FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Aired August 3, 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: Welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE, to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I’m Fareed Zakaria. Today, I’m speaking to some truly fascinating people about some vital issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: What are the principles in Islam that make it possible for Muslim women to be treated as slaves?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: If there’s one law of history, it’s that economic decline, more even than military strength, can weaken us.
BRET STEPHENS: We are going to be stuck with oil as our principal form of energy for a long time to come.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
ZAKARIA: Joining me on our panel today are Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Jorge Castaneda, the former foreign minister of Mexico; and Bret Stephens, the “Wall Street Journal’s” global view columnist.
Before we get started, I wanted to talk to Ambassador Holbrooke about what is going on with Radovan Karadzic. He is accused of having masterminded some of the genocide that took place in the Balkans. He’s been on the run for about 12 years. You have repeatedly called for his arrest. He’s been finally arrested.
And one of the strange accusations he has made is that there was a secret deal he made with you — acting on behalf of President Clinton, he says — to allow him to stay free, and allow him to be not arrested, as long as he retired from public life, including, he says, literary life.
Now, what is all this about?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, first, the facts.
Of all the evil men of the Balkans — Milosevic, General Mladic —
Karadzic is the worst. He was the intellectual architect of a racial hatred, which, in its ambition, could be compared to the Nazis, although smaller numbers.
He was responsible, directly or indirectly, for 300,000 deaths, 2.5 million homeless.
I met him only once, a 12-hour negotiation on September 13, 1995, in which Milosevic brought him to the negotiations. He was already indicted. We agreed to meet with him. I wouldn’t shake his hand.
We told him that night that, if he didn’t agree to stop the siege of Sarajevo, we would intensify the bombing. He went ballistic in the meeting, started screaming and yelling, said he was going to go call former President Jimmy Carter, his friend.
I said, “Fine. We work for President Clinton. You call Carter. We’re walking out, and the bombing will intensify.”
He agreed that night to lifting the siege of Sarajevo.
We went on to Dayton. We didn’t bring him to Dayton, of course, because he was indicted.
And then, in July of 1996, I was sent back to the Balkans as a special envoy — was in private life then — to get him out of public life.
He should have been arrested.
ZAKARIA: Why wasn’t he?
HOLBROOKE: His green Mercedes was parked in its parking spot outside his office in Pale for six months after Dayton each day. The NATO commander at the time refused to arrest him, even though he had the authority to do so. It was a terrible mistake.
Kudos to President Tadic of Serbia for arresting him. A really life-threatening action by President Tadic. His great friend Zoran Djindjic was murdered for sending Milosevic to the Hague. He was prime minister at the time.
So, in any case, Karadzic was still running the Serb part of Bosnia when I went back to the Balkans six months later.
I negotiated a very tough deal. He had to step down immediately from both his post as president of the Serb part of Bosnia and as head of his party. And he did so.
But when he disappeared, he put out a piece of disinformation that I had cut a deal with him, that if he disappeared, we wouldn’t pursue him.
That was a completely false statement.
He got it up and about for 12 years.
I think one of the main reasons people listened to him was that NATO wasn’t capturing him. People tried to figure out why. Well, it was a NATO failure.
ZAKARIA: Thank you for that. All right. To a slightly more pleasant turbulence, which is Israel. Olmert is going to resign as prime minister. Presumably that means that the foreign minister will become prime minister.
Bret Stephens, you were the editor-in-chief of the “Jerusalem Post” for two years. What do you make of all this?
BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: It doesn’t mean that the foreign minister is going to become the prime minister. It means that the Kadima Party, which Ariel Sharon formed in the last days of his life, is going to hold a contest. And the contenders there, the likeliest contenders will be Ms. Livni, the foreign minister, but also the transportation minister, former defense minister and chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz.
And they, in turn, are going to have to, at some point in the near future, face a general election where polls now show the likeliest victor would be former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is a small country. They recycle their leaders.
In Livni you have a smart, attractive figure, who in many ways represents a genuinely fresh break for Israeli politics.
The issue is going to be Iran. And here the case — I mean, this is what obsesses Israel’s public. And here it’s particularly worth noting that Shaul Mofaz was born in Tehran — his family is from Isfahan — and within the last few months has actually made the comment that a war, some kind of confrontation with the Iranians is inevitable.
