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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Looking at Brexit Situation; Discussion of the Recent Movement Toward Nationalism. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 10, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:25] 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.
Today on the show. Under pressure. Saudi Arabia is under increasing pressure to come clean on the death of Jamal Khashoggi. This week Trump's nominee to be ambassador to the kingdom called for accountability. And a U.N. council called for all available information to be disclosed. Will it mean anything?
Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure politically and legally. An indictment is looming and he might lose power in next month's election. Can he pull off a victory?
And with the deadline for Brexit looming British Prime Minister May, too, is under pressure. A major vote this week in parliament will tell a lot as the final deadline looms just 19 days away. Tick tock. Tick tock.
But first here's my take. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report which is expected to be delivered to the attorney general soon will end up being a great test of American democracy.
How will we handle it in a nakedly partisan fashion? Or as a way to bolster our constitutional system?
It's been much noted that we are now living in an era of illiberal democracy. Popularly elected governments and leaders, and countries as varied as Venezuela, Poland, Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines are undermining independent institutions, violating important norms and accumulating unbridled power.
In America the story is mixed. The political system has functioned poorly. Checking President Trump's excesses only along partisan lines. On the other hand some American institutions have pushed back. The judiciary has maintained its independence. The FBI and the other organs of the Justice Department have demonstrated that they serve the country and Constitution above the current occupant of the White House. The press has by and large been able to withstand the extraordinary pressure of a president who almost daily attacks it.
But the greatest check on Trump has surely been the public itself. Placing some limits on the president's behavior by voting in the midterms and expressing itself through opinion polls and protest. My faith in people power has been strengthened in watching events
7,000 miles away in India. There too are democratically elected leader, Narendra Modi, has accumulated power in ways that have been at times authoritarian. In this case the pressure he exerted on the bureaucracy and the judiciary often worked. So did his intimidation of the press which while once fiery and free has essentially become a handmaiden of his party, the BJP. And yet the BJP recently received a drubbing at the ballot box. Despite commanding advantages with media coverage, money and local officials, India's dominant party lost several key state elections a few months ago. Why? In a word, diversity.
In a new book his quarter-century observations of Indian politics, Ruchir Sharma notes that the dominant reality of Indian politics is diversity. India is comprised of dozens of different linguistic communities, ethnic groups, castes, tribes and classes. Sharma cites the head of a large consumer products company who explained that his company divides India into 14 sub-regions because of its dizzying diversity. That compares with the 20 countries of the Middle East, which get put by the company into just four groups.
This diversity has proved to be India's greatest strength as a democracy, ensuring that no one party gets too big for its boots. In the upcoming national election, Modi has immense advantages -- money, a large parliamentary majority, a fawning media, and a slew of expansive populist spending programs to buy people's votes. Even then, recent polls indicated his coalition would fall short of a majority.
Things have changed because of India's military tit-for-tat with Pakistan, which Modi has used to push an aggressively nationalist line. This strategy might work, but still, he will likely return to office with a reduced majority.
In their book "How Democracies Die," Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt make the case that diversity helps forge the culture of compromise and tolerance that is crucial to democracy's success.
[10:05:05] They argue, for example, that the Republican Party has become so rigid, intolerant and abusive of this norm in part because it has become an ethnically and racially homogeneous party.
Most western countries are going to become more diverse. That is simply demographic reality. India demonstrates how that diversity, if embraced and celebrated, could actually help rescue and strengthen democracy.
For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
In a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill Senator Marco Rubio claimed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had gone full gangster. In the hot seat was President Trump's nominee to be ambassador in Riyadh, retired General John Abizaid. The general called for Saudi Arabia to be held accountable for the Khashoggi killing but also repeatedly reminded senators of the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
Joining me now is Ali Shihabi who was featured in my latest special report, "SAUDI ARABIA: KINGDOM OF SECRETS." He is the founder of the Arabia Foundation, a pro-Saudi think tank based in Washington.
Ali, what do you make of this kind of rhetoric coming from Marco Rubio, an ally of the president, strong foreign policy senator? It does feels like the mood -- the attitude toward Saudi Arabia among key Republican senators has really changed.
