David Brooks: Iran Looking More Like A "Normal Middle East Terror Episode" | Video | RealClearPolitics

David Brooks: Iran Looking More Like A "Normal Middle East Terror Episode"


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including how the Trump administration and Congress have handled conflict with Iran, indications House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is preparing to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial of the president and what all the tumult means for 2020 Democrats.

David Brooks said the Soleimani strike was a "bipartisan" and "populist consensus."

AMNA NAWAZ, PBS NEWSHOUR: Back on Capitol Hill this week, the House of Representatives voted to check the president's war powers against Iran, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic Caucus to prepare for the next chapter on impeachment in the days ahead.

Here to help make sense of it all, as well as some eye-popping polling numbers from the Democratic primary field, are Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Happy Friday. Welcome to you both.

Let's start overseas, shall we?

David, it was a week ago that the U.S. assassinated the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, three days since Iran retaliated.

President Trump says he wants peace. They just rolled out new sanctions against Iran today. Is this de-escalation?


A week ago, we didn't know where we were going. And it certainly looks a lot calmer than it did a week ago. And it looks more like a normal Middle East terror episode, in which case you have a terror army, whether it's Hezbollah or Iranian-state sponsored terrorism. They're ramping up ramping up activities.

And then the U.S. says, stop. You — let's — we're going to be in conflict, but let's not get carried away here. You're pushing the boundaries here.

And so we do an action, and when you do this kind of action, like killing Soleimani, it's using violence as a form of communication, saying you have pushed the boundaries, time to stop.

And then the other side, the terrorist side, has a chance to say, no, we're going to keep going, or they have a chance to say, message received, we won't push the boundaries, it's not in our interests either.

And that seems to have been what has happened. We have seen that through the Israeli-Hamas or fights. We have seen it through other terror fights. And it looks like a much more conventional sort of communication between a nation and a terror organization...

NAWAZ: A lot of the questions revolve around what will happen next, for sure, right? There's concern there could be an increase in some of those proxy militias you had mentioned, David.

I want to play a sound bite for you, though, from President Trump at a rally in Ohio last night. He was responding to the House's move to try to restrict some of those presidential war powers that presidents have had for several years now post-9/11.

Take a listen to what President Trump had to say last night.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're all trying to say, how dare you take him out that way? You should get permission from Congress. You should come in and tell us what you want to do.


You should come and tell us, so that we can call up the fake news that's back there, and we can leak it.


NAWAZ: David, to some degree, no surprise the House said, we want you to come to us before you take more action against Iran.

But then we also saw a Republican senator, right, Mike Lee from Utah, outraged after a briefing from military intelligence leaders that he felt was completely insufficient.

Is this the time you think Congress starts to claw back some of that power?

BROOKS: No, I don't think so.

I mean, they have had the chance in bin Laden. They have had a lot of chances, and the executive has taken this power.

I do think the laws we have are obsolete. They're — for a time when not a terror war, whether it was like World War II or Vietnam, when there was a moment of peace and then a moment of war, and there was a transitionary moment where Congress would act between those two states.

But in an ongoing terror war, there's no moment of peace and there's no moment of war. It's constant engagement. And so for the president, in a position of constant conflict with Iran, where they're ramping up pressure, we're trying to fight them, a discrete episode seems to me outside the bounds of Congress.

Having said that, the president, executive branch shouldn't be running a long-running terror war without the constant communication with Congress and with the intelligence communities and the Intelligence Committees.

And so while I don't think Congress should be approving every little individual operation, it's certainly up to the executive branch to be in constant communication, so there are no surprises. And that doesn't seem to have happened...

And despite this episode with Soleimani, I do think there's a bipartisan move, almost a consensus, a populist consensus.

Trump has used military force less than any president since Jimmy Carter...

He's not normally a military guy.

From the populists on the left and populists on the right in different versions, it's like the Middle East is a mess. We are not good at dealing with that region. Let's stay away.

And I do think, whether it's Mike Lee or people further on the left — Mike Lee's a Republican — there's a consensus, we shouldn't be involved in that region, or as little as possible.

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