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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Interview with Richard Haass; Interview with Antony Blinken; How to Read Political Polls; Interview with Richard Dawkins. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 1, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:21] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: I'm Dana Bash in Washington. "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" starts right now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We have an important show for you today starting with Syria. For years President Obama has been insistent, emphatic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: But now up to 50 special force troop will go. Why the change in policy? I will explore that with Richard Haass.
And Iraq. The U.S. Defense secretary says that President Obama is considering direct action on the ground there. We will take you inside the administration's thinking on Iraq with deputy secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
Then it's one year and one week until the election. But all eyes are already on the polls. What do they really tell us and will today's frontrunners be tomorrow's nominees?
Also from one child to two. China changes decades of policy. It's hoping to grow its economy by growing its family. Will it work?
Then one of the world's most famous scientists, Richard Dawkins, on Dr. Ben Carson's rejection of the Theory of Evolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DAWKINS, SCIENTIST: This is not something you believe in or not. I mean, this is a fact. It is a fact. It's just as much of a fact as the earth goes around the sun.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: First, here's my take. I had an interesting visitor drop by my office last week, and he said something that stuck with me. The most important contest in the world right now, he said, is between ISIS and us.
He is Rashid Ghannushi, the intellectual leader of Ennahda, Tunisia's Islamist Party that despite winning the country's first free elections, compromised with its political foes, relinquished power and helped make Tunisia the Arab spring's only success. As Ghannushi sees it, the real struggle is not between Islam and the West but between the ISIS model and the Tunisian model.
"The only way to truly beat ISIS," he said, "is to offer a better product to the millions of young Muslims in the world. We do. Muslim democracy," he said. That better product needs to be a political system is genuinely democratic and respects human rights, but also allows Islam and its values some space within the political system, according to Ghannushi. We are building the alternative model in Tunisia, he told me proudly.
Tunisia's success story is quite fragile. Not quite the fairy tale version that it sometimes recounted. The Islamist that pushed for greater influence of Islamic law. They were reluctant to compromise and they left power only because they thought the country would explode if they didn't. Key elements of the old guard have returned in force and the place remains fragile with the economy under severe pressure.
But most transitions to democracy are marked by bitter struggles. Democracy did not come amicably to South Korea or Taiwan or Chile. The dictators resisted fiercely. There were riots, mass arrests and street violence. It's only in retrospect that one can look back and speak calmly of peaceful democratic transitions.
Now Tunisia has some distinct advantages that had helped it along. In a conversation with the country's head of government, Habib Essid, a technocrat, I asked him to explain the country's success. He pointed to three things. First he said Tunisia has existed as a political entity for 3,000 years from the times of ancient Carthage. Second he noted that Tunisia is almost entirely Sunni so it does not have the sectarian and tribal differences that create fissures in other lands like Iraq, Syria and Libya, which by the way have been modern nation states for less than 100 years.
Third, he explained that under its first post-independence leader, Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia built strong political and administrative institutions. But in addition to all these structural and historical advantages, Tunisia has benefited from wise political leadership. Ghannushi explained that his party compromised because the old order, the elites, were still very powerful so the country couldn't be run by excluding them.
He noted that you cannot go for total victory. In mature democracies, perhaps the party that one of the polls could have its way but given the youth and fragility of Tunisia's experiment, its leaders decided to go for consensus and compromise. [10:05:11] "We lost power," Ghannushi said to me. "But we won
Tunisia." Ghannushi remained surprisingly optimistic about the Arab spring. "People will not go back to the old ways of tyranny," he said. "Like the French Revolution the Arab spring has produced turmoil and violence and reaction but eventually it will transform all these dictatorships and monarchies in the Muslim world."
That's a note of optimism in an otherwise bleak landscape.
For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
So what to make of the White House's apparent about face. Its decision to send 50 Special Operations Forces into Syria after saying for years it would not put boots on the ground?
Let's dig into that. Joining me now is Richard Haass, former director of policy planning at the State Department. He joins me from the Council on Foreign Relations where he is the president.
