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Jane Wales: Now it is my pleasure to introduce David Brooks. You all know David Brooks. You all know him as a commentator on Friday nights on the Lehrer News Hour - if you're like me you're addicted to him there - but you also probably read his regular column in the New York Times. He came to that position from The Weekly Standard, and before that, he was at the Wall Street Journal, where he served in many positions, including editor of the editorial page, but he also served in Brussels, covering the Soviet Union, the Middle East and Europe for the Wall Street Journal. He's a frequent panelist on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, so you get to hear him in just about every medium, but this time you get to hear him in person. So please join me in welcoming David Brooks. While he's getting wired up, I'll just mention that David just very kindly did a whole series of events for us down in Silicon Valley yesterday and starting out with a conversation at Google, what did you think of Google? It was back to the past for me, I had done a lot of research in Silicon Valley for a book I'd done called Bobos in Paradise about people with kitchens the size of this room. I joke in that book, you can tell if you see them, there's sort of a refrigeration quadrant over there with a big sub-zero refrigerator, cause zero wouldn't be cold enough. And so I'd done this book, they really said it, Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, with all the offices that used to exist, or still exist, some of them, with dogs running around, workaholic twenty-seven-year-olds with t-shirts and Super-Soaker water cannons, and paint ball guns and all that stuff, and you go to Google and it's still there. And so I was sort of part of it, there's still the excitement that was there in the nineties, and it's still there, and the tragic thing for me, actually, was to see it all, and to remember the mentality, at least I had in those days, the idea that the world was converging information and was bringing people together, that globalization was bringing people together, information was going to be shared and merged, and I really had this sense then that we would all have one foot in our own cultures, but we'd all have one foot in this global culture, which is exemplified by Google, and in the last five years I don't have that sense anymore. I think the world has grown, while information has brought people together, and the world is flattening as my colleague, my much-envied richer colleague Tom Friedman, often says... I'll tell one story just on Tom before I depart from him, before my bile overflows. He is a bit more successful than me, and he lives about a mile from my house, and we drive by and once when we drove by his house, we looked up at his somewhat larger house than mine, and my son elbowed me and said he's fifteen and said, "Same job, dad, same job." So yeah. My resentment doesn't really I don't really care about that though. The one other thing that comes to mind is, I was in the Middle East with Tom a couple months ago and somebody said, "Going to the Middle East with Tom Friedman is like going to the mall with Britney Spears." He's a superstar. In any case, he has written about the flattening world, and that is certainly true, everything he writes about the economic flattening, but it also seems to me we're living in a culturally more mountainous world. And that as economics brings us together, all sorts of darker aspects of human nature bring us apart. Some of them being identity, the need to form identities, which is sometimes we form by forming groups and then hating people unlike ourselves, and sometimes formed by a desire to secure happiness. And happiness, despite what I thought, and what advertising would teach you, is not achieved by realizing your desires. Happiness is achieved by policing your desires, and getting a moral system that controls and restrains your desires, as anybody who's raising a family knows, and these systems of moral order contradict with one another and pull people apart. And so we've seen that internationally and we've seen it domestically, with the incredible polarization of the country. I thought that we were all heading toward a Clintonite third way, for people who worked for the Clinton administration, and that center has nearly disappeared. The Pew Research Foundation does these typographies of the American electorate and they said one thing they noticed over the last three or four years, is the category called New Democrat, centrist democrat, that category no longer exists in the electorate. And so that is an electorate and a world that is not flat, but mountainous with chasms. Jane Wales: Back in the nineties, when Tom Friedman earned the money that built him that house and gave him the sub-zero refrigerator-- David Brooks: She just rubs it in, it's merciless! Jane Wales: The Clinton Administration did see globalization as the organizing principle for policy, did see engagements as the best method of achieving their objectives, is the war on terror an adequate organizing principle for policy now? David Brooks: No, I don't think it is. And one of the things even that struck me in the two days we've had conversations, is that how far apart we are from knowing and agreeing upon what the enemy is. And I sense this around the country and I've sensed it just in conversations here, that some people think the enemy is primarily a religious entity, some people think it's primarily a political entity, which obeys the rules of Clausewitz-ian rational conduct, some people think it's a cultural entity, driven by cultural feelings of inferiority, some people find it's a melange of all those three