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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Is Somalia Becoming Staging Ground for Al Qaeda?; British Take on Budget Deficits, War on Afghanistan
Aired July 18, 2010 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world.
I'm Fareed Zakaria.
This week, the big news is that the doom and gloom continues. Some of it makes sense. The economies of the western world remain fragile, and the poll ratings of incumbents are also in bad shape most places, including here in America and including those of President Obama.
Some experts now believe that if the November midterm elections were held today, the Democratic Party could actually lose control of both the House and the Senate. So, what happened to the Obama way to "Yes, we can," to the new Democratic majority? Well, pretty much the same thing that happened six years ago to the permanent Republican majority that Karl Rove used to talk about when George Bush was re- elected president.
The truth is that ever since 1992, we have had pundits call a realignment every few years. In 1992, Clinton's election seemed the start of a Democratic era. But then in 1994, the Gingrich revolution was described as a broad shift to the right. Then Gingrich was discredited. Then came the Bush wave, followed by the Obama wave.
Here's what I think is happening. Ever since the end of the Cold War, western politics has come unglued from its traditional moorings. There is no Cold War, no rigid, ideological divide that create permanent alignments.
At the two ends of the spectrum, politics has gotten more partisan and polarized, but the real story is the rise of the middle, the great mass of people who can move easily from supporting Clinton to Bush to Obama to, say, Mitt Romney. They are searching for someone who they see as smart, modern and reflecting their values.
The two most successful politics of the post-Cold War era were Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Both understood that to thrive in this era, they needed to dominate the center ground of politics to seem attractive and reasonable figures to the malleable majority, and not to worry too much about the extremes.
Barack Obama should learn from Clinton and Blair. His approval ratings are, first of all, tied to the unemployment numbers, above everything else. If he can stay focused on that, do what he can to get the economy moving, and ignore the chatter of cable TV, except for this show, of course, as the economy improves, so will his headlines.
We have a great show for you today.
Is the next al Qaeda beginning to strut its stuff? We talked to two people who have gone to the most dangerous place on earth to track the deadly al-Shabaab militias that killed dozens in Uganda last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, "NEW York TIMES": When you arrive in Mogadishu, constituent completely destroyed. It's unlike any other place I have ever seen, and it is not bombed from above like a Dresden or a Hiroshima or something like that. The city has been leveled by small-caliber gunfire.
ZAKARIA: Into this mix comes al Qaeda.
GETTLEMAN: Exactly. Into this mix comes al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Then, from our week in London, a panel of British all- star commentators, including Martin Wolf, as they discuss the future of conservative politics, budget cuts, and Barack Obama's approval ratings in Britain.
Plus, the parliament that just won't meet and the start of the second stimulus.
All on GPS.
ZAKARIA: Two weeks ago, I talked about the fact that there are now about 100 al Qaeda, at most, in Afghanistan. This, even though President Obama has said that the mission in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda. You'd think at some level, it's sort of already weakened.
So where is al Qaeda now?
It seems that the group has moved on or taken on different shapes in association.
In Uganda this weekend, an al Qaeda inspired group called Al- Shabaab sent suicide bombers into a festive group watching the finals of the World Cup. More than 70 people were killed.
Some experts say Al-Shabaab numbers in the thousands. It is headquartered in Somalia and growing in strength. So this may be our next major terrorism problem.
But what to do about it?
To talk about this, we have Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa bureau chief for "The New York Times," making a rare appearance here in the states. He has covered Somalia and East Africa for years. He's probably spent more time in Somalia than any Western journalist.
And Ken Menkhaus is an expert on the region and a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. He has worked for the United Nations in Somalia and written extensively on the country.
So welcome to both of you.
Jeffrey, weak or nonexistent state. You have virtually (INAUDIBLE), all kinds of gangs, and al Qaeda.
Why does al Qaeda end up showing up in Somalia? And what is the nature of al Qaeda?
GETTLEMAN: Somalia was a Cold War dumping ground. First it was a Soviet allied state. Then it was a U.S. allied state. Tons of weapons flowed into this place.
It's a very poor
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Ken, why is Somalia probably the country that has the longest uninterrupted period of non-governor -- government?
In other words, I think it's about 1991 when the government collapses. And here we are at 2010. There's still basically no real government.
KEN MENKHAUS, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, DAVIDSON COLLEGE: This is -- this is true. This is the long -- the longest running instance of complete state collapse in the post-colonial era. Somalia is now 20 years without a functional central government. It hasn't been for lack of trying. There have been numerous -- some count over a dozen -- national reconciliation conferences to try to cobble together a government. There is one that exists right now, more or less, on paper. It's not really functional. It's in its sixth year of a five year transitional process. And it's probably the latest in the longest line of failed attempts to revive a government there.
There's a number of reasons for this. One is the ubiquity of spoilers. There's a lot of interests in Somalia that don't want to see a revived government. There's also been problems of resources. This is an extremely poor state and they are trying to cobble together a government on -- on a shoestring with foreign aid that hasn't always been forthcoming.
