America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
The “Mad Dog of the Middle East” – Muammar Gadhafi is killed – as Libyan rebels celebrated the end of an era; just days before, U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Libya and pledged political and economic support for the transitional government; the Greek parliament passed a new round of austerity measures amid growing violence; the U.S announced it was sending military advisors to Uganda; and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home to a hero’s welcome after being held for five years by Hamas. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Libya now begins the task of reinventing itself after the death of Muammar Gadhafi. Europe and Germany postpone the announcement of euro zone debt reduction plan and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton stepped up pressure on militants to cooperate in stabilizing Pakistan.
MS. DIANE REHMHere in the studio to talk about the week's top international news stories, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy news and David Ignatius of the Washington Post. It's been an amazing week and we do welcome your calls, questions, comments, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFGood morning.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSGood morning.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENGood morning.
REHMNancy Youssef, you have been up close, seen pictures of Muammar Gadhafi in life and death.
YOUSSEFYes, exactly two months after Tripoli fell he was captured alive and there are conflicting accounts of -- in terms of how he died. The Transitional National Council or National Transitional Council, depending on how you refer to them, say that it was -- he was injured in the attack, the initial attack, by NATO on his convey leaving Sirte, his hometown, for Ben Walid, which is one of his other strongholds.
REHMBut the pictures that we're seeing, and they're still coming out, suggests that he was captured and potentially executed by rebel forces in Sirte, that -- it appears that there was -- the convoy was struck. Two of the vehicles were burned and he and his supporters ran into some sort of drainage pipe and there the rebels found them and pulled them out. Found them with a gun, two guns actually, and now we're seeing pictures of him executed and he's Misrata now, which was the scene of really fighting.
YOUSSEFAnd now Libya can move forward in a sense because he really united everybody in terms of this cause of eliminating him as a threat, that Libya couldn't move forward without the reassurance that he was dead or captured. But now a whole new host of problems begin as they try to sort out what kind of post-Libya they want to form.
REHMAnd before they get to that, the UN human rights council has called for an investigation into precisely how he died, David.
IGNATIUSWell, the photographs, cellphone movies that we saw of his last moments were pretty grim. They remind you that what the end of a regime really is all about. In terms of the physical violence, it does look from the head wounds as if he was shot at close range and so they'll be questions properly about what happened.
IGNATIUSI'm struck today, Diane, by all the terrible things that didn't happen in the final weeks and days in Libya. The White House has had a task force since March studying contingencies as this revolution moved forward, trying to be smart after seeing what happened in Baghdad in 2003, after our invasion and the chaos and looting and just terrible violence that took place there.
IGNATIUSThey've prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Humanitarian disasters, people unable to get food and water, widespread chaos in the cities, especially in Tripoli and talking to them yesterday, they were really struck and I think we all should be, at what a good job the Libyans have done keeping things together. I mean, these grizzly scenes of Gadhafi's final moments notwithstanding, the general picture, I would say, is of a Libya where people have kept it together pretty well.
REHMSo Yochi Dreazen, you think that this would in effect then be the end of any kind of loyal resistance?
DREAZENI'm not sure and I think David's point about some of the things not happening, but I would add a three-letter word, yet. I mean, already there are reports from the ground in Libya of tensions, in some case violence, of low level so far, but easily escalate-able between the different groups of fighters who helped eliminate Gadhafi. Libya's always been a country where different tribes, different regions, different cities hated each other and had very little ties to each other. Gadhafi held it together by force.
DREAZENWe've already seen the fighters from Misrata, the fighters from Sirte, each one sort of trying to say that they're ones who helped, from Tripoli, they're the ones who helped get rid of Gadhafi's regime. They should have primacy. It's clear that this country will stay together. The other thing -- I was very struck yesterday watching al-Jazeera. I mean, again, as with the Egyptian protests, this had the best coverage, the most graphic in some ways when they started to show the imagery of Gadhafi, still alive, being pulled towards a truck, being beaten, being -- and then they don't show the gunshot, but he's clearly still alive in the video as he's pulled toward the truck.
DREAZENAnd it struck that this in some way is -- this video caps a big part of the Arab Spring and a big turn in the Arab Spring. Think about the first time we all started watching al-Jazeera and it was for the protests in Egypt, which at the time were peaceful. At the time seemed like Egypt's future was optimistic. Flash-forward you have the Egypt military opening fire on protestors, the emergency law back in effect, Islamist on the rise. So the things we feared would happen at least are beginning to happen.
DREAZENAnd now in Libya, something that in Egypt had initially been peaceful, in Libya ends with what everyone thinks of Gadhafi -- a fairly brutal killing of Gadhafi.