So, the outcome of this primary is going to be far more significant, or more significant, or have a significance that extends well beyond domestic Israeli politics. If Shaul Mofaz is the prime minister, that will have real consequences in terms of Israel’s outlook vis-a-vis Iran.
ZAKARIA: Richard, what would happen if Israel were to attack Iran? How would the United States react?
My sense is, the U.S. military, for example, is quite terrified by this prospect, because they see their gains in Iraq being squandered if there were an attack on Iran, because the theory is that the Iranians would then retaliate by funding Shiite militias in Iraq and perhaps in Afghanistan.
HOLBROOKE: First of all, let’s start with a critical point. Israel faces a real existential threat from Iran, not only directly from Iran, but from the fact that tens of thousands of rockets are in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon, some of them with long range now, that can reach into the Sinai and to Dimona. And this is an intolerable situation long term for Israel.
On the other side of the coin is this. Israel cannot attack Iran without the prior support of the U.S., because it’s a long way. It’s not as easy as attacking the nuclear plant that the North Koreans were building for the Syrians in the dessert of Syria — by the way, a decision, I think, the Israelis were entirely right to do, and the Bush administration was entirely right to support.
Iran is a more difficult prospect. As you just said, it will require American intervention. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is already on the record as saying, two wars is more than enough for us right now.
And third, it isn’t clear that such an attack would be effective enough to justify the immense risks.
So, we’ve got a long-term problem here. It’s going to fall to the next administration to deal with it, both in Israel, the new government that Bret just described, whatever happens, and for the next president of the United States.
ZAKARIA: You know, one of the things people often talk about is revitalizing the Arab-Israeli peace process. Everyone promises to do it. Obama has talked about it. Even McCain has talked about it.
So, suppose — you are a well-known troubleshooter, Dick. If the president was to come to you and say, all right. Your mandate is to take on the Arab-Israeli peace process. Is there a likelihood of some kind of deal?
HOLBROOKE: I think I’d shoot myself.
Right — first of all, the Bush administration wasted almost seven of its eight years doing nothing in this area. After every other president, from Nixon and Kissinger in 1973, until Bill Clinton in the last day of his presidency, had worked on this issue. Some more successfully than others, but they’d all worked on it.
Finally, they had the so-called Annapolis process. President Bush said there’s going to be a peace treaty by the end of 2008.
If there’s anything at all, it’ll be a vague framework statement. And even that is now less probable, because of the departure of Olmert. So, I don’t think much is going to happen.
Having said that, I need to stress that the next president of the United States, whether it’s Senator Obama or Senator McCain, has got to — you say revitalize, I would just say vitalize this effort.
ZAKARIA: But does it really — but can’t you just go on like this? I mean, it is not going to happen, it seems to me. People keep talking about it.
The Israelis are doing fine. The Israeli economy is booming. They’re the ones, at the end of the day, who would have to make the concessions on the borders. They don’t need to do it.
STEPHENS: Look, Shimon Peres said years ago, not every problem has a solution. Some are — sometimes you have problems that you manage. And that’s what is…
HOLBROOKE: That’s right.
STEPHENS: Whatever the next — whoever is the next president, that’s really going to be the task.
It isn’t simply that you have the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas controls Gaza, but Hamas is equally popular in the West Bank. And if Hamas were to contest a presidential — the upcoming presidential elections, I would wager that they would win.
So, what, then, is the challenge for an American administration — to say nothing of the Israelis — when you have Hamas popularly elected, in control not only of parliament, but of the presidency, that seems to me a very tough thing to deal with.
So, you’ve got a rhetorical strategy. By all means, revitalize the peace process. But who are you talking to? And what are you talking about?
ZAKARIA: And we will be right back. We’re going to talk to Jorge Castaneda about Mexico, immigration and Latin America, as well as all kinds of other subjects.
ZAKARIA: We’re back with Richard Holbrooke, Jorge Castaneda and Bret Stephens.
Jorge, one of the pleasant surprises, at least for me, is that in this presidential campaign you do not have much demagoguery about immigration, because, actually, the two candidates agree on immigration, broadly speaking.
