June 22nd, 2008
04:29 PM ET

GPS June 22, 2008: Interview with Condoleezza Rice

Let's get started.

ANNOUNCER: On GPS today, for the first time in two years, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sits down for an in-depth television interview on the fierce fighting in Afghanistan, the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, renewed violence in Iraq and the political duel over nuclear weapons with Iran and North Korea.

Our panel of great minds will weigh in on everything the secretary has to say. We'll look back in history to examine the greatest strategic blunder of the last century.

Coming up on Fareed Zakaria, GPS.

ZAKARIA: Today, I am very pleased to welcome the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, as my guest. Welcome.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Nice to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about Gaza. There is some criticism of the basic approach that you have taken to Gaza, which is to isolate it, to put it under sanctions - in effect, to cut it off from the rest of the world.

Nicholas Kristof of the "New York Times," reporting from Gaza said that this has radicalized the population. They blame Israel, they blame the United States.

And I can certainly say from my travels that the hypocrisy of saying we want democracy, and then the minute they vote for Hamas saying, we're going to try to strangle it, is loudly proclaimed. You may believe its sincerity or not.

What do you say to people who point out this doesn't seem to be working. It seems as though the people in Gaza are becoming more radical. Hamas is gaining a certain amount of support.

Why should we continue on this course, if it doesn't seem to be delegitimizing Hamas?

RICE: Well, given the violence and the intimidation that Hamas uses in Gaza, I'm not certain that Hamas is actually becoming more popular. I believe...

ZAKARIA: Well, you had the elections and they won.

RICE: No, no, no. I mean now, since the - since Gaza has been under Hamas control since the coup, as Abu Mazen has called it.

I do know that things are improving in the West Bank. I know that the economy is improving. I know that places like Jenin are now largely the security responsibility of the Palestinians.

I know that they had a very successful investment conference at Bethlehem. I know that bookings are up in Bethlehem, that the tourist hotels are at almost record numbers in places like Bethlehem.

So, I do see things getting better in the West Bank. I don't see things getting better in Gaza.

And I think that says...

ZAKARIA: But that's my point, that you're isolating...

RICE: ... as well...

ZAKARIA: ... Gaza, and it's doing worse.

RICE: No, but...

ZAKARIA: Why is that?

RICE: ... but - well, because - Gaza is doing worse, because Hamas is isolating Gaza, and Hamas has a stranglehold on Gaza.

ZAKARIA: But isn't that collective punishment on the people of Gaza, not on Hamas?

RICE: Well, the - the problem is that Hamas is continuing to use violence against Israeli cities. It's continuing to hold its own people hostage. It took down - by the way, this isn't a matter with the United States - it took down the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza that were, in fact, elected by the Palestinian people.

Now, as to the democracy point, we said right away that the elections were free and fair, and that they had to be recognized. But there come certain responsibilities with governing. And one of them is that you really shouldn't try to be a terrorist organization and a political party at the same time.

Another is that you really shouldn't say and push off agreements the Palestinians, going back to Yasser Arafat, had signed on behalf of the Palestinian people. And all that the international community demanded was that Hamas live up to those international agreements.

And so, Hamas is the ones that made the bad choice. This is not a bad choice that the United States or Europe or anybody else made. Hamas made the bad choice.

Now, we hope that the effort for calm will be successful, because ultimately what has to happen is that we need to get an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and then Abu Mazen will be able to say to the Palestinian people, do you want to live like we do in the West Bank, or do you want to live like they do in Gaza?

And frankly, I think the Palestinian people are not going to want to live the way that they do in Gaza.

ZAKARIA: Madam Secretary, you made a new set of offers and inducements and negative inducements to Iran. They have not been rejected out of hand yet. Do you read anything into this?

RICE: Well, perhaps one reason that they've not been rejected out of hand this time is that we actually made certain that they were published. And we wanted the Iranian people to know what's really being offered to them.

The regime has said that we're trying to deprive Iran of the technology that they have a right to, that is, civilian nuclear technology. It couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, we have supported the Russian reactor there, Bushehr, which would give them that civil nuclear capability. We've just said, you can't have enrichment and the reprocessing, the fuel cycle which can lead to the development of a nuclear weapon.

ZAKARIA: A number of Iranians have said to me that one possible solution might be - and these are Iranians not authorized to speak for the government, but very close to it - is a consortium in Iran that has very, very intrusive international monitoring, perhaps is even staffed entirely by international scientists and such.

Is that a possible, potential solution?

RICE: How about an international consortium outside of Iran, and then fuel supply that is assured for an Iranian reactor? How about a plan to help Iran with its actual energy needs?

