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CNN Special Reports

CNN Special Report: How The World Sees America. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 11, 2020 - 21:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: His family says prior to COVID he was healthy, he exercise. He took the virus seriously, always wearing a mask. Duane was 61 years old.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN special report.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST (voice-over): April 1945, World War II with America and Britain just inches from victory. Winston Churchill surveys the battlefield. There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, he said, fighting without them.

Winston Churchill meet Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our plan will put America first.

EVAN OSNOS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Our friends in the world they're laughing at us.

CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: I don't care about friends. I don't care about allies.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, NEW AMERICA CEO: We fought wars with them. We bled and died with them.

ZAKARIA: America turns inward away from the world.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: And the United States is just taken its marbles and gone home.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE": We've actually become a real object of pity and scorn.

ZAKARIA: No longer the indispensable nation.

SLAUGHTER: I just don't recognize my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not who we think we are.

ZAKARIA: A president insulting allies.

TRUMP: In France they have all sorts of problems. Germany is a disaster.

OSNOS: Leaders like Merkel and Macron, you know, they tried to work with Trump.

FRIEDMAN: He views every foreign relationship as if that country is renting space in Trump Tower.

ZAKARIA: A president embracing tyrants.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters, we fell in love.

SLAUGHTER: He does admire strong men.

ZAKARIA: Are shocked word watches. The great retreat.

RICE: We have seen in the battlefield.

BILDT: The United States is a bit absent.

ZAKARIA: Meanwhile, another power rises.

SLAUGHTER: China's returning to the global stage.

ZAKARIA: Then a killer virus shakes the global order.

SLAUGHTER: The dysfunction, the death.

RICE: Of all the developed countries in the world, the worst, more deaths, more infections.

OSNOS: A cascade of mistakes.

ZAKARIA: What happens to the world without America at the wheel?

FRIEDMAN: We're in very big trouble.

ZAKARIA (on camera): Good evening. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

After four years of the Trump presidency, what does the world make of America today? It's a question Americans might shy away from asking for fear of the answer.

But we must ask, because we're living through a great transition. Americans are already voting for the next president, even in the midst of a pandemic. Even as the President himself has been sick with COVID- 19.

We used to know exactly who we were. The planet's sole superpower with the strongest alliances in the history of the world. If that is no longer true, who are we?

If we needed our allies, would they stand beside us now? Or is America first America alone?

(voice-over): Our story begins in London, December of last year, Donald Trump arriving in Britain for a high stakes NATO Summit. He had left behind the Washington and turmoil, impeachment hearings were just beginning.

PAMELA S. KARLAN, STANFORD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Article II does not give him the power to do anything he wants.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): What a disgrace to this Committee.

ZAKARIA: Passionate arguments about high crimes and misdemeanors. In London, the mood was tense. Trump had alienated many of Europe's power brokers.

France's Emmanuel Macron had embraced Trump at first.

TRUMP: We do have a very special relationship. In fact, I'll get that little piece of dandruff off.

ZAKARIA: Now, amid threats of a trade war, relations had turned to ISIS.

TRUMP: Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?

ZAKARIA: Germany's Angela Merkel had little patience for the American President.

Boris Johnson of the U.K. appeared friendly, but hadn't always been.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I think Donald Trump is clearly out of his mind. He's betraying a quite stupefying ignorance.

ZAKARIA: Now the Queen was holding a reception for NATO leaders at Buckingham Palace.


The mood grew edgy as everyone waited.

Donald Trump was late.

One group of leaders was enjoying itself. Canada's Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Princess Anne, and Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister. They were caught in a hot mic moment, making fun of the American president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that's why he's late.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: He was late because he takes a forty-minute press conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were essentially laughing at the U.S. president there. That's remarkable.

ZAKARIA: The President of the United States, the most powerful country in the world, being mocked by some of its own staunchest allies.