Richard, is this a big shift or is this, as the White House would like us to believe, just an enhancement of an existing mission?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It's probably closer to that. It's a significant shift. It's meant to correct the basic deficiency in U.S. policy where we haven't had a ground partner for years and we've learned that we can't do it from the air or simply create a ground partner. But it's false way short of the kind of massive interventions we saw in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
ZAKARIA: But, you know, I understand the tactical issue here which is, as you say, it kind of just allows the U.S. to operate militarily more effectively but it's partnering with the Kurds even though they pretend it's a multinational -- multi-ethnic force. It's for the four or five to one Kurds to Arabs. The Kurds don't want to go into Raqqa, defeat ISIS, take control of Syria. They just want their enclave. So it's sort of a defensive strategy to create a safe haven for the Kurds, right? It's almost like a humanitarian intervention rather than a political and military one to take control of Syria.
HAASS: Exactly right. This is not an all Syria strategy. This is not wildly ambitious. I don't mean to diminish what it is. But this is not the beginning of -- of restoring Syria as a country. This is essentially to stabilize Syria. What you'll end up with if this succeeds, probably for years, is a Syria of, I don't know, four, five, six enclaves. One a miniature government enclave. One for ISIS. One for groups like Nusra. One for the Kurds. Maybe one for some of the Arabs associated with the Kurds. That's what we're looking at. That's the definition of success here.
ZAKARIA: And what I'm worried about is, you know, there is a tendency in these situations to do tactical things that enhance your position that are more effective. But you don't think a lot about the strategy. So what I'm trying to figure out is what is the strategy if this succeeds? If you convince the Kurds to take on ISIS, if these ground forces, these operators in Syria helped then you take over towns like Raqqa where the ISIS is headquartered, and you have a bunch of Kurds who are in charge of Raqqa or Kurds assisted by Americans. That's not going to go over well with the, you know, 85 percent Sunni- Syrian population who would regard -- rule by the Kurds as much of kind of imposition as ruled by the minority Alawites who currently rule.
HAASS: What I think this does is potentially stabilize the situation, keeps a bad situation from continuing to get worse. It then buys you time by freezing or at least slowing the situation on the ground. It gives time for some of the diplomacy, say, in Vienna to work. And I think that's part of the goal here which is that over time the United States, with Russia, conceivably with Iran and Saudi Arabia and others, I realize it's something of a long shot, can talk about a political transition in Damascus.
What we ultimately need is a partner in Damascus we can work with. We can't work with Bashar al-Assad. What we could is we could work with some transitional successor government. And that's the only longer term strategy. But this could buy you time until you get to that point.
ZAKARIA: What do you think of the idea of Iran being invited to join these talks? Obviously they are crucially involved. Iranian militias are helping the Assad regime. Hezbollah, which is essentially aided by Iran, is helping the Assad regime. So they are a big player on the ground. Would that translate into them being helpful at the negotiating table in Geneva.
HAASS: Well, look, the Iranians have to worry about a Middle East in which the Sunnis are essentially dominated by ISIS. That is not a victory or success for Iran.
[10:10:04] So I think they understand that at some point in this process Bashar al-Assad has to go. They wouldn't do it as a favor to us. They'd do it as a favor to themselves. I think the Russians understand the same thing. We have to be flexible. That is not going to go as the first step in a political process.
But, Fareed, I can't sit here and tell you we're going to be able to partner with the Iranians here as, say, we were able to in Afghanistan, but it's worth trying. And in the meantime, by working with the Kurds, by working with some Arabs we can perhaps slow the momentum of ISIS which in turn I think will help get more Kurds and more Arabs to work with us.
So again I think this is a time buy and what we're doing, it helps calm -- not calm, but at least make the situation on the ground from getting worse. And at least it creates a backdrop where diplomacy can succeed. Right now we have no backdrop for diplomacy to succeed. We have an imbalance of power that works against us. This can lead -- at least lead to a balance of power that more works in our favor.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that, you know, between the 3,500 troops in Iraq, now the 50 in Syria, the United States has re-engaged in way that, you know, they are now going to be more in control of the situation? Because what I worry about is at the end of the day this is a very deep sectarian divide. You described it as the Middle East 30-year war.
And, you know, we just happen to now have 3,550 American troops in the middle of the Middle East 30-year sectarian war. Can we shape the outcome with these incremental, strategic, pointed interventions?