different forces. But we are so far away, I just read a piece by David Ignatius from the Washington Post, who argued that maybe the enemy, the extremists, are a cult. Some people think they're a massive movement. We are so far away from understanding the enemy, and each definition of the enemy comes with a different prescription for what we should do about it. And to me the fundamental question, Are the extremists that we're dealing with, whether it's in Iran, Amas, Hezzbollah, Al Qaeda, are they playing a rational game of power politics, or do they have a mindset that is totally different from our own, which is more mystical, more transcendental, more religious, and are they playing by a different set of rules? And we have a tendency to project our own system of belief onto theirs, we respond to incentives, we have a set of goals and interests, but maybe they're playing an entirely different game. And maybe their game is based not so much on what we would think of as self-interest, maybe it's a game based on fantasy. The fantasy-construction of theater, in which they are the heroes in a great struggle against evil. Jane Wales: And of course, a good deal of political science would, a great body of political science would argue that states are not rational, that in fact most of human history is not about rational choice, rational self-interest. David Brooks: Right, well I think we've vastly overestimated rationality. Maybe those of you who watch prime-time television have disabused yourself of any sense of rationality, but I do think, I would say most of the people I know in Washington were trained on a style of international relations which assumes it's a chess match. And you know I go to the Middle East every year, and people in the Middle East on all sides love this chess match. And I go back every year and there's always a new plan, the Mitchell Plan or the Road Map, there's always some sort of new plan, and the plans always change but the chess match is the same. And they love the chess match. But I really think what's at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not so much self-interest narrowly defined, it's a moral struggle, the power of consecration, of who gets to define what is right and what is wrong, who is right, and who is wrong, and I often get the sense in these conversations that if one side or another would just say to the other, "All right, you're right, you were right all along, I was wrong all along," and they'd say "Good, it's over." But nobody will say that because their sense that "we are right" will not allow them to say that, and there are more struggles than struggles for land and dollars, there's a struggle for consecration, which is what people need to feel that they're leading meaningful lives. Jane Wales: I think you're developing a new school of foreign policy, which is a sort of Aretha Franklin school, in which respect, R-E-S-P-C-T, is what it's about, respecting the other one's point of view. David Brooks: Yeah, well I'm so often, I'm compared to Aretha Franklin. I think I look a little more like Whitney Houston, but that's fine. But no, I do think, when we look at what motivates human beings, you know people who are in my business who write 700 words have this fantasy that in our real lives we're doing something that'll last longer than a day, and so I've had this fantasy for the past two and a half years that I'm writing a book about the Greco-Persian wars which will never appear, don't worry but one of the things I like about studying the Classical Greeks is they did have a superior sense of what drove human beings. And one of the concepts they had was the concept of the Thymus, that what drives human beings is not only Eros, which is love and desire, and not only a hunger for money, but the hunger for recognition. The feeling that you make a difference. And that if somebody takes away that hunger, that sense that you are recognized, that your status is being respected, you will kill and you will die for that. And if you want to look at the reaction to the Pope's speech, in the Islamic world, there's a hair-trigger sensitivity to being disrespected in that world, and with it, a culture of grievance, frankly. But that sense that we are being respected, and we deserve respect, it drives all of us, and it certainly drives people who feel marginalized and downtrodden. You know, one story which goes to the core of my being, I was walking out of Camden Yards, which is where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball ah, not well, but they do play it and there was a Yankee hat in the parking lot on the ground that somebody had dropped, and a mob surrounded the Yankee hat and started kicking it and stomping on it, and they needed that, for their respect, to kick #1. And these are deep motivations. And again, it's, I do think in the last five years we've left the world of economics and social science and we've entered the world of Joseph Conrad and Dostoevsky, we've entered a different sort of world. Jane Wales: Where does the agenda of democracy-promotion fit within this analysis? Given that analysis, you would think that that would be the natural agenda that would flow from it. David Brooks: Well I do think it is a natural agenda, the desire to promote democracy was not only about elections, it was about making people a little more boring. We live in a bourgeois age, and Democracy is the bourgeois system, and bourgeois systems are not exciting. They are prosaic. The novel is the great bourgeois art form, and it is prosaic literally, and it leads to prosaic emotions, it leads to Ben Franklins. People who are very practical, pragmatic, maybe not soaring spirits, but in some parts of the world, and I would think that in the upper