Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

The big story of the week was actually a story in a magazine: A controversial article in Rolling Stone led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Host Scott Simon reviews the week's top news stories with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for a look back at the week's news. Joined now by NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And, Dan, let's begin with the story that dominated so much attention this week. And that's a story in a magazine, not a website. A story in�Rolling Stone magazine that led to the resignation - firing - of General Stanley McChrystal, head of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. What are your thoughts?

SCHORR: Well, the first temptation is to go(ph) back at the history and say, hey, didn't we have something with General MacArthur, who was fired by President Truman because he wanted to go into China? And yet you think about it and it isn't quite the same. This is not really a policy difference. This is somehow personality tensions, somewhere between the general and various civilians.

I also think that it was probably something that President Obama hated to do more than anything. He really hates this kind of confrontation. And yet he had no recourse. There was no way not to fire a guy who had allowed to be published in print remarks that were critical of the administration.

SIMON: Yeah, personalities in the administration, not the mission itself.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: How do you think the replacement of General McChrystal by David Petraeus, and the entire of ball of wax of recent events, may affect the war in Afghanistan?

SCHORR: I'm not quite sure. I think we'll find out more about this next Tuesday, when General Petraeus appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on confirmation in his post. I think senators will find the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about how the war is going. The war, as we know, has not been going very well.

SIMON: General Petraeus at one point, according to reports, had been uneasy about putting that July 2011 deadline on...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...as a beginning to withdraw U.S. troops. He accepted it as part of the policy. And obviously President Obama has appointed him now. But what's the state of that disagreement between civilian leadership in the White House that wants to set a deadline, knows it's popular, and military forces on the ground that believe setting a deadline might give some kind of organizational advantage to the Taliban?

SCHORR: Well, no general wants to set a deadline. He wants to know that if necessary he can call for more troops and keep on fighting until he wins. Setting deadlines are political things to do. And therefore I think there is a certain amount of tension over that.

They have a dead - several deadlines now. They're supposed to know by December what they want to do next. Starting July of next year they're supposed to start pulling out troops. President said we didn't say we're going to pull out a lot of troops then. We're pull out some troops then. They're already beginning to back off a little bit. And it gets to be very difficult for them.

SIMON: And this week, President Obama met with the president of Russia, whose name you can pronounce much better than I can.

SCHORR: Medvedev, but then I worked in Moscow.

SIMON: All right. You did indeed. And in any event, they - of course they had a lot to talk about. I wonder if they had a lot to agree about.

SCHORR: Well, they certainly picked on everything they could agree about, including, for example, sending poultry products to Russia. All the nice little things they could do they trotted out.

Also very important is the fact that Russia supported the United States, both against North Korea and Iran, and that's very important. On the other hand, there are still big, big problems between them. As for example, the United States' intention of having a missile defense system in Europe, and so on. And so we get the better side of this. They come out and have a hamburger together, a special kind of cheeseburger, all say nice things to each other, and things go on. That is, some things they agree upon, some things they dont agree about, but if they emphasize the areas of agreement, everybody will feel good.

SIMON: Explain something to me, Dan, with your perspective on events in Russia, where you note, you were based in Moscow...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...important years, and during the Khrushchev regime. The president of Russia had jalapenos on his hamburger.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Does this say something about the change in Russia - the fact that a Russian president would openly have jalapenos?

SCHORR: Well, I'll tell you, my friend Khrushchev would've had them too if he had known about it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right. Dan, thanks very much.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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