SLAUGHTER: How low can we go? How far can we fall? We are the United States of America. We're being laughed at.

OSNOS: Donald Trump ran for office saying that other countries were laughing at us and that they wouldn't laugh at us anymore.

TRUMP: They're laughing at us. We don't know what we're doing.

They're laughing at us because they think we're stupid.

OSNOS: In that image what we saw was in fact, actually the literal exhibit of what he was talking about. How did that happen?

FRIEDMAN: I think the world doesn't know what to make of us anymore. And for the first time, we've actually become frightening for people.

ZAKARIA: Diplomats and experts alike have come to the same judgment.

RICE: Donald Trump's effect on America, standing in the world has been nothing short of disastrous.

BILDT: Donald Trump introduced an element of brutality and vulgarity.

This is not the way we are supposed to run decent democratic societies.

FRIEDMAN: We're in very big trouble. I'm terribly worried. I feel like we need to sort of find a bench, sit down, clear our head, remember who we are, how we got here.

ZAKARIA: It wasn't so long ago that we were the world's great superpower.


ZAKARIA: The United States led the world in a titanic struggle against Soviet communism.

REAGAN: We meant to change our nation. And instead, we changed the world.

ZAKARIA: Reagan saw the Soviets as an evil empire and America as a shining city on a hill.

REAGAN: Up to 200 years, two centuries, she's still standing strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow is held steady no matter what storm.

ZAKARIA: When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 it brought the Cold War down with it. Decades of nuclear fears began to fade. As joyous Germans tore the wall apart with their bare hands.

The final blow came in 1991. The flag of the Soviet Union was lowered for the final time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That era comes to an end. ZAKARIA: America was the last superpower left standing. And that was the world we got used to. America striding it like a colossus. Making war. Making peace.

That lofty vision of America has changed radically.

TRUMP: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America First.

FRIEDMAN: Get off my lawn. That really is Trump's message to the world. Get the hell off my lawn.

ZAKARIA: To Trump, the enemy is globalism.

TRUMP: Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.

ZAKARIA: When Trump talks about how much he hates globalism, what he really means is why do we have so many agreements with other countries? To him, they're only winners and losers. You make a deal. You give up something.

FRIEDMAN: Trump, he is a real estate tycoon and a marketing guy. And so he views every foreign relationship as if that country is renting space in Trump Tower.


He thinks anything that is multilateral means he's giving away rent for free.

ZAKARIA: As President, Trump has walked away from more international deals than any president in history.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

ZAKARIA: There was the nuclear deal with Iran.

TRUMP: The Iran deal is defective at its core.

ZAKARIA: The Paris Climate accords.

TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.

RICE: What we've said to the world is, you can't make a deal with the United States and have confidence that that deal will endure beyond the life of any given administration. Think how deadly and dangerous that is.

ZAKARIA: Trump has taken an axe to almost every foreign trade deal created by his predecessors.


ZAKARIA: He killed off Obama's proposed Trans Pacific Partnership. He replaced Bill Clinton's NAFTA.

TRUMP: We are the piggy bank to the world.

ZAKARIA: He believes the world is stealing America blind. It has been an obsession with Trump for decades.

This interview with Oprah was done 32 years ago.

OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST: You took out a full-page ad in major U.S. newspapers last year criticizing U.S. foreign policy, what would you do differently, Donald?

TRUMP: I'd make our allies, forgetting about the enemies, the enemies you can talk to so easily. I'd make our allies pay their fair share. And yet we let Japan come in and dump everything right into our markets. It's not free trade.

WINFREY: This sounds like political presidential talk to me. And I know people have talked to you about whether or not you want to run. Would you ever?

TRUMP: Probably not.

ZAKARIA: Trump's sharpest xenophobia is ironically not aimed at America's enemies, but rather at its closest allies, the countries of NATO. Many of whose soldiers have fought and died in American led wars for 70 years.

TRUMP: NATO is obsolete. It's old, it's fat, it's sloppy.