YOUSSEFWell, I want to talk a little bit about the divisions that Yochi mentioned because what -- in a way, Libya hasn't been a state until Gadhafi. The flag that we see, the red, green and black one, represents the three different sorts of parts of the country, the east and the west and the south. And there has been a real division, you know, in a way that the council -- in some ways is backed more by the west than by Libyans. I think people think that it's a decision or a choice between pro-Gadhafi and anti-Gadhafi. But talk to people in Tripoli. There are a lot of people in Tripoli who didn't support Gadhafi but don't support this regime either.
YOUSSEFBecause they see it as part of eastern Libya, Benghazi, that doesn't really represent them and their interests. They feel that they've been let out -- they've been pushed out of it particularly the residents of Misrata. Remember, it was the western fighters that turned things around that -- and led to the fall of Tripoli and yet they're not as vocal and organized and much a part of this government as the eastern fighters are and they don't know who these people are.
YOUSSEFThere's still relatively unknown people. That friction between west and east is always been there in Libya. In a lot of ways Gadhafi exploited it and so how you bring people together will be a real challenge and I think you'll hear -- the people of Misrata who are already fighting for a bigger voice now with this 18-year-old fighter from Misrata claiming to have fired the fatal shot and as you see his body is in Misrata. I think we're going to hear from them in particular a greater demand for a say.
REHMHow much of a role, if any, did NATO play in this ultimate demise of Gadhafi?
IGNATIUSWe're still trying to sort out conflicting reports, Diane, but it does appear that Gadhafi left in a convoy from Sirte, his hometown, where he'd been hanging out, heading along a road and that that convoy was bombed by NATO forces. There are reports of a drone fighter perhaps being involved in the bombing. It doesn't appear that the vehicle hit was one that had Gadhafi in it but he was forced to stoop and then flee on foot and ended up in an odd sort of storm culvert drainage area where he was found and then dragged out. So appropriately because this is Libya's revolution the final coup as it were did not come from NATO forces but from Libyans.
REHMBut then the question becomes how much of a role might NATO/U.S. play in going forward, David?
IGNATIUSI think NATO's role, QUANATO, will end soon. As soon as there's an official declaration that Libya is liberated, which hasn't come at the hour of our broadcast, then this Transitional National Council will switch into being interim government. And at that point NATO's military mission will end and interestedly management of the transition-reconstruction assistance will be taken over by the UN.
IGNATIUSThe UN has already appointed a special representative for Libya, a man named Ian Martin who's very experienced and there will be several hundred experts who will be gathered under the UN flag to help Libya do all the things that will be a part of putting a country together. Interestedly again, it's a multinational multi-lateral effort and again we have the U.S. sort of taking a seat in the second row.
YOUSSEFI think it's interesting that NATO -- remember NATO's mission was to protect civilians. That was what they had agreed to and yet they struck this convoy of civilians leaving Sirte. Their argument is that they suspected they were military. They weren't sure Gadhafi was in it but that it was a command and control threat.
YOUSSEFI think for some people, particularly the Chinese and Russian, who has to sign off on any future Security Council resolutions that allow for operations like this, that's going to be a little shaky of an argument. So NATO insisted they weren't going in after an individual and yet it appears that they might've been and so I think that's going to be a hard argument to make.
DREAZENI mean, this was from the beginning the war that dare not utter its own name. I mean, this from the start was very clearly -- there was no doubt at all that this was not going to end until Gadhafi was toppled, captured and very likely killed. So I think Nancy's point is right, that the NATO mission was stated to be one way but from the start there was no question with this war intervention, whatever you're going to call it, what it was meant to do. it was meant to end with Gadhafi's capture or death and it did.
REHMInteresting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unscheduled trip to Libya just days before. What was the purpose of her going there?
DREAZENWell, you know, the U.S. had been, as David said, not just in the second row when it comes to involvement, but they were in the second row when it came to recognizing the new Libyan government. It was recognized by the Canadians, by the British, by the French, by the Italians, by much of the Arab League, by much of the EU before the U.S. formally recognized it and there has been this question of what role will the U.S. have post-Gadhafi leaving? So the Hillary going was meant to say here's our stamp of approval. We know that we were slow to do it but here we are publicly standing in front -- with Jibril the new Prime Minister and saying we support you.
REHMIsn't it interesting how we referred to Secretary of State Clinton as Hillary? I can't recall another Secretary of State that I have referred by first name. Short break and we'll be right back.
