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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Interview with Michael Hayden; The Downing of Metrojet, Implications for Russia; Necessity of Federal Action for Puerto Rico; Interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates; Refugees Impacting the Countries They Settle In. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 8, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:04] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN 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 coming to you live from New York.
We'll start today's show with that Russian plane. What really brought it down over the Sinai? Was it a bomb? Was it ISIS? If it was, just how much of a game changer is that?
Former CIA director Michael Hayden will join me exclusively.
And what does it mean for Russia? Is Moscow now the new great Satan for jihadists?
Also refugees are swarming the shores and borders of Europe. Is there a financial case to take them in? A surprising answer from a child of refugees, the FT's Martin Wolf.
And Ta-Nehisi Coates on why despite America having its first black president, equality of the races is still a very, very, very long way off.
We'll get to the latest on the Russian plane in just a moment. But first here's my take.
It's difficult to find anyone in the Obama administration who really believes that putting around 50 Special Operations soldiers on the ground in Syria will make much of a difference in the raging civil war there. And yet the president has authorized this expansion of America's military intervention there for the same reasons that he has approved incremental escalations for the last year and a half. He believes he has to do something.
But what he's doing will not work and in a few months the United States will face the challenge again. Back down or double down. So far the Obama administration has responded each time with increased intervention. America's military involvement against ISIS began in June 2014 with the limited deployment of 275 soldiers to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Within two months that had expanded to more than 1,000 military personnel in part to support the embattled Yazidis.
By November 2014, Washington has decided to send in 1,500 more troops to train, advise, and assist the Kurds and the Iraqi army. In a smart piece for "Foreign Policy" Micah Zenko provides a timeline of this escalation. He notes that what began August 8th, 2014 with 25 airstrikes in first week and food and water air dropped to save threatened Yazidis have morphed and expanded into 600 bombs being dropped per week and more than 100 bundles of ammunition supplied to an unnamed faction of 5,000 Syrian rebels.
And yet the strength of ISIS does not appear to be much diminished even by the administration's account. This is hardly surprising. The Syrian struggle is complex and ferocious with many outside powers, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, now Russia, aiding many different groups with supposed allies often at cross purposes with each other. It's difficult to see how a modest American intervention would shift that landscape.
The best book about the Vietnam war remains "The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked" by Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts. The authors explained that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations never believed that their incremental interventions would succeed. But they escalated because both administrations believed that they had to do something. And so the United States went from having a few hundred advisers in South Vietnam in 1960 to more than half a million troops there by 1968.
The Vietnam analogy is crude and imperfect for many reasons and yet the basic logic of America's gradual intervention is hauntingly familiar. You opt for incrementalism hoping to get lucky.
I have supported Obama's reluctance to get more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. I do not see how American intervention will resolve things militarily or even improve the humanitarian situation there. If America were to succeed, if Assad were to fall, Damascus would explode in chaos. The Syrian army would go underground and it would fight as an insurgency. Would human rights really improve in that circumstance? And yet, it is becoming hard to describe U.S. policy there as one of restraint when it now involves over 3,500 American forces actively engaged in Iraq and Syria.
[10:05:06] In the end, despite his inconsistencies and vacillations, I believe that Obama will keep the American intervention in Syria small and limited. But he will leave his successor with a terrible dilemma in just the way that the Kennedy administration left one for Lyndon Johnson. The next American president will face the stark reality that America's involvement in Syria will not have resolved matters, but the U.S. government will have made commitments, sent troops, spent billions, and lost lives in that conflict.
At that point, can the American president back down or will he or she have to double down hoping to get lucky?
For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Let's get straight away to the latest on that Russian plane that fell apart over the Sinai peninsula just over a week ago. Yesterday one senior U.S. official told CNN that it was 99.9 percent certain that a bomb had brought down the plane. I wanted to bring in Michael Hayden to talk about the ramifications.
Hayden is the former head of both the CIA and the NSA. He is now principal at the Chertoff Group.