ZAKARIA: Even before NATO leaders were caught mocking Trump, the resentment was plain. He has even broached the idea of America quitting NATO.

SLAUGHTER: That would in my view, be a true disaster. We fundamentally feel these are our allies. We fought wars with them. We bled and died with them.

FRIEDMAN: Trump has no memory of landing on Normandy beach on D day.

BILDT: Donald Trump really made clear from very early on, I don't care about friends. I don't care about allies. That was profoundly shocking.

ZAKARIA: Even as Donald Trump pushes away allies, perhaps the most striking aspect of his foreign policy is his embrace of a bunch of dictators.

His first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia.

He cemented his friendship with the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

When the CIA revealed that NBS had directed the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump simply ignored it. TRUMP: He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator.

ZAKARIA: It's not entirely clear what Trump's friendship with Kim Jong-un accomplished.

TRUMP: We fell in love.

ZAKARIA: Amid mounting evidence that the young leader has continued to build his nuclear arsenal.

Then, there is Putin.

OSNOS: We've spent years as a country reckoning with this question of why Donald Trump is so singularly deferential, admiring submissive in the face of Vladimir Putin.

ZAKARIA: Even now, the FBI says Vladimir Putin is trying to manipulate the presidential election, just as he did in 2016.

TRUMP: Russia, Russia, Russia.

ZAKARIA: This frightening reality elicits not one word of objection from the President.

TRUMP: Russia. Russia is looking at our election. Russia. It's -- Here we go again. Russia, Russia, Russia.

ZAKARIA: There is one utterly puzzling moment that seems to sum it up, the Helsinki summit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you now with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016? And would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader actually (ph) that I've ever seen.


ZAKARIA: Reaction at home was swift and fierce.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think he's imperative that he understand that he's misjudging Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin. What the hell is going on?

ZAKARIA: For America's allies, alone (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: European leaders, who have been allies of the United States for decades are horrified.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: We're kind of in our Orwellian zone here, where President Trump is essentially saying, all these great friends and allies, the United States, they're now competitors. And he feels free to criticize and it will. And these people over here are adversaries. They're actually friends of ours. It's a world turned upside down.

FRIEDMAN: I'm more worried about America today than I have been in my whole lifetime.

ZAKARIA: It's not just experts, the whole world is worried.

A recent Pew poll ask people in 13 countries, how much they trust the United States and its president. Never in the history of Pew polling, has the U.S. ranked this low.

As for Donald Trump, he has a lower approval rating than Vladimir Putin. And now it seems Putin may have found a new best friend.

We have developed, Putin says proudly, an unprecedented level of trust with China.

Still ahead, while America withdraws from the world --

OSNOS: It was an opportunity.

ZAKARIA: -- China surges ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to sign three memorandums.

ZAKARIA: Three days after he was inaugurated --

TRUMP: We've been talking about this for a long time. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: -- President Trump pulled America out of the largest trade deals in history.

TRUMP: Great thing for the American worker.

ZAKARIA: The Trans Pacific Partnership.

It had been brokered by President Obama, in part to rein in China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have successfully booted the Trans Pacific Partnership.

ZAKARIA: The U.S. and 11 allies, making up 40 percent of the world economy had banded together to blunt Beijing's growing cloud.

OBAMA: If we don't do this trade deal, China will be writing the rules. TRUMP: We're going to keep out of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

ZAKARIA: When Trump left the deal, the Chinese worked through.

Trump has given us a huge gift, a Chinese Major General said.

TRUMP: You can win against China if you're smart.

ZAKARIA: For all of Trump's tough talk --

TRUMP: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country.

ZAKARIA: His retreat from the world has allowed China to surge forward. Forging new alliances, delivering its own martial plan, coming one step closer to becoming a superpower.

This is the story of America First as seen through in China's eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An astounding upset victory Donald J. Trump --

ZAKARIA: November 2016 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amid scandal bluster and insults Donald Trump has won the presidency.

ZAKARIA: Trump's surprise victory --

TRUMP: I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton.

ZAKARIA: -- left China in a state of shock.

TRUMP: They want to take your throat out, they want to cut you apart.

They're ripping us up folks.

We're going to stand up to China.

ZAKARIA: What would Trump do as president?

TRUMP: I beat China all the time.

ZAKARIA: To one of his favorite targets on the campaign trail. The Communist Party enlisted an army of think tanks to study Trump meticulously and soon realized he was someone they could deal with and even manipulate.

They route him with pageantry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump the proud owner of 35 new trademarks in China.

ZAKARIA: They approved valuable rights for his businesses.

TRUMP: It's them, that's the problem.

ZAKARIA: Soon. TRUMP: They've taken advantage of us like nobody in history.

ZAKARIA: China's loudest critic.

TRUMP: I had a very, very good meeting with President Xi.

And I have great respect for him.

We have developed a friendship.

ZAKARIA: Was calling its leader, his friend.

TRUMP: It's going to be only America First.

ZAKARIA: What's more? Trump's abdication of America's leadership.

TRUMP: We're going to do tremendous things for both China and for the United States.

ZAKARIA: Was playing right into China's hands.

OSNOS: This from China's perspective was thrilling. It was an opportunity.

TRUMP: We just officially terminated TPP.

ZAKARIA: As Trump backed out of the Trans Pacific Partnership --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership --

ZAKARIA: -- the Chinese will be moving forward with their own massive trade deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Asset will count for a quarter of global trade.

ZAKARIA: With some of America's allies.

RICE: When we withdraw from the global stage, they can advance their model of global leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A revival of the old Silk Route, the aim is delinked 66 countries.

ZAKARIA: China was also pushing one of the most ambitious diplomatic efforts since World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An extraordinary ambitious move by China.


ZAKARIA: A massive infrastructure plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To loan country's money to build a network of infrastructure projects --

ZAKARIA: Called the Belt and Road Initiative. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This measure is America's answer to the challenge facing the free world today.

ZAKARIA: It's been compared to the Marshall Plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American help to supplement European self-help.

ZAKARIA: When America helped to rebuild postwar Europe --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American resources, machinery, necessities --

ZAKARIA: -- winning over valuable allies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Italian Prime Minister becoming the first G7 leader to back sheet (ph) Belt and Road Initiative.

ZAKARIA: China hopes to do the same thing around the world. Building railways in Kenya, a major port in Pakistan, enormous projects in over 60 countries, costing an estimated $1 trillion.

That's more than seven times bigger than the Marshall Plan.

OSNOS: China arrived in some cases so aggressively that it turned people off.

ZAKARIA: Meanwhile, Trump was telling the world it's America First.

TRUMP: We don't make great deals anymore.

ZAKARIA: His main obsession with China was getting a big, beautiful trade deal.

TRUMP: I promise you that.

ZAKARIA: But confronting the Chinese alone on trade, without enlisting the cloud of America's allies was a costly mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China has countered with its own tariffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Significant income losses will continue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Consumers going to start to notice prices going up.

ZAKARIA: Trump's trade war was mostly paid for by American consumers. And it punished America's businesses more than the Chinese, slashing their stock prices by an estimated $1.7 trillion. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Over 3000 American companies are suing the administration over the tariffs, including household names like Ford and Home Depot.

In January 2020, with the election looming, Trump tried to declare victory, signing a phase one deal with the Chinese.

TRUMP: This is the biggest deal anybody's ever seen. ZAKARIA: But after all of that economic pain, it accomplished hardly any of the administration's main goals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you accept a partial deal, sir?

TRUMP: Well, you have to remember, we've never had an agreement. This is like a free for all. This is a grant agreement.

