TODAY   |  March 29, 2011

Brokaw: Libya ‘the beginning, not the end’

NBC’s Tom Brokaw tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that United States involvement in Libya cries out for a national bipartisan review of the nation’s policies in the Middle East and our interests there.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: Tom Brokaw is here with his take on President Obama 's address and what comes next in Libya . Tom , good to have you, as always. So much was made over the eight years of the Bush presidency , Bush 43 , about the Bush doctrine . Was last night the laying out of the Obama doctrine?

Mr. TOM BROKAW: Oh, I think it was. I think that what he did in a very restrained speech was say to the American people , 'This is why we got involved, these are the terms of our involvement, and where we can expect to go from here.' It does open a lot of other questions. Ambassador Rice was saying these other countries are different; but it's not hard to imagine that things can get wildly out of control, for example in Syria , which is in the backyard of Israel , and we have lots of interest in that part of the world as well.

LAUER: Right. Well, let's play a sound bite from the speech last night, and you tell me if you think it puts the president in the box, or in a box in the near future. Take a listen. Apparently we've...

President BARACK OBAMA: Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

LAUER: So let's go back to your comment. Syria , Bahrain , Yemen , the next Darfur , the next Rwanda . Does he have to act in all of those cases?

Mr. BROKAW: Well, I don't know. I think it is conditional. But I also this this is the beginning, not the end of something, which is really important. And it cries out for a national review , a bipartisan review of our policies in the Middle East and our stakes there. I think that ought to be the second act that we see very quickly coming here before too long. We're not hearing from the Saudis, for example. We are getting some assistance from the UAE , the United Arab Emirates . So there are a lot of people who are holding their cards very close to their vests right now, and we have big stakes in that part of the world primarily because of oil.

LAUER: You mentioned something to me when you first walked in the studio this morning. You said that you haven't, in your memory, you can't recall a time where a president has faced a confluence of events like the confluence of events taking place right now. Just explain that.

Mr. BROKAW: Well, in my adult lifetime -- certainly FDR did have these challenges. But in my adult lifetime and as a reporter, here you have a president who has two wars under way, he's engaged in really what is a third war. The world's third largest economy, Japan , has been gravely wounded by a tsunami and an earthquake, now has a nuclear meltdown. One of the principle members of the president's national security team said to me last night, 'I'm more worried about that than I am about Libya .' And then we have here at home a recession that we cannot completely get out of yet, and political paralysis in Washington over the budget. All that has arrived at the Oval Office at the same time. Now, when presidents get elected, that's their job is to take on the big assignments, the big challenges. But there have been few that have come as swiftly as all of these have from unexpected circumstances.

LAUER: Tom Brokaw . Tom , always good to have you here to lend your perspective. I appreciate it.