reaches of the Iranian government, they've a little too much in the nature of soaring spirits. And they could use a little of Ben Franklin. And what I mean by that is that the spirit of compromise, the spirit of being interested in heady pleasures, the spirit of the small pleasure, the spirit of the nice toaster with the bagel popping out that you put your special marmalade on, as a pleasure. And these are the small pleasures that many people find contemptible about bourgeois capitalism and democracy, but it beats religious wars. Jane Wales: You keep going back to the kitchen, have you noticed this? David Brooks: That's interesting. It's better than the bedroom in this company, maybe. Tell me if, taking you back to the culture of grievance, how is the Iraq war playing into that? Is that enhancing that sense of grievance, that sense of being picked-on? Well, I do think among the mistakes I made, and I think a lot of the war supporters made, was a slow ability to see what our presence would do to people there. That they might want freedom, but the fact that it's being brought from the outside by the Yankees was going to raise emotional hackles, and people do dislike people who sort of patronizingly offer them something, if you don't earn it. There's that old phrase, "Why does he hate me, I never did anything for him?" which does capture a truth of human nature, and I thought early on that in order to restore a sense of dignity the Iraqis could have, they couldn't beat Saddam, so they have to beat us. That it would restore their dignity by successfully kicking us out. That didn't happen because of what happened, happened, the civil war began and the sectarian strikes happened. Nonetheless, I do think what our intervention to Iraq has done has created just a sense that those people are big, they don't play by our rules, and that they have a double standard which they apply to us. Which sometimes, to be honest, we do have a double standard, I thought the Dubai Port Deal was another case where we slapped their dignity by imposing one set of rules on Europeans and Asians, and another set on rules on them. How about Abu Ghraib, what effect did that have? It had a well, it certainly had a tremendous effect here. You know, when you look at the dissent, what's happened over the past three years, and especially in my camp...which, in this room, I think of as the Nancy Pelosi Republicans...is that, and I think this has happened nation-wide. I supported the war and had hopes for it in the early days, and then there's this progressive growth of pessimism punctuated by moments of shame, anger...And I would say this has happened to the national psyche, and one moment of shame and anger was Abu Ghraib, and another was obviously Katrina, and the effect on the country has been a tremendous loss of confidence in the ability of governing institutions to do anything. And I don't care whether these institutions are Democrat or Republican, there's been a loss of confidence in just about every institution in American life. Except the military. But we have what did people want after 9/11, they wanted a sense that there were authorities to do their job, to maintain a sense of order, and since 9/11 we've had a succession of crises of authority...in the government, in corporations, in the Catholic Church, and so if you look at the polling data, I think the most important piece of polling data of our lifetimes is the question, Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? 1965, 75% of Americans trusted the government to do the right thing, most of the time. That went through a slow but steady decline, through Vietnam, through Watergate, so you get to the late 70s, and you get about 22%, trust government most of the time. And that brings you Ronald Reagan. And he actually boosted a little, but it went down, it went up and down, but it stayed in very low levels, 20% or 30%. 9/11 it spikes to 50% or 60%, stays up there around 50% or 60% for quite a significant period, now it's down I think lower than 20%. And so what we have is a crisis of authority, and a crisis of self- confidence. And whether you're a democrat or a republican coming into office in the next couple of years, you are going to have to explain to people and somehow persuade people that if you try something big that you can actually achieve it, and whether that's doing something else in the Middle East or whether it's doing something in something like Darfur, you're going to find a country that no longer has confidence in its government. I'm going to take you back to Darfur, but first, let me just ask you...You've written that the President has been effective in setting forth a grand vision with respect to the war on Iraq and the war on terror, but that he has not matched the means, he has not matched the resources, with the visions. Talk more about that. All right, well this came to my mind, most recently I was with six other journalists, I was in the Oval Office with the President for 90 minutes last week....and let me preface, one of the things I think I can bring to the conversation is that I'm not an expert in Islam or military strategy, but I do spend a lot of time with people in power. And so I hope to name-drop a lot over the next...Actually, one of those dirty lessons, if you're a pundit, and you want to give a speech out in the business circuit, which I no longer can do because the Times doesn't allow its employees to meet people who work for a profit-making organization...ah, the way you give the speech is you do name dropping mixed with crushing banality. So, what you'll say, you'll give a speech and you'll say, "You know, I was talking to Dick, Dick Cheney the other day, and he mentioned to me there were three branches of