ZAKARIA: Had Trump challenge China with America's allies, and leverage all of their economic clout, things may have turned out very differently.

FRIEDMAN: What Trump did instead was making it about Trump versus Xi over who is the biggest tariff.

He does not think in alliance terms.

ZAKARIA: In May, in the middle of a pandemic --

TRUMP: We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization.

ZAKARIA: Trump said the U.S. wouldn't leave the World Health Organization, a convenient scapegoat for his own catastrophic response to the virus. The U.N. agency that helped eradicate smallpox, which the U.S. once dominated is now more and more China's domain.



ZAKARIA (voice-over): The United States is the world's leader in science, renowned for its medical expertise. It has the best research universities, top public health institutions and the most Nobel Prize winners in the world.

EVAN OSNOS, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: The United States is the country that people come to for medical treatment if they can afford it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hospitals are facing a crisis.

ZAKARIA: How could this happen here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doctors and nurses now in short supply.

ZAKARIA: The world was shocked by America's response to the worst public health crisis in a century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In New York hospitals have had to bring these refrigerated Lorries in to act as makeshift morgues.

CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: No question it has tarnish the image of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are painter's masks, get us equipment, get us PPE.

ZAKARIA: In the richest country in the world, doctors and nurses on the front line were forced to fend for themselves.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a garbage bag?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a garbage bag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a garbage bag.

ZAKARIA: The United States now has a higher death toll than any other country in the world, including developing nations like Brazil and Mexico. And it's still rising.

OSNOS: What you saw was not just one mistake, but you saw a cascade of mistakes.

ZAKARIA: Historically, it had been America that made donations of medical supplies to the world. Now the U.S. was getting emergency shipments of medical supplies from China, even after the president blamed that country for the crisis. And a planeload of supplies from Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The United States is getting help battling coronavirus from an unlikely source, Russia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a very nice offer from President Putin. And I said, I'll take it.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, NEW AMERICA, CEO: Just imagine what that looks like to the rest of the world.

ZAKARIA: Russia was one of the country's worst hit by the virus. But now Vladimir Putin seems to say, at least we're doing better than the Americans.

In the U.S., he says, politics have been put above the health of the people.

America made its most consequential mistake in February, when it should have begun mass producing COVID-19 tests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we keep hearing, Don, is we're going to ramp up the testing. The question is when, where are the supplies.

ZAKARIA: But testing never got up to speed.

SLAUGHTER: I just don't recognize my country.

ZAKARIA: The CDC's initial test kits will fall too. SLAUGHTER: The dysfunction, the death.

ZAKARIA: The federal government never established a national system to make sure test results came in within 48 hours, the timeframe needed for contact tracing to be effective.


Test was seemingly available to celebrities and sports teams before they got too many frontline workers who needed them.

South Korea reported its first case of COVID-19 one day before the United States. Its COVID death toll under 500. Americas is over 210,000.

It's not just South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, all did far better than America. A key reason of course, was that Donald Trump never took the virus seriously.

TRUMP: It's going to disappear one day, it's like a miracle it will disappear.

The risk to the American people remains very low.

ZAKARIA: He rarely wore a mask in public, even after he got it himself.

TRUMP: Don't let it dominate you.

ZAKARIA: America's failure made headlines around the world.

TRUMP: You see the disinfectant --

ZAKARIA: The single largest driver of coronavirus misinformation, according to one study, was Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's a fake pandemic.

ZAKARIA: Meanwhile, Angela Merkel, a trained scientist, has led Germany through the pandemic armed with facts.

We cannot fight this with lies or hatred, she says. We're seeing the limits of denials and populism.

One of the most shocking aspects of America's failure is that for decades, the U.S. was the leader in the battle against global disease from helping to found the World Health Organization to efforts to combat polio, smallpox, AIDS, and Ebola.

FRIEDMAN: When America puts itself on the sidelines, the world becomes a really much more unstable, less secure and less prosperous place.

ZAKARIA: Trump's decision to pull out of the WHO sparked an international uproar. At the U.N., China appear to chide America.

Major countries said Xi Jinping should act like major countries. Behave responsibly and help the world.

As the world races to find a vaccine, American companies are well positioned to be among the first to develop and deploy one. But even here, the Trump administration has spurned international cooperation. It has refused to join an international vaccine effort involving more than 170 nations.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WHO: We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world.

SUSAN RICE. FORMER NATIONAL U.S. SECURITY ADVISOR: When the United States is a wall, not only do we harm our own interests, but we are failing to bring the world together to act effectively to tackle this challenge. So now, nobody is leading.



ZAKARIA: Long before Donald Trump ever talked America First, back when he was trying to make Atlantic City great again. In the last decade of the 20th century, America reigned supreme.

The 1990s, the dawn of the internet revolution, you got mail.

FRIEDMAN: Not only it seemed like we were inventing the future we were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apple could not turn out small computers fast enough to satisfy demand.

ZAKARIA: An explosion of innovation.


ZAKARIA: An economy that roar.

FRIEDMAN: America seem to have the right formula.

ZAKARIA (on camera): This is the story that came before Donald Trump, how the world's sole superpower began the great squandering of its historic power and status.

As we entered a new century, an American tragedy and a challenge for American power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has all the appearances of an extraordinarily well coordinated and devastating terrorist attack.

OSNOS: In so many ways 9-11 was the beginning of the 21st century. It was the beginning of a very different phase of American power.

ZAKARIA: At first, the U.S. stood strong with friends by its side.

FRIEDMAN: The world really rallied to us after 9-11, Russia and China, certainly Europeans, there was a sense that America was wounded and people knew that wasn't good for the world.

ZAKARIA: With overwhelming international support, the Bush administration went to war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Two years later --

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq.

ZAKARIA: America decided to go to war with Iran, despite allied protest, and to do it largely unilaterally.

RICE: Deliberately done bypass the United Nations. And on the basis of faulty intelligence.

BUSH: You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror

ZAKARIA: Days into operation, Iraqi Freedom, America appeared victorious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will in fact be greeted as liberators.

ZAKARIA: But in a matter of weeks, all hell broke loose. It soon became clear, Washington had gone in with few troops and no plans for post invasion Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate all American.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again. If some boy walking out with a vase and say, Oh my goodness, you didn't have a plan. That's nonsense. They know what they're doing and they're doing a terrific job.

And it's untidy and freedoms untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes.

ZAKARIA: But perhaps the greatest damage to America's credibility was this.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons, factories on wheels and on rails.

ZAKARIA: The intelligence Colin Powell shared with the world was false.


OSNOS: The weapons of mass destruction weren't there. And that revealed a level of disorder, a kind of chaos at the top of American politics.

ZAKARIA: The incompetence of the Bush administration harmed America's reputation in myriad ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abuse that included beatings.

ZAKARIA: So did accusations of war crimes

RICE: Completely undermined our leadership role in the region.

ZAKARIA: The Iraq War raged on for years, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and by some estimates, nearly $2 trillion.

One man who watched closely as the Iraq fiasco weakened the U.S. was Vladimir Putin.

OSNOS: At the very time that the United States was beginning to go out into Iraq and Afghanistan, Vladimir Putin was beginning to try to reestablish in his mind a level of Russian power that hadn't existed in decades.

BUSH: And I look the man in the eye, I was able to get a sense of his soul.

ZAKARIA: For years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia and the U.S. had played night. But Russians had become frustrated with America. There had been no American Marshall Plan for Moscow. Then Washington attacked Russia's allies Serbia, and liberated Kosovo.

It expanded NATO to Russia's borders.


ZAKARIA: And the U.S. invasion of Iraq, without approval from the Security Council, suggested an out of control superpower.

In 2007, the Russian President decided he had had enough and he wanted the world to know.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (via translator): One states the United States has overstepped his national borders in every way. Who would like that?

OSNOS: This was good news coming out. He decided it was time to push back on the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speech was very aggressive.

ZAKARIA: The speech was a turning point. Putin was setting out his opposition to a unipolar world.

(on camera) Did we, in some sense, create Vladimir Putin that kind of revanchist angry Russia?

FRIEDMAN: We didn't create Putin. But we created the conditions where Putin's message is ultra nationalist. The West is out to get us message really resonated with the Russian public.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Then, as if the failed war in Iraq weren't enough to threaten American dominance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Economy say this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

FRIEDMAN: An economic meltdown of catastrophic proportions.

SLAUGHTER: 2008 for many countries around the world, for many leaders around the world was a kind of the emperor has no quotes.

ZAKARIA: The United States was not the economic dynamo the world had thought it was. The implosion of Lehman Brothers and other major banks shook the world's confidence in America system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lehman brokers knew it was doomsday before dawn.

ZAKARIA: Overnight, trillions of dollars in value evaporated, not just for American businesses, but for foreign investors and financial markets across the globe.

SLAUGHTER: It was really something rotten at the core of the American economic system.

ZAKARIA: U.S. unemployment went through the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2008 nearly 1.2 million jobs have disappeared.

ZAKARIA: These two crises, the Iraq and the financial meltdown. One military one economic fueled a sense that America's elites had blown.

It allowed for the rise of a populist demagogue.

TRUMP: We will make America wealthy again.

Strong again.

Proud again.



ZAKARIA: In 1941, in Life Magazine, at the time the dominant media platform in the United States, the famed editor Henry Luce wrote an editorial urging Americans to forsake their old isolationism and embrace their new global responsibilities.

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, he wrote, "this continent teamed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes." Above them all and weaving them all together, into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom.

It is in this spirit, that all of us are called each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision "to create the first great American Century."

So was born a beautiful phrase and a grand concept. But from its earliest days, the American century was compromised, at first by the Soviet Union, presenting a different vision for the world. Washington built on the lines of democracies then, and fought the Cold War for four decades and won.

And then, as the 1990s began, it seemed that finally Luce's vision for America had come true. The world was going Washington's way.

Ancient civilizations like China and India had given up socialism and nonalignment and join the open international economy and the global system. The American Dream had become the global dream.

Presiding above it all and pioneering the information revolution, America looked more powerful and respected than any country since the height of the Roman Empire. It didn't last long.

In part, this was because the international system never stands still, and is now moving at warp speed. The countries that rose from poverty kept rising until like China, they have become formidable competitors, with economic growth comes political and cultural confidence.

These countries from Brazil to Turkey to India, all act now with greater independence and strength than ever before. Partly, the nature of power itself has become more diffuse.

What does it mean to be the most powerful country in the world when you cannot quell an insurgency in Iraq, nor countered the pervasive influence of social media or secret attacks in cyberspace? But all this taken into account, it must be said, Washington squandered its supremacy.


During its moment of ascension, the United States acted in ways that were arbitrary, unilateral and narrowly self-interested.

In attacking Iraq without any U.N. mandate, it withdrew from international treaties and courts and organizations. It levied unilateral sanctions on its own allies.

The path to extending liberal hegemony, as I've written before, simple, be more liberal and less hegemonic. Washington was the opposite.

Donald Trump might seem an aberration, a crazy angry expression of some of the demons in America, distrustful of the world, of allies, of immigrants, or foreigners. There is, however, another America and America that built the United Nations and the World Bank and UNICEF and the World Health Organization, that is also part of America's history.

The question for the country is can it recover that older tradition? Can it remember its own legacy to the world? Can it renovate, rebuild and recommit to its world historical mission to create a better future?

It is still not too late.

I'm Fareed Zakaria. Thanks for watching.

I have drawn some of the ideas in this special from my new book, "Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World."