Were you surprised by this?
JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF MEXICO: A little surprised, and pleasantly surprised, Fareed. You’re right. One would have thought, perhaps, that the right wing, the talk show people would have been able to sort of fire up the conservative faction of the Republican Party to make this a central issue. They haven’t.
What is a bit surprising, though, is that Senator McCain, who actually has a very positive standing in the Latino community, because of his stances on immigration, is not taking advantage of it. And he is basically conceding to Senator Obama something like a six to seven point lead in the national popular vote out of the gate.
ZAKARIA: Among Latinos.
CASTANEDA: Among Latinos. The Latino electorate in the United States this year should be around nine percent of the whole electorate. Most of the polls are showing that Senator Obama has now 65, maybe even 70 percent, of those nine percent.
That’s six points out of the gate, which McCain could contest, if he wanted to. But he doesn’t want to, because he’s scared of his right wing. STEPHENS: You had President Bush taking about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. There was an argument to be made that the Republicans were on their way to a Hispanic majority.
Now, as Jorge mentioned, McCain is polling something like 23 percent among Hispanic voters.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Republican establishment, someone needs to be saying to them, “This is bad politics. This takes us on a road to being a permanent minority, a permanent minority party.”
And the reaction seems to be beyond, frankly, rational. It’s neuralgic. It’s emotional. It’s cultural. It’s many things. But it makes no rational sense for the GOP to have opposed President Bush and oppose Senator McCain on this issue.
CASTANEDA: Especially, Fareed, the red meat Republicans have nowhere else to go. It’s not that Senator McCain would lose his right wing if he were to take a more rational stance on immigration, which he always has had.
Where are they going to go? Are they going to vote for Obama?
ZAKARIA: You know the argument is that they sit at home and…
CASTANEDA: They’ll stay home.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a question.
Richard Holbrooke has an essay in Foreign Affairs, as do you, the forthcoming issue. In Richard’s essay he mentions something which I was actually startled by, which is that Venezuela now spends five times as much foreign aid in Latin America as does the United States.
Is the oil money that Venezuela has really distorting the politics of Latin America?
CASTANEDA: More and more so. And I think Richard is generous in not calculating more. It may even be more than five times, but it’s a great deal.
It’s an enormous amount of money.
President Chavez of Venezuela receives every day somewhere between $250 and $300 million, depending on the price of oil, which he can use discretionally. He can do whatever he wants with it. He has no — he has no accountability to anybody.
In the big countries, Brazil, Mexico, it’s not — he can’t make that much of a difference. But you go into the little countries, you go into Central America, the countries of the Caribbean that are having to buy oil at $120, $130 a barrel, that’s an enormous amount of support.
President Arias of Costa Rica — Nobel Peace Prize winner, a moderate, a sensible man — had to cut a deal with Chavez, because Chavez is giving him a 60 percent discount on the price of oil.
Countries like Paraguay, where a new president is going to be taking office soon, Father Fernando Lugo, also has to side up with Chavez, because he needs the money.
So, it’s really becoming — it’s really throwing the entire balance of politics in Latin America out of balance, because he is interfering in a way, which, by the way, reminds some people in Latin America of the way the United States used to be involved in Latin America some years ago.
ZAKARIA: And it might make him as unpopular, as well. So, maybe this will…
CASTANEDA: Over time. Absolutely.
ZAKARIA: Well, Richard, let me ask you. You were talking in this piece, which is on foreign policy challenges for the next president, you spent a lot of time on economics and energy policy.
And you point out another amazing statistic, which is that, at current oil prices, the oil-consuming countries of the world are transferring every year to the oil-producing countries of the world — that is, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, et cetera — $2.2 trillion.
HOLBROOKE: At least.
ZAKARIA: It may actually be 2.5 or…
HOLBROOKE: I used the benchmark of $100 a barrel, because I didn’t want to count the spike.
Every day, about $1.3 billion from the U.S. alone to the oil- producing states. And there are some very bad actors in that. Jorge has just discussed one of them, Venezuela.
We haven’t mentioned Iran. Russia using its petro power to intimidate the Western Europeans, to destabilize Georgia.