REHMAnd we're back with David Ignatius of the Washington Post. He's also author of the book titled "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage" which I've just finished and found extremely important and interesting. Nancy Youssef, she's Pentagon correspondent with McClatchy newspapers and Yochi Dreazen. He's senior national security correspondent for National Journal magazine. We do welcome your calls, questions, comments, 800-433--8850.
REHMJust before the break, we were talking about Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Libya. Yochi, what was her message?
DREAZENAnd the message in Afghanistan and Pakistan was kind of a blunt one to the Pakistanis. I mean, this was a you-need-to-do-something-about-the-Haqqani network writ large. You have to take serious action after not doing anything for the past few years. As (word?) pointed out that it wasn't just Secretary of State Clinton who went to Pakistan. It was the new Chairman at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. It was David Petraeus, now the Director of the CIA.
DREAZENSo it was sort of every element of American foreign policy, national security power going together.
REHMSo are they going to pay attention?
DREAZENI think unless and until this is backed up by actions, doubtful. I mean, U.S. officials have been calling for action along the borders for years. Not always this hard but the words are not new. What would be new would be if further cuts to the Pakistani A program were made. Already some money's been held back. If that was reduced, if the number of drone attacks from bases in Afghanistan increased and if you saw some number of special operations raids into Pakistan targeting the Haqqani network leadership, financiers, logisticians. Unless and until that happens it's just words.
REHMThat's what your book is all about, David.
IGNATIUSWell, Diane, your comment on my book flatters the author, but yes, the book does write about these personalities in this area. Just one note I would make -- it's the theme of the book actually -- but the U.S. is struggling now, not simply to think about how to destroy the Haqqani network and its safe havens, but how to find a way to talk to them so that you could have some kind of resolution of this.
IGNATIUSIt's -- an element of what's going on is not written about much because it's very secret. But we have had a meeting in a Persian Gulf country with a representative of the Haqqani Network that was brokered by the head of Pakistani intelligence who brought the men with him. This happened in August.
IGNATIUSSo the message that we are delivering to the Pakistanis is complex and two-fold. On the one hand we're saying if you really want to be at the center of negotiations you need to deliver the people you have control over now. If they're not going to negotiate then you need to help us go after them and fight them and destroy them, because they threaten you as well as us. But that's the basic fork in the road.
IGNATIUSInterestingly Secretary Clinton used a new phrase to describe what our strategy is, which if I heard it right was fight, talk, build. In other words, the idea is we're going to be in this period now for a while where we're talking some and we're fighting some. But the idea is that at the end of that sometime next year maybe you'll have a real process for discussion.
DREAZENIt's a point to remember with Haqqani network, especially with the elder Haqqani -- in "Charlie Wilson's War" in the book, not the movie, one of the best pictures in the book is Charlie Wilson posing with the elder Haqqani in Afghanistan in the early '80s. Charlie Wilson's got Ray-Bans, Haqqani has Ray-Bans. They look like best friends.
DREAZENWhen Charlie Wilson visited Afghanistan, he spent his entire time with Haqqani. And he talked about how the best moment of his life was Haqqani network guys took him to a missile battery and let him fire missiles at a soviet base. And for Charlie Wilson, this was as good as it came.
DREAZENSo this is a relationship that the U.S. has had with the Haqqani family for decades. Unfortunately, right after the Afghan war there were back and forth communications between the U.S. and the Haqqani network. They were actually fairly well on their way. Unfortunately, the U.S. then bombed a Haqqani family compound, killed about 100 Haqqani relatives, including a bunch of children and that brought it into the talks.
REHMSee, that's where your book brought me right into that kind of back and forthing of the person in Pakistan believing he has done so much for the U.S. And then his family compound is bombed.
IGNATIUSIs destroyed by a Predator attack.
REHMExactly. Go ahead, Nancy.
YOUSSEFWell, I just want to bring back on from this year which is to note why we're at such a low point in particular now in our relationship with Pakistani. Members of the Haqqani network are suspected of U.S. troops deaths, that bin Laden was in Pakistan. And most recently and I think the tipping point was the attack on the embassy at the end of September, the hours-long attack on the U.S. Embassy there.
YOUSSEFSo that's how we've gotten to this point. I think the timing is particularly problematic for the United States because we're asking Pakistan to give up its proxy force at a time when we're getting ready to withdraw. And there are fears that Afghanistan will devolve into some sort of civil conflict. And the biggest fear for the Pakistanis is an Indian Afghan alliance of some kind, that they're sandwiched in, if you will.
YOUSSEFSo, as you mentioned, it becomes what is our leverage. And you can cut off aid, but someone argued the threat is that that'll just push them even further...