HAASS: It's the right question, Fareed. There's a lot of history that would say incrementalism and gradualism isn't the way to go. But I think that's only true if your goal is to win war in the traditional sense. I don't think it's our goal to restore Iraq. I don't think it's our goal to restore a functioning national Syria. I would simply say our goal is to keep as many innocent people we can alive and it's to keep the terrorists from continuing to roll up territory.
So this kind of relatively limited involvement can do that maybe (INAUDIBLE). Sometimes in foreign policy, you have ambitious goals. What is it you want to achieve. I think in the Middle East our goal is what it is we want to prevent. And finally enough even that relatively modest goal may turn out to be sufficiently ambitious for us. But I think the sort of announcement that was made over this week is consistent with trying to keep the Middle East from going over the cliff rather than trying to remake the Middle East in our image.
ZAKARIA: So stop it from blowing up anymore.
Richard Haass, very, very interesting conversation. Thank you so much.
HAASS: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Now from Syria to Iraq. The United States is talking about putting a handful of troops in Syria, but it already has thousands in Iraq. So how should we think about the United States' past and future involvement in Iraq? You'll hear from the deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, next.
[10:17:14] ZAKARIA: Here is the number, 50. That's the top limit of how many special operations forces the White House says it intends to send to Syria as you heard in the last segment.
Here is a much bigger number. 3,500. That is how many troops the United States already has in Iraq fighting ISIS. And 10 days ago, one of them was killed. Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler. He was the first American soldier to die under enemy fire in Iraq in four years there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will deliver ISIL is a lasting defeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: So is the United States back in the combat business in Iraq? Well, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. was considering direct action on the ground.
I wanted to take you inside the administration's thinking on this important issue. For that you're about to see an interview I did for our documentary, "LONG ROAD TO HELL: AMERICA IN IRAQ," which premiered this past Monday. I sat down with the Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in August at the State Department. Blinken, in his current role and his last one as deputy national security adviser to Obama and national security adviser to Biden, has been one of the administration's formal shapers of the Iraq policy.
To understand Iraq in 2015, we have to fully appreciate why the Obama administration pulled out in 2011. And that is where Blinken begins.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: At the end of the day the Iraqis wanted us out. That's what happened. And the body politics was clear on that. The really group that really wanted us to stay were the Kurds. But Sunnis, Shia, they didn't believe it that every step along the way, starting with President Bush and then President Obama, we designed a glide path that would gradually pull us out of Iraq.
And at every step along the way the Iraqis didn't believe we would follow through. They didn't believe that we would get out of the cities. We did. They didn't believe we would end our combat mission. We did. And ultimately they didn't believe we would leave at the end of 2011. And we did.
We had to prove to them that we meant it. And in my judgment, at least, we actually had to leave in order to reengage later and to get back in.
ZAKARIA: And to what extent do you think you do have a coherent, functioning partner in Iraq today?
BLINKEN: We have an increasingly functioning partner in Iraq. It's a work in progress. It was important to have a partner on the ground because it was our firm belief in the experience of the last decade that the most effective and sustainable way to deal with this problem was to have people who are willing to fight for their own country, do the work on the ground with our very strong support, with our air support, intelligence, weapons, advice.
[10:20:12] But people taking back their own country. So in the past year, as a result of these efforts and as result of much greater coherence among the Iraqis and the coalition, the territory that ISIL controls is down 35 percent from where it was when the coalition was first formed. Thousands of ISIL members have been killed. Much of their material has been destroyed. And in many parts of Iraq, they are on their heels, not on their toes.
But they're still capable obviously of taking the initiative. They still have a base and a sanctuary in Syria. And the one part of Iraq where things have been much more difficult is Anbar Province precisely because of this conflict between a predominantly Shia Iraqi army and a Sunni population. What's changed is the realization that this is a problem by the Iraqi government in Baghdad and a genuine effort for the first time to mobilize Sunnis in the fight. To bring them in. To populate the beginnings of the National Guard. To bring more of them in to the Iraqi army itself. To recall the police who've been disbanded and put in a new police chief.
To get more control over these so-called popular mobilization forces that have Shia militia in them, and that have been creating problems in Anbar, in the Sunni areas. To actually put in place funds through the U.N. to stabilize areas that were newly liberated. And we're seeing that start -- let me emphasize start -- to work.
ZAKARIA: But was the Iraq war a hopeless endeavor?
BLINKEN: You know, people will make their judgments about the war, whether it was wise to get into it, the way we got into it, the way we prosecuted it. But by the time the Obama administration came into office, that was an inheritance that we had to deal with. And given the extraordinary sacrifice of so many Americans, our military, our diplomats and others, we were determined to make the best possible future we could for Iraq and to live up to that responsibility. And that's what we tried to do.
I think there were moments in the last years when you could see and indeed we can still see a way forward for Iraq. But again at the end of all of this, as much as we can do, it depends on the Iraqis themselves. They have to decide the future of their country. They have to decide that that future depends on them actually working together and not a cross purposes.
ZAKARIA: Is that an abnegation of America's historical role? A kind of fatalism that says the United States can affect these regions or the future?
BLINKEN: The question is not whether we can affect them. I think we can affect them. The question is whether what we do can truly be dispositive in shaping their futures. And I think it's our belief fundamentally that the answer is it's up to the people, of the country in question to do that. We can help. We can push. We can prod. We can support, but it's not up to us. Because again it comes back to this basic proposition that most of these problems' intentions are not about us.
And so by definition, there's not some simple solution that is within the power of the United States. It has to be them. And the question is what can we do, if anything, to maximize the potential for a positive outcome and to minimize the potential for a negative one.
ZAKARIA: That interview with Tony Blinken was part of our latest special "LONG ROAD TO HELL: AMERICA IN IRAQ." If you missed it stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter accounts for announcement on when the show will re-air.
Next on GPS, why in the world did China just reverse nearly four decades of policy dictating how many children its citizens could bear? Well, they did it for good reasons and I will tell you why Western leaders should pay attention, when we come back.
[10:28:32] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. The Central Committee of China's Communist Party made a decision this week that will change the course of that country and perhaps the world. After four days of intense meetings, Beijing announced that it would end its one-child policy which forbade many Chinese couples from having multiple children. From now on all couples in China will be allowed to have two children.
This was an admission that China's greatest obstacle to continue the economic growth in the long run was its demographics. It was going to have too few young workers and too many old retirees. As the cliche has it, China would grow old before it'd grow rich.
This new policy aims to change country's fate.
I remember when the policy was adopted in the late 1970s. I was growing up in India and people there were envious of China's ability to enforce family planning. India by contrast was chaotic and dysfunctional. Its incentives for smaller families didn't seem to do much to keep family sizes down.
The mentality that produce China and India's family planning policies was understandable. Poor countries have little money and many mouths to feed. In that context, when couple had six or eight or 10 children, they were destined to stay poor.
But the policies and the theories behind them turned out to be wrong. In 1968 a Stanford biology wrote a book titled "The Population Bomb."
[10:30:02] It became a huge bestseller, as he warned that we simply did not have the resources for the number of people on the planet. Today the Earth's population is twice what it was in 1968, "The New York Times" has noted, and "yet we have found innovative ways not just to survive, but prosper."
However, the idea persists that our big problem is too many people. As we Ruchir Sharma recently noted in "The Wall Street Journal," the United Nations says we will add over 2 billion people to the world's population in the next 35 years implying an unmanageable strain on our resources. But Sharma says, the problem might well be the reverse. Because as countries develop their birthrates plunge. Work population growth, which is averaged nearly 2 percent per year for decades, is now about 1 percent. In 83 countries comprising nearly half the global population, women are averaging less than two children, Sharma notes, which means that couples are not replacing themselves. Even in a poor country like India, the fertility rate has plummeted. Couples use to have more than six children on average in 1960, Sharma points out, now the average is less than three.
The real problem the rich world faces acutely, particularly Europe, is a population implosion. Only the countries that adapt early to the population implosion will thrive in the baby bust era, write Sharma. He predicts that countries will only be able to thrive economically if they become friendly to immigrants or convince their people to have more babies, which is, of course, much harder. China's technocrats have carefully studied the data and they are trying to adjust to the new realities out there. Now, will Western politicians follow suit?
Next on GPS, the 2016 presidential horse race. Who's up, who's down? But more importantly, what all of those numbers you're bombarded with, actually mean and do they mean anything at all?