It has said what kind of electricity and energy it needs to generate. How about trade relations...

ZAKARIA: But that's the standoff.

So, but my question is, is there a potential solution where there is some kind of consortium on Iranian soil? Or is that a complete no- no?

RICE: I think the problem there is that one could never trust that Iran would stick to the deal.

And the reason that nobody - and that includes Russia, China - wants Iran to have enrichment and reprocessing of any kind on its territory is because nobody trusts them not to cheat. They were enriching and reprocessing, they were violating their agreements for 18 years without anybody knowing it. It is not a transparent society. And so, I think it would be difficult to think of an inspection regime that would give you full confidence.

It is better to think of ways for Iran to gain what it says it wants, which is reliable, civilian, nuclear energy. And almost anything would be on the table if that were truly the Iranian goal, that this not involve the fuel cycle.

ZAKARIA: Last week you went to the Heritage Foundation and talked up the North Korean nuclear negotiations - I think defending yourself from some conservatives who say that this is a sellout.

Why not adopt the North Korean model, which is have - engage Iran, have talks with them, get other countries involved, so that it's a multi-party talk. In other words, the North Korean model - I say this as an admirer of it - could easily be applied to Iran.

But with Iran you say, all that's fine. We're simply not going to talk to them.

RICE: Well, we would talk to them. In fact, we do have six parties that are ready to talk to them at any time, if they'll just suspend their enrichment and reprocessing.

It really is difficult to imagine the circumstances. You're sitting there, you're having talks. The talks are going on and on. They're enriching and reprocessing. They're getting better and better.

ZAKARIA: Why not have limited talks of a three-month cycle?

RICE: Can you imagine...

ZAKARIA: Say, after that, you know, we stop the talks if there's no progress, because we don't want you to run out the clock.

RICE: Well, the Europeans did that more than two years ago. That's exactly what happened. They were enriching and reprocessing. The Europeans said...

ZAKARIA: But never with us.

RICE: ... stop.

ZAKARIA: They keep saying that they want to have talks with us.

RICE: Well, and we're ready. I've said I will meet my counterpart anyplace, anytime, anywhere to talk about anything - not just about nuclear issues, about anything.

Now, I've said very often, I don't know why they don't want to talk to us. It would not, it seems to me, be that difficult to suspend for some period of time. Let's do it the other way around. Rather than saying we'll negotiate for a while, and then see if you suspend. Let's say you'll suspend for a while, and let's negotiate. Because can you imagine the crisis, if, in fact we are negotiating and they don't suspend, and then you have to break off the talks?

I can imagine that that would actually be a more difficult circumstance than the one in which we find ourselves now.

ZAKARIA: You said China has been helpful in North Korea.

Why has China blocked the ability for the United States to deliver aid in Myanmar? We had American ships on the, you know, off the coast of Burma, and simply couldn't get aid across.

RICE: Well, they haven't - China hasn't blocked the efforts, but we had hoped that they would be more assertive with the junta in Burma in insisting...

ZAKARIA: Well, they blocked the ability to get it on the Security Council.

RICE: Yes, it was - it got to the Security Council only as a discussion item. We were never able to get a strong resolution to deal with it.

The Chinese - and frankly, they're not alone. Some of Burma's other neighbors have not been willing to put the kind of pressure on the Burmese regime that is needed.

I will say that I think the rather limited progress that we made was because China and a couple of others did intercede with the junta to allow some aid in.

But the truth of the matter is that the international community has not responded as it should have. This is sometimes one of the frustrations with the Security Council.

I remember when the General Assembly took up the issue of the responsibility to protect some time ago, a couple of years ago. And the United States was skeptical, because we said, if you take on something like the responsibility to protect, and then you don't do it, what does that say about the credibility of the Security Council in the international community?

It's precisely what's come true in Burma.

ZAKARIA: When you - you wrote a "Foreign Affairs" article recently, and you talked about the fact that our real allies are the ones with which we share values.

Is Saudi Arabia an ally of the United States?

RICE: Well, Saudi Arabia is certainly an ally. It's a strategic partner. But clearly, we don't share common values. We have advocated for reform in Saudi Arabia. I think you see some small kernels sometimes of reform.

But when I talk about countries with which we share values, I talk about countries that do care about the ability of their populations to both access their government and to be able to hold their government accountable.

ZAKARIA: Many people in Saudi Arabia tell me that they feel their government would be more helpful on issues like oil, if we weren't constantly badgering them and telling them that they're not true allies of the United States.

RICE: Well, I didn't say that we don't have allies who don't share our values. But our strongest allies, the ones with which we have common values, we can do things that are unimaginable with others. Look at the things that we're doing...

ZAKARIA: Do you expect the Saudis to help us on oil by increasing production?

RICE: Look, the Saudis - I also - the idea that somehow, because we speak out about democracy causes Saudi Arabia to do certain things on oil - Saudi Arabia has certain interests.

And I - when we talk to the Saudis about the price of oil, we talk instead about the need for producers to be aware of the effects of high prices on international economic growth. And ultimately, if there is not international economic growth, if the system is not working in that way, then it's going to be harder to sell that oil.

ZAKARIA: We'll be back in a second.


ZAKARIA: We're back.

Let me take you to Afghanistan. Almost all reports, whether they're internal government reports or media reports, say over the last year there's been a disturbing rise in the Taliban in Afghanistan and perhaps in parts of Pakistan. Ahmed Rashid, who is a writer who I'm sure you have read, if not have met, said that it is the most dramatic rise in the strength of the Taliban in recent years.

There are military officers, senior military officers, who openly say we need - the United States needs two or more combat brigades in Afghanistan. Will they go there?

RICE: When I was recently in Kandahar with Foreign Secretary Miliband of Great Britain, we talked a lot about the need to start to really provide population security. And if we learned something important in Iraq, it's that you can talk about hearts and minds, but first you have to help people protect their bodies.

ZAKARIA: Which means you need troops. Isn't that the lesson of Iraq?

RICE: Well, but you're seeing, first of all, the United States, of course, is moving forces from the east and the French are moving into the east, and that - the United States is moving to the south and the French are moving into the east. I think you will see more contributions.

ZAKARIA: The newly elected government in Pakistan says that they believe that part of the strategy that they should be pursuing with regard to the rise of the Taliban is a much more political strategy.

They criticize Musharraf for having approached it too much with military arms. But they've tried to sign a deal with a very prominent Taliban leader.

Do you think that's the right approach?

RICE: We have to remember that Musharraf did try an agreement with the groups in the FATA, in the Frontier Areas, and it didn't hold. Because the agreement was that they would indeed not allow the extremists to operate and to operate cross-border and to attack. And they did precisely that.

And so, we respect this new government. We have been great advocates of the return to civilian government in Pakistan and a democratic government. We're going to work with them as a civilian government and keep the lines of authority straight when we work with them.

We just say to them, terrorism is not just a problem for the United States or for the Afghans. It's clearly a problem for Pakistan.

After all, everybody believes that it was Baitullah Mehsud whose group murdered Benazir Bhutto. So, this is clearly a problem for Pakistan.

And you have to - perhaps some political elements will work. But not all of these extremists are reconcilable. And the ones who are irreconcilable are going to have to be dealt with, or they will be a danger to Pakistan itself.

ZAKARIA: But General Petraeus - who is the new head of CENTCOM, if confirmed - approached Iraq precisely by saying, let me take a look at the Sunni insurgence, and let me cut deals with all those who seem reconcilable, and then narrow that small, much smaller group of irreconcilables and use the military really only on them.

That seems to be the approach that the government of Pakistan is suggesting.

RICE: Well, as I said, we are supportive of the government in trying to make clear to their people that this is Pakistan's fight. I think that's very important. They said, this is Pakistan's fight.

And maybe there are reconcilables. But the history, given what President Musharraf tried, is that what happens when you allow a kind of cooling period is that the terrorists take advantage of that and come back and attack. ZAKARIA: But of course, on the Afghan-Pakistan issue, the Afghan president, Karzai, now says he wants to send his troops into Pakistan in hot pursuit - in effect, invade Pakistan. Do you think that's a good idea?

RICE: I think it's better that Pakistan and Afghanistan cooperate on their respective sides of the border.

ZAKARIA: But you're in the middle of all this. Would you think that Karzai has a point?

RICE: There is plenty of cooperation that can take place between Pakistan and Afghanistan in terms of intelligence sharing, in terms of political activity like the jirga that - the loya jirga - that the two of them, Musharraf and Karzai, constituted a little while ago.

But I think it's probably not wise to talk about Afghan cross- border operations. After all...

ZAKARIA: But many...

RICE: ... the Afghan people are pretty busy.

ZAKARIA: Many Afghan officials and many independent analysts say that President Karzai and Afghanistan has a point when he says that the Taliban is being strengthened from across the border in Pakistan, that a lot of the support that it's getting comes from across the border, and that that's why the Afghan operations are not able to get at them.

RICE: They have to be defeated on both sides of the border. There are Taliban operating in Afghanistan who have to be defeated. And there are Taliban who are operating in Pakistan, and they have to be defeated, too.

But I think it's probably better that the respective governments deal with their own problems.

ZAKARIA: You have been very supportive of the new civilian government in Pakistan, with one exception. The United States has studiously avoided calling for a restoration of the deposed judges - something that is an absolute article of faith in Pakistan among many, many civil rights groups, human rights groups.

Why is that? Isn't an independent judiciary at the heart of democracy? And wasn't the rather bizarre way in which the judiciary was overthrown entirely extra-constitutional?

So, when you're calling for democracy in Pakistan, shouldn't you go that last step and call for the restoration of the judicial system?

RICE: Look, an independent judiciary is critical to democracy. There are some issues, because this one is highly politically charged in Pakistan. And I think that we have always believed that after the elections this will be worked out in course between Pakistanis. And it's best that it be worked out between Pakistanis... ZAKARIA: But you know that Pakistanis, lots of Pakistanis believe that your studious silence on the issue is effectively a vote of support for Musharraf to continue to play an important role, because were the judiciary to come back, they would in effect nullify his extra-constitutional move into power.

RICE: Well, I don't know how this would turn out if the judiciary were to come back into being, because one doesn't know under what circumstances or how they would do it.

We have worked with President Musharraf. President Musharraf did a great thing for his country. He took off the uniform. He brought them back to civilian rule. He really did set them on a course that was not an extremist course, starting back in December of...

ZAKARIA: But he put the chief justice under house arrest, and he suspended half the judiciary.

RICE: I have said, and I said to him, that he made a number of mistakes. And I thought that the state of emergency was a mistake.

ZAKARIA: Do you think he should resign now, give to Pakistan a new turn (ph)?

RICE: This is clearly a Pakistani matter. He's the president of Pakistan, and we'll treat him as the president of Pakistan.

ZAKARIA: The United States is currently negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister said they were at a dead end. Then, President Bush said, "No, if I were a betting man, I'd say this is going to work out."

The foreign minister of Iraq then said, "I think it's going to work out," he told the "Wall Street Journal," "because of concessions the Americans are now willing to make."

So, what are the concessions that the United States is willing to make to get this Status of Forces Agreement? Because it would be awfully embarrassing if we couldn't get a SOFA with Iraq.

RICE: Well, Fareed, this is a negotiation. And so, there will be ups and downs, and people will say things. But I do think we're making progress. And the United States is absolutely going to take into consideration Iraqi concerns.

We're dealing with a very different situation here. This is a sovereign country - a newly sovereign country and a newly democratic country. And you have a lot of voices - some of them involved in the negotiations, some of them not - that are making assertions and claims about what's going on in the negotiations.

ZAKARIA: Another area with Iraq where there hasn't been as much progress, I've been hearing from administration officials for over a year now, that lots of Arab embassies were about to open in Baghdad. And it does seem there may be a trickle now. But fundamentally, you still have this problem that the entire Arab world does not seem on board. You have had - it's five years into the occupation, and so far, I think Bahrain is the only country that has an embassy. Maybe the UAE and Kuwait are coming in.

But there still is no indication that the rest of the Arab world is jumping in there and just establishing an embassy in Iraq.

RICE: I do think there was a time when its Arab neighbors were perhaps still wondering whether or not this Iraq - this unified, democratic Iraq - was actually going to survive and exist.

I remember, Fareed, sitting with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, and he was asked, you know, is Iraq going to deteriorate into civil war. And he said, Iraq will not commit suicide.

Well, that showed how people were thinking at the time.

Well, now, the violence is down. The Iraqi government is passing laws. It has a significant set of laws concerning reconciliation. And the attitudes are changing.

They're recognizing that Iraq is there to stay.

ZAKARIA: You still don't see the Sunnis backing the government, though. And that is one of the complaints you hear in the Arab world, that it is still essentially a Shiite majority government that does not have any Sunni participation. You don't have Sunni groups being taken into the armed forces in the way that many of them have requested.

So, there still appears to be at least the appearance of Shiite majoritarianism, not democracy.

RICE: Well, it is a Shia majority. But this is a unity government that is beginning to show that.

First of all, one of - probably one of the most important things that has happened is that, when the security forces of Iraq went to Basra and took on Shia militias, that was the sign that many of the Arab states said that they were looking for. And now, that has happened.

ZAKARIA: And we'll be back.


ZAKARIA: We're back.

Madam Secretary, there used to be a great tradition of secretaries of state becoming president - I mean, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Buchanan, John Quincy Adams. I think there's been about...

RICE: It's been a while.

ZAKARIA: ... 160 years. RICE: It's been a while.

ZAKARIA: So, do you want to break that? If John McCain were to ask you to be his vice presidential candidate - look, he needs somebody younger. He needs somebody who can help him with women.

You're perfect.

RICE: John McCain is a terrific patriot, and he's a good friend. And he would be a superb president.

But I'll be back in California. I'll be back at Stanford. I have a lot of issues that I'm concerned about.

One of the ones is the one I've seen you write about, Fareed. I think the United States has got to keep its own confidence. We've got to worry about whether or not we are confident enough in our ability to compete and our educational system in really being ready for the challenges of the 21st century at home, in order to keep our leadership abroad.

And so, I'll go back to California and work on those issues, thank you.

ZAKARIA: Is that Shermanesque?

RICE: No, no, no.

ZAKARIA: If you were offered it, what would you say.

RICE: No, eight years is long enough. I don't need another job in government.

ZAKARIA: On that note, thank you very much, Madam Secretary.

RICE: Thank you very much, Fareed. It was great being with you, and congratulations on your show.

ZAKARIA: Thank you. Thank you.

This week we invited our panel to come early and watch the conversation with Secretary Rice, so that they could tell me what they learned: CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour; Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations; and former senior U.N. diplomat, Shashi Tharoor.

Christiane, what was your reaction to Secretary Rice?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like sort of a valedictory range of conversations about the legacy of the administration, about her particular legacy, since she basically came in as secretary of state after the big crises of the Bush administration, and is somewhat credited with trying to actually commit diplomacy, rather than, you know, telling the world what to do. And also, her telling us that, you know, there's six months to go, and there are still some very important things to get done - Iran, the Middle East, North Korea and its nuclear declaration. There are still some very active files ongoing.

ZAKARIA: Shashi, you dealt with her when you were undersecretary at the U.N. Did you find this person you saw on television the same?

SHASHI THAROOR, FORMER U.N. DIPLOMAT: I think she's always been extremely impressive to listen to, to speak with. She is certainly by far the most attractive face internationally of this administration.

I think the problem that Condi has faced around the world is the gulf between the way she comes across, the things she says, and the way in which the actions of the administration she represents are perceived around that world. And I think that, I'm afraid, is likely to persist after this interview.

She said a lot of very impressive things. And I really think she put a fine face on a number of policy positions, despite your probing, about things like, for example, why don't you do in Iran what you do in Korea. And she gave impressive answers.

But these are not answers, I think, that are going to persuade those who believe this administration's conduct has let down those who believe in the values this country stands for.

ZAKARIA: Quick reaction, Walter?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: What happened in that first term is still reverberating, and she is trying to manage this. But frankly, the world probably won't turn a new page until we have a new president in the White House.

ZAKARIA: You're a great historian of American politics, Walter. If she were to become vice president, it would be a huge - to the extent vice presidents matter - it would be a big fillip to John McCain's chances.

MEAD: It's hard to say. I mean, I tend to think - if I think of her as a presence, as a demographic persona, as a debater, she would be stunning. And the question for McCain would be, how closely does he want to tie himself to the most controversial part of the Bush legacy?

ZAKARIA: Which is its foreign policy.

MEAD: Right, which is its foreign policy.

So, if you're trying to distance yourself from the foreign policy of the last president, do you really then want to bring the chief public face of that foreign policy in?

However, she probably would be a more effective vice presidential candidate than, say, Dick Cheney would be. ZAKARIA: Christiane, we talked to her a little bit before the interview. And she said something which she was not willing to say on air, which was that she wondered whether there were people in Iran who might want to cut a deal, because they felt the costs of the sanctions and the isolation were too great.

Do you think she's looking at the rise of Ali Larijani - who has now become speaker of parliament, a kind of opponent of Ahmadinejad - and thinking, you know, maybe we can wait Ahmadinejad out?

AMANPOUR: Well, I was struck, actually, in our conversation before your interview, that they actually don't know who to focus on, and who is the reasonable center, she said, that could make the Iranian regime understand that the pursuit of this nuclear program was not in their best interests.

Ali Larijani is a very interesting figure, because he is traditionally a conservative, hard-line fundamentalist. But because Ahmadinejad is that much more, he's now being thought of as a more pragmatic, some people even say moderate.

And now that he is the speaker of the parliament in Iran, in the Majlis, and has given at least one pretty harsh speech against Ahmadinejad's policies, people are sort of grasping at straws and hoping that maybe this guy we can rely on to save us from another military intervention, or to save us from having to do something - we don't know what to do - to stop Iran.

ZAKARIA: Shashi, what do we do about Iran? I mean, the U.N. passes resolution after resolution. Nothing seems to happen. I mean, and can it happen? Do sanctions matter?

My theory is, with oil at $130 a barrel, sanctions aren't going to make any difference, because Iran is just swimming in money - at least the regime is swimming in money.

THAROOR: Well, I think you're probably right about that. And this is obviously not a situation that allows any easy chances. One doesn't envy the administration the choices it has.

But the way in which it's come across, I think, hasn't helped. And the Europeans, it's said, were feckless in going and trying to give away the store too early.

But - and of course, the one problem with the North Korea analogy is the absence of a regional equivalent to China vis-a-vis North Korea. Iran doesn't have a major patron - in the region or elsewhere - that can put any pressure...

ZAKARIA: No, it has oil. It doesn't need a major patron.

THAROOR: It doesn't need a major patron. And so, Iran is certainly more impervious to pressure of various sorts.

But I wonder whether more could have been done to use friendly states to talk to Iran than has been attempted. ZAKARIA: Such as?

THAROOR: India is one very good example. Right now, U.S. pressure on India not to deal with Iran on things like the Iran-Indian pipeline deal, or the Indian practice in refining Iranian oil, and so on - all of this is far greater than any attempt to say, OK, guys, you've had familiar relations with these people for some time. You are both against the Taliban together, and not particularly friendly with the Pakistani regime, and so on. Why don't you talk to them and see what they need?

And that was never tried.

ZAKARIA: And the Russians is another one. I always think about...


ZAKARIA: ... because the Russians have real influence with Iran. And yet, we - you know, we beat the Russians up on all kinds of things - the missile shield, building a missile shield for a system that, in my view, doesn't even work.

And yet, what we need them on - which is Russia's loose nukes and Iran - we don't get them on. I mean...

AMANPOUR: You know, listening to what you've just been saying, Shashi, I think this administration has come colliding into that center where ideology has been now confronted with practical policy.

The ideology of not wanting their allies to deal with, for instance, Iran, or trying to keep Iran isolated, the ideology of not wanting, for instance, to try to work with the Palestinian territory in Gaza and to keep Gaza isolated, now having to deal with Hamas in a truce, and all the rest of it, the ideology of not wanting Israel to have a peace deal with Syria, and frankly, not particularly encouraging it - all of a sudden, you're confronted with the practical necessity of getting things done.

And that's, I think, where it's very difficult for this administration, particularly - particularly - in the last six months of it.

ZAKARIA: Walter, looking forward, do you think this problem of, you know, of the idea of talking to other countries and engaging with them if they're dictatorships, or seen as evil, or seen as sponsoring terrorism, is going to persist? Because it is something of an invention of the post-9/11 Bush administration.

After all, previous administrations negotiated with Syria, negotiated with Mao, negotiated with Brezhnev, with Chernenko.

MEAD: We didn't negotiate with Mao for a very long time. I think there actually - I don't think this administration sort of invented this American idea of you don't talk to bad people. Our policy in Cuba is 40 years old. So...

ZAKARIA: So, what is it? Because we talk to some bad people. I mean, we talked to...

MEAD: Right. But we, you know...

ZAKARIA: ... Hafez al-Assad 100 times.

MEAD: I know. I think - well, we talk to them when either we don't - you know, whenever we think they're not that bad, or when we absolutely must talk to them.

So, we hated Stalin during World War II, but we needed him against Germany.

ZAKARIA: We have to take this moment to take a break, and we'll be back.


ZAKARIA: And we're back with our panel.

We were talking about the administration and its legacy. We had a kind of vivid moment of seeing all this on television with Bush's last farewell trip to Europe.

Did anything strike you, Christiane, about the last bows that he was taking in Europe?

AMANPOUR: Well, in very practical terms, he wasn't as badly received as he has been on his previous visits. I think people are sort of a bit more indifferent now. The level of passion against the Bush administration has subsided, because they know it's about to come to an end.

And I think people are desperately looking for the next administration. And I think what's going to be really interesting is whether a policy of engagement is going to come out of the next administration, rather than a policy of isolation and isolating countries that this administration has pursued.

ZAKARIA: So, imagine Obama wins, Walter, and he starts that policy. He's going to be crucified on the right.

Will it matter?

MEAD: If he gets results, no. But, you know, we have to remember that, in some ways - look at America's experience with Iran under Jimmy Carter in the hostage crisis, where in a sense, the Iranians were always sort of saying, you know, well, now, there's a reasonable center with whom you can negotiate, and there are the bad guys. And they sort of played this over and over.

And Jimmy Carter went into that hostage crisis with tremendous support. But it ended up being a real cancer on the presidency. So, you've got to - you know, it's going to be difficult to do. It's very hard for any American president, I think, to accept a nuclear Iran as the outcome of these negotiations.

And so, how does - and if Obama is seen as being too tough in negotiations with Iran, the left will be all over him. And if he's seen as too passive or too soft, the right will be all over him. And the chances are the Iranians will not be interested in giving him a magic solution that makes everything work and makes him popular.

So, I think a President Obama is going to discover that foreign policy is really hard.

THAROOR: I think it'll be harder domestically than internationally. Internationally, what a President Obama would have, I think, is an extraordinary amount of international goodwill.

Basically, there are two kinds of stereotypes out there in the world about America.

There's America the Goliath - the big, powerful, bullying country that pushes its way around the world and gets its ways, pursues its own interests nakedly, irrespective of what others want. That's one image.

And the other stereotype is America, the land of opportunity, where everyone can go and do anything, be anything, make any dreams come true. OK?

After 9/11, what most of the world has seen is the first stereotype. A President Obama would suddenly make that stereotype history by living the second stereotype. And I think that could be an enormous asset to America and the rest of the world.

ZAKARIA: Christiane?

AMANPOUR: I just sometimes think it's a straw man, this notion of the conservatives, or the right wing, somehow think it's weakness to negotiate with adversaries or those you need to. I mean, let's not forget, wasn't it the Nixon administration who negotiated with China, as China was supporting the North Vietnamese at the height of the Vietnam War?

I mean, things happen...

ZAKARIA: But it cost (ph) - but it did...


MEAD: But it did get criticized on the right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a successful negotiation...


MEAD: ... successful negotiation. It's a failed negotiation.

AMANPOUR: OK. But we didn't know that until it happened.

MEAD: And the thing is - right. But again, and Obama won't know going into negotiations with Iran, or McCain, that it will succeed unless it happens.

So, it is a...

AMANPOUR: But nor did the Nixon administration. There's ways of doing it...

MEAD: That's right. However - however...

ZAKARIA: The great beauty of those, of course, was the negotiations were secret. So...

MEAD: Right.

ZAKARIA: ... if it's only when they've succeeded that you announce them...

MEAD: But I - but I think it was an easier negotiation in a sense, too, that it was fairly clearly in a very big way that the U.S. and China both wanted some kind of an arrangement and had an understanding before they even expressed a word to each other of what that would look like.

AMANPOUR: And you don't think that that would be the case with any other mature foreign policy negotiation? I mean, this notion that...

MEAD: I'm not sure that in Iran there is a...

AMANPOUR: ... any United States president is going to give away the shop...

MEAD: No, I'm just not sure...

AMANPOUR: ... is ridiculous.

MEAD: ... on the Iranian side that there is necessarily the kind of clear vision that the Chinese had in the '70s. I don't know. I don't know the answer.

AMANPOUR: We don't know. Exactly.

ZAKARIA: In the interview was her disappointment with the U.N. for not doing much with the responsibility to protect idea. And this was the idea that when populations are in real harm's way, the U.N. should allow relief in, and should not worry too much about issues of state sovereignty.

And it became impossible in Burma, it's been largely impossible in Darfur. You know, a lot of people do look at those kinds of situations and say, you see, this is the problem with the U.N. You have millions of people starving in Burma, and you can't even airlift food to them, because the U.N. won't allow it. THAROOR: It's a disappointment that I share with many, many critics of what happened, for example, in Burma. It's unconscionable.

But you have to blame the Burmese government for preventing relief, rather than the international community, because what's the alternative? The alternative would be to bludgeon your way in by force.

Was any country prepared to do that? Did even Condi Rice's administration offer to do that?

You see, one can criticize the failure to implement the responsibility to protect...

ZAKARIA: Well, if the U.N. has passed a resolution that said, you have legal authority to go and drop food and supplies, maybe the U.S. would have done it.

THAROOR: You see, but, if you could - if you do that in the face of a government that is determined to resist militarily an encroachment upon its sovereignty - which is exactly the case with Burma and exactly the case with Sudan in Darfur - then governments think twice.

Resolutions aren't self-executing. Somebody has to provide the soldiers, take the risks, risk their blood and their treasure to go out and implement such a resolution.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but it's their powerful friends...

THAROOR: Neither in Darfur nor in Myanmar.

AMANPOUR: It's their powerful friends on the Security Council, like China.

THAROOR: Well, of course.

AMANPOUR: It's not Burma.

THAROOR: That's it. It's...

AMANPOUR: You could do what the Bush administration one did in Somalia - airlift food, airlift troops to stop the famine.

THAROOR: But Somalia had a no (ph) government, Christiane.



AMANPOUR: I knew it was, that it was possible.

THAROOR: But that's precisely the point, and that where there is a possible resistance, I'm afraid governments weigh very, very hard in the balance whether the risks and the costs to them are worth the principles they voted for in the U.N. This is the real world. And that's the sad thing we all have to recognize. The principle exists, but it's aspirational. It only gets implemented when somebody is willing to risk the lives of their soldiers, and spend the dollars in their treasury, going to implement that principle. And it gets...

MEAD: And I hate to bring up anything so vulgar as polls in this connection, but every poll you see, if you ask Americans what are the reasons that they would support sending American troops in harm's way, threat to security, threat to security of our allies, yes. Humanitarian intervention, promoting democracy, no.

In fact, that's one of the reasons, I think, that the war in Iraq has become so unpopular, even with conservatives who supported it in the first place, is that the more Bush explains it in terms of nation building and democracy promotion abroad, the more people say, well, wait a minute. Why is my kid in harm's way, so that some kid thousands of miles away is in less danger?

So, it's a real problem for governments to assemble real will on these things.

ZAKARIA: All right. One poll we want to talk about, and I know this sounds boring to Americans. But Ireland just effectively defeated the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which was meant to create an E.U. foreign minister, Europe-wide president, Europe-wide foreign minister.

Should we care?

THAROOR: We should, because, of course, Europe is the alternative Western democratic model in the world. But the fact is that this was really a process issue. The Irish had to have a referendum, because they had to amend their constitution to honor this treaty. That required a referendum. The referendum failed.

Now they can't join it without them joining in the treaty that has come into force, because it has to be unanimous. This is the problem for Europe. Now, they're going to find a different way.

Don't forget, a couple of years ago, they had a constitution instead of a treaty. And that got defeated by a referendum in France. And they said, OK. So, we forget about a constitution, which needs referendums. We'll have a treaty, which can just be ratified by governments (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

ZAKARIA: So, this is the last train that keeps on going, no matter what obstacles you put in its way.

THAROOR: ... for finding a solution. What they have to do is...

ZAKARIA: Will there ever be, Walter? Will we ever see a president of Europe?

MEAD: It's interesting. I think we probably will. But it's interesting to look at the differences and the similarities of their process and ours.

Because actually, in the U.S., it was much easier - we could never have adopted our Constitution, if we'd followed the European method, because ours went into effect when nine of the 13 colonies joined it. So, you know, we didn't have to have the unanimity that they do. And in none of those states was there a referendum.

ZAKARIA: Christiane, you live in Europe. I think you have a European passport. Correct?

AMANPOUR: Yes. And I was just going to say, it beats me, and I'm European.

ZAKARIA: On that note of enlightenment, thank you all.

What do you think was the greatest strategic blunder of the last 100 years?

I'd say it was Adolf Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union, an operation which began on June 22, 1941, 67 years ago.


NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: Fifty thousand tons of bombs are the price of belief in Hitler, whose...


ZAKARIA: Remember that until then, Germany had won every battle it had fought, moving from Poland in the east to France in the west, from Norway in the north to Yugoslavia in the south.

Hitler's power extended across virtually all of Europe.

Had Hitler turned his full attention and fury on Britain, it is doubtful that Britain could have survived, Churchill or no Churchill. Instead, Hitler divided his forces, sending the bulk of them on Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

It proved to be the graveyard of the German army. Over the course of World War II, almost 75 percent of German forces were engaged on the eastern front. And it was there that 75 percent of German casualties took place.

There's a lesson for all of us in this extreme example. Success breeds overconfidence and arrogance. Think of the Bush administration in 2003, and Iraq.

Anyway, we can all be grateful for Adolf Hitler's hubris.

That's it for GPS this week. But before I go, I want to ask you, how would you answer that question? What was the greatest strategic blunder of the last 100 years?

I think I can guess what a lot of you will say, but think hard and tell me what you think in an e-mail. The address is FareedZakariaGPS@cnn.com. And visit our Web site at CNN.com/GPS.

Thanks for joining me. See you next week.

Post by:
Topics: GPS Episodes

soundoff (One Response)

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.