YOUSSEF...closer to the Haqqani network.
YOUSSEFAnd so I think the reality is that this may be an intractable problem, which is a horrible sort of conclusion to come to about this conflict. But every time you -- I find myself looking at it I can't -- I see why they're trying to do it but it's -- I can't get to a viable solution.
REHMWhat about Secretary of State Clinton's comments about Herman Cain while she was in the Middle East, Yochi?
DREAZENIt's again the perils of the open microphone and it continues to get American politicians again and again and again. I was struck actually by two parts of that. I mean one, the kind of mocking of Herman Cain which, you know, it was sort of funny. It was arguably inappropriate for the top American diplomat. But the Karzai reaction. I mean, there was a certain chumminess between Secretary of State Clinton and Hamid Karzai. Karzai obviously speaks very good English. He has family still in the U.S. so he's not a leader who's remote and lack knowledge about the U.S.
DREAZENBut there was a chumminess there that doesn't always convey publicly. I mean, there's -- sometimes there's a frostiness, even when U.S. officials are in Kabul, between Karzai and the officials. Here they would joke you around, there was a chumminess. But Karzai took part in the laughter also. And it was just an odd, odd moment.
IGNATIUSDiane, I think one thing that is part of what Yochi is describing is a pretty interesting change in the demeanor, body language and actual policies of President Karzai. I mean, six months ago, the U.S. and Karzai were at daggers. There was just real intense anger on the two sides. Now, we have a new ambassador, Ryan Crocker. Best diplomat I ever saw, to be honest, with a real gift for -- in his low-key way of getting to know people.
IGNATIUSWe have a new commander in General Allen who's working very hard to keep the temperature down. Not as BOMBASTIC, capital letters, of personalities, John Petraeus. So things are going a little differently. Also fascinatingly, Karzai's really fed up with the Pakistanis. And the Pakistanis know it. And if I'm reading this right, actually have realized they have to back off a little bit.
IGNATIUSKarzai, in his anger at the assassination of Rabbani, who was his key aide of reconciliation, went off to India, signed a strategic cooperation agreement with India, which is pretty -- they've never done that before. And the Pakistanis, rather than rant and rave, responded respectfully kind of understanding, we may have gone over a line here. So that's an interesting new factor, better relations between the U.S. and Karzai.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about this European debt crisis. Yochi Dreazen, you saw violence in Greece building, parliament narrowly passed this package of austerity measures, one elderly man seeking to protect the parliament killed. Where is this headed now that Greece has passed this?
DREAZENI continually love to talk about European bond deals and bank bailouts. But, I mean, joking aside, it is a real serious issue. What's happening now is a sort of fairness debate, actually very similar to what's happening with the Occupy Wall Street debates here at home. Germany rightly is saying, we've contributed hundreds of billions of euros to bail out people who didn't deserve it. To bail out Italians who spent money they didn't have, whose numbers were fictitious, who don't collect tax revenue. Bail out the Greeks whose numbers are fictitious. And now they're being asked to bail out the French banks.
DREAZENSo think back -- again to make the comparison here a little bit -- the source of the public anger here wasn't just the Wall Street bailouts, although that was a key part of it. But it was specifically a lot directed at Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs got 100 cents back on the dollar for its terrible, terrible bets, when every other investor in the world who was involved in these bets took a haircut.
DREAZENWhat's happening now in Europe is French banks, which bought the most Greek debt, the most Italian debt were the most careless, the most profligate, they're saying bail us out. The Germans are saying, we'll bail out a government reluctantly. But this is bank greed and bank incompetence. We're not going to help you. And that's the impasse.
REHMSo is Germany finally going to yield?
YOUSSEFWe'll see. I mean, the flip of that is Germany doesn't want to be the reason the euro fails, right. And so it's the balancing between its real frustration and frankly disgust with how its European partners have gone about their debt crisis. And yet -- and they're the keystone in this. And yet I think it not only goes against -- it goes against their ethic to keep bailing banks out. But it's on Angela Merkel's shoulders now whether the euro zone survives. And so we'll see.
YOUSSEFI mean, there's signals that she's moving towards that, but she's got to bring along a reluctant German population as well. And so we'll see. I mean, but they're meeting this weekend in Brussels. And there's hope that there'll be a substantive agreement that comes out of that, but she's amazing.
REHMI thought that meeting had actually been postponed, David.
IGNATIUS...it's been delayed, but, you know, this meeting itself was supposed to approve, believe it or not, something that was passed I believe in June last summer. It's months old. And at that it was thought to be inadequate at that time. And, look, it's now two years after the seriousness of Greece's financial problems became evident. And what's increasingly clear is that Europe simply isn't able to step up to the fact that this is a solvency crisis.