ZAKARIA: From - wait, no, Carson is now ahead. Hillary has a solid lead, but wait, Bernie is rising in Iowa.
Whenever I see headlines about the race and hear news reports about it, I scratch my head and wonder what to think. What should I pay attention to? What should I ignore? And how in the world would anyone know when there're so many Republican candidates in the field?
So, I brought in two actual experts to help me understand. Joining me now Ann Selzer, the queen of polling in Iowa. She runs the polling firm Selzer and company based in Des Moines, Iowa. And Nate Cohn writes for "The New York Times" politics site, "The Upshot". So, that first question, with the huge field like this, I sometimes think to myself, you know, how would one figure out, for example. There obviously is some kind of anti-Trump vote or non-Trump vote. But it's probably divided by - among eight or nine candidates right now? So, is there some way to figure out what this is going to look like when it windows down to four?
J. ANN SELZER, IOWA POLLSTER: Well, we have some signals about how that's going to look. But I agree with you. When we started polling, looking at our preliminary data going, well, how are we going to really sort of set with the tiers are, because you have - can't really - a top tier, that's fine, but your middle tier is gigantic and then you have people who don't even score. So, we were saying we have to look at more than just the horse race question in order to really understand people's various strengths. So, with a little index we put together called the Selzer scar, we created a way to see Marco Rubio, for example, had upside potential way early when we first started.
ZAKARIA: Why? So, what were you attesting to that?
SELZER: You know, his number in the first choice was not very big, but he had a very high number for second choice and then very high number of people who say he's not my first or second choice, but I could see myself ever voting for him. And so, he rose above where his first place position - because you only get one vote.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that at the end of the day the Republicans will end up with a more conventional candidate?
NATE COHN, WRITER "THE UPSHOT": I think so. And I think it's important to remember that the polls right now do not necessarily reflect where the results are going to be in a few months. If you look back over the last four competitive contests, going back to 2004 Democratic race, and then you look at Iowa and New Hampshire in the national polls, those 12 contests, the polls right now only get two of them right. They get New Hampshire for Romney, and I get Clinton for - New Hampshire for Clinton. They missed the national result in all of them, they missed Iowa in all of them. A lot is going to change.
ZAKARIA: In other words, the people who are leading then, at this point in the race, it was all wrong.
COHN: They all went on to lose. And oftentimes, the people who did go - like Rick Santorum in 2012 were registering at the bottom of the polls.
So, what we're seeing right now is that Republican candidates - I'm sorry, Republican voters haven't really begun to think very much about this race. They are just now beginning to tune in. They are going to change their minds a lot. And what we're seeing is a reflection of the media of the debates, but not necessarily the underlying factors that will ultimately drive their decisions and the outcome of the race.
ZAKARIA: Can the debates historically, I mean you've been doing this for a long time, can performance in a debate really boost people's viability to the point that it actually starts registering?
SELZER: Well, the one I'm remembering very distinctly is before I was actually doing the polling, but it was George McGovern in the 1984 debate who was the only statesman presenting himself that way and saying, look, if you don't think I can win, then you vote whoever it is that you want. But if you want to send a message about what you want out of your Democratic candidate, vote for me. And he surged up to third place. He'd been polling very low. So, debates do matter.
ZAKARIA: A lot of people look at Iowa and say wait a minute, this rural agricultural state, you know, with huge numbers of evangelicals, totally unrepresentative of this big industrial, post-industrial country. Why the hell do they get to go first?
SELZER: Well, you can make the argument that Iowa is the worst place to start the contest except for every place else. You're going to start it somewhere.
SELZER: The benefit that Iowa has is that you can conquer the state. You can't conquer California in a meaningful way, in a personal way. You can't conquer Texas. Iowa, you can drive up to Sioux County and you can go to Alama Key County and you can meet the people and lean it. And the point is, you've got to organize people to show up. So, it really is a test of a campaign's ability to get things done in way that isn't as true in other states.
