Heard a very interesting talk last night by Richard Engel, NBC News' chief foreign correspondent. He was in town promoting his new book, War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq, and I guess he did it successfully -- I picked up a copy for my own self.
He's the reporter whose recent interview with W. included a question about the possible implications of appeasement toward Iran. When the edited piece aired, the White House was, eh, a little touchy about it. (A little ironic when the Bush White House feels compelled to issue a news release with "Setting the Record Straight" in the header.) The Bushies, as you may have read, said it was "deceptively edited" even though, as Engel pointed out last night, the entire interview was posted online from the get-go (and still is), which would kind of negate NBC's evil plan to deceive the American public.
Engel says that the conflict in Iraq has actually been five wars, each with a very different dynamic defined by the combatants and what's at issue.
One of the most interesting tidbits was his recounting of his recent private one-on-one with W. Engel was summoned to the White House, but wasn't told who he'd be meeting with until he arrived. With no cameras running, Engel says he found Bush to be very well "read in" on all of the details of what's going on over there -- he clearly knew the names, players, events and places (apparently without benefit of cue cards) -- and the president we assume to have a teeny weeny attention span was really engaged throughout the 90-minute discussion.
Still, Engel said, he came away thinking Bush doesn't quite understand how to deal with Arab people -- how to approach them, how to negotiate in their style. That seems about right. Although you'd think maybe an advisor could give him a few pointers. And, while they're at it, tell him how to pronounce "nuclear" properly.
Engel, by the way, has been in the Middle East since shortly after getting his bachelor's degree from Stanford in '96. He went there on his own, set himself up as a freelance reporter, and has been there covering the entire mess ever since. Hm. After I graduated from college, I went to j-school to learn how to write about village board meetings. Well, almost the same thing.