This transfer — we all worry about price at the pump, the pain at the pump. Fine. That’s a big political issue. But nobody is focusing on the fact that, if this goes on for five or 10 years, it will constitute the greatest transfer of wealth in history, from one group of nations to another.
And I don’t believe in historical determinism, Fareed. I know you don’t either. We’re both optimists by nature, and we’re both particularly optimists about America.
But our growth from the 1880s on was fueled, literally, by cheap oil.
And if this era comes to an end and we start transferring money, it isn’t just going to be indoor ski slopes in Doha and crazy expenses of villas by Arab potentates. It’s going to be petro power. And it will change the world. If there’s one law of history, it’s that economic decline, more even than military strength, can weaken us.
So, we’re going to have to deal with this on many, many fronts, including energy diversification, conservation and so on. And the answer is not to open up offshore oil drilling, because that’s a marginal aspect of this issue.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Bret. You know, naturally…
CASTANEDA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) helps alleviate…
ZAKARIA: You’ve become…
CASTANEDA: … the demand problem…
ZAKARIA: You’ve become the repository of all the attacks.
STEPHENS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come back…
HOLBROOKE: I’m not attacking, Bret.
STEPHENS: … what Richard said. Very important…
ZAKARIA: No, but I want to ask you. I’m attacking the president on this, which is…
But, you know, it does feel as though, for seven years, there is a growing consensus that we need a dramatic shift in energy policy to deal with the economic, political consequences of what…
HOLBROOKE: And climate change.
ZAKARIA: … Dick was talking about. And climate change.
Now, it does seem that this consensus has eluded the president of the United States.
HOLBROOKE: We’re all ganging up on him.
ZAKARIA: But lots of conservative Republicans say, look, we need a new energy policy. T. Boone Pickens says that. You listen to these new energy councils, which include Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx and one of McCain’s key advisors.
But the president just — it almost seems as though he has decided he — this is just one place where he’s just not going to change.
STEPHENS: Fareed… ZAKARIA: Is it that he’s a Texas oilman? Or is there a beautiful argument that’s eluding me?
STEPHENS: Fareed, the mirage of ethanol, I remind you, was the centerpiece of the 2006 State of the Union address. I’m all for energy in whatever forms it can take, and I’m all for scientific innovation.
We are, all of us — serious people are going to have to face the fact that wind isn’t going to do it, and geothermals aren’t going to do it, and nuclear is only going to be a part of the solution. And ethanol is certainly not going to do it, and certainly not going to do it while raising food prices around the world.
We are going to be stuck with oil as our principal form of energy for a long time to come. You cannot escape the fact that you have to…
ZAKARIA: How about using it more efficiently? How about…
ZAKARIA: … dramatically higher fuel efficiency standards, which have only now, for the first time in 32 years, been raised?
STEPHENS: Absolutely. And energy efficiency has been one of the great reasons why we had cheap oil for many years, up until the last four…
ZAKARIA: But it has not been a focus of this administration.
STEPHENS: Energy efficiency…
ZAKARIA: Cheney says conservation is a sign of personal virtue, not an energy policy.
STEPHENS: Well, I’m not here to defend Dick Cheney. But my point is to — I’m not here to attack him either.
But my simple point is this. You cannot get away from the fact that we are going to need reliable sources of oil from places that are not run by Ahmadinejad or Chavez or Putin. And offshore continental drilling is one of those places…
ZAKARIA: But all estimates are that it would be a drop in the bucket, that U.S….
STEPHENS: Well, no, but, I mean…
HOLBROOKE: But this is a silly argument about offshore. Whether you open it or not, the point Fareed and I and Jorge are making is fundamental. And we haven’t even mentioned the climate change implications of it.
There’s no single bullet solution here. There has to be conservation, alternate sources. You didn’t mention solar, which has huge potential, particularly in countries in Africa with deserts. You didn’t mention clean coal.
There are many issues.
The point we’re trying to make is that we wasted seven years ignoring the evidence of climate change and allowing this to happen. The price of oil quadrupled.
And this is — and this is the core thing. First, you’ve got to identify a problem before you can fix it. We have to identify, as a national emergency, this combination of issues — energy, climate change. And then we have to address that…
CASTANEDA: And arms purchase…
HOLBROOKE: … as a global problem.