ZAKARIA: What do you think? What are people focusing on, which is the wrong way to think about this way? COHN: I think people look at who is at the top of the polls and they are very impressed with Donald Trump having 25 percent of the polls. And that's just not that much historically. There are a lot of candidates with 25 percent, 30 percent in the polls, and then have gone on to lose. There've been a lot of candidates with a lot less who've gone to win. And the reality is that it will not take a lot of votes to win Iowa. There's a low turnout race with a lot of people in field. You only need a small segment of the electorate ultimately to get behind you. I don't know that the way people are reading the polls right now focusing on a flashing number at the top is really going to say very much about how it will end up.
ZAKARIA: That's true on the Republican side.
ZAKARIA: But on the Democratic side ...
COHN: Well, the Democratic side - Well, the Democratic side may just be as clear as it looks. Hillary Clinton may well be on her way - it will be a very easy victory nationally. And perhaps in Iowa.
SELZER: We don't know. I never make predictions because they always include a wish. So, I never let it know. We know that you get hot at the end, and that's the way to win the Iowa caucuses. And we'll know when it happens.
ZAKARIA: Ann, Nate, pleasure to have you guys on.
When we come back, one of the world's greatest scientists Richard Dawkins on why the Republican frontrunners, especially those who should know better, don't seem to understand science.
ZAKARIA: In 1859, Charles Darwin published his seminal book "On the Origin of Species." In it, he laid out his theory of evolution, eventually applying it to all animals from finches to human beings. The opposing theory, of course, is creationism, which states that God created men and women in his own image as the Bible states. According to the Pew Research Center, 98 percent of the professional scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, believe that humans and other living things have evolved over time. But when the American public was polled just 65 percent said they believe that. And of the GOP candidates, well, as you find out in a moment, almost none of them seem to believe it.
I wondered to learn about evolution from one of the greatest scientific thinkers out there. Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist. He is a long time Oxford professor who has written prolifically on science and atheism, which he espouses. He has a new memoir out called "Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science." Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAKARIA: So, if I look at the United States, currently the Republican presidential candidates as far as I know, every single one of the declared candidates with the exception of Trump about whom one doesn't know which way he would add, when asked about evolution, essentially say they don't believe it and Jeb Bush was asked. He said well, I sort of believe it, but I don't think it should be taught in school.
RICHARD DAWKINS, EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST: Oh, yeah.
ZAKARIA: What do you think about it?
DAWKINS: This feels me with despair. This is not something you believe in or not. I mean this is a fact. It is a fact. It's just as much of a fact as that the Earth goes around the Sun. You can't not believe it unless you're ignorant. And I don't believe those presidential candidates are all ignorant. I believe what they are doing is they think that they've got to say that in order to appeal to their constituency. And if that's true, it's deeply depressing.
ZAKARIA: In your wonderful book, "The Magic of Reality", you talk about some of this. So, how would you explain to somebody who says I don't believe in evolution? What to you use is the most powerful evidence for evolution?
DAWKINS: I think the most powerful evidence is probably not fossils. Although fossils are the main evidence for the actual history of life. The most powerful evidence that evolution has happened is probably molecular genetics. Because whereas in Darwin's time, the comparative data, you look to human hand and you compare it with a bat's wing, a whale's flipper, a lion's paw. You see the same bones. You can identify them bone for bone, the human - the radius, the alnae, the falangies and so on. That was in Darwin's time. Now we can do that same kind of thing, but with molecules, with actual coded letters of DNA and equivalent in protein. You can actually look at long reams of code. And you can actually compare the letter by letter exactly as you might compare two versions of the Book of Jeremiah or something. I mean it's letter for letter comparison. And you can actually count the number of differences in millions between humans and chimpanzees, humans plus chimpanzees and monkeys. Trus, hippopotamuses, you can take any two animals you like and look at their molecules and literally count the number of letters that are different. And that is just so overwhelmingly strong evidence. Darwin would have loved it.
ZAKARIA: What do you say to Ben Carson who teaches medicine at Yale. And he says, he's a creationist. He thinks that God created the world and he says, you're going to tell me that the complexity of the human brain and he's a brain surgeon came out of a soup full of chemicals and such?
DAWKINS: Well, I'm going to tell him that, but not suddenly. It took a very, very long time. And by gradual stages. That's what these people don't understand. They think it all happened suddenly. If you think that, of course you don't believe it, obviously. It couldn't happen suddenly, but if it happens gradually. Each stage just - of the next stage and the next stage, and the next stage, and each stage is only a tiny bit different from the one before, then you could start understanding it.