And then, finally, we've had really disappointing leadership that has approached state revival and state building there often as a cash cow to enrich themselves personally, rather than to get down to the really difficult tasks.
ZAKARIA: But -- but, you know, there are the poor countries.
There are -- is there something about the tribal structure? Is there something about the history of Somalia?
I mean this is sort of, you know, there are lots of poor countries in the world that have functional governments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's certainly true. And -- and that would include the secessionist states to the north of Somalia, now Somaliland, which has been a minimalist but functional government despite the fact that it has the same kind of clan structure that South Central Somalia has.
The only answer I can have to that is that once a country falls into the level of armed conflict and divisiveness and ethnic cleansing and all the horrible things that happened in Somalia in the early 1990s, it makes it exponentially more difficult to pull things together. And I think that's one of the reasons that Somaliland, for instance, has been able to avoid that, is they -- they -- they managed to keep the peace in the early months of state collapse and spared themselves a lot of the more intractable problems.
ZAKARIA: This is for a foreign affairs -- quite the difference between Somalia and Somaliland and what is the capitalist Somaliland. All right, anyway, a weak or -- or non-existent state. You have, you know, virtually no authority; all kinds of gangs; and -- and al Qaeda.
Why does al Qaeda in that showing that -- showing up in -- in Somalia? And what is the nature of al Qaeda there?
GETTLEMAN: Somalia was a Cold War dumping ground. First, it was a Soviet allied state, then it was a U.S. allied state. Tons of weapons flowed into this place.
It's a very poor, traditionally pastoralist community. And, you know, a population of six, seven, eight million people. And it was one of the most militarized parts of Africa.
ZAKARIA: And then both superpower sponsors withdrew.
GETTLEMAN: Exactly. And there's no coincidence that the state collapsed in 1991, when the Cold War ended. And we've seen that in other parts of Africa. The minute you stopped having this rivalry and this outside interest to want to support a Somalia, the place just went to pieces with a lot of weapons -- more weapons than in Kenya or Tanzania or other countries in Africa.
So, to me, as somebody who visits, you see the evidence of this when you arrive in many Mogadishu. The city is completely destroyed. It's unlike any other place I've ever seen. And it's not bombed from above like a Dresden or a Hiroshima or something like that.
The city has been leveled by small-caliber gunfire. Every building you see is pocked with holes. Walls are half standing. It's like you're in the middle of this ancient ruined city that, you know, was fine in 1991 and has been steadily destroyed by small-caliber fighting.
Now, into this --
ZAKARIA: So, into this next mix comes al Qaeda.
GETTLEMAN: Exactly. Into this mix comes al Qaeda.
And the reasons that people believe it's a likely sanctuary for al Qaeda are the obvious ones in that there is no central authority. It's a lawless place.
Anybody can do anything there. There's human smuggling, gun smuggling, counterfeit goods coming in. It's a bastion of crime. And there's no one in control. Right now there is a nominal transitional government, and they are totally ineffective, control a few city blocks in a country the size of California or Texas.
ZAKARIA: Now, how much of the al Qaeda coming is a foreign import and how much of it is a local manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism or militancy?
GETTLEMAN: What happened was the U.S. and others tried to get involved in Somalia in 1992. The first President Bush sent a huge aid mission with tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers. They tried to deliver food. It turned into a disaster with the Black Hawk down episode in 1993.
And after that, the U.S. and the U.N. and Western countries basically pulled out of Somalia. They were humiliated by it. This was the new world order, and it turned into a disaster.
So, in that vacuum came a lot of traditional Wahabi Arab groups from Saudi Arabia and others parts of the Arab world who filled the vacuum of providing aid, giving money for schools, giving relief money. And in the mid-'90s and late-'90s, they spread their ideology far and wide in Somalia.
So after 2001, September 11th, when you had this resurgence of fundamental Islam across the world, Somalia had all of these conditions that explained why it would be a good place for a terrorist group with that ideology.
ZAKARIA: Are they al Qaeda? Are they just religious --
KEN MENKHAUS, DAVIDSON COLLEGE: They're an al Qaeda affiliate.
ZAKARIA: They are?
MENKHAUS: They are an al Qaeda affiliate. They are not controlled by al Qaeda. They do have foreigners who are playing advisory roles of some consequence. In fact, I think that's the most important role that foreigners are playing right now. It's providing them with some of the political leadership that they really didn't have. They were all muscle until 2007 and no --
ZAKARIA: And who are the foreigners? Are they Egyptians? Are they Saudis? Are they --
MENKHAUS: Well, this is a great question, too, because when we talk about foreigners, we have to distinguish between the Somalia Diaspora, who's coming back. I mean, there's one million to 1.5 million Somalis living abroad with citizenship elsewhere. They're coming back and fulfilling roles both in the government and in the Shabaab movement. So that's one type of foreigners returning.
But then you've got non-Somalis, as well. You've got some who were long -- long associated with East Africa al Qaeda wing, which was responsible for the 1998 bombing in Nairobi. You've got others who are relatively new.
I think the key here is understanding that these foreigners who are coming into Somalia now -- and we don't know the numbers. The estimates range from a low of a couple hundred to a thousand or more. The numbers don't matter as much as the role that they're playing.
GETTLEMAN: From the information that I've gathered, Shabaab wants to be part of al Qaeda. It's not clear how much al Qaeda wants to join up with the Shabaab.
Now, last year, we did have some information that al Qaeda had sent scouts from Pakistan to check out Somalia, to see if it was a fertile place to relocate, because as the pressure has been growing on al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and as these drone strikes have taken their toll, from what we've been told, al Qaeda leadership is saying maybe we need to move.
And so they sent out feelers into Somalia to see if that was a -- their next base of operations. But the relationship is still pretty vague. And I think it's more aspirational. Shabaab wants to be part of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda leadership is not calling the shots.
ZAKARIA: Does the Somali group Shabaab have global ambitions? Do they want to kill Americans? Do they want to kill Brits? Do they want to kill Indonesians?
MENKHAUS: I think the movement is split on this, as they are on affiliation with al Qaeda. I think there are some members who really do embrace the global jihadist vision. But the vast majority of this movement is still focusing on the old maxim, all jihad is local. I mean, they are essentially Islamic nationalists who are focused on the conflict in Somali. And they would view their -- a terror attack in Uganda this past week as an extension of that, because Ugandan troops are in the country.
GETTLEMAN: But that's changing, because from what I've been told is that a lot of the Shabaab commanders are now burning Somali flags, that they don't see -- they don't recognize Somali nationalism. They see that as limiting, that they have a bigger ambition, which may be regional because there's always been debate about the borders between Somali and Kenya and Djibouti and Ethiopia and what constitutes the true Somali nation.
But I think what we're seeing is this divide, is the influence and growing power of foreign terrorists that are using the Somali Shabaab for a bigger goal. And that's what happened in Uganda.
MENKHAUS: I think the al Qaeda foreigners, for the moment, are dabbling in Somalia. This is a low-risk, low-cost, high-yield dabbling.
ZAKARIA: And we are going to keep discussing this and really talk about what we can do about all this when we come back.
I'll be back in a moment.
ZAKARIA: And we are back talking about the next al Qaeda -- question mark -- the Shabaab group in Somalia with Jeffrey Gettleman of "The New York Times" and Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College.
Jeffrey, what do people think of Shabaab? Is it popular? Is there a sense that, you know, one hears about the idea that the government is corrupt, so maybe people like these kind of Islamic extremist movements.
Is that what you hear?
GETTLEMAN: Shabaab is widely unpopular. The Shabaab are trying to impose a harsh and alien form of Islam that goes against the grain of traditional Somali society. And they've banned music, they've banned bras, they've killed people watching soccer games, they've stoned people to death, they've cut off hands of suspected thieves.
I did a story --
ZAKARIA: Not a way to win friends and influence people.
GETTLEMAN: Well, not in a place that didn't have any history of that brand of Islam. And that's what we're seeing.
So we're at this point now where the transitional government of Somalia has an enormous opportunity. People do not like the Shabaab.
The Shabaab control vast amounts of territory, and they're basically terrorizing their own people. And everybody is waiting for tonight to capitalize on this. And we just haven't seen that happen yet.
ZAKARIA: Why can't they do it?
MENKHAUS: I think there are some good Somalis in the transitional federal government who want to do something about that.
ZAKARIA: This is the nominal government of Somalia that controls very little.
MENKHAUS: Yes. But at top leadership levels, there is a lack of commitment. There is a prevalence of short-term, profit-taking activity, where they see this as a cash cow to make some money and then go back to Canada or Sweden or the U.K. or wherever they came from.
ZAKARIA: So what should we do? Because this sounds -- I mean, this part of it sounds awfully familiar, right?
MENKHAUS: It does, indeed. It's discouraging.
ZAKARIA: With Afghanistan and -- but, so you say, well, we've got to do more than just fight at a counterterrorism level. We've got to strengthen the government, nation-building, development aid.
ZAKARIA: But how do you do it in these places where they're thoroughly corrupt, largely illegitimate? The money is going to go into Swiss bank accts.
MENKHAUS: Well, the first thing we have to recognize is that the conventional capacity-building assistance is not going to work where you have a government that is unwilling and unable. Capacity-building works when you have a government that's unwilling -- or willing but unable.
MENKHAUS: We don't have that in places like Somalia at present. And so what I would recommend and what many are talking about right now is not decertifying the transitional federal government. I think there are some powerful reasons why, as an entity, it needs to continue to exist. But we need to start approaching it as a transitional authority with very specific narrow transitional tasks
ZAKARIA: Transitional to what?
MENKHAUS: Transition to a constitution, a referendum and an election. It needs to be focusing on those tasks. Meanwhile --
ZAKARIA: To create legitimacy around a government that can unify the country.
MENKHAUS: Exactly. Exactly. And meanwhile, we've got to be diversifying our points of contact with whatever authorities we find operating in Somalia that are legitimate and authoritative.
ZAKARIA: Even if they are fairly Islamic in nature?
MENKHAUS: Anything short of --
MENKHAUS: -- a group designated as terrorists. And that gets us to the interesting question, too, about to what extent can and should the international community and the transitional federal government try to engage parts of the Shabaab, the parts that are winnable, the parts that are more nationalist than al Qaeda?
ZAKARIA: This is sort of like talking to the Taliban issue. MENKHAUS: Exactly. But we've got laws on the books that make that, at present, very problematic.
GETTLEMAN: But can I just introduce one thought? Which is there are parts of Somalia that aren't that bad. Like, listening to this discussion, you'd think the whole country is up for grabs and there are gunmen lurking on every corner. But there's actually --
ZAKARIA: Isn't it like that?
GETTLEMAN: It's not like that. Mogadishu is like that. Mogadishu is a snake pit. It's one of the most dangerous places in the world.
ZAKARIA: When you go there, where do you stay?
GETTLEMAN: We --
ZAKARIA: There are hotels?
GETTLEMAN: There's a few hotels. You've got to hire your own militia. You basically put together your own army to guard you as you go around and do your journalism, which is hardly an ideal way to be a journalist. But that's the only safe way to do it.
But I did a story last year about a Somali-American guy who lived in Minnesota. He had been a refugee. He was going to college, grad school in Minnesota, and came back and basically set up his own mini state in central Somali, and all these elders and people in that area rallied behind him because
ZAKARIA: Why? What does he give them?
GETTLEMAN: Because he gave them professional leadership. He gave them commitment. And he brought some -- you know, some administrative skills -- how to disperse money, how to set up schools, how to dig wells, just the sort of bread and butter of life that's been missing there, partly because of the corruption and partly because of violence.
ZAKARIA: But we keep trying this. The USAID tries it.
GETTLEMAN: We don't Here's -- and Ken and I have talked about this. And Ken is an expert in this. There is what they call the bottom-up approach.
Right now, the government of Somali, the national government, is getting all the resources. The U.S., the UN, everybody is putting their hopes in this national government. And a lot of places are rejecting it for many different reasons, partly because it's been 20 years, and the longer it goes, the harder it is to reimpose authority.
But there's another way. That is, to go around the country and find these nodes of stability, because they actually exist, and begin to inject some resources into them. ZAKARIA: You know, we're talking about all these better ways to strengthen the government, legitimize it, give aid, bottom-up, top- down. At the end of the day, picking up a point you made, it's very hard, actually, to do insurgency in a place like Somalia, to make it really work in -- or build a global terrorist organization.
There's a tribal structure. There's no government, no services. It's also flat. You'll remember that famous line that Colin Powell said when he was explaining how he didn't want to go into Afghanistan in the '90s
ZAKARIA: He said, "We don't do jungles." What he meant was we do deserts.
ZAKARIA: Well, Somalia is a desert, so why not just say, look, guys, do whatever you want, we're just going to -- if we see something really bad happening, we're going to come and bomb the hell out of you, and then we'll go back.
I mean, it just seems to me the task of building a central government in a place like Somalia, that has not had one, whether by doing it through nodes of stability or through a central approach, this is a high probability of failure no matter what you do.
MENKHAUS: It is. And it's going to take a long time. And state revival will come in Somalia, in a Somali way that might not actually replicate a state as we know it. If these --
ZAKARIA: And not on the time frame of a U.S. administration --
ZAKARIA: -- that announces a policy on --
MENKHAUS: No. Exactly. I mean, we're going to probably see a government that eventually re-emerges on the basis of these municipalities, these little city/states that are these pockets of governance that do exist and are sometimes incredibly impressive around the country.
But what they won't necessarily do is what we most want them to do, which is to have a partner -- a state that is a partner in the fight against extremism and terrorism. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon in Somalia.
And so the point that you were raising, as has been framed in an interesting way in policy circles -- I once heard it referred to as we can either drain the swamp or we can just go duck hunting in a place like Somalia. And there are people who, when they look at Somalia, say, you know, we're probably in for a lengthy period of duck hunting where a threat will emerge, and we have to try to take it out, and another threat will emerge and we take it out. But we can't -- we're not in a position to address the underlying causes.
ZAKARIA: What do you think?
GETTLEMAN: I don't totally agree. I think things could change very quickly there.
I think, from the example I saw in central Somalia, people are aching for government. I mean, this guy shows up. He's been living in the states for a long time. He has an iPhone, a golf cap. He looks like a rapper.
And the elders in this community rallied behind him. And there's -- I spent, you know, two weeks there. I could walk the streets on my own. Nobody bothered me. There was security. There was stability.
You know, after 20 years, people want their kids to go to school. They want safety. They want aid. They want all these things that are being prevented by the relentless violence. So, if there is a capable alternative, people are going to rally behind it really quickly.
MENKHAUS: When you can cultivate that sense of ownership at the community level, and security, they will prevent bad guys from using their areas as a safe haven.
ZAKARIA: Ken Menkhaus, Jeffrey Gettleman, thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: And now for our "What in the World?" segment.
What got my attention this week was an incredible statistic. It has been 133 days since the Iraqi elections. And during that time, the Iraqi parliament has met for a grand total of 18 minutes. In other words, the Iraqi politics have spent less than 20 minutes performing their core legislative duties in more than five months on the job.
What in the world is going on?
Well, Iraq is crippled by a complete and total political impasse. The United States and the Iraqis, of course, hoped that the March elections would show the world that Iraqi democracy works. It has done just the opposite.
After accusations of fraud, counter-accusations, recounts, more recounts, the final certified election results were thus: 91 seats in the parliament for the secular Al-Iraqia Party led by Ayad Allawi, who has been on this show; 89 seats for the predominantly Shiite State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Neither of the two dominant parties was anywhere near the necessary 163-seat majority, so they need to make alliances, which are common in most democratic countries. Allawi's party would normally be the lead partner and try to recruit others. But amazingly, none of the parties have been able to do anything.
The acting speaker of parliament told The Associated Press that it could be another two weeks before the parliament meets for the second time. If that happens, parliament would have just a handful of days to try to conduct business before the Ramadan holiday begins. After that, everything in Iraq comes to a screeching halt until the middle of September.
Now, this political vacuum invites not just terror groups and militias to exploit it, but also neighboring nations like Iran and Turkey to try to gain additional influence there. Iraq's foreign minister, a very wise man, Hoshyar Zebari, the man who is seen here greeting Vice President Biden two weeks ago at the airport, told "The Washington Post" that Iraq's neighbors have already made the situation worse with meddling on behalf of one political party or the other.
As for the U.S., well, Zebari says the U.S. hasn't been active enough in trying to find a resolution to this paralysis. The silent partner, he claims, has been way too silent.
Now, at the end of August, remember, the United States will pull out all but 50,000 troops from Iraq. At the end of 2011, all American forces are scheduled to be gone.
We were meant to leave behind in Iraq a functioning democracy that would inspire the Middle East and the world. Instead, it seems we are leaving behind a model that says democracy equals dysfunction.
And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: You know, what I find fascinating is listening to the kind of Sunday morning conversation you hear on American television every week, but in another country. So, last week, I was in London and had just such a conversation with four of the smartest journalists in Great Britain.
We talked about familiar subjects -- budget deficits, the war in Afghanistan, right-wing versus left-wing politics, Barack Obama, but, as you can imagine, they had a somewhat different take, and much nicer accents.
Listen to what they had to say.
ZAKARIA: Joining me are Martin Wolf the chief economics commentator at "The Financial Times" and a guest whom I try to grab whenever he's in New York, so it's nice to see him on his home turf. Anne McElvoy is the executive editor of the "London Evening Standard", London's evening paper, and keen observer of British politics. Polly Toynbee is a long-standing columnist for Britain's main left-wing newspaper, "The Guardian". And Daniel Finkelstein is perhaps the leading conservative voice in the country. He's the executive editor of "The Times of London". Welcome to all of you.
What strikes me about Britain these days is much less reference to the United States, much less reference to the Anglo-American relationship, the special relationship. Is it just because it's a particularly -- it's a moment where Britain is focused in on itself or has something changed?
DANIEL FINKELSTEIN, THE TIMES OF LONDON: Well, I -- I don't know whether the others agree with this. I think the only reason that the coalition was really possible was because of Barack Obama. If the -- the issue of America actually divides conservatives and liberal democrats, or certainly did throughout the period of Bush's government, the liberal democrats were the main party that was in favor of only going into Iraq if the United Nations agreed with it, and there would have been a divisional issue of Bush would still have been (ph) in the White House.
I think what's removed the issue has really been simple, which is a movement from George Bush, who was incredibly contentious, in British terms, to Barack Obama, rather than any other internal issue, but I'd be interested in what the others have to say.
ANNE MCELVOY, THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD: You know, I think Barack Obama has been quite important, but not in a way that only can herald good times ahead. I think what you've now got in terms of a perception of America, there's quite a fudge about what Barack Obama stands for in foreign affairs.
Is he saying, in trying to -- what I'm doing now is a shakeup, putting Petraeus in there, accidental, but there you are. You know, this is where I want to be in one, two, three years' time. You hit over (ph) Cameron trying to get this clarity in saying in five years' time we'll be out and will have won, no one has explained the steps in between.
So I think there's much more uncertainty about the relationship, and I speak as someone who's very supportive of the relationship.
POLLY TOYNBEE, THE GUARDIAN: Here we are in -- in the -- an almost interminable war, with no end in sight and profound doubts. British soldiers coming back in coffins, getting a lot -- a lot of angst and -- and publicity, and I think there will be a very limited appetite, by the time we get to the middle of next year, for spending more on defense and the army at the time where we're taking these very heavy cuts. I can't see the appetite for it lasting long.
ZAKARIA: In the United States, there is some considerable disenchantment with Barack Obama from the left. I mean, the right has never really bought into him and has refused to cooperate, but you see a considerable amount of disenchantment. They think he's too close to business, he's too close to the banks, he's too close to BP. TOYNBEE: It's the endemic disease of the left to be constantly dissatisfied with their own side. Nothing is ever enough. No progressive government is ever progressive enough.
I mean, he has brought in the health care system. You know, he's -- I think he's still, here, pretty popular and pretty well admired, but -- and, you know, a lot of fingers crossed, hoping that he's going to do well and -- and go from strength to strength but --
MARTIN WOLF, THE FINANCIAL TIMES: He'd win the British election.
TOYNBEE: He'd certainly win a British election.
WOLF: Without -- without the slightest doubt.
On the big issue (ph) that you raised, I mean, I'm perhaps a minority on this, but I think historians will regard this crisis as -- as a very -- another really big and decisive moment to British post- imperial withdrawal. This is a successive process. I went through the withdrawal from East of Suez. I think what will come out of this will be a smaller armed forces and a less ambitious country, and I think the -- this lot of conservatives to me are already different from, say, people around (INAUDIBLE) in that regard.
They're more inward-looking, they're -- they're not pro-European. They're just -- and actually, this is a Little England and -- and my view is that we will see that, and there's an ally of the United States where I think we're much friendlier in our -- towards the United States under Barack Obama than we were under George W. Bush. But as an ally, I think we're going to be decreasingly relevant over time.
ZAKARIA: This is --
FINKELSTEIN: It's less Little England, actually, than it is skeptical.
I think -- I think the key thing to understand David Cameron is he's quite mostly (ph) conservative and, philosophically, he is actually -- that's -- those are some of the things that make him a conservative. He just doubts big projects. It's the root of his euro skepticism and it's also the root of quite a lot of doubts he had about Iraq.
Of all the conservative leadership, he was most doubtful about it, but not on the grounds that it was morally wrong, on the grounds that he thought it might not work. And he sees the neoconservative argument absolutely, but in terms of the democracy around the world being important. But he also thinks, at the same time, it's possibly true that we can't get that in -- everywhere in the world and that we may be overextending ourselves to try.
So, a very important way of understanding David Cameron is not that he's less internationalist but he's certainly less utopian in his vision. MELVOY: But global reach remains important to Britain. This is where I don't agree with -- with Martin Wolf here, because I think you may -- you're certainly right to say we've had bruising experiences with the last two interventions, but I think it is quite hardwired into Britain, both as a country, a former empire, but also as a country that has always had had a worldwide trade links and has always -- has seen itself not only as a small island moored off the -- the coast of Europe.
And you've seen in David Cameron's thinking, that when he talks about -- he wants to -- he doesn't want Little England to creep up for all sorts of internal political reasons, but he -- what he wants is to say we need new allies, (INAUDIBLE). He gave the speech last week saying we've got to -- you know, we have to earn our way world and pay our way in the world.
And I think it would be very wrong for Britain, actually. I think what we forget it's an easy thing to say, well, we want to be like Little Sweden and withdraw from it, but for a country like this, with the history that it has, and also with the competence that it has -- and we shouldn't forget that, however wrong we may think the interventions have gone --
TOYNBEE: You're quite right (ph).
Just consider what David Cameron is investing in in these hard times. You know, he is investing in a whole new trident system, which will be seen extraordinarily extravagant when the time comes. And, you know, is he going to give up? Is he going to risk give up -- giving up that U.N. Security Council seat? Absolutely not. That's what trident buys, and it's a very, very high price.
ZAKARIA: They're cutting foreign -- they're cutting the Foreign -- Foreign Office Budget. They're cutting the Royal Navy. They're cutting the army. I mean, I -- I don't know whether you can be --
WOLF: We don't know the details but I'm --
MCELVOY: Yes, but it's --
WOLF: -- but I'm sure that the defense budget will decline significantly and we're going to see how much. And most people regard it as colossally overstretched beforehand.
FINKELSTEIN: It turns out we can't afford a lot of our ambition. We thought we were a richer country than we are, and not being a richer country than we are has all sorts of very bad consequences, which means we have to do all sorts of things that none of us want to do, none of us believe in, even. But we've -- and all of which damaged things that we think are important. And all we're doing in the end is selecting which are the least important among these incredibly important things.
ZAKARIA: We're going to take a break, come back and discuss the economy and, of course, at that point, we will consult the deity. Polly Toynbee says Martin Wolf is the voice of God, so we will begin with Martin Wolf.