ZAKARIA: Bret has to get a chance to respond, and then Jorge.
STEPHENS: No, I mean, absolutely. We have an energy — we have serious energy problems, but they’re not going to be resolved by fantasy solutions.
And wind doesn’t do it. And anyone who’s had experience — look at the Germans or the Danes. It simply does not provide the energy…
HOLBROOKE: But companies (ph) are doing that.
ZAKARIA: But Richard’s point is that no one of them — clearly, everything has to feed into a grid.
STEPHENS: Absolutely. But…
ZAKARIA: And you need many, many volts.
STEPHENS: But the truth is that, when we’re looking at time horizons of five, 10, 15 years, we are stuck with oil as the principal, reliable supply.
ZAKARIA: Jorge, I’ve got to let you into this…
CASTANEDA: I just want to come back to Richard’s point.
President Chavez was just in Belarus and Moscow. He has already purchased $4 billion worth of arms from Russia and Belarus. He signed agreements for the purchase of $30 billion worth of arms over the next four years.
There is no way you cannot upset the balance of forces in Latin America, and not just in Latin America, with that kind of hardware.
All of that money comes from oil.
So, it’s two things. It’s this enormous transfer of wealth from the consuming countries to the producing countries, but then, it’s a new transfer from the producing countries with all that money to certain countries that provide certain types of technologies.
Do we want a new arms race in Latin America, in Africa with Sudan, and other countries? Do we want this?
HOLBROOKE: Sudan is another example of a producing country that’s buying protection for its genocide.
CASTANEDA: From China.
HOLBROOKE: And the Russian-Chavez agreement was also a close strategic partnership.
So, Bret, we’re not arguing about wind. Although, when you talk to the “Wall Street Journal,” wind is always an issue.
We’re talking about…
STEPHENS: That’s when you’re talking to them.
HOLBROOKE: That’s right. Well…
ZAKARIA: All right. OK. We get above third grade here.
HOLBROOKE: No, we’re having fun.
The point is that the last seven years were wasted on both these issues.
The next — and the good news is, as I write in the article, that John McCain was the only Republican candidate who said there is a climate change issue. So, although he and Obama are deeply split on many other issues, and there’s a real difference, I think we can look forward in 2009 to the beginning of a new policy. Although, if you look at the two plans, Obama’s is much more aggressive, much more forward-looking.
And whatever happens, it’s going to take a national consensus.
ZAKARIA: OK. Bret Stephens, you get the last word. You want to recant and announce your conversion on the energy issue?
CASTANEDA: To wind.
STEPHENS: No. I think we need a serious energy policy and…
ZAKARIA: Which would look like what? What’s your energy policy?
STEPHENS: A serious energy policy means, by all means, diversification, innovation, all kinds of things. But it ultimately means that we have to find new sources of oil from reliable locations of supply. And I would add also to Jorge’s point, yes, Venezuela is gaining a lot of money from its petrodollars. But Venezuela — the Chavez regime is actually cracking up internally. So, the idea that we’re simply handing money to bad guys and they’re doing bad things, is only part of the reality that we’re looking at.
Chavismo has serious internal problems. Ahmadinejad has serious internal problems. It’s a mistake to simply equate energy policy…
ZAKARIA: But certainly, they’d have more if…
STEPHENS: … with…
ZAKARIA: … if oil prices were low and they had less cash, they’d certainly have more problems.
STEPHENS: Well, maybe yes, and maybe…
CASTANEDA: For sure.
STEPHENS: Maybe yes, and maybe no. But, I mean, what I find interesting is that Chavez’ greatest cause in Latin America, the FARC, is on its knees. And that has been achieved despite Chavez’ energy…
ZAKARIA: That’s the Colombian guerrillas.
All right. With that, I thank you all for a fascinating discussion.
We’ll be right back.
ZAKARIA: There was good news from Turkey this week, and worth all of us celebrating.
Turkey’s highest court decided not to ban the country’s ruling party. Many had expected a ban, and had that happened, Turkey would have been thrown into turmoil.
More important, the world’s leading example of Muslim democracy would have been utterly undermined.