DAWKINS: You just told me that all the Republican candidates except one say they don't believe in evolution, that's a disgrace. But for a senior, a very eminent, distinguished doctor, as he is, to say that is even worse. Because, of course, evolution is the bedrock of biology. And biology is the bedrock for medicine. And so, for a distinguished doctor to not understand, I have to use the word "understand", he clearly doesn't understand the fundamental theory of his own subject. That's a terrible indictment.
ZAKARIA: So, when people say, it's a theory, it's what - it's a theory like all of science is a theory in the sense ...
ZAKARIA: That it does rest on evidence.
DAWKINS: Yeah, we've got to stop calling it a theory because the word theory is misunderstood. It's taken to mean hypothesis. Evolution is a fact. That - it's as simple as that. It is a fact.
ZAKARIA: It - in other way of putting it's a theory that's been confirmed by thousands of pieces ...
DAWKINS: Thousands and thousands of pieces - of independent mutually confirming pieces of data.
ZAKARIA: Carson, I'm dwelling on him because he's a very important Republican candidate. But also, because I think he represents what a lot of people think. It's - this represents the height of arrogance of humans to believe that they can understand God's mystery.
DAWKINS: Yes, I mean I wouldn't want to call Mr. Carson arrogant. He's a nice man. I've met him. And I liked him. But it is a form of arrogance to say we know what God does. I mean - the only way to know anything is by looking at the evidence, and in this particular case the evidence is overwhelming. There are plenty of scientific ideas where the evidence isn't overwhelming. And there scientists disagree, and therefore - to doubt. And needs for other research. But in case of evolution, that is no doubt. It is a fact.
ZAKARIA: Richard Dawkins, pleasure to have you on.
DAWKINS: A great pleasure as always. Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, if you think American politics is a joke, well let me introduce you to a new world leader who is an actual comedian. Where in the world is it? Find out when we come back.
ZAKARIA: In the last few months we witnessed Dr. Ben Carson and businessman Donald Trump overshadow established politicians on the campaign trail. And it brings to my question of the week, what country just elected a professional comedian who has never held political office as its president? Indonesia, Zambia, Guatemala or Kazakhstan? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is "Killing a King: the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel" by Dan Ephron. One of the great and real what ifs of history is this. What if Israel's prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had not been assassinated in 1995? A decorated war hero, Rabin seemed determined to make peace with the Palestinians and forge a two-state solution. In this fast paced well written book, Ephron takes us through that fascinating crucial moment in Middle Eastern history.
Now, for the last look. On Tuesday, a guided missile destroyer called the USS Lasin passed within 12 nautical miles of reclaimed islands in the South China See. China said the operation was "very serious provocation" and warned Washington not to "create trouble out of nothing." But creating islands out of next to nothing is what has led to all this trouble in the first place. You see, the Defense Department says that over the past two years China has reclaimed almost 3,000 acres of artificial islands in the South China Sea. An area sought after for its strategic maritime position. So rich with natural resources that some in China call it the second Persian Gulf.
Take a look at Mischief Reef, which was totally transformed this year, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This one Fiery Cross Reef was built up in a year. According to the Defense Department in just 20 months China reclaimed 17 times more land than Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have claimed over the past 40 years combined. And even after stopping its land reclamation, China continues to worry its neighbors with the construction of facilities on the islands including a 3,000 meter (INAUDIBLE). The U.S. warned this week that its patrols are expected to become more frequent. But the Chinese foreign ministry said if the U.S. "keeps stirring this up, it will be necessary for China to speed up its construction activities as "The New York Times" pointed out. This is one case in which China's amazing speed, efficiency and determination to get stuff built might prove to cause more problems than it solves.
The correct answer to the GPS challenge question of the week is C. Guatemalans elected television comedian Jimmy Morales in a landslide victory. Morales who had just one percent of the polls back in April surged to victory with a clear slogan, "Not corrupt, not a thief," as Reuters reported. This was a welcome mantra considering Guatemala's president resigned in September and went to jail following a corruption scandal. But Morales will find that cleaning up Guatemala is going to be very tough and very serious work.
Thanks to all you for being part of my program this week.
ZAKARIA: I'll see you next week.