IGNATIUSIn other words, it's a crisis about whether institutions basically have sufficient capital to continue operating. Whether they're countries like Greece, which basically is bankrupt or whether they're European banks which have been, from what my friends tell me, really fiddling -- playing fast and loose with the numbers. They keep being stress tested and, oh, no problem here. And then, hey guess what? There's a big problem.
IGNATIUSWhat happened in the U.S. is we had a terrible financial meltdown, but there was pretty quick and decisive action on this question of bank capital. It wasn't just liquidity, it was bank capital. And until Europe hits that moment I think they're going to keep stumbling.
REHMDavid Ignatius of the Washington Post and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. Let's first go to Catonsville, Md. Good morning, Kareem. You're on the air.
KAREEMGood morning. Again, it's a pleasure and having called you I've been an avid listener of yours for years.
KAREEMMy pleasure. And my comment is in regard of the leader -- or the would-be leader of Moammar Gadhafi as far as Libya's concerned. This guy, basically, he grabbed power which was already there for the taking, an elderly king that he (word?) at the time, was not much of an effort on his part. But he had these grandiose ideas of unifying the Arab world and somewhat the African continent. But which was all basically just a show off in a sense. He was never a man of substance, much less a statesman.
KAREEMAnd it took 42 years for the Libyan people to wake up. And obviously the Tunisian and the Egyptian revolutions themselves made it easier for them to understand that it's going to take some sacrifice before they can have the freedom that they want. But my issue is the regime as a whole. There are a lot of people that turned the other way. You know, they're turncoats. Basically they were under his regime, they served with him in one sense or another, including the guy which (unintelligible) right now. He was his minister of justice, if there was any justice in Libya to begin with.
KAREEMBut it seems to me that there's going to be two ways that it's going to play. It's either there's going to be a civil war because there's going to have to be some sorting amongst the Libyans themselves. Because Moammar Gadhafi did not exist in and of himself as a (word?) . There are a lot of people right now that are running Libya that ran Libya with him. And...
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. Yochi.
DREAZENI mean, the analysis by Kareem was fantastic. I mean, it's -- that was a very sophisticated analysis of Libyan history. Two points that I would just make in response. One is Gadhafi was so easily mockable, whether it was the clothing, the female bodyguards, the belief in creating a joint Israel Palestine called Israel-tine, the notion that he could unify Africa under his leadership. But it's worth remembering that this is a person, despite the later kind of (word?) with the West, responsible for the deaths of more American civilians than anyone other than Osama bin Laden.
DREAZENIt wasn't just the Lockerbie bombing. There were attacks in Washington in the '80s that were caused by Gadhafi. In Robert Gates' book, the former defense secretary, he talks about this tense moment in the '80s where the CIA was convinced there were going to be further attacks in the U.S. by Gadhafi. So it's on the one hand, celebrate his passing if you want. On the other, mock him as you want. But also remember this is a man with the blood of a lot of Americans, a lot of Europeans on his hands.
REHMAll right. And to Clearwater, Fla., good morning, Joanne.
JOANNEGood morning, Diane and everybody. My comment is this. While I would've rather Moammar Gadhafi had instead been captured and brought to justice and not have been killed, especially in such a violent manner, I’m pleased that he wasn't killed by the hand of the United States. And my hope is that this will be the beginning of a long lasting and peaceful relationship with Libya, along with the rest of the world.
YOUSSEFYou know, you get at a great point, which is what kind of Libya is the United States going to confront now. Because in a way, Gadhafi was the devil, we knew. And now we've got a lot of unknowns. You've got the rise of the Islamists in the East who will have a voice. Remember that they were shut down under Gadhafi. And so it is a time of unpredictability.
YOUSSEFKareem mentioned earlier, the former caller, about the possibility of civil war. Historically every revolution has had a civil war at some point. The question becomes if that -- if some sort of confrontation within Libya happens will it pose a threat to the United States in the form of terrorist groups or other extremist groups able to operate? Libya right now is in a leadership vacuum and that vacuum will get filled by someone. And so these next few weeks and months are really critical.
REHMDavid Ignatius, a number of our callers are wondering exactly what it was that Hillary Clinton said regarding Herman Cain. Do you recall?
IGNATIUSYou know, I don't have the exact quote. If Yochi has it.
REHMOkay, Yochi does.