government. So then I checked it out, with Al Greenspan, and he agreed, there were three branches of government." And this is how you give a speech...tricks of the trade. No less, I was chatting with George...George W...and the thing that struck me about this session that we had together just he and I, and maybe there were some others is first that there's a reason he's President. He's a man of just enormous charisma. Not quite as Clinton, but not that far off. And I interview politicians all the time and he just fills the room. He does fill a room. And one of the ways he fills it is by privately speaking in Greek, which I didn't know.. ah, he fills it with self-confidence. And when we sit down, the first words out of his mouth were, I'm more convinced than ever that what I did was right, that the decisions I made are right, and I'm going forward. And so we had this exchange on the goals of freedom and democracy. And these are goals that he holds in his gut and that are core to him. And they are the realm at which he engages ideas. Then you start asking about something like troop levels. And that is not emotionally engaging to him. There he is detached, he said "Well you know, in Vietnam, the President made these tactical decisions but I decided I'm not going to do that, so I leave it to the Generals, they're the experts." Well, the size of the force is not a small tactical decision, and to me State Craft is the relationship between means and ends. It's knowing what you've got, how to use what you've got to get what you want. And a core and tragic problem of the Bush White House is that there's been a huge gap between goals he set out and the means he established to get there. And that's not only in Iraq, it's post-Katrina, it's in realm after realm, or as one member of the administration said to me in a private moment, "You know, why do we do everything 80%?" and I said "What makes you think you're at 80%?"...and so that, I think is a problem. And this issue goes to something which I think is one of the core things I need to draw from Iraq. And the question is, if we'd done post-war administration competently, would Iraq still be in terrible shape? And people have argued this both ways. People say Iraqi society was so fundamentally broken, and the American presence by itself so fundamentally poisonous, there was no way to do it without something terrible happening. I don't agree with that. I think in the months after Iraq, it was reasonably safe, the sectarian hatred which is now the core enemy was not there. It was not a country where there was sharp sectarian hatred. That sectarian hatred grew up because we allowed Iraq to devolve into a state of nature. Somebody said to me just coming back from Iraq, "If we allowed New York State, or for that matter California, to exist without any policemen or state troopers or any other source of authority, and that happened for a year, well things would not be pretty here either. And if we let all the criminals out of jail." And so what would happen, you'd get this rolling state of nature and pretty soon you would find yourself withdrawing into certain ethnic or other cliques that were the only thing you had to fall back upon. And I think that's what happened in Iraq, was not inevitable, but it was because of the President's disengagement from the means and because the secretary of Defense didn't believe in the mission and mentally checked-out for a year. Now, you're talking about it as though we're in the past, and the decision initially to go in with a small number of troops and to deal with the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but right now, Bill Kristal and Rich Lowry are arguing, that rather than think about withdrawing, we ought to think about committing significantly more troops. And just by way of context, in Kosovo and Bosnia, the choice was to connect one soldier with every fifty civilians. So that is the standard that is very much the norm, and I think that's the kind of thing Bill Kristal would like to see. What do you think of that as an analysis, as a recommendation, and what are the chances that it would be heeded? Well Kristal has been saying this since before the campaign, he's been saying this for years, that there are not enough troops to do the job and he's been blaming Rumsfeld for it, I think, accurately. I think it's still necessary the idea that we're going to pacify Baghdad by bringing whatever, four or five thousand troops out of Mosul which is not stable in itself and shifting it to one neighborhoods in Baghdad, stabilizing that neighborhood for a few weeks and then moving onto another neighborhood, I don't know anybody who thinks that's going to work. And you know, so I do think we need more troops. Now we're relying on Iraqi's...we're doing a decent job, there's a lot of problems with the Iraqi forces, they don't seem to get paid and they have high absentee rates...but nonetheless, they have fought, I think, pretty well. But there just is not enough to stabilize the situation, and as to the chances that we will get more troops there, I think you can measure it at somewhat less than zero. At this point the American political culture won't stand it and nor am I sure there are those troops in existence. And the decision would have had to have been made two years ago, and it's been described to me how much it costs to raise a division. It takes two years, it's not an easy thing to do, and it takes a lot of money, and so at various points in the war the generals thought, "Well should we spend the money, whatever it is, 20 billion dollars, or something, or whatever it would be, to raise this division when we know we can't bring it online in two years?" And they all told themselves, "ah, we won't be