Over the past seven years, President Bush has made various efforts to bring democracy to the Muslim world. They have stumbled over one obstacle. People who were winning the elections tended not to be democrats. They seemed to believe in elections, at least as long as they won, but not in the individual rights, laws and traditions that created a genuine liberal democracy.
The administration pushed for elections in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Egypt, only to find that they strengthened the hands of religious conservatives, even terrorists — except in Turkey.
In Turkey, elections brought into power the AK Party, which despite some background in political Islam, has proved to be the most open, modern and liberal political movement in Turkey’s recent history.
But Turkey’s ultra-secular establishment, judges, generals and businessmen — all unelected — has watched the rise of the AK and the decline of its own power, and mounted challenge after challenge in courts, through the press, and even contemplated a military coup.
It turns out that Turkey’s democracy has grown too strong to reverse.
A few days before the court ruling, I spoke with Turkey’s foreign minister, Ali Babacan, who was confident that his country would pass this test. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI BABACAN, FOREIGN MINISTER OF TURKEY: What we have done in Turkey, in our view, actually strengthened the secular framework rather than weakening it.
But then, as a result of all these reforms, Turkey has become quite an open country, quite an open society. Right now, we have more than 400 TV channels in Turkey — these are all Turkish — 1,100 radio channels.
Only to the primary schools we have distributed 550,000 PCs, so that even the remotest villages in Turkey right now have access to Internet. Seven-, eight-year-old kids follow what’s going on around the world.
I believe in the power of an open society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: With the high court’s decision to allow the AK Party to continue functioning, the danger has passed that an unelected elite will thwart the people’s will. And Turkey consolidates its position as the Muslim world’s only genuine liberal democracy.
We’ll be right back.
ZAKARIA: My next guest is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s a best-selling author and courageous activist, whose outright rejection of Islam has not been just controversial, but dangerous.
You focused on the issue of women. Are you trying in doing that to modernize Islam, or to shame Muslims?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: No, it’s not to shame Muslims. It’s also not to modernize Islam. I really care more — Islam is the doctrine. Muslims are the human beings. It’s with them that I share a history of being a former Muslim.
And I am convinced — and fortunately, more and more people today —
that if the position of women in Islam and in Muslim countries is improved, that we are going to have less violence within the homes of Muslims, and Muslim societies will be less violent, more informed. And that will lead, as we have seen in societies that have freed and respect the dignities of their women, will have peaceful, prosperous societies.
That’s the long way to go, but we have to start now by addressing those issues.
What are the principles in Islam that make it possible for Muslim women to be treated as slaves?
ZAKARIA: Do you take any great hope from the fact that, when you look around the Muslim world in recent years, particularly in the last two or three years, you see a very marked drop in terms of support for not just al Qaeda and its ideology, but even Islamic fundamentalist parties?
From Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan there does seem to be a kind of falling off of the kind of support that perhaps was just rhetorical, some kind of a protest, or something. But in Pakistan, for instance, it’s down to four percent or even less.
Is that a sign that the tide has turned?
HIRSI ALI: It has not turned yet, but it is a sign that the collision of ideas — the jihadists on the one side, al Qaeda and their followers, who say we have to abide by the literal word of God, and those who say, no, we want to modernize — that that confrontation breeds change and progress.
And that is why this whole confrontation between Islam and the West on the one hand, and among Muslims within their own societies and within their own homes, is so linked to the freedom of expression and to the freedom of conscience.
Muslims for a long time — as individuals, as theologians — were always limited in what they could think and what they could not think, and how they could express their thoughts.
The more freedom of expression that there is, the more progress. And then, these fundamentalists will lose their debate, because their recipe, the philosophy for life that they offer us, is one that leads to violence, and it leads to poverty, and it leads to running around in circles for 1,500 years. We’ve seen it, and it’s now time to tell them, “no.”
ZAKARIA: But when you look in places like Somalia, where you come from, or Nigeria, there is still, you know, a fairly strong movement of people who say, we want to impose Sharia, Islamic law, which relates a lot of it to the issues of women.
What is the appeal? Why is it that it still stays strong in places like that?
HIRSI ALI: Well, communities like Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, before the United States went in there, are vulnerable, because their whole infrastructure — the tribal one, and then the post-colonial, fragile democracies, fragile states, nation-states — have collapsed.