ALI SHIHABI, FOUNDER, THE ARABIA FOUNDATION: Well, it clearly has. I think what they're all missing is that Saudi Arabia has had to go through a period of wrenching change in the last two years. Wrenching change from above in any society throughout history is extremely dangerous, and the Saudi government has gotten more authoritarian over the last two years, hoping to keep the ship together, which they have so far succeeded very well actually.
You haven't had street demonstrations. You have not terrorism. You haven't had any sort of popular negative reaction to the tremendous change that's being imposed on them. Particularly the, you know, empowering women, not just letting them drive, but bringing them fully into the workforce, something that was very unpopular with the reactionary right.
But change in a very polarized society, Fareed, is very, very dangerous. And yes, so the government has gotten more authoritarian. Now has there been elements of overreach? Certainly. I mean, with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, with the arrests of the women, there has been overreach. And I think the government realizes that.
But, you know, with the speed and with everything that's been done, they made some mistakes, some serious mistakes coming along the way. But that's what happens when you have change.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about a specific one which puzzles me which is the case of this U.S. doctor, Walid Fitaihi, who has -- you know, we now know was arrested, was thrown in the Ritz Carlton, then sent to a regular Saudi jail. Apparently has been tortured.
What strikes me as bizarre by this, there are no charges, no public discussion of it. The U.S. seems to -- the Trump administration does not seem to be pressing particularly hard. What I'm puzzled by again is the brutality, the torture for a regime that used to always describe itself as not, you know, being particularly repressive in that sense.
Why would they do this to an American citizen? Why would they do this during the Trump administration, which has given Saudi Arabia a kind of carte blanche and a huge bear hug. It seems an insult and a rebuke to an administration -- American administration that's been very supportive of them.
SHIHABI: Well, he's a Saudi citizen also.
ZAKARIA: Well, he has dual citizenship. And he holds both passports. SHIHABI: Yes. I mean, under international law, you know, when you're
a U.S. citizen, when you're in either country you are considered a citizen of that country.
ZAKARIA: I'm not talking about the legality of it, Ali. I'm talking about, why would you -- why would you disrespect the Trump administration by doing this?
SHIHABI: Well, I don't think they see it as such. But, you know, Fareed, one of the problems, structural problems Saudi Arabia has is that under Saudi law, Sharia law, you are not allowed to name and shame, so to speak, somebody when they are arrested or even when they're indicted. You're only allowed to do that after judgment comes out.
What happens, though, is you enter the unfortunate situation where you have a lot of people who are in jail and yet nobody knows why they're in jail. And I think the Saudi government is going to have to change that, do something about that where they come out with a detailed charge sheet that says here is why we have arrested so and so. Now you may agree or disagree with it. But at least they will have justified why from their perspective they see such actions as necessary.
[10:10:09] Now frankly there's total confusion about him. I don't know much about Doctor Fitaihi. It seems very unfortunate. But there must be some story about him that the government has not come out and explained. And they should do that really because they're paying a very heavy price and nobody is giving them any benefit of the doubt.
ZAKARIA: The same reports of torture, by the way, which are very credible, have come out about these women activists who advocated the very lifting of the driving ban that was then instituted. And again, you know, I'm sure you're going to say it's overreach. It does feel like Saudi Arabia is turning into much more of a kind of traditional Middle Eastern authoritarian police state where this kind of things are routine.
SHIHABI: Well, I don't think they're routine. If those -- you know, if that information about the women is correct, it is shocking and has shocked Saudi society also, particularly since they're women.
ZAKARIA: Why isn't the crown prince doing something that announces, you know, a reform of the system, a clean up or something to -- it feels to me at least like they're paralyzed right now. There's all this -- you know, in the entire Western world certainly and in some other Democratic countries as well, a great deal of anxiety, maybe even hostility towards Saudi Arabia based on these reports that are coming out, Khashoggi, the torture. And from Saudi Arabia you hear nothing.
SHIHABI: Well, I mean, you haven't heard nothing. You've had a lot of senior people who have been removed. You have people who are being tried. You've had an open trial on the Khashoggi case where foreign diplomats were invited to attend the trial. But having said that also, there is a sensitivity to behaving like you are just reacting to Western pressure. You know, there's a flip side to that within the kingdom and within particularly the more conservative communities, where that goes on very badly with them. So I think they also have to manage that process to make sure that they don't look like they're just jumping whenever, you know, America or Europe says jump.
ZAKARIA: Ali Shihabi, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.
SHIHABI: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: If you missed my latest special report or if you want to see it again, I've got good news. "SAUDI ARABIA: KINGDOM OF SECRETS" will air tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
And next on GPS from Saudi Arabia to Israel, we'll talk about Bibi Netanyahu's problems, legal and political, when we come back.
[10:17:04] ZAKARIA: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political career is on the line in two different ways. First there are the looming indictments announced by Israel's attorney general. He said that Mr. Netanyahu would be charged with bribery and breach of trust. Then there are Bibi's political headaches.
Mister Netanyahu has publicly courted the support of far, far right parties in Israel. He's believed to be going to the extremes on his right flank because he has a formidable challenger on his left flank, Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief. Mr. Netanyahu faces an uphill battle with Gantz's coalition in next month's election.
Joining me now from Israel, Tal Schneider is the diplomatic and political correspondent for "The Globes" newspaper and Eli Hazan is the foreign affairs director for Netanyahu's Likud Party.
Tal Schneider, let me ask you, how serious are these charges and what is the likely course? Because we've been hearing about them for a while. But this is it now. This is the formal charge.
TAL SCHNEIDER, DIPLOMATIC AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, GLOBES: Obviously the charges are very grim. Bribery is up to 10 years in jail. And as you may know bribery in public officials, it's a very grave indictment. Netanyahu is up for indictment. Obviously there was another procedure in which he may come to the attorney general and claim -- put some, you know, claims forward. But having said that, the fact that the attorney general has made up his mind and already put the charges on is very, very serious. And it's -- I think it's hurting his situation. It's hurting his campaign. Not entirely, but it has an effect on the Israeli people.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Hazan, when one looks at this, you know, there have been so many charges about Mr. Netanyahu and there have been so many accusations of corruption and, you know, some of them he has been cleared of. But there is this swirl of charges about it. Is it -- I mean, does the Likud Party at some point feel that this is -- it's not worth the controversy? ELI HAZAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, LIKUD PARTY: No. We believe
strongly that this is a political persecution. Let's make clear in the numbers. Netanyahu since 1997 had to deal with 19 investigations, accusations, allegations. Sixteen out of 19 of them ended up with nothing. And we truly believe that doing the hearing -- in Israel the process is that you have a hearing before the trial. Netanyahu will peel down all those allegations.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Tal Schneider, on the political side you do have Benny Gantz seems to be gaining ground. And historically when one looks at -- I think Martin Indyk pointed this one. When one looks at Likud prime ministers they tend only to lose out to popular generals who are able to put together a left of center coalition which is exactly what Benny Gantz has done.
[10:20:06] SCHNEIDER: OK. So the polls, the (INAUDIBLE) is showing that Benny Gantz is actually leading on the prime minister. And also he has a good job performance polling that saying that he has the ability to serve as the prime minister.
Netanyahu hasn't faced anyone that strong for a decade. Netanyahu campaign is claiming that they are lefties and weak. And the Israeli public, you know, when they see these ideas, I don't think they take it as someone who can be portrayed as weak or, you know, whimsy or too lefty, too liberals. It's not working with the generals.
So that's Netanyahu's main problem. His campaign slogan are aimed towards the right wing but he's unwilling or he's not even trying to grab some more mandates from the center or the center of the Israeli population. And he sticks to his right wing like you mentioned at the beginning. He doesn't even try to convince the center.
ZAKARIA: Eli, if the left is liberal for generals, Bibi is going pretty far right looking for support. He has gone so far right that he is being denounced by many, many previously strong supporters in the United States. I think even AIPAC has expressed dismay over this latest move. Isn't it a sign of a kind of amorality that he will just go anywhere to try and find allies?
HAZAN: No, not at all. You have to understand that we are quite concerned about the establishment of a left-wing government in Israel. We want to increase the chances in order to win. Of course we respect the criticism of the people, especially from AIPAC, but they have to understand that this is either a right-wing government or a left-wing government.
And I want to remind one more thing. We are concerned about left-wing government that will be supported by Arab and (INAUDIBLE) who support terrorism. And that is the question for us.
ZAKARIA: All right. We'll surely come back to the issue. Thank you both.
SCHNEIDER: Thank you.
HAZAN: Thank you. ZAKARIA: Next on GPS angry protesters out on the streets in capitals
around the Middle East. Is Arab spring 2.0 coming on? We'll explain when we come back.
[10:26:17] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Masses of young people have flooded the streets of Algiers in recent weeks to protest the regime of an aging, infirmed president who despite having had a stroke in 2013 is seeking his fifth term in office.
The tensions in Algeria are not isolated. They symbolize the problems that still plagued the Middle East. Algeria's 82-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika is so ill, "The Times" notes, his framed photo replaces his actual presence at most government rallies. That's an apt metaphor for his rule which is little more than a front for the cabal of generals and politicians that wields power behind the scenes.
In marked contrast to their leader, over two-thirds of Algeria's 40 million people are under 30 and they have reason to be angry. Twenty- eight percent of young Algerians are unemployed. And that figure actually rises for college graduates according to Bloomberg. As the journalist Rana Sweis pointed out to the "New York Times," these dynamics extend throughout the region.
Sudan's Omar al-Bashir is 75 and currently besieged by mass protests that threaten to topple his own brutal regime. The Tunisian president is 92. The Palestinian president is 83. Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a relatively spritely 64, but he has just muscled through parliament a constitutional amendment that could keep him in power until 2034 at which point he will be 80 years old.
Even when the leaders themselves are not long in the tooth, their regimes are stale relics, often brutal and woefully out of synch with the people they serve. And those people are overwhelmingly young. The median age across the region is just 24. In the early (INAUDIBLE) the Middle East had the highest proportion of young people in the world. Even now there are isolated baby booms.
Iraq is growing by one million people a year. And almost 40 percent of its population is 14 and under according to the FT. But all these young people are coming of age in economies that seem to have no place for them. As a region the Middle East and North Africa has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world estimated at around 25 percent, according to the IMF. And the U.N. notes that by 2030 the region's workforce will have 39 million more young people to absorb.
Those who can are leaving. Excluding the wealthy Gulf countries, net migration from the region was 8.4 million between 2000 and 2015 according to Brookings.
So what's driving these dynamics? Well, in 2014 when oil prices fell dramatically governments were gradually forced to rein in spending and cut jobs in the public sector. As the political scientist Mark (INAUDIBLE) notes in the "Washington Post" in the past two years sporadic protests often sparked by some economic malaise have broken out from Algeria to Iran, Morocco to Iraq.
So with all this, I'll ask the inevitable question, are we seeing the next Arab spring? It's far too early to say but even if we were to see massive protest across the region, it would be a mistake to assume that translates to full-fledged democracy. Around the world autocrats do tend to win acquiescence from their people as long as they deliver stability and prosperity. But most Arab leaders provide no democracy, no growth, no social mobility, nothing. And with lots of young people, especially young men, angry that their lives are not improving, this is a dam that could one day burst.
Next on GPS, tick tock, do you hear the sound, Prime Minister May? The clock is ticking louder and louder. The Brexit deadline is almost here and the British parliament holds a key vote on Tuesday.
ZAKARIA:What will happen? When we come back.
ZAKARIA: On Tuesday the British parliament will vote on Prime Minister May's Brexit plan. If it feels like that has already happened, well, it did two months ago, and the vote was strongly against her plan. But she went back to the drawing board.
More importantly, perhaps, there is a huge deadline looming, just 29 days away. March 29 is when Britain is set to leave the Union. So what happens on Tuesday?
Joining me are two sharp observers. George Osborne was the chancellor of the Exchequer, Britain's finance minister. He is now the editor of the Evening Standard. And Anne Appelbaum is a Washington Post columnist and a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian.
Anne, let me ask you, when people look back and ask why did Britain go down this bizarre path of -- what seems to many people to be a bizarre path? You know, when you write a history of this 20 years from now, what will you say? What is the -- what is the meta-explanation here?
APPELBAUM: Well, if you want the meta-explanation for why Brexit has -- seems to have completely crashed the British political system, I think you need to look really carefully at the Tory party. This was a party that really was one of the most important leading political forces in the world through the 1980s, even the 1990s.
And yet, in the last several years, it's experienced something like a crisis of confidence. Where is it going? What's it for? Is it just a technocratic party?
And I think Brexit looked to a lot of people in the party like an opportunity to be once again radical and to once again be cutting- edge. Unfortunately, they weren't really prepared intellectually or in any other way, the country wasn't prepared bureaucratically, to carry this out.
And so what you have is a paralysis which is really extraordinary. The country -- a Spanish politician said to me a couple of days ago, you know, "This was the country we looked up to" -- you know, "This is the country that's the mother of parliaments; these were the most competent politicians; these were the people who knew what they were doing."
And suddenly, they seem really unable to move beyond this vote that, as you say, we've now had once; we're going to have it again. And we may have it a third time before we're done.
ZAKARIA: George Osborne, you were at the center of that crisis that Anne Appelbaum describes, with the Tory party. Your prime minister, decided against your advice, to hold a referendum. Is it -- is Anne's critique correct?
I mean, my amplification of it would be probably you were dealing with the reality that Tony Blair had moved the Labor Party away from a kind of hard-left socialism, taking over some of the center ground that the Tories used to have. And so there were some Tories -- there was a part of the Tory party that -- that, as Anne said, had to find some place to go that was sharp, radical, different, so that it didn't feel like there was this kind of mushy middle between Tony Blair and David Cameron's centrism?
OSBORNE: Well, I would add to what Anne says and your characterization, Fareed, by making a couple of observations. I mean, first of all, Britain is an island off the continent of Europe whose entire history has been defined around this question of our relationship with our near neighbors.
And second, like many other Western democracies at the moment, we are wrestling with that question of, sort of, sovereignty and control versus globalization and collective global action, which, of course, rages as a debate in the United States.
And in having a referendum, we enabled a group to emerge who said, "Look, if we're in control of our laws and we're in control of our borders, we can stop immigrants coming in and Britain can be economically stronger."
The reverse is the case. Britain is already economically weaker, and we haven't left yet. And I think what you're seeing over the next few days is, again, that promise of Brexit colliding with the reality of Brexit. And when faced with that, either you compromise and accept that you told the British people a set of things that were not deliverable or you go on refusing to do that and the, kind of, political crisis continues.
And I would say the political crisis continuing is the most likely option. There are other options. And the most likely outcome of all these votes that we're about to have in the British Parliament is once again to delay. It's not heroic, but it's the one thing that most people can agree on.
ZAKARIA: Anne Appelbaum, do you agree with that?
It seems to me that Theresa May is playing a game of chicken, really, with the hard-line Brexiteers, in saying, "You know, I'm going to take you as close as we can get to the deadline and then you face two options; either we just plunge off this cliff or you accept my muddled, negotiated soft Brexit?"
APPELBAUM: Yes, I think the trouble is that there are a lot of people who have now talked themselves into believing it would be better to plunge off the cliff. And we've had a very odd -- politics in the last few weeks have been very odd, where, at one point the government was saying, "Well, you know, no deal is better than a bad deal," and now they've quickly reversed and said, "No, actually, we want to avoid no deal at all costs."
And I'm told people in the government are briefing senior business people in London and telling them, "Don't worry, we're going to avoid doing that."
So -- so, you know, it's an even weirder story, you know, in which they put forward one policy; they back-pedal as they discover it doesn't work; they put forward another one and then change that. There's still no clear plan. We still don't really know what Theresa May will do. Will she let the country slide towards no deal, although it's been promised otherwise? Or will she try to prevent it?
I mean, it's a -- it's not so much a game of chicken; it's, kind of, flailing, trying one plan, trying another plan, just to see if anything can stick.
ZAKARIA: George, right, it seemed until maybe very recently that there were healthy majorities in the British parliament against everything; that is to say, against a hard Brexit, against a soft Brexit and against a second referendum.
Is -- you know, are the odds of a second referendum creeping up? Is it possible, with Labor Party now saying they're in favor of it, that you could have the thing that Tony Blair has been advocating from the start, which is to say to the British people, "Look, you've now had a chance to really think about this; do you really want it?"
OSBORNE: I think, as I say, before we get to that point, if we get to it, the thing that most people are going to agree on is let's put off this difficult question. I mean, for many years, as the country's finance minister, I saw the Greek euro crisis firsthand. And I was in plenty of meetings where I was told "We have to reach a decision." And then the decision at three in the morning is "Let's meet again in six month's time."
So although it is the legally mandated position in the law of this country and in the international treaty with the E.U. that we leave in three weeks' time, which is what's causing a lot of disturbance, obviously, amongst the businesses of this country as they have to plan for that contingency, the only way to stop it is to find a majority for something else.
There is a majority for something else. It's just not clear what. And that's why, I think, people will coalesce around the delay option. Because those who either want a second referendum, those who want a softer form of Brexit, a, kind of, Norway-style Brexit, they're all going to find that the one thing they all agree on is that a delay would suit their cause.
And that's why I think a delay opens up. Personally I don't think it's a bad thing. I think allowing the country to continue to consider the biggest question it's faced probably since the Second World War is a good thing. Because clearly there is not a majority in this country for any one clear course of action. And so that is what I think is most likely to come out of next week.
I'd make one other observation. If you're a fan of William Shakespeare, this is -- this is also about power, and "the crown is on the ground." The prime minister is not going to fight the next election for her party. Everyone is pretty clear she's going to go this year. So people's positions in this debate are also dictated by where they think they're going to be in a future contest for the crown, for the leadership of the Conservative Party. And what that means at the moment is the leadership of the country.
ZAKARIA: Fascinating ongoing conversation. I'm sure we will have you guys on to explain the next twist in this -- in this saga. Thank you both.
Up next, Brexit was spurred on at least in large part by a fear of others. Donald Trump makes a lot of political hay by stirring up a fear of others. Why is it that this "us versus them" construct is so powerful?
My next guest, a Stanford professor, says it is hard-wired into our brains. A fascinating conversation, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Nationalism brought us Brexit. It also ushered in Donald Trump. It threatens the stability of the entire European project. And it has allowed for the rise of autocrats around the world. The question is why? Why nationalism?
My next guest answers the question in a brilliant new Foreign Affairs article, "This Is Your Brain on Nationalism." Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford.
SAPOLSKY: Well, thanks for having me on.
ZAKARIA: So you say that the idea of, sort of, separating ourselves into, kind of -- from an "us versus a them," finding another to dislike, is almost hard-wired into our brains. Explain.
SAPOLSKY: When you look at the neurobiology of how we process "uses versus them," there's some incredibly hard-wired stuff going on. Flash up faces of people that somebody has categorized as either an "in group" or an "out group" and, in a fraction of a second, your brain is differentiating between them. If it's a "them," parts of your brain that are related to fear, aggression, disgust, activate. Parts of your brains that normally process faces don't activate as much as normal. Parts of your brain related to empathy don't activate as much as normal, if it's a "them." We've got this gigantic fault line in our heads as to who counts as an "in group" member, who evokes empathy, who evokes concern and who's a "them" who just gets us bristling.
ZAKARIA: And you talk about how it's very easy, as a result of this dynamic, to scape-goat. You say scape-goating is a, kind of, very human response?
SAPOLSKY: Well, one of the more interesting parts of the brain that's pertinent to this, an area called the insula -- the insula, if you're a normal mammal, what it does is tell you if you've bitten into some disgusting food. It keeps you from getting poisoned. And in humans it does that, but in addition it also activates at morally disgusting acts, at people whose actions we consider to be disgusting.
What it does is give this tremendous viscera to who we think is appallingly different. And what that winds up meaning is we're incredibly easy to propagandize into "thems" as vermin, "thems" as malignancies, "thems" as cockroaches, all these historical examples of genocides being built around, sort of, dehumanizing "thems."
And, basically, if you're some autocratic tyrant, if you can get your followers to activate the insular cortex as soon as they contemplate the "thems," you've just checked off half of your to-do list on your, like, ethnic cleansing shopping list.
ZAKARIA: You know, you've studied this all, you know, very deeply. But you also talk about how you -- you've come to this even personally. You grew up in a very small, insular Jewish community that was suspicious often of the outside world. Is this something that one can do anything about?
SAPOLSKY: Well, there's -- there's some good news lurking in there. It's some very fragile good news. But it's one of the ways in which we're different from your typical chimp or baboon going about an "us- them" dichotomy. We belong to multiple groups. We belong to multiple groups, and thus we have multiple "thems" in our heads. And who counts as a "them" could change in a fraction of a second.
ZAKARIA: So the hope is that we, kind of, embrace the idea that everybody has multiple identities; we're -- we belong to many different groups, that no one can -- you know, people can't just be put into a box. Is that right?
SAPOLSKY: Well, the hope is that could be used for good. Of course, we have no shortage of examples of it being used for the worst. During the Rwandan genocide, Tutsi and Hutu people there, who had been neighbors for years, suddenly a neighbor, a classmate, a student, a parishioner, all of those were transformed into a "them," thanks to the propaganda of that. Insofar as we are a smart species that can juggle lots of categories in our heads at once, we are species that could be terribly vulnerable to manipulation.
I think it's fair to say we are fairly hard-wired into dividing the world into "uses" and "thems" and not being very thrilled about the "thems." But who counts as an "us" and who counts as a "them" could change in a fraction of a second. ZAKARIA: Wow, sobering stuff. Professor Sapolsky, pleasure to have
you on. Thank you.
SAPOLSKY: Well, thanks for having me on.
ZAKARIA: And we'll be right back.
ZAKARIA: With our smart phones in our pockets, most of us can almost always be tracked. Many have made peace with this technological bargain, but being trackable is not good at all if you are a soldier. It brings me to my question. Which nation just passed a law banning soldiers from using smart phones while on duty: China, Turkey, Russia or the United States? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
My book of the week is Raghuram Rajan's "The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind." From the man who predicted the global financial crisis, then went on to become India's central banker, comes a book that is surprisingly about what's missing in economics today.
Beyond the market and the state, there is the community which has been forgotten and needs to be rebuilt. This is a very important book that could change our way of thinking.
And now for the last look. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi led to much hand-wringing and soul-searching in Western capitals. The question was how to react to this grievous crime? Though most governments were reluctant to impose serious punishment, Germany decided to take a clear stand against Saudi Arabia. This week it extended until the end of this month a unilateral embargo of arms export to the Kingdom, a ban that was first declared in the aftermath of the Khashoggi killing.
Although some have applauded Germany's stance as principled, it is wreaking havoc on the defense industry across Europe. According to a fascinating report from Reuters, German components used in military equipment made in countries like France and the U.K. are blocking them from dealing with the Saudis as well.
Take this euro fighter Typhoon war plane, for example. Although it's British-made, one-third of its components are German. And because of that, a $13 billion deal between the U.K. and Saudi Arabia is now in jeopardy. These European-made Meteor missiles that the Saudis want, Deutsche Welle says planned exports to Saudi Arabia have also been frozen because they too include German components.
The situation has led some European defense contractors to seek out replacements for German parts, but Reuters says that isn't always an option. This has created tension between countries keen to rake in Saudi cash and Germany, which so far refused to deal with the Kingdom until the human rights concerns were addressed.
The answer to my "GPS" challenge is C. This week Russia's President Putin signed a law banning soldiers from using smart phones during their deployments or even from posting anything online regarding their military units at all, for fear of military secrets falling into foreign hands.
The new law follows a series of reports from investigative outlet Bellingcat that used open-source data like social media to prove that Russian troops were in Ukraine, despite government denials to the contrary. Of course Russia is not the only country limiting the tech use of its troops. The Pentagon has forbidden deployed troops from using certain technology, including even fitness trackers and dating apps that have geolocation tools. Finally, something the American and Russian military agree on.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.