DREAZENHerman Cain in an interview had said that, you know, it's part of his general theme that politicians are too serious, said that very mockingly he didn't need to know the president of Uzbeki-beki-beki-bekistan. I mean, he -- really with that many beks before the stan. And sort of said it proudly that if he had to know the president of Uzbeki-beki-bekistan he'd ask one of his advisors who would have the name. And so that's what Hillary was mocking. She specifically mentioned how Herman Cain was proud of not needing to know the names of countries in that part of the world. And that's what Karzai was chuckling about.
REHMYochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy newspapers, David Ignatius of the Washington Post. Short break, more of your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. I want to ask you, Yochi Dreazen, about the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who returned to Israel this week after more than five years in captivity. What's been the reaction?
DREAZENThe reaction in Israel has been national celebration. That's been the reaction in Gaza, to a much lesser degree in the West Bank for a reason we could talk about in a moment, but Shalit had been a national obsession for Israel since he went missing. There's nothing comparable in the U.S. to it. I mean absolutely nothing. The U.S., which has totally forgotten, has a POW in Afghanistan, Bowe Bergdahl, has a POW in Iraq, Ahmed Altaie, both of whom, especially in the case of Bergdahl, are thought to be alive. Bergdahl's captors, who are the Haqqani Network we've been talking about before, continually release videos. This poor guy is just 25 and has spent the last two plus years in captivity.
REHMAccused of …
DREAZENI mean he had been someone where it's murky. There's some thought he may have walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan of his own volition before he was captured. But it's just worth remembering, as we talk about Gilad Shalit, that there are American POWs as well completely forgotten.
DREAZENBut the Shalit case was a fascinating one. You had Israeli pop stars recording songs for him before he was released. You had a march of 125 miles that more than 200,000 Israelis did in his name. Two-hundred thousand Israelis is a huge proportion of the country. You had continual protests outside Prime Minister's Netanyahu's residence for more than a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So it was an obsession within Israeli that is almost unimaginable here in the States because there just hasn't been anything comparable, even for our own missing troops.
REHMAnd Israeli gave up how many Palestinians in exchange?
DREAZENMore than 1,000. And what's interesting is that there had been talk -- the initial leak about the deal was Marwan Barghouti, who is a hugely popular leader from the West Bank, sort of loyal to Abbas, loyal to the Palestinian Authority within -- roughly loyal to the Palestinian Authority would be included in that deal. He wasn't. And there's a lot of talk both in the region and here that Hamas structured this deal very carefully, to get back as many of its own prisoners from Gaza, as few of the prominent prisoners from the West Bank to sort of say to the Palestinians, the West Bank leadership is not getting your prisoners back, we Hamas in Gaza are.
YOUSSEFYou know when Gilad Shalit was kidnapped more than five years ago the initial reaction in Israel is that they would release -- there would be no release of any prisoners in exchange, that they would not negotiate on those terms. And I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't any tie with the Arab Spring and the timing of his release in that the Egyptians negotiated, were the conduit if you will. And I think there was some wonder whether the Egyptians, given how fluid and dynamic the situation is there, would still be in a position or willing to negotiate six months from now. So I think that was part of it. And I think it's worth considering that because it really speaks to the uncertainty about what Egypt's role is going to be and what its relationship is going to be with Israel.
IGNATIUSI think Nancy puts her finger on an important point that really tells us something about the Arab Spring, if you will. Today the Egyptian military government could negotiate this release, be the intermediaries in it. Six months from now when we have Democratic elections we may have a much more angry Islamist government that would say absolutely not. We're not gonna take part in any kind of swap with the Jewish state. And so the Israeli's recognize that. I had a senior Israeli official say to me, that's one reason we did it now. It's striking …
IGNATIUSWe've mentioned Herman Cain; he was asked before a debate this week whether he would be prepared to swap the prisoners in Guantanamo for one American soldier who was being held. And he said, yeah, I'd do that. And he was then denounced. And he had to -- he ended up having to retract it. So it illustrates what a different mood there is in Israel and the U.S.
REHMAnd that's what Alex in Salisbury, Md. wants to talk about. Good morning. You're on the air.
ALEXGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
ALEXI am kinda curious how your panel feels about that. I mean 1,000 Palestinians were released to get one Israeli soldier back. And I personally think that it sort of speaks to the way that the Israeli state looks at the Palestinians as less important than they are. And I think it borders on being racist. I'm curious what your panel thinks.
DREAZENI mean I personally think that's a very, very offensive reading of this. It wasn't Israel that was offering 1,000 Palestinians. It was Hamas demanding 1,000 Palestinians. So if you want to talk about the agency of who's valuing life at what, this wasn't Israel setting the terms, it was Hamas. And again whatever one thinks of Israel there is something remarkable about the fact that a country is willing to make this kind of risk.