So, it’s very easy for these al Qaeda type of people, with a lot of money from Gulf states, to come in and preach that Sharia law is the answer to our problems. And at first, all these hungry people, destitute people, people who have gone through a lot — civil war, it just the place — they believe in it.
And it’s when they see people’s hands cut off, when they see these stonings, when they see these atrocities committed in the name of their religion, that they protest and they say, “No. This is even worse than the anarchy we lived in.”
ZAKARIA: But when you talk to women in Muslim societies — and I’ve done this a bunch, but I’m sure you’ve done it a lot more — what I find is they don’t, of course, like al Qaeda, and they don’t like the kind of barbarism toward women.
But yet, they think of themselves as socially quite conservative. And they would, for instance, be very enraged by the kind of message you send.
Why is that? I mean, if you’re hoping to improve the lot of women in Islam, surely it is puzzling to you that they don’t — they don’t want your help, and they think that you’re in some ways a destructive force, that you’re anti-Muslim.
HIRSI ALI: Yes. It’s very interesting. If you look at the history of women’s liberation in the West — which, you know, because of the elections when Hillary Clinton was still a candidate, it was repeated over and over again — what you see is, at first, people who are living under oppression and within a doctrine where they believe in their own oppression, protesting — they protest again change.
And so, Muslim women today, rejecting voices like mine, is not, in the history of and the liberation — any liberation movement — it’s not that strange.
But when I say, “If you disobey your husband, he has the right to beat you, you look that up in the Quran,” some women go and look it up. Some women don’t look it up.
The next time a husband hits his wife, who knows that it’s in the Quran, it breeds a different kind of thinking. It brings about — it made me think, and it has made many other women think, that if Allah is just, which he says repeatedly in the Quran, why is he allowed to hit me? And why don’t I have the same prerogative? Why is he allowed to have four wives? Why can’t I have four wives?
You know, what is just about that system? And that’s what starts, I think, the process of thinking.
And that’s all I’m saying. At this point, voices like mine are all about, let’s just start that process of thinking.
ZAKARIA: You know, lots of people feel that the kind of confrontation between the West and Islam that is taking place has also left many Muslims feeling that the West is anti-Islam, that we have lost the battle of hearts and minds, that we have convinced many people in the Arab world that the United States is the enemy, or that we dislike them and don’t want — we want to keep them down.
Do you think that that’s the case?
HIRSI ALI: I don’t think that that is the case. I think that that’s all in line with trying to look for external causes, external factors for what is wrong, once again I say, with us — without me being a Muslim now, but a product of the Muslim world.
And it’s through self-reflection, first by acknowledging what is wrong with us and then changing that. And you’ll see anyone who adopts the Western way of life — meaning, you know, respecting individual dignity, individual freedoms, the rights of women, the rights of gays — that these people advance not only in the way they think, but also in their material well-being.
And it’s first by acknowledging what we are doing wrong that you can get to a proper debate on what the West is doing wrong.
I’m not saying Western countries, the United States and Britain, that they’re not doing things wrong. They are. But what they’re doing wrong is open for debate.
When I open the “New York Times” or the “Wall Street Journal” or CNN, I see over and over again Westerners criticizing their own systems, their own leaders, their own ways of thinking.
I don’t see that happening within the Muslim world. It is starting now, but it’s not where it should be.
So, let’s stop blaming outsiders and start reflecting on our own ways of life and thoughts and traditions and habits.
ZAKARIA: And we’ll be back.
ZAKARIA: You’re Dutch. You’re still a Dutch citizen.
How has Europe dealt with the problem of its Muslim immigrants? Is it getting better? Is it getting worse?
HIRSI ALI: If I look at a country like Holland, all Dutch people will tell you we are an egalitarian society, we are very equal.
But that’s not true. We have poor people, and we have wealthy people. We have people who are Catholics and who are Protestants and who are secular.
And all these people comingle, and they have business dealings. And there is a consensus not to go beyond certain boundaries. But as individuals, they themselves are hardly integrated.
ZAKARIA: One of my theories about why the United States has not had a second terrorist attack since 9/11 is that American Muslims are better integrated into American society, that there isn’t — there aren’t these large pools of radicalized, marginalized people, you know, hating the society they’re living in and therefore giving some kind of base and encouragement to the few truly fanatical jihadis.
So you sense that, now that you’ve lived in this country?
HIRSI ALI: Yes. I have sensed in this country that there is no place for ambiguity. The American Constitution is clear.
So, of course you can have your own religion, and of course you can have your own neighborhoods, and you can self-segregate as much as you wish. There are certain things that you have to abide by, and the most important of which is you feed yourself. You work and you have the dignity of being, earning — you know, living on your own earnings.
There is also the clarity of law enforcement, which in Europe, because of all of these notions of post-modernism and multiculturalism, and what have you, have decided to treat immigrants as if they are not completely mature citizens, as if they are children, you know, appeasing and looking away when immigrants commit crimes.
I haven’t seen the same thing here. I think, you know — and I’m not saying this is a perfect system. But it just gives Muslims who are looking for clarity that clarity.
And I also think that the United States is really far away from any Muslim country. The European Muslims that we have, or we have who come into Europe, they come in through borders. So, you get people who are from rural areas, who are traveling 500 years in time sometimes.
In the United States, the Muslims who come here have to come through an airport, have to have a lot of money, have to meet the regulations. It’s just — it’s different.
ZAKARIA: A final question.
When you look at the state of women in Islam today, do you feel that the changes you want to see will happen in the next 10 years, in the next 100 years?
HIRSI ALI: If the freedom of expression is protected the way it is in the United States, and not just having it in the Constitution, but actual protection of the lives and limb of people, then I think it can take a very short time. I don’t know if it will take 10 years or 100 years, but that’s the condition, is to express your ideas freely and to be able to associate with one another and plan to change.
And all of this is not possible, if every time one criticizes Islam, one is labeled an Islamophobe, works are not published, intellectuals are ostracized. And that’s what’s going on in Europe at the moment. People — it’s no longer the issues that you address, but your person that is attacked. And the whole debate is brought to a standstill.
That, combined with the terrorists who threaten, intimidate and promise jihad, that, I think, is what has made progress for the Muslims living in Europe something harder to achieve than the Muslims in America.
ZAKARIA: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, thank you very much.
HIRSI ALI: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
ZAKARIA: Starting Friday, you will be inundated by images of China as the Beijing Olympics begin. What you will see is a carefully controlled and choreographed set of clips. But they will highlight something that is very real: a new China.
If you listen to the political discourse in the United States, you would think China is the old Soviet Union. Neoconservatives rail about Chinese tyranny and oppression. Fire-breathing liberals often join in.
In its special issue on China two weeks ago, the New Republic, once identifiably liberal, editorialized that our ultimate solidarity should lie not with China’s odious government, but with its people, “the billion longsuffering men and women of the world’s largest dictatorship.”
Except that the Chinese people seem to disagree. That same week, the Pew Global Attitude Survey was released, and it turns out that almost nine out of 10 Chinese approve of the way things are going in their country — the highest level of support in all the 24 countries surveyed.
It may be that the Chinese lie to their pollsters, but they are quite frank in other polls in their criticisms of corruption, environmental damage and rising prices. On the whole, however, they seem happy with the direction of their country.
Is this so difficult to understand? Over the past century, China has gone through chaotic turmoil almost every decade — the collapse of the monarchy, warring states, the Japanese invasion, civil war, the Communist takeover, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution.
But over the past 30 years, it has enjoyed stability as well as the fastest growth rate of any country ever. Average incomes have quadrupled. Some 400 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty.
If you were Chinese, you might take some pride in that, too.
That’s it for GPS this week.
Before we go, I want to thank you for all your e-mails. I wish I had time to answer them. I don’t, but I read them and enjoy them. Please keep them coming.
Now, last week I asked you, do you think we need more government regulation of the economy? The answer came back a resounding “yes.” You called for more government regulation, not less. But you also asked for better, more effective government regulation — tougher, but smarter.
My question for this week concerns China. When you look at its people, its culture, what about it do you admire, and what is your chief concern about China?
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our Web site, cnn.com/gps, for highlights from this program. And you can always find our weekly podcast on the Web site.
See you next week.