there in two years. Why spend the money on this when we could spend it on a weapons system?" And so they would've had to have faced the long-term nature of this, which they were not willing to face. We've got troops in Kuwait, we've got troops on the Korean Peninsula, we've got 80 thousand men and women along our Canadian border, it's not that we're absolutely without troops that we could be moving in. This is a political choice. It may be, and I know when the decision was put to the President to move the troops out of Mosul into Baghdad, these were troops I think were stationed in Alaska, and it meant extending their stay, and it meant that some of the people who were literally on the airport about to come home would have to go back to a more dangerous situation, and subsequently I guess one of those soldiers I guess, has been killed, who was at the airport, trying to go home. And I know when Casey and the other general said that they wanted to do this, Bush's first response was, "Well, we've got to clear it with the people in Alaska." Because he understood that the public support is waning. And so the fundamental judgment is the public support. Now if General Casey went to Bush tomorrow and said "We've got to round up two division, we need it for this war," Bush would say and I'm absolutely convinced of it, he says it, his political advisors say it, his first question would be - "Well, let's get the planes, where do we get the planes?" He would do it, even though it would be politically ruinous. But I think there;'s a subtle understanding that Casey should never make this request because it would put Bush in a tough position. That last thing, by the way, is my position. I don't have direct evidence, but that's my guess. Lacking sufficient troops, what we've done is reduce the amount of territory that we're trying to secure. If we can't if we don't ever get permission to go into Sadr City, which we don't yet have from the Iraqi government if we therefore can't subdue all of Baghdad, then what? Well I don't think that would necessarily change. That would further downscale the prospects of a positive outcome. But I don't think it would change the fundamental argument against withdrawl. Which is that if we withdraw, we a) leave behind a genocidal war in which the people who were brave enough to struggle for democracy are the first ones killed, and b) create the prospect of terror armies with vast oil resources. So it's, the argument against withdrawal, to me, is still a very strong argument. The prospect for staying is that somehow the Iraqis will get their act together, but it's hard to predict that that's going to happen anytime soon, and if they can't go into Sadr City, if they can't disarm the Shi'a militia, then it's a much tougher road, and then what becomes more plausible is the argument that Peter Volbrave and others have made, which is, maybe it's time to think of partition. And I would say that's growing. You know Joe Biden has been making this case that a sort of partition...maybe that, at this point, is the right case. I must say, you know, my resources, the people I trust, this little group of people...some of them don't even know me...but I spend a lot of time there and I always pay close attention to what they say. And two of them who do know me a little are the Times vetern Iraq correspondents John Burns and Dexter Filterns, who have just been amazing, and you know they describe a situation that would just be calamitous if we left. They persuade me that we shouldn't get out. And they describe a situation where, when John Burns would go up to people a year ago at the election, and say "Are you you Shiite and Suni?" the number one answer he got was, "I'm Iraqi." That's John Burns, we've had John Burns to speak a couple of times, and he's really extraordinary and a courageous reporter. And a lot of hair. With a lot of hair! A lot of hair. Great hair! He's got what Leon Weasels here calls "historically important hair." Can you imagine, in those circumstances, a contagion of violence? Can you imagine a circumstance in which the civil war spreads way beyond Iraq and we've got a Sunni Shiite conflict that's spreading through the region? I think you can imagine that, and you can imagine at the same time, Iran is getting nuclear weapons, which by the way, is going to happen. So, no I do think the people who are pleading for us to stay are the Iraqis who come to Washington, and they say it's terrible but it could get a lot worse. And it's hard to tell the families of marines and soldiers that are there that you really don't have a lot of hope that things are going to get good there. But somehow you think things will get much wrose. Just what exactly are they fighting for? They're fighting for a negative cause. And that's not an easy thing to tell people to die for. And I think everyone feels that and the aforementioned Tom Friedman thinks we should get out because he has given up hope that there can be a positive outcome. But I'm still persuaded that we shouldn't get out. But you mentioned a word, "contagion," that one of the things that has also struck me, and this is over converations around the country over the past several weeks, is there is a gap between the way commentators, politicians, and academics and intellectuals describe what's happening throughout the Middle East, which I think is restrained by a) a sense of political correctness, and b) respect for other cultures, in the way, many people who are not in this elite debate are looking at the Middle East. And I'm struck by this especially in reference to the Pope's comments. I think a lot of people just who aren't paying more close attention than they can devote in their daily lives see what's happening in the Middle