DREAZENMany of these prisoners have killed Israelis. These are not people who are purely political, purely captured off the street. You have senior leaders involved in the attack on Netanyahu during Passover that blew up 29 Israelis when they were sitting down to dinner, attacks at restaurants and nightclubs that killed dozens of other Israelis. These are not people who have renounced violence. These are people who have said, as soon as they got back to Gaza, we hope to kidnap more Israelis and conduct new attacks.
DREAZENSo one, this is not something where the terms are set by Israel. The terms are set by Hamas so that any evaluation was by Hamas, not Israel. Two, these are people that Israel was going to release despite the near certainty they will commit new attacks.
IGNATIUSJust was gonna note the danger of highly personal treatments of hostages. We saw that with Gilad Shalit. Think of hundreds of thousands in the streets, people carrying his photograph image everywhere they go. We remember that when U.S. hostages were being held in Lebanon. And it became such an intense fervor, almost a firestorm of public concern, very personalized, as with Israel, that Ronald Reagan arguably was pushed to do the dumbest thing of his presidency, which was the arms for hostages deal. It was a desperate effort to get those hostages out. You know Reagan was spending every day and every night thinking about them personally.
IGNATIUSSo sometimes, in terms at least of good state graft, good policy, it may be easier if it's a little less personal.
REHMOn the downside, could a swap like this encourage even more abductions Nancy?
YOUSSEFThat is a discussion that's happening in Israel right now, amid all the celebration of Gilad Shalit's release. There is concern, have we set the standard such that Hamas will be more incentivized to kidnap soldiers. And the victims that Yochi mentioned who their family members were killed by one of the 1,027 prisoners are voicing the same frustration. So it wasn't -- even though his name was nationally known, his family members were nationally known, it didn't come without tough decisions and now a very vibrant debate in Israel about whether new terms have been set.
REHMNow, let's look at why U.S. troops are being sent to central Africa. David Ignatius?
IGNATIUSWell, they're going after -- in pursuit of something called the Lord's Resistance Army. It is not a group that I know much about, but it is said that they have been plaguing Uganda and other governments in central Africa for some years and that these governments need special help in getting their military forces strong enough to stand up to them.
IGNATIUSIt turns out, as we learned about the dispatch of 100 of our special forces to help the Ugans and others pursue the Lord's Resistance Army that under the Bush administration there was a similar, but much smaller plan to assist and train people in this same mission. It's certainly true that the use of special forces to bolster governments' abilities to deal with insurgencies is a little seen, but crucial part of our foreign policy. We do this all over the Persian Gulf. You never read about it, but it's happening every day.
REHMBut I …
IGNATIUSAnd clearly it's happening more in Africa.
REHMI gather what you're saying, David. And I presume you would all agree is that the forces are not gonna be engaged in combat.
DREAZENThat's what they're stated to be.
REHMThat's what they're saying.
DREAZENI mean, when the special forces were set up by Kennedy, they were specifically set up for this mission. This sort of what's known as direct action of sending Seals or Delta Force to kill terrorists, that was a later add-on. Initially they were set up solely to do this mission. It's called Foreign Internal Defense or FID is the very ugly acronym. But there are similar U.S. deployments. The ones that to my mind are most resonant and most similar are in the Philippines and Indonesia, where you have special operations forces doing training, but also it gets murky, where training ends and where action starts.
DREAZENIt really gets kind of murky.
REHMAnd it makes me wonder what is the Obama approach to incidents around the world so that we no longer going to be sending huge numbers of forces into countries for wars with untold costs.
IGNATIUSWell, Diane, I've described this process as the paramilitarization of American foreign policy. We've seen the militarization during the Bush administration. We've seen this huge expeditionary army sent overseas with very mixed results. Obama seems to like to work with the special operations forces and the CIA with a very small footprints. The question people would ask is another war, another continent?
IGNATIUSWhat the heck? I mean, don't we have enough problems?
REHMDavid Ignatius at the Washington Post. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Nancy, do you wanna comment?
YOUSSEFWell, I just wanted to add not only use of smaller forces, but drones and …
YOUSSEF…which was so prevalent in Libya and, in fact, more so than even in Pakistan. And so it is a sort of limited intervention, but as David points out it can turn into something far bigger than the goal. Remember, these troops that have traveled to Uganda are not to engage, but they can in self-defense. So things can quickly spiral. People often think of Somalia.
REHMAll right. To Valparaiso, Ind. Good morning, Jay.
JAYGood morning. That leaves the question is what is the actual policy? I'm having a real problem here. You know it appears that the administration is being caught off-guard and reacting instead of being pro-active. And this includes Libya. I'm not a big fan of Moammar Gadhafi. Good, he's gone. But the problem here is number one, what justifies it? Number two, we're caught behind what appeared to be a 20 or 10 or 15, 20-year battle between east Libya and west Libya.
JAYNow, we're sending special forces into foreign internal defense actions in central Africa. Normally when we do these things there's a specific policy achievement or objective that we're after. We just don't send special forces into these operations just because some gang or terrorist group decides that it you know that it's become a problem. And I'm questioning where we are going foreign policy-wise here.
DREAZENI think it's a great question. And frankly it's very depressing that that question is not being asked on the Republican side of these debates at all, other than with Mexico and to a degree China. And it's not being talked about in Washington at all. If you ask the Obama administration officials they would say, we're trying to balance countries that are not strategically important. No one in the administration thought Libya was this huge sort of bellwether, that if it goes one way our whole foreign policy is impacted. No one thought that. No one thinks Uganda is a huge foreign policy priority, but what they're trying to do is figure what they can do at minimal costs to stabilize a country. Whether that's popular, whether that's acceptable, whether that's smart, no one is really debating. And I think your caller is right that it should be.
IGNATIUSWe could certainly use more strategic discussion about these missions, but I would note two things. The Obama administration's policy in Libya was very deliberately stepped down from what a typical American intervention is. We said, we'll do this, but we'll only do this along with allies from NATO, from the Arab League. We'll do this, we'll provide military help, but we'll do it in the beginning, special missions that we're good at. Then we're gonna step back and let others do it. In terms of the nation-building part, yeah, we'll help, but it's gonna be done by the United Nations. That's a really very different image of American foreign policy.
IGNATIUSOn drones -- and I said this on this show, I think, I'm aware that they can become addictive. It's such an easy way to project force without having boots on the ground and risking casualties. But I was happy to see that the Obama administration seems to be developing rules about who you will target. There has been in Afghanistan and Pakistan with something called signature targeting, where a whole group in a training camp, as long as they have the signature of activity associated with al-Qaida, can be targeted.
IGNATIUSThat has been withdrawn in the new battlefields that are opening up in Yeoman and Somalia. So far as I know these training camps and those places will not be targeted, even though they train insurgents that counter to U.S. interests, we're saying, this weapon, this deadly weapon of the drone will only be used if you are about to attack us, about to attack the American homeland.
REHMLots of comments about Hillary. Laura from Marshall, Va. says, "Not only do we call the secretary of state Hillary, President Obama is usually referred to only as Obama. This has never happened with another president." I take issue with that. I think we do refer to our presidents by their last names. My concern was referring to our secretary of state by her first name. And a listener tweets, "We call her Sec. Hillary Clinton because there is still a Bill Clinton in international affairs. Also, she was a first lady." And during the break, you all were talking about her extraordinary evolution, Yochi.
DREAZENWhen we think about it, this was a woman -- we were talking during the break. This is a point David made -- who had been known first as the first lady, then the repeatedly cheated-on wife, then the humiliated wife as more of his infidelity became public. And that would have been, when she retired, many years in the future when she passed away, that would have been the first line of whatever obituary was written. Now, she's no longer that identity. She was a very successful, very popular senator, a very popular secretary of state and a global celebrity and world leader.
DREAZENSo it is an extraordinary transformation to go from the one, the first lady, the wronged wife, the wronged spouse to globally popular, globally known world leader that certainly, since I was the one who used the word Hillary, was no way meant to diminish that incredible transformation.
REHMAnd who knows where she goes next, David.
IGNATIUSWell, where in the world is Madam Secretary? I just would note when you call her Madam Secretary she beams. She really likes being secretary of state.
REHMWell, and she's terrific at it.
IGNATIUSShe has really worked hard. I mean it'll be interesting to see now, with Bob Gates gone. She's really the senior person in the cabinet now, for real. Will she play a slightly different role?
REHMAnd do the people around her support her or does she have that group around here who will perhaps argue with here decision-making process? I don't know, do you?
IGNATIUSThere's always been this -- forgive the term -- team-Hillary issue about a small group around her that kind of protect her. She's brought some new people into the department. The department is a pretty happy and effective place with a lot of good ambassadors. So I'd say on that score she's getting good marks.
REHMDavid Ignatius of the Washington Post, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy newspapers, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine, thank you all. Have a great weekend.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com and we are on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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