Mike, pleasure to have you on.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: I'm going to assume that this was a bomb. And I want to know, does it make a difference if this was a bomb that was in the luggage compartment or if it was a bomb that came on? In other words, is there a difference in the danger or the nature of the attack if they could get it smuggled on a portion through the security measures?
HAYDEN: Well, first of all, Fareed, 99.9 percent is a really big number. And I'm not even that sure that today is Sunday. But it's looking more and more likely that it is indeed was a bomb. If you act on that conclusion, Fareed, the first thing you have to ask yourself, was this terrorist success based upon a new technological breakthrough or was it the product of incompetence or compromise at the Sharma el Sheikh airport?
And it would be incredibly troubling that this bombing was the product of a new technological breakthrough that made it more difficult or even impossible for us to detect the explosive device. As you know, Fareed, al Qaeda has been working on these undetectable bombs for a long time. This was almost certainly ISIS, but it doesn't make the problem any less severe. And so I think, first of all, the question is, was this product of incompetence or compromise or new technology. And then the secondary problem, hand-carried or stored luggage.
ZAKARIA: And from what we know the security procedures for plane leaving Egypt going into Russia are quite different and less strict than planes entering the United States. Would that have been enough because from what I've read about those undetectable bombs that al Qaeda has been trying to develop, it is that they would get through even the procedures that the U.S. government has in place.
HAYDEN: That's correct. You've got this technological race going on between ourselves and terrorists that our devices are adequate to need in terms of technology that they develop.
Now, Fareed, you bring up a great point. And my instinct here, my instinct, is that this is the product of incompetence or compromise at Sharma el Sheikh. But if I'm Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, I'm trying to turn over every possible rock to make sure that instinct is correct and we're not faced with a new completely different kind of technology that we now have to work to detect.
ZAKARIA: So what does this -- let's assume that it's not some kind of technological game changer, Mike. What is -- what does this tell us about ISIS capabilities? Because Egypt has been battling terrorists in the Sinai for years. We didn't know that ISIS had deep connections with them. They claim to have connections with the groups all over, but those claims are often very tenuous.
Does this suggest that ISIS has now developed links or, you know, is this a one off that may not tell us as much?
HAYDEN: Fareed, that's a great question. And again, my instinct right now is to the latter circumstance as opposed to the former. Al Qaeda was strategic, thoughtful, hierarchical, and operated from the top down. That's not ISIS. ISIS is populist, tactical, opportunistic and works from the bottom up.
[10:10:03] Fareed, I'm quite willing to imagine circumstances in which al Qaeda or I'm sorry, ISIS central in Raqqa really didn't know much about this attack before it happened. ISIS leadership seems to want to inspire attacks from its affiliates or even lone wolves. And so if this were al Qaeda, we would attach it to the senior leadership automatically. That may be the case here but I just don't think it's an automatic assumption like it would be with the other terrorist organization. And so it certainly raises the threat profile of ISIS, Fareed, but I don't know that it means globally they're game has reached a new level.
ZAKARIA: Robert Papa of the University of Chicago has done very careful studies of suicide attacks and suicide bombings. And he claims that if you look at ISIS it's very clear that they only attack foreign enemies. That is to say their principal foes are the Assad regime in Syria and the Baghdad regime in Iraq. That they only attack when those foreign countries start involving themselves in that region. So the French were attacked. The Charlie Hebdo situation, the Canadians in Ottawa and now the Russians. That their real focus has always been in the region. They only go out against outsider if they kind of try to stir the hornet's nest.
HAYDEN: Fareed, absolutely, theologically correct. Al Qaeda made the strategic decision that the way to win was to go after the far enemy, us and our allies, as a way to undermine the near enemies. The Arab autocracies. ISIS has turned that on its head. ISIS wants to make war on the near enemies.
In many instances, Fareed, harm to us in the West is collateral damage from ISIS' fight against the near enemy. And in this particular case it certainly was a Russian airliner. But this was as much an assault against the Sisi regime in Egypt as it was against the Russians.
ZAKARIA: Michael Hayden, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you, sir.
HAYDEN: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, we'll stick with that Russian plane, but I have a great panel to talk about the politics, the geopolitics of it as Russian entry's into the Syrian fight made it the great new Satan for global Islamic terrorists?
[10:17:10] ZAKARIA: Why do U.S. officials believe that a bomb took down Metrojet 9268? Well, one of the biggest clues they tell CNN is intercepts of communications after the crash, messages from ISIS affiliates in Sinai to ISIS in Syria. So if indeed ISIS did plan a bomb on a Russian plane what would that mean for the Kremlin?
Joining me now to discuss, Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the "Washington Post," and Fawaz Gerges is chair of Contemporary Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics.
Anne, you've studied the Kremlin for a long, long time. How do you think they are -- they will react, are reacting to this?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: One of the interesting things, of course, is so far they've barely reacted at all. And I'm guessing that that's because they're deciding how to spin the story. What's important for the Kremlin is not so much who did it or why. What's really important is how they're going to sell it and explain it. For some of the reasons you've just hinted at they may want to avoid the idea that it's ISIS because they don't want the idea -- they don't want their population to think that they have now been targeted for their involvement in Syria.
There was a little hint this morning and yesterday, there've been a couple of news stories, one on Sputnik, which is a Russian news service, hinting that maybe it was MI6 and there've been another story hinting that maybe the CIA is involved. So they may very quickly try to spin this differently. And actually that's the thing to watch because that will tell you how their thinking is going on this right now.
ZAKARIA: They even, Anne, have -- Russian media has been reporting some connection between the 50,000 Ukrainians are fighting with ISIS or something.
APPLEBAUM: Yes, there's been a theme they've been trying to create for the last several weeks actually linking Ukraine with ISIS. I imagine it's a little bit farfetched to imagine -- to suggest that Ukrainians bombed the plane in Sinai. But certainly they're trying to make that connection. They're trying to show that somehow they're being undermined by anti-Russian forces and they will continue to push that.
ZAKARIA: Ian, is this some kind of a game changer, this plane crash?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: No. I think the game changer was the Russian decision to go in. Anne is right that they're in no hurry right now to have the conclusion of an investigation resolve that ISIS was behind this bombing. It's not as if the Russians are any friends of ISIS, they have been engaged in bombing of all the terrorists on the ground in Syria, but that's not been their primary strategy.
And, Fareed, if there's one thing that you and I know from following the Russians is that they're not going to be engaged in warfare to support the public good unless they are getting something in return. Their intention is first to shore up Assad and then to use that leverage perhaps to stabilize Syria more broadly and get something out of that from the Europeans, from the Americans. That can't be done on ISIS' timetable. So the Russians have to delay here. [10:20:10] ZAKARIA: But, Anne, doesn't this make Putin's strategy in
Syria look a lot less brilliant, a lot more dangerous than was previously portrayed?
APPLEBAUM: Look, I always thought it was an incredibly risky and dangerous strategy, essentially because it's a game of perceptions. Physically his soldiers left Ukraine and they went to Syria. he's trying to distract the world attention, distract domestic attention, refocus his people away from Ukraine and the international community and on to Syria. And that works fine so long as he wins in Syria or is seen to be winning.
But if it backfires then that's too disastrous situations he's created. Number one in Ukraine where there's an unresolved conflict. Several thousand people dead for no reason. Thanks to a war that he started. And if the Syria conflict begins to reverberate against him, too, then he's really created a double disaster.
ZAKARIA: Fawaz, what does this tell us about ISIS in the Sinai? Because there are two things going on here. One, the Egyptians have been battling terrorism for a long time in the Sinai. What does it tell us about Sisi and the Egyptians, but what does it say about ISIS in -- having contacts in the Sinai?
FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN POLICIES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, Fareed, we keep talking about ISIS as somehow ISIS combatants with Al Wilayat Sinai, the Egyptian affiliate, basically have parachuted into Egypt from nowhere from the sky. This is a local insurgency with deep roots in north Sinai. It's a decade long. It's -- the term is local.
What really has changed in the last year or so is that the marriage between a local insurgency and ISIS. In particular ISIS in Iraq and Syria. So this humble local insurgency in Sinai has now tenacity, capacity, organizational depth, bombing capacity and of course it has waged and carried out massive bombings against Egyptian Security Forces, against foreign targets.
It's waging economic warfare against the Egyptian government and that's why the Egyptian government has been reluctant to come forward and say, well, look, we think that really it was a device on the plane because the implications for Egypt, as you well know, in particular for the tourist industry, basically would be shattering. An industry that has been burdened by more than four years of social and political instability.
So to put it really bluntly, what you have now in Wilayat Sinai or the Egyptian affiliate, it is powerful. It is one of the most potent ISIS affiliates outside of Iraq and Syria. That the heart of this insurgency is the grievances of Bedouins, of tribesmen in Egypt, who feel basically excluded and disfranchised economically and politically by the Egyptian government. And the Egyptian government's heavy handed tactics in the last two years have driven many Bedouins into the arms of ISIS, the Wilayat Sinai.
ZAKARIA: Very quickly, Fawaz, will this mean that Sisi will double down on what is already a very, very tough strategy on terrorism? He really has locked up thousands and thousands of people.
GERGES: Well, I mean, what you have now in Egypt really is more than one insurgency. The Egyptian government is waging all-out war against, I mean, Wilayat Sinai or the ISIS affiliate, but also you have clam-down, I mean, big clamp down against the Muslim Brotherhood. The danger here is not just Wilayat Sinai, the Egyptian affiliate, the danger here is how many young Egyptians would basically migrate to ISIS. Because, again, you mentioned, earlier, ISIS has already scored a massive propaganda coup.
It reinforces its narrative of ending civility. It's defying the Western and Russian armada. And this particular powerful narrative resonates with young Sunni Muslims, not just in Egypt but in the Middle East and the world at large.
ZAKARIA: Twenty seconds. Ian, Russia of course has its own problems with Muslims, with the Chechens, what do you think this does there?
BREMMER: The Russian and the Egyptian government both only get support from taking the hardest possible line domestically and that's true pretty much across the political spectrum. In the case of Egypt, Sisi wants show that the Muslim Brotherhood, it needs to be completely destroyed. What we've just seen is going to mean more crackdown and that will be supported for Putin given the history with Chechnya, and given the history generally of Mohave in both inside its borders and outside. You're going to get the same issues.
So you're not going to have, you know, sort of a national dialogue in these countries with significant opposition saying we're doing the wrong things.
[10:25:04] ZAKARIA: Gosh, that means more crackdowns and more -- potentially more terrorism. Thank you all. Terrific panel.
Coming up, I will take you to a place where the employment rate is 35 percent. The kicker, it is not in southern Europe. It is right here in the United States. Find out where, next.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. I want to take you to one of the worst performing economies in the developed world. The employment rate is only 35 percent. 45 percent of the population here lives in poverty. Over the last 10 years more than 5 percent of the population has fled.
We're not talking about Greece or some other basket case in the Eurozone or elsewhere. This is a part of the United States. It's tropical territory Puerto Rico.
And it is
[10:30:00] the next great battleground for the debate over austerity and debt relief. Back in June the island's governor announced that it couldn't pay its $72 billion worth of debt. The so-called island of enchantment got into that bind thanks to its crushing ten-year recession and some really terrible fiscal policies enacted by the local government.
The Obama administration has proposed a plan and a treasury official warned the Senate that Puerto Rico could easily become a humanitarian crisis without federal action. Senate Republicans criticized the lack of cost estimates for the plan and worry about Puerto Rico's fuzzy statistics. But the key issue here is that under the administration's plan, some of Puerto Rico's debt will likely be forgiven. In other words, its lenders will have to suffer losses. The administration's plan gives Puerto Rico the same right as cities in the main land have, the right to declare bankruptcy. That's exactly what Detroit recently did. But Puerto Rico is currently not allowed to do it.
So, now the debate over congressional approval of the plan has begun and the battle pits the bourgeois (ph) against the bankers. And the bankers have a lot more pull with Congress.
You see, if Puerto Rico is allowed to file for bankruptcy protection, a court of law will determine how much of its debt it has to pay back. As it currently stands the territory needs to negotiate directly with its creditors. Those creditors know they will be forced to take a haircut, as they say, if they go to court.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has said it is absurd to suggest that Puerto Rico's debts can be completely paid off by further tax increases and spending cuts. Its debt is too large, and the economy continues to free fall. Investors in Puerto Rico's debt will certainly take a hit in any bankruptcy proceeding. But that is the price that they must pay at this point for a failed bet. As the "New York Times" has pointed out a systematic restructuring of the island's debt and bankruptcy court is surely preferable to a chaotic legal fight if Puerto Rico actually defaults on its debt.
Still, it appears that investors who have money and megaphones are fighting the administration's proposal tooth and nail in Congress and succeeding. If that reality holds true, Larry Summers says, it will be a profoundly troubling reflection on the power of special interests in Washington. It would also be a disaster for the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans, American citizens all.
Next on GPS, should the United States pay reparations to its black citizens to compensate them for the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and racism in America? It's not a new idea. But it's been given new blood thanks to my next guest. Ta-Nehisi Coates. An eye opening conversation when we come back.
ZAKARIA: My next guest is one of America's hottest new intellectual voices. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for "The Atlantic" and has been awarded a McArthur genius prize. He's argued in favor of reparations for African-Americans for centuries of slavery. He's criticized those who said and say that African-Americans need to fix a culture of family break down and social dysfunction. He's even criticized President Obama for giving advice to young black graduates of Morehouse College not to make bad choices or excuses. He'll explain why. Coates is the author of an impassioned new book released earlier this year, called "Between the World and Me." Listen in.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, pleasure to have you on.
TA-NEHISI COATES, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT "THE ATLANTIC": Thanks for having me, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: You wrote a famous article, probably the article that made you famous about calling for reparations. The United States spends roughly speaking $1 trillion a year on poverty programs. Most of which disproportionately benefit blacks. Is that not enough?
TA-NEHISI COATES: That's not reparations. That's not reparations. Jim Crow didn't disproportionately hurt black people. The slavery didn't disproportionately hurt black people. Red line didn't disproportionately hurt black people, it was targeted at black people, specifically. So it's not the same thing at all. We don't have a policy at all. And I say this about affirmative action, I say this about any policy that you want to mention. We do not have a policy in this country that directly targets the victims of white supremacist policy. We just - we just don't have that. You know, we are, you know, the specific victims of white supremacist. I'm so tired of saying it now over and over again. We are not merely disproportionate victims of impoverishment. There was a specific policy, directed specific policies directed to the African-American community. And I think the only way we are going to get out of this is to have the same.
ZAKARIA: You criticize President Obama for when he went to Morehouse College, he was essentially giving the kind of talk that people have about how behavior of dropping out of school, taking drugs, you know, breaking up marriages produces many of the pathologies that you see in black inner city life. But this is, after all, William Julius Wilson,, the great sociologist at Harvard who was black, studies his - whole life, he argues that the evidence is overwhelming that those blacks who are able to maintain, shall we call them bourgeois values and habits, do very well and actually have income levels very similar to whites and have achievement levels very similar, and that this is the way out of the poverty trap, the crime trap, the mass incarceration trap. Why would you be opposed to it?
COATES: Well, because I'm obviously not opposed to getting an education, you know, or staying away from
ZAKARIA: blacks to do all that.
COATES: I'm not afraid - I'm not out of jail. I don't think black people in particular are in need of extra urging for that. This notion that African-American who, let's just say, played by the rules somehow end up in a space of equality with white families who do the same. And I just have to challenge that. You know, we have, you know, great recent studies. Since Patrick Sharkey, sociologist down at NYU, recently showed that African-American families that make $100,000 a year, which, you know, that's doing pretty well in America, tend to live in the same sort of neighborhoods as white families that make $30,000. I saw this in my own life. I had two parents who at the time I was raised, who stayed together for the entirety of my childhood, I had two parents who were well-educated, college-educated, books all around me. Education stressed, and yet every day when I walked outside I thought about this fear for my body. My parents being married, my parents being, you know, possessing bourgeois values as they did, my parents playing by the rules as they did, could not save me from that.
ZAKARIA: But you don't think that the - that I mean isn't one important path out to not succumb to drugs, to not have children when you are 14.
ZAKARIA: ... not, you know, break up families.
COATES: Sure. Sure.
ZAKARIA: So, it seemed to me that's what Obama was saying at Morehouse. He was celebrating black achievement. But he was saying, but, you know, you guys have to not fall into these traps.
COATES: Well, I mean he was addressing our graduating class, for, you know, one of our most sturdy black colleges in the country. I'm pretty sure those people had pretty much mastered that portion of it. That's how they got there. That's how they ended up graduating from Morehouse. But the question as far as I understand, is how do we get to a position of equality? How do you build the road, in which those folks who - who have played by the rules, by the way, who are graduating from college, not just arrived at college and not freshman year, actually graduated from Morehouse College and are now moving on with their lives, moving - how do you create a situation, a world, in which those folks who have held up their end of the deal, have done what they were supposed to do, get out of the neighborhood, get to college, get the degree can be equivalent to people who are doing the same? How do you do that?
And I just don't think the way to do that is, you know, to tell them you need to play by the rules even more. As the president of the United States, I definitely don't think that. As the bearer of all the heritage and all the policy that's been passed in the past, and it's continued to be passed, I don't think - I just don't think that's the way. I think they have mastered that part of it. I think they've got it. That's why they are graduating. That explains why they are graduating. It just isn't enough.
ZAKARIA: Is your own extraordinary success a refutation of your basic thesis?
COATES: No, no, not at all. Not at all.
ZAKARIA: Applauded, you did well. COATES: Thank you very much. It tells me that we live in an era that
is very different than the era that we lived in 50 years ago. And here's how. Individuals through, individual African-Americans through a combination of talent, hard work and great luck can achieve and can do really, really well. Individuals in a way that just wasn't true under the era of Jim Crow. I don't think you could have an African- American president at that point in time. But that's not - that isn't really, really the argument. You know, the argument is on a mass level, how do we bring equality? How do we make sure that that's true for a mass number of black people, the way that it's true for a mass number of white? I'm just one person. You know, I'm just one writer for "The Atlantic." You know, we have one African-American president right now. I don't know when we are going to have another one. How do we make it true that African-American children have a shot to experience the same degree of success as white children? That to me is ultimately the question. Not, you know, a few individual cases. You know, through some, you know, combinations and as I said of extraordinary luck and work who make it through. How do we equalize it for everybody?
ZAKARIA: Ta-Nehisi Coates, pleasure to have you on.
COATES: Thank you so much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Up next, putting up fences. That's what many European nations have done in response to the flood of refugees coming from Syria. It's a reprehensible action, but are those nations justified in doing it economically? Find out when we come back.
ZAKARIA: You've seen the heart wrenching pictures of sad refugee kids, the cup-sized boats on the Mediterranean, the destitute people simply looking for the basics of life, safety, shelter, food, water. Now with winter coming the situation will certainly worsen. There's a humanitarian reason for European nations to take in these refugees. That's impossible to deny. But is there an economic rationale? "The New York Times" editorial board has made that case, and on Thursday, E.U. officials said refugees would have a small favorable effect on growth in the region. But I wanted to put it to Martin Wolf. He's the chief economics commentator for "The Financial Times." I think his answer might surprise you.
Martin Wolf, pleasure to have you on.
MARTIN WOLF, CHIEF ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: Great pleasure, as always.
ZAKARIA: So, we always talk about economics. And what's going on in the world, but first I want to talk to you about something you wrote that struck me. In the wake of all this talk about refugees and immigrants and migrants, you pointed out that that's your family background.
WOLF: That is correct. Yes. Yes.
WOLF: Well, my parents were both refugees from Hitler's Europe. My father came from Austria. My mother came from the Netherlands by the skin of her teeth with her family, you know, three days before the Nazis occupied her home town.
And they arrived in England respectably in 1937 and 1940.
ZAKARIA: And from your point of view, England was this incredible place that received Jews fleeing Europe and created a great life for you. But you also saw a refugee community that contributed enormously to Britain.
WOLF: There's no question about that. It wasn't a huge community. In fact, they didn't let all that many in, but there were a certain number. My father had a number of friends and, of course, there's a very large Jewish community, there was a large community in England, most of them came, actually, from the programs in Russia by be Russians much earlier. But yes, it was a very significant inflow of European Jews and I think they made some remarkable achievements, some of them are very, very famous. Karl Popper, for example.
ZAKARIA: And yet, you are skeptical of the claim that migration is a net economic benefit to Britain.
WOLF: There's no question immigration benefits migrants. Absolutely none, and probably the world as a whole. But if you're trying to tell ordinary British people that having a large inflow will necessarily benefit them, I think the evidence is very much against saying that that's a clear unambiguous answer. It depends very much on who the immigrants are, what skills they have, how successful they are economically, what sort of contributions they make, how long they stay. It really does depend very much on the nature of the immigration. And, of course, you have to be realistic if you have a very large immigrant flow in a small and very densely populated country like the U.K., it requires very substantial cost to accommodate. You have to build infrastructure, hospitals, roads, schools. You have to build more houses. Otherwise the congestion costs become very significant. And unfortunately, we're not very good at doing any of those things.
ZAKARIA: So, what do you make of the arguments made in the United States where there are economists and scholars who say, look, when you look at the effect of migration, particularly from Mexico on low income Americans, it's not clear that it's beneficial. In fact, it probably hurts them. Because these are the same people who compete for the same low wage jobs. You do have to build all this additional capacity. Are they right? Is Donald Trump right?
WOLF: I can't believe Donald Trump is right about anything. And some of the propositions he's putting forward seem to be sort of basically mad. If you have a very large number of people in the country you can't run up 11 million people, whatever it is, and throw them out. The economists are debating these questions. And there are really big arguments among economists. The sense I get of the American debate, and every immigration flow is different. Now, here we're talking about unskilled people into the United States. Some argue that there are significant negative effects on people who compete, some at the lower end of the wage scale. And I think there is evidence for that. But there are also others who argue that actually if you look at it very, very carefully, they are complementary to a lot of the other workers. The fiscal effects of immigrants can be positive or negative depending on the nature of your welfare state. What sort of system you have, the nature of your tax regime, how - whether they're employed, or not many -in many countries immigrants tend not to be very successful in being employed.
But, of course, if you bring in highly skilled doctors from India, whatever, the effects are going to be totally different. So, it's really, really hard to generalize on the impact of immigration. There isn't a simple proposition that you can drive from the evidence - plus or minus in general. It depends.
ZAKARIA: Martin Wolf, pleasure to have you on.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the land of the free and the home of the brave. That's America, right. Well, one new study set out to find out if the United States really is the freest country in the world. Is it? We'll tell you when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Where you live on this planet determines a lot of things. Are you healthy, free, educated, safe? Where do you have the best chance to be all of those things? A new report from a London-based think tank, the Legatum Institute, proposes an answer. Their 2015 prosperity index released this week calculates a country's prosperity using more than just wealth. They examined a broad set of objective and subjective variables that contribute to well-being. And this brings me to my question of the week. Which country was the most free in the 2015 Legatum prosperity index? The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom or Norway? Stay tuned. We'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is John Meacham's fabulous new biography of George H.W. Bush, "Destiny and Power." Meacham is one of America's greatest story tellers and he tells the tale of this quintessentially American hero and the political dynasty that he's part of beautifully. I'm 200 pages into it, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it, and I can't wait to finish it.
The correct answer to "The GPS Challenge Question" is B. According to the Legatum prosperity index, Canada has stolen the title "Land of the Free" from the United States. 94 percent of Canadians are satisfied with their freedom of choice, compared with only 87 percent of Americans. In fact, the U.S. ranks 15 in the personal freedoms category.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.