Back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FINKELSTEIN: Some people pay more than 80 percent of their marginal income in tax -- or being (ph) taxed, so we are really -- we --
TOYNBEE: But that's absurd, extreme case that --
FINKELSTEIN: It's not an extreme -- look. OK, this is ridiculous. It's precisely ridiculous. It's ridiculous that people would pay 80 percent --
TOYNBEE: There are large numbers of people --
TOYNBEE: -- very under taxed (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley and here are today's top stories.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Pakistan to bolster the relationship with a major ally in the war on terror. She's expected to emphasize the need for better partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan to help battle insurgents in tribal regions along the two countries' borders. Clinton is also presenting Pakistan's government with the first $500 million of a new $7.5 billion aid package.
A suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan's capital killed three people and left 40 others injured today. Police say the attacker was on foot and did not appear to have a specific target. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and ordered officials to improve security in Kabul.
Those are your top stories. Up next, much more FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, and then "Reliable Sources" at the top of the hour.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with our British all-star panel, Martin Wolf of the FT, Polly Toynbee of "The Guardian", Anne McElvoy of "The Evening Standard", and Daniel Finkelstein of "The Times of London".
Martin, we've been talking about the cuts -- the cuts, relating to the British budget. You've been writing that you think you think these cuts are too fast and too severe. Do you think, bottom line, that these cuts have the potential to -- to put Britain into a second recession?
WOLF: It's very difficult to predict a recession, partly because it's a matter of definition. So, whether there will be certain quarters that are negative, I don't know. That's very plausible, given the underlying weaknesses of the economy. We have an extraordinarily highly indebted economy.
But let me make clear, nobody doubts that we have to tighten. There was absolutely no question, and a lot of it have to go on spending. Perhaps there's an argument how much on taxation. Really, we are talking speed, and nobody was suggesting we should all do it in -- do it all in one year.
There's one political point which I think is very interesting, which perhaps supports Polly's political point. If the conservatives carry this out, they're actually doing labor quite a favor because they would have done all the timing. We will get back to structural balance, in fact to surplus on the current budget at the end of this term if it all works out.
Then labor will come in and will say, well, we actually got back to normal. We don't -- we don't need to worry about these terrible choices you're suggesting for me because we don't actually need to do any more cutting. So this government will actually have made the election of a labour government easier.
FINKELSTEIN: But not unless they can solve the intellectual problem, which is a credible explanation for how we get into this position and how they would have got out of it.
We are in a fundamentally difficult position, knowing what we now know about how bad the public finances were --
ZAKARIA: But let me ask you about the question of these cuts. Is it fair to say that David Cameron and George Osborne have cut as much as they have not merely to appease the bond market but out of an ideological desire to actually shrink the British welfare state which they see and haven gotten too large?
FINKELSTEIN: Because it will have to -- they do see -- they do see that pub -- that we were spending too much money on public services for the economy to sustain and also that lots of the money that was being spent on public services was not being spent effectively, so it wasn't actually producing the outcomes. It was failing on its own lights.
They definitely see that, and if you want to call that ideological, you can, or you can call it practical. But they do -- they do see that.
But they were having to make these big cuts because we got ourselves into a position whereby we could not finance the public services that we thought we could finance because we're not as rich as we thought we were, and they've decided if something had to be done on a permanent and clear and bold basis to do -- to deal with that problem.
MCELVOY: Now it is a fantastic risk, because, as Martin said, what is going to on here, but I don't think you can deny that it is very clear and that people can see a sense of purpose in it. And economics is also about politics, and it's also about political confidence and it is perhaps a confidence trick.
But you -- you can sometimes -- I think Mrs. Thatcher was extremely good at that. You know, she would just put her offer on the table. There would be a lot of countervailing evidence. She would stick with it. She would make some adjustment and we'll see whether Mr. Cameron doesn't do that. Actually, when we're saying are these cuts going to be delivered? Let's see if they're delivered to the letter or the number that is on the table at the moment.
ZAKARIA: You know --
MCELVOY: But the main thing is you have to look as if you know what you're doing.
So, I find -- I mean, as a comparison, Berlin, a sort of envy for the fact that at least we have a new start and we have a clear position about we -- what we want to do.
ZAKARIA: But Polly, you were telling me, you worry a lot about these cuts, because you see them, a lot of them, really getting into services for the poor that are -- that are quite threadbare anyway.
TOYNBEE: Well, the best hope is that actually it will be impossible because nobody has ever made cuts of such a kind and they need to do the fiscal studies, and other independent observers have said it's just not plausible that you can cut 25, or then they're saying 33 percent out of whole departments.
And services for care of the elderly, like everybody else where there are aging population, services for children at risk amongst poor families are extremely threadbare. You know, we may have been spending more than we were spending before, but certainly not enough in those areas, and get there -- they're areas that are destined for the biggest cuts of all.
The big choice was that this government has chosen to do almost all of the -- of the deficit reduction by spending cuts and not by taxation. They're doing 80 percent on spend and 20 percent on taxes. A labor party would choose -- and I'm sure when we have, you know, a new leader and a new strategy laid out, we'll go for something more like 50/50, I thought, between the two. And that makes a big difference, and it's -- it's a different discussion to have.
