if I'm up next, and I guess by process of elimination I am, if I wanted to be flip, I'd suggest the undercovered story was the fact that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade has decided to bump Miss America in favor of Ms. Universe on their float. But since Donald Trump owns a piece of the Miss Universe pageant, it's impossible to call that story undercovered.
So I would put the following story out, that the Irish Republican Army announced that it was, in fact, going to begin the process of disarming after 30 years of troubles. And I guess it's a measure of how dominant this one story of terrorism is, that in the absence of this, this would've been considered a huge victory for optimism in the world. And instead, it's kind of like a back page thing.
RAMO: And you know, the other thing is, in the absence of this story, it might not have happened. Part of the problem is the IRA woke up this week and they realized being a terrorist isn't a sexy thing. It's not a compelling, interesting way to mobilize people to your cause anymore. And they recognize, finally, you say after 30 years, that the right route is decommissioning.
GREENFIELD: We've got about, just a few seconds left. Very quickly, Ron, is there anything in the last week that made you more optimistic than you were last week?
BROWNSTEIN: No, I think has been a very tough week, I think, both home and abroad. I mean, this is a country with a lot of resilience and a lot of determination, but I think the message of the past few days is this is going to be at least as tough as we had anticipated, and probably a lot tougher on both fronts.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Pipes, you got 15 seconds worth of optimism for us?
PIPES: Yes, I do. The solidarity I spoke about before is still there, looks strong and that to me is absolutely critical.
GREENFIELD: OK, well, thanks for ending the week on an optimistic note. I appreciate that. I want to thank my guests Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times," Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum and "Time" magazine's Joshua Ramo.
I'm Jeff Greenfield. Thanks for watching. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" is next. Have a good weekend.
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes