FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Aired June 29, 2008 – 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: I’m Fareed Zakaria. Welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. It comes to you this week from London. Let’s get started.
ANNOUNCER: On GPS today, chaos in Zimbabwe. What can be done to stop it? We’ll ask those who know the country and its history.
And a crisis in British politics. How long will an unpopular prime minister survive? What of the man who waits in the wings?
And what would Churchill do? A look inside the world of the great leader. Was he history’s greatest? All that and more on today’s GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE.
ZAKARIA: Joining me this week in London are Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for “The Guardian” newspaper, John Burns, the London bureau chief for the “New York Times,” and Oliver Kamm, a columnist for “The Times” of London.
Gentlemen, I thought we would start, since we are in London, with Zimbabwe, a subject on which the British government has taken a pretty lead position.
Jonathan, do you think — I look at these crises and I think, you know, the media gets agitated about these places. There’s public agitation. Politicians promise that this is never going to happen again and will not stand. And then nothing happens, and kind of, we move on.
Is that what’s going to happen with Zimbabwe?
JONATHAN FREEDLAND, COLUMNIST, “THE GUARDIAN”: I fear so, certainly in terms of any intervention or action from Britain, of all countries, because of the historical colonial relationship. Britain’s hands are really tied behind its back.
And Robert Mugabe makes great play of saying that Britain wants to re-colonize Zimbabwe. And therefore, if there’s any kind of saber rattling from London, it will only play into Mugabe’s hands and say, see, there I told you. So, it’s actually the last country that can really take action.
And I think politicians don’t like this kind of issue, because it exposes the limits of their power. All they can do, really, is deplore. They can’t do anything much more than call those in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s neighbors to act and not really do much themselves. ZAKARIA: But shouldn’t — I mean, the British government has done more than deplore. It’s effectively said that this is an illegitimate government. This shall not stand. So, they’ve pushed themselves out a little bit on a precipice. If nothing happens, it will seem a little bizarre.
OLIVER KAMM, COLUMNIST, “THE TIMES” OF LONDON: I fear that Jonathan is right in suggesting that our hands are tied, though I wouldn’t necessarily deduce the same reason as he does.
I don’t think it’s the legacy of our colonial past. I think it is the fact that you genuinely have very few options other than the declaratory policy you’ve just mentioned with a regime that is sufficiently brutal, not to be remotely impressed with sanctions or with strictures by the international community.
ZAKARIA: So, you think none of that will work.
KAMM: I think that all of it needs to be tried. But none of it will work with a regime that is contemptuous of international opinion and domestic political opposition.
ZAKARIA: John Burns, this sounds like a recipe for a certain amount of hand-wringing and nothing else.
JOHN BURNS, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, you know, I think lessons of history have to be applied here. I was a correspondent in Rhodesia — indeed, I met my wife there — at the time of the transition from black to white rule.
And I well remember standing in the garden of John Vorster, then the prime minister of South Africa, when Henry Kissinger arrived to persuade Vorster, under duress, to turn off the tap, to turn off the power, to turn off the fuel. And it was that threat that brought Ian Smith to heel and brought about the transition.
And another lesson from history, by the way, we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Mugabe is behaving as thuggishly as he is, and especially thuggishly in relationship to elections, because he did that in the very first election.
And the British Foreign Office, then as now, with a very young foreign secretary, before the election roundly condemned Mugabe and said that they would void it if he won it by thuggery. He did win it by thuggery.
And then — and I’m a Brit — the Brits jumped on their helicopters and said, “Mugabe’s the man,” and left.
So, some of this traces back to 1979.
ZAKARIA: That’s interesting, because a lot of people say Mugabe, when he started out, was a kind of promising figure. He was Africa’s hope. He was speaking the language of the London School of Economics. Yes, he was a socialist, but a social democrat. And you don’t buy that? BURNS: I don’t. I didn’t buy that from the beginning.
FREEDLAND: And it is quite true. In 1980, he was talking about the virtues of a one-party state and building a sort of monolithic umbrella movement that would take in all other political movements. And he crushed his former rivals, Joshua Nkomo and others. These were names that featured large in the early ’80s, and he crushed them one by one.
So, no one can claim to be surprised. This is his style.
I just feel that there is a kind a cringe for Britain, because it does worry about seeming as if it is the old colonial master, wading back in. It needs — any argument about action always ends with saying, it has to be down to the Africans themselves — and chiefly South Africa.
I think the country that should feel ashamed, really, and the administration is that of Thabo Mbeki. He could have done — he had the moral authority to do it — to intervene.
ZAKARIA: But that places South Africa in an awkward position of being a model democracy for Africa on the one hand, and supporting this rather heinous dictatorship on the other hand.
KAMM: I think this reticence about the use of British power involving a former British colonial dependency is to a large extent a straw man.
The people of Zimbabwe are not stupid. Africans are not stupid. They know where the source of the problem is. They know where the power lies that can help them in this.
And Mugabe can say all he likes about a British plan to suppress democracy and to reoccupy Zimbabwe. He’s not going to fool his own people with that.
And there is considerably way for the British government, in particular, to act in this. And the point of pressure is South Africa.
FREEDLAND: But not through force. You wouldn’t say force.
KAMM: No, no. No, no, no.
KAMM: No. But I think that the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, have a tremendous potential to pressure Thabo Mbeki, because that’s where the key will be turned (ph).
ZAKARIA: You still think South Africa is the key.
KAMM: Absolutely. Without any doubt.
ZAKARIA: Let’s talk about another place where there have been many resolutions deploring the situation, but not much has happened — Iran.
Jonathan, you wrote in a “Guardian column about Iran. Do you think that, again, any combination of pressure and inducements can work? Or is this ultimately a problem that we are just going to have to wish more than strategize about?
FREEDLAND: Well, what you’ll see now, I think, is the Israelis refusing for that to be the situation. The people sort of learn to live with this inevitability of the nuclear Iran. I think they are making several warning shots, really addressed to the world community saying, we, at least, are not going to accept this.
And I think that’s what those military maneuvers, that exercise in the Mediterranean — which looked uncannily like a practice run for an attack on Iran, that earlier in the month — I think that’s what that was about, partly. You have a former defense minister saying a confrontation — military confrontation — is unavoidable.
Either the Israelis mean by that, “We’re not going to accept it. Even if the world does, we are going to militarily take out all that we can of Iran’s nuclear program.” Or they’re saying, “This is the works of the international community. This is the last chance for serious action.”
And then we’re back to the question Oliver raises. What kind of sanctions bite on a regime like Iran’s?
I don’t think it is like Zimbabwe. I guess it is much more susceptible to outside pressure. But we need to think of sweeter and juicier carrots and much sharper sticks than have been on offer so far.
ZAKARIA: Well, I think we certainly need juicier carrots. And I think the Iranians I’ve talked to always say, it is the negotiations with the Americans that they are waiting for. And it is the offers from the Americans that they are waiting for.
But in terms of sharper sticks or stronger sticks, however one would make the metaphor, with oil at $130 a barrel, what do they care? I mean, the regime is swimming in money.
KAMM: Iran has an extremist regime that is not a totalitarian state. It has a young population, intrinsically favorable to the United States — culturally, if not politically.
ZAKARIA: And they don’t even — the regime doesn’t want to be a pariah state.
ZAKARIA: That, I think, is a — they’ve asked about becoming members of the WTO, for example. North Korea never gave a damn about that.
KAMM: Indeed. Provided that Western diplomacy is united in a way that so tragically it was not in dealing with Saddam Hussein. ZAKARIA: But John Burns, what would be the international reaction, if there were an Israeli military strike? I mean, this would strike me as not an improvement on the situation, because you delay…
BURNS: The real problem…
ZAKARIA: … you delay the Iranian program, not defeat it.
BURNS: The real problem here is, of course, that Israel itself has nuclear weapons. So, if Israel is the military power that destroys Iran’s nuclear facilities, you can imagine what the reaction is going to be across the rest of the Arab world.
Much the same applies to the United States.
The hope, the long-term hope, has to be, of course, that there will be a change within Iran itself. And to judge whether that’s likely to come before they develop nuclear weapons is a very difficult thing to gauge.
There’s been a serious resistance movement, political opposition within Iran to the ayatollahs now, for what, 15 years or more.
FREEDLAND: You see, and that’s — because it’s taken so long, that’s why the Israelis say, we just don’t have long enough to wait. Their patience cannot run that long, partly because — and here they are at odds with the rest of the intelligence community, including the Americans, whose NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, said the weapons program was on hold from 2003.
The Israelis say the point of no return will be reached in 2009, 2010 — very, very soon, 18 months tops.
KAMM (?): It might be that the Israelis would judge, or the Americans and the Israelis might judge, that if there’s going to be an attack, it would be better to do it on the Iranian nuclear facilities before there’s a new president, if that new president is not going to be John McCain but Obama, who has said — and been roundly criticized by the Bush administration for saying — that he would negotiate with the Iranians.
The Iranians might calculate that their chances of avoiding a nuclear attack will be much better, if they can see this through the beyond (ph). That may be wrong. We don’t know what Obama would do. But they might calculate, the Israelis, that it would be better to deal with this issue before there’s a change in the White House.
ZAKARIA: And we will discuss all that, the U.S. presidential elections, Gordon Brown’s fate when we come back.
ZAKARIA: We’re back with our all Brit panel.
Gentlemen, let me ask you. When Americans talk about the world, what they really want to know is, what do you think of us?
So, when you watch, Jonathan Freedland, this American election and Barack Obama and McCain, what do you think? And how do you think the British public is reacting?
FREEDLAND: Well, I’ve never known a presidential election that has captured the imagination of the British public the way this one has.
As somebody who writes about American politics, usually you have to persuade your audience why this is interesting. This time they’re already hooked. And it was because of the Obama-Hillary soap opera that drew them in.
There’s no doubting — and there’s been polling to say that, if there were an election in Britain, Barack Obama would walk it with ease. It would be a landslide victory for him. And that will be replicated all round the world.
He has a commanding lead. People are very excited about the idea of an African-American president, all the language of a new start.
And that reveals, I think, how distressing it’s been for a lot of Europeans and others, the Bush presidency, the era, because culturally, they are inclined to favor America, but they have not been able, they do not feel able to feel sympathetic to this particular administration.
And I think they think, if there’s a President Obama, they can go back to kind of the position they were in in the ’90s, where they like America and they’re not at odds with Washington. So, I think that’s part of the mood I’m picking up.
ZAKARIA: But Mr. Kamm, “The Times” of London, traditionally the great establishment newspaper, would you agree with this? Not that you have to reflect your paper’s…
KAMM: Yes. I’m not in that loop of whom “The Times” would endorse.
But I certainly agree with Jonathan. There is tremendous sympathy within Europe for the notion of Obama as president for the very good and understandable reason of the powerful symbolism of an articulate black American vying as a mainstream candidate, not like Jesse Jackson, for the American presidency.
Speaking from the standpoint of liberal European Atlanticism, I am somewhat cagey, if not alarmed, at some of the rhetoric of Obama concerning trade, which is traditional rhetoric for Democratic presidential aspirant candidates.
And also, what we touched on earlier, his welcoming unconditionally the prospect of meeting leaders of rogue regimes. That strikes me as somewhat naive in foreign policy that would bring him up against, certainly, a British government of either complexion. But it does not do to take candidates’ rhetoric particularly seriously. They will find that their options are limited when they assume power.
ZAKARIA: John Burns, you’re sort of a little bit of everything. You were in Iraq for most of the last five years. You’re now in London. You work for the “New York Times.”
What do you think? Is Obama-mania the big story in Europe?
BURNS: Well, there’s no doubt, in those parts of Europe where I’ve been, there’s tremendous excitement.
The way I look at this, as a Brit who’s lived on the mid-Atlantic fault for the last 40 years, there’s been a great deal of anti- Americanism during the Bush presidency. I am with Mr. Blair in saying that I think it’s a foolish indulgence.
The Bush administration, rightly or wrongly — I think to some extent wrongly — has been a trigger for this anti-Americanism. And whether Obama or McCain replace him, that excuse, that trigger will be gone. And I think we’re already beginning to see a change in that.
And, of course, we can’t discount what’s happening in Iraq. Iraq has gone from being the most contentious issue in American, as well as arguably European politics, to being not even amongst the first three, as far as I can tell, because of the success of the surge, however fragile that might be. That has made life easier for the European leaders in dealing with Bush, Bush in dealing with them.
So, I think that we’ll enter — either way, whoever wins — into a more felicitous era in European-American relations.
ZAKARIA: Jonathan, what does it do to European politics if Iraq improves? It has seemed for so long that there’s a certain kind of European discourse that is premised on the idea that Iraq was a complete catastrophe.
FREEDLAND: I don’t know whether it necessarily changed that.
Either, as John was saying, its salience just falls away and it stops being the — the heat drains out of the issue, or I think it’ll be —
somebody will say, look, it’s true that you made it better, but it would have been better never to have started from here. It was a mistake to be there in the first place.
Did you then remedy some of the damage that was wrought for that first era? OK, you did. But it doesn’t mean that the decision itself circa 2002, 2003, was not a fatefully bad decision. And that, I think, it remains a consensus in Europe. I think maybe it will take decades, certainly.
Since John mentions Tony Blair, Tony Blair’s view is that in 30 years’ time people will look back and say it’s a good thing — but not till then. So, even if you manage to get up to pre-surge levels, for example, or to say that, OK, things are better than they were, at its worst time, most people, still, in Europe, I think, will hold to the view that we shouldn’t have ever made this decision in the first place.
KAMM: I disagree with that. I supported the position of Tony Blair on the Iraq war, and I’ve never changed my mind on that.
The question is, the salience in European politics of a decision that was perceived as being driven by an arrogant U.S. administration — I think quite wrongly. Tony Blair was far more central to it than that.
What European public opinion is opposed to is not the war — is not the decision to go to war, but the prospect of defeat. That has changed now. Belatedly, the U.S.-led coalition has found a successful counterinsurgency strategy, authored by a remarkable military intellect.
And the salience of this issue within European politics, I think is, all things being equal, now just not there. It’s not…
ZAKARIA: It’s dropping as a…
KAMM: It’s just dropped out of the…
ZAKARIA: This is what’s happening in the U.S. election. And in a way, it’s terrible for the Republicans, because when national security was going very badly, people blamed it on Bush and the Republicans were in trouble.
When national security — when Iraq does well, it falls in salience, and people talk about education, health care and the economy.
FREEDLAND: So, you can’t win either way.
ZAKARIA: And that hurts the Republicans, because the Democrats have advantages on those.
FREEDLAND: And it’s a particular problem for McCain, because in some ways, he wants to talk about Iraq, because he feels that gives him the edge over Obama. But it’s only in the news if it’s going badly, in which case he’s on the defensive when he talks about Iraq.
So, it’s not — it’s a complicated one for him, as it is for politicians here.
BURNS: Well, I think one thing that the Bush administration and General Petraeus, and America itself deserve credit for in all of this is something we’ve all seen in America in our lifetimes, which is a tremendous ability to reinvent itself.
There were serious mistakes made. They took it on the chin. They sat down. They re-devised their entire military policy, and they’ve had considerable success in the past year.
And there’s a sort of continuum here. Why is Europe so excited about Obama? Of course, because it would be the first black American president, but again we see this capacity in America to reinvent itself.
And so, those who will America’s doom on this side of the Atlantic, I think underestimate that and underestimate in that ability to reinvent itself its ability also to continue to project credible power around the world — beyond Iraq.
ZAKARIA: Speaking of reinvention, a new “Guardian” poll out on your prime minister. Pretty bad news.
Does Gordon Brown have to reinvent himself to somehow maintain the kind of legitimacy and credibility you need to govern?
FREELAND: Well, I was thinking of that just as John was speaking about renewal, because that was meant to be the whole point of Gordon Brown coming a year ago, which was to take a government that had been led by Tony Blair — hugely popular in America, but fraught and less popular here in Britain — and to renew it. That was the point of Brown, and it hasn’t worked.
Instead, a year later, he has plunged into deep negative ratings and not been an antidote to those things people didn’t like about Blair, but nor have the advantages and strengths Blair had.
I think — you ask, can he reinvent himself — I think at this stage of his life it’s too late. And as one of those people who admired him and wished this government well, it’s been a tremendously disappointing 12 months, because you’ve seen somebody who privately has great talent and intellect warmth, who just cannot project himself publicly.
He lacks some of the skills of a modern politician. Those skills that Barack Obama has by the bucket-load, Brown doesn’t have at all. He can’t speak in front of a camera. He can’t deliver a speech without sounding like he’s reading it.
And these basic communication skills are so needed now. Besides all the policy problems he has, in which he’s often splitting the difference and doing a sort of half-baked compromise, rather than something bold and striking out anew.
ZAKARIA: But of course, when Blair would do those half-baked compromises, they were seen as visionary, third (ph) ways of slicing an issue.
I mean, is it really a communications problem, that Brown simply lacks the kind of charisma that a modern politician needs?
KAMM: He lacks the charisma that a modern politician needs, but it’s much worse than that. The position is irretrievable.
And when I heard Jonathan say how he admires the prime minister for his personal characteristics, his intellect and his vision, and so forth, but it’s gone wrong, Jonathan is speaking for a very strong current of opinion, particularly associated with his newspaper, “The Guardian.”
I think that this is mistaken. What we’re seeing is the outcome of a politician who is — for whom there is far less than meets the eye.
He’s always governed by a kitchen cabinet of widely varying abilities. He’s secretive. He doesn’t know much about foreign affairs. I think his intellectual patina is really just a patina, and I’m not in the least surprised he’s proved a completely useless prime minister.
ZAKARIA: You don’t think he was a good finance minister?
KAMM: No, I don’t. And I think we’re seeing the outcome now. I don’t think he was a good finance minister.
And Tony Blair, who was far less popular in the U.K. than he was and remains in the United States — as is often the way with British prime ministers — no one, or very few people, ceased to respect him as prime minister.
Gordon Brown is not respected. And that’s why the position is irretrievable for him — deservedly so, in my view.
ZAKARIA: On that note, thank you, gentlemen. A real pleasure. And Jonathan Freedland, special thanks for you. I know it was difficult.
We will be back.
ZAKARIA: David Cameron is the leader of the Conservative Party here in Great Britain, and it is commonplace now to hear him referred to as the next prime minister of Great Britain.
He and many other British politicians are thinking about what Britain can do to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe and effect a real democratic transition. I asked him about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY, U.K.: I would like us to do everything we can to try and give Zimbabwe a chance of a new future. And that — I mean, Britain has a difficult position. We’re still seen as the old colonial power in Zimbabwe.
So, yes, in Europe we should be leading the call for sanctions on members of the regime. Yes, we should be working like mad to encourage the South Africans to cut off help to Mugabe and his henchmen.
There are so many things we could be doing. But Britain always has to remember that, actually, in the end, it is probably the South African countries, the southern African countries that have the greatest amount of influence.
And we should do what we can, with America, to persuade the Chinese that they cannot prop up this regime. They should not sell it arms. And if China wants to be a responsible global citizen in this century, it has to recognize that what it does in Africa is a very important part of that picture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: I’ll be talking with David Cameron about a variety of subjects, here on GPS next week.
We’ll be right back.
ZAKARIA: We’re at Number 10 Downing Street with the prime minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for doing this.
GORDON BROWN, PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN: Absolute pleasure.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask what you think the challenge for you personally is. A number of people have said — as you know, your critics — that you’ve been waiting for this job for a long time. And now that you have it, you’re not sure what you want to do with it.
So, let me ask you. Why do want to be prime minister?
BROWN: Well, I’m absolutely sure what I want to do.
The first thing, of course, is that we’ve got to help people through this economic downturn. And I think, you know, in any part of the world, whether it’s food shortages or whether it’s oil prices, and whether it’s demonstrations or protests, people want their governments to look at these problems — and not just look at them, to deal with them and tackle them.
But I also want to equip Britain and the world for the future.
And these enormous challenges — global economic competition, climate change, terrorism and security, which has been a particular problem for Britain with the incidents that we’ve had, just like America — all these problems require not just national governments to act in isolation as national governments, but they require us to build better systems of cooperating internationally to deal with the problems.
And I think over the last year, I’ve seen governments in every part of the world recognizing that they need to do more to cooperate, whether it’s on climate change, or whether it’s on the economy. And I want to make a reality of that, so that I can show that people’s standard of living in my country and people’s quality of life is better as a result of that.
ZAKARIA: Some people who are fans of yours say the problem is that Gordon Brown is a very intelligent man, he just doesn’t have the charisma.
Do you feel that, you know — as George Bush senior once said, “I wish I had just had a bucket of the charisma that Ronald Reagan had.”
Do you sometimes feel that way?
BROWN: Well, look, people have got to make up their own mind about what they want from their politicians. And I feel that these are serious times. They do need serious answers and serious policies.
And I do feel that, around the world, I have built relationships that can allow us to better deal with some of the problems that we face.
But I quite understand that, in these difficult times economically, people are looking for very quick answers. And people are wanting the politicians to respond quickly.
I will try and do that, because I believe that there are answers. But serious times do need serious policies.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the immediate crisis at hand, which is the one in Zimbabwe.
Your government has been quite active. You have revoked Robert Mugabe’s knighthood. You’ve condemned it. You’ve said this is an illegitimate government that no longer represents the Zimbabwean people.
Is this the beginning of the end? Or are we going to just see these kind of condemnations, but at the end of the day, it may not change much on the ground?
BROWN: I think what’s challenged fundamentally — over the last few months, indeed — is that African leaders are no longer prepared to accept a regime which is brutal, violent, oppressive, intimidating its opposition and not allowing fair and free elections to take place.
And I think you’ve seen statement after statement from some of the leading African leaders, making it clear that this is no longer acceptable, and that they cannot stand by and see the reputation of Africa and of democracy in Africa sullied in this way.
ZAKARIA: But the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, has not done very much. And many people say South Africa is really the only country that could make a difference.
Are you disappointed?
BROWN: I’ve worked very closely with Thabo Mbeki over the years, and I’ve got a very high regard for him. I think he has felt that the private diplomacy that he has been engaged in has had an effect, and certainly did have an effect in forcing Mugabe initially to call the elections.
I think what we’re now looking for is that combination of African countries in the African Union, working, I hope with the United Nations, sending envoys to Zimbabwe to see what progress can be made, to see what the way forward is.
And let me also say that we and a group of countries are working together and are prepared to contribute substantially, financially to the reconstruction of Zimbabwe. Countries around the world will do so, as long as it is restored as a democracy.
ZAKARIA: What does that mean? Do you…
BROWN: The economic and social reconstruction of a country where 80 percent of the people are in poverty. Food aid is not really going to the four million people who need it at the moment. Unemployment and inflation are out of control in this country.
This is potentially one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, one of the great producers for Africa in the past, which is now being laid low by economic devastation. And millions of people, as you know, have left the country, and about three million or so are in South Africa as refugees from Zimbabwe.
Now, the reconstruction of this country will have the goodwill of the international community.
ZAKARIA: You’ve talked to Robert Mugabe on the phone. Does he sound like a man who’s ready to give up power?
BROWN: I’ve not been talking directly to Mr. Mugabe.
I believe that there will come a time when he will realize that the rest of Africa, leaders that he’s worked with over the years, are no longer prepared to support the brutality and the violence and the oppression of his regime.
I believe that those leaders will make it absolutely clear that, for Africa’s reputation and for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, a great deal has got to be done to change things in Zimbabwe.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Prime Minister, your head of armed forces says that Britain cannot, the British army cannot sustain its commitments in two wars at the same time — the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.
To an American, certainly, this sounds puzzling, because you have 4,000 troops in Iraq, 8,000 in Afghanistan, which is not large by, certainly, the standards of the American army.
Is Britain’s world role one that requires a larger armed force?
BROWN: We’ll take any decision that’s necessary to discharge our duties, the duty of our armed forces, to agreements that we’ve made.
As for Afghanistan, Afghanistan is an important front against the Taliban. Without our troops and the troops of about 40 countries in Afghanistan, we would see the risk of either the Taliban or al Qaeda taking control. It’s an important and long-term international mission. And we have committed additional troops to Afghanistan only in the last few weeks. And I think that’s necessary as we try to move towards stronger Afghan forces of their own, greater policing in Afghanistan, and, of course, the development of the national and local institutions of government.
ZAKARIA: But what do you say to the head of your armed forces, then?
BROWN: We are continuing both our effort in Afghanistan — which we believe to be long term — and the work that we’ve got to do in Iraq will continue. And he made that absolutely clear.
And why? People must have a stake in the future.
One of the problems, I think, after Saddam Hussein was brought down and the reconstruction started, is we did not do enough on the economic and social development. Too many people were unemployed. We didn’t get them into jobs quickly enough.
Now, this economic and social development program is moving very fast in Basra. And I believe that people are increasingly seeing, as Iraqi citizens, that they have a stake in the future.
Now, this is the job that we are doing in Iraq. I’m not setting any artificial time limits to its end, but it’s clearly a job that progresses us from a role in combat — which was our previous role — to one in what we call “overwatch,” where we are there to support, but we are there to support the Iraqis making decisions as the army, the police and in their own economic and social development for themselves.