Yes, the deficit does have to be reduced. As Martin says, maybe over a long -- longer period of time. Maybe you hope that if you don't damage the economy too much by cutting too soon, growth picks up a bit faster and growth is the one great hope that deals with the problem over any length of time. So you can't be certain what these figures are going to be, if you did --
FINKELSTEIN: Some people pay more than 80 percent of their marginal income in tax -- or being (ph) taxed, so we are really -- we --
TOYNBEE: But that's absurd, extreme cases that --
FINKELSTEIN: It's not an extreme -- look. OK, this is ridiculous. It's precisely ridiculous. It's ridiculous that people would pay 80 percent --
TOYNBEE: There are large numbers of people --
TOYNBEE: -- who were very under taxed (ph). And I can tell you -- take -- take myself, for example. I've been waiting to see -- George Osborne said we're all in this together. I'm a well-paid journalist, so I waited to see. Well, come and get me. Not one penny of anything that I have has been touched by these cut proposals.
FINKELSTEIN: That's not true. The proposal -- the proposal --
TOYNBEE: If I were going to be buying myself a lovely, great, big new HD television, perhaps. But, I mean, as it is --
FINKELSTEIN: You're possibly paying 50 percent of your income -- 50 percent of your marginal pound -- and that's gone up from 40 percent in this last --
TOYNBEE: Well, that's true. That was labor -- that was labor's increase.
FINKELSTEIN: Right? So that's quite a large amount.
TOYNBEE: That was labor's increase.
TOYNBEE: That was what labor brought in --
FINKELSTEIN: That's right, because you're paying it.
TOYNBEE: -- (INAUDIBLE) before this government --
FINKELSTEIN: But you are paying it. I'll tell you -- OK.
TOYNBEE: Wait a minute, let me just explain why this is -- FINKELSTEIN: Eighty percent, Polly.
MCELVOY: Polly's feeling rich (INAUDIBLE).
TOYNBEE: I'm feeling rich. Labor put -- put the top rate up to 50 percent. Actually, I'm not in that category because that's 150,000 a year. There are virtually -- there are virtually nobody in that category. What is it, 1 percent?
TOYNBEE: Something like that.
TOYNBEE: It's valuable because they're -- in that 1 percent, are people who earn colossal, great sums of money.
You know, I'm a -- a very well paid journalist, but it doesn't -- that doesn't hit me. I'm even being paid, because I'm over 60, a free bus pass and a -- and a winter fuel payment, which Cameron said he wouldn't touch because his voters are mostly older and he didn't want to touch them.
So, when we're all in this together, it is other people who are going to suffer. It's going to be young families, it's going to be poorer people, it's going to be the disabled who depend on services, older people.
FINKELSTEIN: That's a consequence of -- as a consequence of taking the nation's credit card (ph) over 10 years --
TOYNBEE: This is about the politics of it.
FINKELSTEIN: Every single time we've had a labor government supposed to help the poor, every single time they've been in government, in their whole existence, we've had exactly the same thing happen, which is that we have borrowed so much money that the country has nearly had a crisis of confidence in the markets and has -- something's had to be done about it. And then the conservatives come in, have to wrap this down, which does harm people.
You know, I have -- everything that you said is completely correct. It is terrible what has to happen and terrible that it affects people who haven't got very much money and -- and who have poor public services, but this is a consequence of spending money that we do not have and then any -- having to do something about it.
ZAKARIA: Wonderful discussion, the view from London. Thank you, Daniel Finkelstein, Anne McElvoy, Polly Toynbee, and, as always, Martin Wolf.
And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our question of the week, here is what I want to know. Does the United States need to get more actively involved in Somalia? Think about what you heard today on the program and let me know what you think.
Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. That way, you will never miss a show, and you can't beat the price. It's free.
Now, as I do every week, I want to recommend a book. We talked a lot on the show today about Somalia and the doomed 1993 U.S. mission there. Well, the book "Black Hawk Down" by Mark Bowden tells an absolutely gripping story of that event. It reads like a thriller, and the Mogadishu he describes from almost 20 years ago is little changed from the one we hear about today.
It's a fascinating, compelling and timely read.
And now for the last look. You might have seen the story earlier this week that President Obama gave Warren Buffett a new White House tie. Administration officials say that the sage of Omaha's neckwear was frayed. Well, the president was right. You can see the fraying here. So we looked into it further.
We found Buffett wearing the tie here more than six years ago, here in an interview with CNN in 2008, here, goofing around with some college students, and here with a fan at a Dairy Queen, a company he owns.
So the tie has gotten a lot of use. Now, it's entirely in character that Warren Buffett would buy and hold his tie, getting maximum use out of it, but he surely understands that for the economy to grow, consumers now need to spend, not hoard. The president understands that, and since the president gave Mr. Buffett a White House tie, I've got to assume it was bought with government funds. So, in a sense, this is the beginning of the second stimulus.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES".