Week in Review: Iraq Surge, and Global Warming

NPR's John Ydstie reviews the week's news with NPR's Senior Correspondent Dan Schorr.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away for the next month on paternity leave. I'm John Ydstie.

This week, an Atlanta man was placed in quarantine after taking two trans-Atlantic flights while infected with a rare drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. Also, May marked one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in Iraq since the start of the war. And President Bush nominated Robert Zoellick to head the World Bank.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr is with us to talk about it all. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, John.

YDSTIE: Let's start with Iraq, Dan. At least 125 American soldiers were killed there in May that made it the third deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003. The buildup of troops to stabilize Iraq, the surge began five months ago, isn't working.

SCHORR: The date of September for taking in an assessment of the surge is beginning to slip, and I found it interesting that the Wall Street Journal, which stands on a halt to be pro-administration, comes out with a headline now, "Can the Surge be Salvaged?" They say that there's been no progress on political goals aside from the military goals, and if you ask how things are going - not very well.

YDSTIE: And this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who is the commander of ground forces in Iraq, said they envision a military force in Iraq like the South Korean model. What do you make of that?

SCHORR: What they're saying now is that since we've had thousands of American troops in South Korea ever since the war with North Korea, we can do something like that maybe in Iraq, and that is to have them stationed for a protected time, was what President Bush said. He's trying to compare Iraq to Korea but there is no internal insurgency going on in South Korea. The situation is different. I think it's a rather wild idea, but I think it indicates the degree of desperation.

YDSTIE: Let's switch the topic to global warming. On Thursday, President Bush made an unexpected u-turn in his position on the issue. The president said he's going to convene a series of meetings with other high-polluting nations in order to set goals on reducing emissions. Why the turnaround?

SCHORR: I'm not sure whether it is a turnabout. The Europeans don't accept it. But what I find it interesting the tone that the president has adopted lately. It reminds me of Reagan at about the same time in his second term where he begins to think of legacy and begins this - to be a bit nicer than he's been before. There are other ways in which that's happened. I think the president is for a fairly immigrant-friendly immigration bill as well. He's taking out proposition on the Sudan and Darfur, which I don't think he would have done a year or two ago. There's been an interesting evolution, you can say that, in the sky.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. Also this week: A tuberculosis scare. It all started when a man named Andrew Speaker who was infected with a dangerous drug-resistant form of tuberculosis left the country to get married and ended up traveling to five different countries before driving back into the United States from Canada. He's now on quarantine in a Denver hospital.

SCHORR: (unintelligible) of honeymoon.

YDSTIE: Right. What can we learn from this bizarre experience?

SCHORR: Well, I think there are a lot of things to learn. I'll leave it with microbiologists, and Speaker's father-in-law is one. He's an expert on this very thing - one of the great coincidences. But of all the things that one could pick to study and learn about, the one that strikes me immediately and the most, is how was it possible - with the billions that we are spending on trying to save this country from terrorists coming in - that this fellow rented a car in Montreal, drove down across the border, he was - name was on a list of people to be watched at the border. They didn't seem to have mind. They said he seemed to be in good health. And off he went. I think if this is the best we can do, what are we going to do when some terrorists show up with some polonium 210?

YDSTIE: Speaking of polonium 210, let's talk a little bit about Russia. Harsh words exchanged this week at a meeting of the G8 foreign ministers in Germany between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. What was that about?

SCHORR: That things are not going well between Russia and the United States, and things are at a worst stage at anytime since the Cold War, I imagine. What is happening is, for example, the president wants to have protection against missiles, they're going to have a missile defense and put elements of it in the Czech Republic, in Poland. The Russians don't like it. And things seemed to get colder and colder. We don't have enough of Cold War yet, but there certainly is not a lot of friendship.

YDSTIE: And the Russians aren't just saying things, they're actually testing some antimissile missiles.

SCHORR: Exactly, sort of, in your face. If you're going to do this, we got the missiles that will beat you quite right.

YDSTIE: Quite provocative. On to the World Bank, President Bush nominated Robert Zoellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz at the bank. What do we know about Zoellick, and will he satisfy the European leaders who were so critical of Wolfowitz?

SCHORR: He has already. I mean, he is, sort of, everybody's favorite there - he is a very professional person. Unlike Wolfowitz, he doesn't have a lot of ideology in his baggage, and so everybody has greeted him with wild acclaim. And so once again, President Bush has done the right thing.

YDSTIE: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Thanks very much, Dan.

SCHORR: Sure, John.

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