ZAKARIA: But in the short term, you do not expect any troop reductions, either in Iraq or in Afghanistan.
BROWN: We have set a timetable for some troop reductions. We are hoping that we can reduce our troops over a period of time, because we are moving from this combat role to overwatch. But I’m not setting an artificial timetable for any departure from Iraq.
What we are trying to do is to make sure the Iraqis themselves build up their capacity — in the army, particularly — build up their ability to police their own districts and their own communities.
And the prosperity that can come to Iraq, which should be a rich and prosperous country, from the development of their own resources — oil, the port in Basra, all the other industries that could develop around that port and around the oil industry — I believe will increasingly give Iraqis a stake in the future. And there has been some success over these last few months, greater stability, a greater sense that local government can flourish in these areas…
ZAKARIA: Do you think Iraq has…
BROWN: … and a stronger Iraqi military force. ZAKARIA: Do you think Iraq has turned the corner?
BROWN: I think certainly in the area where we are responsible, I can report — as, I think, General Petraeus is reporting for the areas where he has the greatest responsibility — that there has been a great deal of progress.
I think we’ve seen the militias forced out. I think we’ve seen the Iraqi army and police exert far greater control themselves. And I think we are seeing a degree of normalcy which would allow the defense secretary —
our defense secretary — to walk the streets of Basra only a few weeks ago and feel that he was utterly safe in doing so.
ZAKARIA: We’ll be back.
ZAKARIA: We’re back with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Let’s talk about Iran.
The negotiations with Iran over their nuclear energy program are at an impasse. My conversations with some Iranians suggest that what they are looking for is a kind of compromise that says they can have the reprocessing facilities, or the enrichment facilities, in a kind of international consortium, but located in Iran.
The American proposal and the European one is that there be an international consortium, but it not be in Iran.
Is this a difference that can be bridged? Or is it absolutely impossible to envision a circumstance where you could have the nuclear energy program, the fuel cycle, actually be in Iran?
BROWN: Well, the key issue here — and let’s remember where we come back to — is that under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we do not want additional countries to join the nuclear weapons race. So, the key issue here is that countries continue to renounce, and honor their promises about renouncing, their ability and their capacity to create nuclear weapons.
ZAKARIA: But Iran says it only wants peaceful nuclear energy.
BROWN: And that is, of course, where the doubt has arisen, because Iraq has — Iran, sorry — has not been totally honest with the international community. That’s where the question marks arise about how the processes that Iran has put into place are developing. And we need a firm and absolute commitment that Iran is not going to break from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and have nuclear weapons.
The treaty is clear that you have got to renounce nuclear weapons. Now, that is the first stage, and a believable and credible renunciation of nuclear weapons.
And I do say to Iran, they have got to prove to us that they are not interested in having nuclear weapons. And we’ve got to be satisfied that that is not the case.
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister, let me take you back to your old job, in a sense, which is the finance portfolio.
There is a real concern now about inflation. The Federal Reserve has talked about it. The European Central Bank has talked about it.
How seriously do you worry about this? Because there are some people who say we may be back in the 1970s, where food and fuel prices are now beginning to lead to wage price increases, and you will have this horrible cycle of stagflation beginning.
BROWN: Well, look. If what has happened in the last two years to oil, a trebling of oil prices, had happened in any other decade, then the world economy would have been pushed into recession. And it’s a sign of the greater flexibility of the world economy, our ability to respond, the growth of Asia itself, that we haven’t faced that.
I do think what we’re seeing is the other side of globalization. We’ve had one set of benefits — lower consumer prices for electronic goods, for clothes, for textiles coming out of Asia. We had as a result of that lower interest rates, because it exercised a counter- inflationary pressure.
Now we’re seeing the difficult side. And the difficult side is the massive restructuring of industry that is bound to take place. And I hope that all countries can resist the temptation to be protectionist as a result of that.
And we’re seeing the pressure on resources. So, as China and India and the whole of Asia — and the oil-producing countries themselves — need more oil, they need more consumption for vehicles, for airports, for buildings, we’re seeing this rapid pressure on the resources.
And what you’re dealing with now is inflation as a result of commodity price rises right across the board, but particularly from oil.
Now, can this be dealt with? Yes, in my view, it can. You’ve got to deal with the short term, medium term and long term pressures. And that’s really the challenge for all of us as politicians, as we look at what’s happening, particularly to the oil and energy market.
ZAKARIA: You know, when you and Tony Blair came into office 11 years ago, there seemed to be a kind of left-wing renaissance. There was a sense that — there was kind of a new left-of-center consensus that was emerging, and these governments were on the move around the world.
If you look now, your own government has low approval ratings. If you look on the continent of Europe, left-of-center movements do not seem to be doing well. Angela Merkel is doing — is the chancellor of Germany. Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of France.
Has something gone wrong with the center left?
BROWN: No. I think what’s happened is governments everywhere are under pressure. You’ve seen a change in government in Australia, so you’ve got a labor government there. You saw an election in Spain. You had a socialist government elected.
I actually think it’s more to do with how people are handling the challenging problems of globalization.
And I would argue that only a progressive approach to the problems of the global economy will work. And to some extent, we’ve got to apply the analysis that we had about our national societies to the international stage.
What I mean by that is, we are seeing the development of the global society. So, people can communicate across borders. People are finding that they have far more in common as individuals than they thought.
People are even finding that the barriers that separated them in religious doctrines are easily broken down, or more easily broken down than before, because people are finding that there is a common moral sense that unites all religions.
And so, the combination of people’s ability to communicate across frontiers and the sense that they have more in common, is, I think, going to influence that global politics in the years to come.
And what we’re lacking are the global institutions that can make a reality of the fact that we have a global interdependence and we have shared values right across the globe.
And I think the challenge over the next few years — it’s a progressive challenge — is to build these institutions that can deal with financial instability, environmental and climate change challenge, stability and reconstruction, and, of course, deal with some of the other problems that we know exist in the world like terrorism and, of course, the breakdown of law and order in particular parts of the world.
We need global answers to global problems. And the lesson I think we’re learning is that people are, in a way, ahead of us. People are able to communicate and do better across frontiers that somehow international institutions are.
ZAKARIA: Gordon Brown, thank you so much.
BROWN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Finally on GPS, here in London a visit to a place that has always been one of my favorites — the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, a hideaway underground. It’s a fascinating glimpse into Winston Churchill’s existence during those years when he stood up to Hitler’s might.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Blitz lasted from the 7th of September, 1940, through to the 16th of May, 1941. And London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights, and sometimes during the day, as well. ZAKARIA: This was the place where, safe beneath the Blitz, he huddled with his advisers, plotting the strategy that would ultimately win World War II.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How very primitive this room looks, when one thinks that this is the nerve center of the British Empire’s war effort during the Second World War.
ZAKARIA: He slept here, he ate here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Churchill, let’s say, did enjoy his food and drink very much. And things like jugged hare, cherry tart, game, pheasant, partridge — and what we would term these days a full English breakfast, as well.
ZAKARIA: He lived here for months at a time, often crowded into the small space with hundreds of aids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn’t the ideal working conditions down here anyway. It was not, say, insanitary, but the sanitary arrangements were not of the best. And a lot of people found it very, very difficult to work here.
ZAKARIA: When others wanted to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, so the legend goes, Churchill, often sitting right here, was stubborn in his determination to never give in.
Of course, the rest of Churchill’s career is a reminder that one can be too aggressive. During the First World War, he initiated a reckless naval attack that failed disastrously at Gallipoli.
As home secretary during the general strike of 1926, he wanted to machine gun the striking workers. As colonial secretary, he sent the notorious Black and Tan forces into Ireland.
And throughout his career, he was adamant that any negotiation with Mahatma Gandhi was appeasement, arguing instead for a brutal policy of forcibly keeping India a permanent part of the British Raj.
All tough, often wrong.
But in these rooms, we can honor him for those months in 1940, when Winston Churchill stood up against Adolf Hitler, alone in the world, and in doing so, saved the possibilities for freedom across the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINSTON CHURCHILL, BRITISH LEADER: We shall never cease to persevere against them, until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: One final note. We asked you what you thought was the greatest strategic blunder of the last century. You sent in tons of great suggestions. But the one that got the most votes was Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
For this week, if you don’t think Winston Churchill was the greatest leader of the last century, who was?
Send me an e-mail.
For GPS, I’m Fareed Zakaria. Have a great week.