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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Sudanese UN Ambassador Interviewed; Israel and the Next American President; Discussing World Affairs
Aired July 20, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: Welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. I'm Fareed Zakaria. Let's get started.
ANNOUNCER: On GPS today, the endless cycle of violence in the Middle East. Could there be an end after all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we do it? Yes, we can do it.
ANNOUNCER: And might it come soon?
Genocide in Darfur. Someone may finally pay for the millions who've suffered and died.
And an iconic American moment. How the past can inform a present crisis.
All of that and more, today on GPS.
ZAKARIA: The International Criminal Court made history this week, filing charges for the first time against a sitting head of state, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
I've just spoken with Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations. For the first time, he addresses those charges.
But let's get some background on this case from CNN's Nic Robertson.
LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: You will see attack here, attack here, attack here. And even attack here, where not...
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Using a map detailing killings in Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo explains to me why he's calling for the arrest of Sudan's president.
MORENO-OCAMPO: Normally these attacks are conducted by army plus militant Janjaweed supporting the army.
ROBERTSON: The International Criminal Court's prosecutor says President Omar Bashir is trying to destroy three of Darfur's biggest tribes -- the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa. And that's genocide.
MORENO-OCAMPO: There's a clear targeting of these groups. And targeting the village and then targeting the camps. Substantial part of the Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit are living in camps. And that is there where they are attacked. That's why the genocide, it's ongoing, it's continuing today.
The weapon? Rapes. Rapes is the weapon of the genocide.
ROBERTSON: In his submission to the three judges of the International Criminal Court, Moreno-Ocampo accuses President Bashir of three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes.
Since 2003, the U.N. says more than 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.
For three years, Moreno-Ocampo's investigators have been talking to victims and witnesses.
MORENO-OCAMPO: We prove that al-Bashir has absolute control. He's the president of the country. He's the chairman of the National Congress Party. He's the commanding chief of the army. Even, we have evidence showing that different militia Janjaweed call him, report to him.
So, al-Bashir controls everything in Darfur.
ROBERTSON: President Bashir has long denied accusations of genocide. His government officials insist only 10,000 people have died, and claim no international laws have been broken.
ZAKARIA: The denials continue.
In the conversation I just had with Ambassador Mohamad, he expressed shock and horror at the charges.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD, SUDANESE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It is very outrageous, an affront to the nation, condemnable in the strongest terms, most irresponsible and badly timed, also.
ZAKARIA: But what is your -- what is your defense?
MOHAMAD: Yes. Because first, we are very sure about the innocence of our leadership, very well -- great leader that brought peace to Sudan following Africa's longest civil war. And also because the prosecutor general move (ph) would definitely impact negatively on the situation in Darfur, and also...
ZAKARIA: Is that a threat to peacekeepers and humanitarian workers there? Are you threatening that those workers will be in harm's way now?
MOHAMAD: No, no. We are not threatening them. In fact, we are victims. We cannot victimize others.
But we are saying that...
ZAKARIA: But do you assure -- does your government assure the U.N. that its peace workers and other humanitarian workers will be safe? Or will the militias try to take revenge on them for this indictment?
MOHAMAD: Yes, in fact, we know our obligations. I can assure you of the government commitment to protect all peacekeepers and aid workers and others.
However, the rebels are taking advantage now of this indictment. And they are saying that we are not going to negotiate with this, quote-unquote, criminal government. And they are saying that, if the government doesn't surrender, we would march to Khartoum to take them by force.
So, these are some of the negative fallouts. And I think this is why the rebels were encouraged on the 8th of this month to massacre peacekeepers, and only yesterday or today, massacred another one from Nigeria.
ZAKARIA: Of course, you know that there are many people who argue that it is not the rebels who are murdering peacekeepers, but it is pro-government militias, like the Janjaweed.
MOHAMAD: This is false accusations, because we are working closely under (ph) military leadership of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hamid on the ground. They know very well the perpetrators.
This is their trademark, their signature. They massacred the African forces in Haskanita. There is no secret about that.
And ironically, the prosecutor general did not point (ph) or accuse in any way, so far, the rebel leaders.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Ambassador, why would the entire world be against your government, if there were not evidence?
This is not just an American issue. European governments feel the same way. The International Court feels the same way. Humanitarian organizations feel the same way.
Independent media analysis has all shown that your government has used proxies to wage a war, first in South Sudan, then in the Nuba Mountains, and now in Darfur.
MOHAMAD: This is an absolutely false statement. It's a political statement, very loaded one -- usually, you know, mentioned and repeated by forces hostile to the country.
ZAKARIA: But why are these forces...
MOHAMAD: It is not...
ZAKARIA: ... why would everybody be against your government?
MOHAMAD: I tell you, it is not. What type of international community you are talking about?
Now, the Arab League, the African Union, the OIC, the Nonaligned, and all of our neighborhood are all supportive of the government. The government is very popular inside.
All developing (ph) countries are criticizing this move (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ZAKARIA: Why do you have to use the military to wage war on opposition movements if you're so popular?
MOHAMAD: No, no. Who told you that? This has never happened.
ZAKARIA: Will your government mount a defense in the International Criminal Court?
MOHAMAD: We have no relation with the International Criminal Court. We don't recognize its authority. We are not going to cooperate with it.
ZAKARIA: But of course, you know that other governments that did not recognize the Criminal Court were still forced to extradite their leaders. I'm thinking of Yugoslavia.
MOHAMAD: No. I don't care about them.
As far as we are concerned, we are not members. We have been told these days repeatedly that the ICC is an independent body. And so, OK, if it's an independent body, I am not a U.N. organ.
We have full right to be part of it or not. And we choose not to be part of it, like the United States.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, finally. The 1948 Genocide Convention has as Article 3 a clause about complicity in genocide.
Are you worried that men like yourself, who are defending the regime and defending its actions, could be charged with complicity for genocide?
MOHAMAD: This is absolutely a joke. What complicity you are talking about? If you want to address genocides, then you have to address situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Gaza.
ZAKARIA: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
MOHAMAD: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: In case you're wondering why you haven't heard much on all of this from Washington, remember an awkward fact: the United States, like Sudan, is not a member of the International Criminal Court.
We'll be back.
ZAKARIA: This week, Senator Barack Obama heads to the Middle East, to the front lines of one of the longest-running conflicts in the world. He will be visiting Israel and also the West Bank.
John McCain was recently in Israel, in March, though he did not go to the West Bank.
So, what are the Israeli and Palestinian leadership looking for from the next president?
Joining me now to discuss this and some other issues are the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Gillerman, and from Washington, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat.
SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Thank you.
DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thank you. It's good to be here, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Dan, let me ask you about something relating to Iran.
So, I've been watching Israel's recent moves. You've had a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, which was quite unusual for Israel, in that you agreed to give up, really, a rather heinous killer, in a way that usually you do not, to Hezbollah. You're negotiating with Hamas. You're negotiating with the Syrians. You're having negotiations with the Egyptians.
Now, if I were a somewhat cynical man, I would say there seems to be some kind of clearing of the decks and conversations with all the key Arab players, perhaps to prepare the ground for a potential strike against Iran.
Would that be a reasonable interpretation of these diplomatic moves?
GILLERMAN: Well, they are diplomatic moves. And as someone who is still Israel's ambassador to the U.N., I believe very much in diplomacy, and I believe diplomacy should take its course.
But I also believe, as I said before, that Iran poses the major threat, not just to Israel -- and that has to be understood -- Iran is the major threat to world safety and security, to the survival of civilization as we know it. And to a great...
ZAKARIA: But if you feel that way, sure, then you're saying a military strike would be -- I mean, you're casting it in pretty dire terms. Would a military strike be appropriate in the next few months? GILLERMAN: I would very much hope that diplomacy takes its course. I would very much hope that the sanctions, the economic pressure, the international pressure will actually work.
I believe that they could, because I don't think Iran is indifferent to it.
But we must understand that, while comparing sometimes North Korea and Iran, there's a huge difference there, because North Korea attained nuclear weapons out of desperation. Iran is seeking them out of aspiration.
Those aspirations worry the moderate Muslim and Arab world, just as they worry us. They worry the international community, just as they worry us.
And therefore, I believe that Iran must be made to understand that the world, the international community, will not allow this regime that denies the Holocaust while preparing the next one, that threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map, that is a threat to the world, to achieve nuclear weapons.
And if diplomacy fails, it must be made to understand that all other options are on the table.
ZAKARIA: Saeb, what would an Israeli strike on Iran do to the peace process?
ERAKAT: It would destroy it. It would destroy it.
And I really encourage and support the Israeli move towards reviving the negotiations with the Syrians. I believe dialogue and diplomacy are the language that should be used in this region.
I believe military solutions have proved all the time that they would just add to the complexities and give rise to extremism in the region.
But I believe, if somebody's thinking about using force against Iran they will solve problems, I think it will be just breaking hell loose and it will be disastrous, as did all other wars in this region.
ZAKARIA: You have in the Palestinian community your own extremists. You have Hamas ruling Gaza.
Do you believe they are now less popular? Have they been marginalized? Or has the isolation that the European Union and the United States imposed on them, has that made them stronger?
ERAKAT: Well, Fareed, let me say two things. One, democracy did not fail in the Palestinian society. Hamas is a Palestinian party. Hamas won the elections.
I remember the day Mr. Haniya came to our parliament to seek a vote of confidence. I told him, "Today, you are the prime minister of all Palestinians, not the prime minister of Hamas. Please, you have to accept, like Khomeini did, like Mandela did, all the obligations of the Palestinian Authority, the two state solution, avoid violence, accept the Roadmap."
Unfortunately, they chose not to, and that's where the failure was.
ZAKARIA: A quick thought on Hamas?
GILLERMAN: Well, I think Hamas is...
ZAKARIA: Is it weaker today, or is it stronger today? Because there's lots of evidence that suggests that the isolation has made them some -- there's kind of a martyr complex surrounding them now.
GILLERMAN: I really have no way of judging whether they are weaker or closer -- or stronger.
What I can say -- and even if Saeb cannot say it, I'm sure he shares my thoughts -- is that Hamas is, indeed, one of the greatest tragedies that happened to the Palestinian people. They were dealt a very raw deal.
I believe, I honestly believe, that most Palestinians want peace. I believe that no baby is born wanting to be a suicide bomber. I believe that no mother ever gives birth to a baby, wanting him one day to blow himself up.
The fact that a part of the Palestinian territory is today ruled by a terror organization, which shows to make Gaza, rather than a paradise for its people -- I mean, you know, when we left Gaza over two years ago, every single inch of Gaza nearly three years ago, the Palestinians had two choices. One, to make it into a place where they look after the welfare and the wellbeing and the quality of life and the standard of living of their people, or to turn it into a terror base and a launching pad for missiles against Israel.
Sadly, they once again -- as my most illustrious predecessor at the U.N. used to say -- never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That was a golden opportunity.
They could have shown the world, "Here we are. The Israelis left. We are left to govern our own lives and decide our own destiny. We know how to do it. We care for our people. We will make Gaza prosperous and thriving and a model for what can be in a Palestinian state."
Instead of that, they turned it into a terror base.
So, I think Hamas is a tragedy, not just for Israel and not just for the Palestinians, but for the whole region.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back in a moment.
ZAKARIA: And we are back. Let me ask you both about one particular aspect of the final status negotiations.
The Clinton plan talked about a divided Jerusalem between the Arab section, which would be the capital of the Palestinian state, and the Jewish section, which would be the capital of Israel.
The presidential candidate, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, spoke to AIPAC -- the American- Israel Public Affairs Committee -- and he said he supported an undivided Jerusalem.
But I asked him on this program last week what he meant and to clarify that. And listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILLINOIS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech. And we immediately tried to correct the interpretation that was given.
The point we were simply making was, is that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent.
I was not trying to predetermine what are essentially final status issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Dan, did Obama change his mind?
GILLERMAN: Well, I was there when Barack Obama made that very impressive speech. I heard that very clearly. I also heard his explanation.
I know Jerusalem, in the minds of many, is a very delicate subject. And it is, indeed, a city which means so much to so many people and to so many religions, and has to be dealt with wisely, delicately, cautiously.
But I do believe that Jerusalem -- that we can find a way of making Jerusalem a city which will cater to the wishes, to the aspirations, to the beliefs of all people -- Palestinians and Israelis -- and all religions, as it is today.
ZAKARIA: Saeb, do you think that a President Obama could bring something to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been missing so far?
ERAKAT: Well, on what he said on Jerusalem, Fareed, I agree with him. I think it's us an the Israelis who will decide. I believe there will be Jerusalem as the capital of the two states. There will be an East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, Al-Quds; West Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, capital of Israel.
And I believe that Mr. Obama -- I really would think that he wants us to reach an agreement before he's inaugurated, if he wins the presidency. So does Mr. McCain.
I really believe that Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain wants Palestinians and Israelis to reach the agreement before January 9, 2009. This is the truth. And I hope that we can do it.
The question today is not about what this president's position is, and what that president's position is. Today, the world is not divided between those who are pro-Israel and those who are pro- Palestinian. The world is divided between those who are pro-peace and those who are against peace.
And those who are pro-peace, they know it's going to be a two state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, with West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, whereby then we can talk about the modalities (ph) of having an open city, free movement, the coherence of the city, the uniqueness of the city, to all.
And I believe that we can do it. And we must do it before the next president of the United States is inaugurated, whether it's Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain.
ZAKARIA: I mean, I feel as though we could have had this conversation two years ago, or perhaps 20 years ago.
What's different now? Why is it possible? Why is Saeb Erakat seeming more optimistic?
ERAKAT: Because Saeb Erakat...
GILLERMAN: First of all...
ZAKARIA: All right. Why don't you go first, Saeb, because that was a question to you. And then we'll let Dan get in.
ERAKAT: Because Saeb Erakat, like all Palestinians, does realize that it's his need and interest. I did not wake up one morning, Fareed, and feel my conscience aching for the Israelis. And they did not wake up one morning and feel their conscience aching for my suffering.
We both do realize now that we need peace.
ZAKARIA: Are you optimistic?
GILLERMAN: I agree with Saeb. There's only one reality. It's a two state solution. It's a two state solution which will finally bring peace and security to our area, make our two peoples live side by side in peace and security, and assure that Israel is the solution for the Jewish people, just as Palestine is the solution for the Jewish refugees -- for the Palestinian refugees.
ZAKARIA: On that note, thank you, Saeb Erakat, Dan Gillerman. A real pleasure to have you both on.
ERAKAT: Thank you.
GILLERMAN: Thank you very much. And just maybe one last word.
Saeb mentioned at the beginning that he was a father. I believe he also became a grandfather just two weeks ago. I hope we won't have to wait for his granddaughter to grow up until we see peace, and that his children and my children will enjoy it very soon.
ERAKAT: Thank you, Dan.
ZAKARIA: On that happy note, thank you both.
We'll be back.
ZAKARIA: I've asked two distinguished observers of the world to join me to discuss the crisis in Sudan, what's going on in the Middle East and a host of other issues.
Joining me are Senator Chris Dodd, who has made some strong statements on genocide, and perhaps has some news for us on Iran; and the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, who has served three Republican presidents over the course of his lifetime.
Let me ask you...
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: And one Democratic one.
ZAKARIA: And one Democratic one.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, D-CONNECTICUT: I was going to say that.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, when you look at the situation in the Sudan, does this matter? Does the fact that the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant, or may issue a warrant, make a difference? Or is this just legalisms?
HAASS: Well, it makes a difference in the sense that it sends a message. It makes a statement.
The real question is whether the world changes its behavior because of it, whether they rally around it, whether they really put pressure on him, sanction the country until they get rid of him.
But it also probably makes a difference on his behavior. Does this make him, if anything, more determined to dig in, more recalcitrant?
Sometimes there's a tension, as you know, between what's legally perhaps correct, and what's politically prudent, or, in some ways, the most desirable. Because what we really want to do is get him out of power. We want to change the regime, and we want to change the nature of life in that country.
So, the real question to ask is not whether this is the right thing to do in some ways, but whether this is going to get us closer to those goals.
ZAKARIA: And it sounds like you're somewhat skeptical. You're worried that this might make it politically more difficult to have him in a more accommodating phase of kind of stepping down, or something like that.
HAASS: It's possible. And also, again, Sudan is not simply one conflict. It's multiple conflicts. Darfur is the one that's gotten the most attention in the outside world, but there's also the one in the south that went on for years.
And the question is, again, does this necessarily bring greater peace throughout the country, or does this cause problems?
I'm not necessarily against this, mind you. I'm simply saying, it's not clear to me that either this will be effective, that it will really change things, or if it does change things, they will necessarily be for the better.
ZAKARIA: Senator Dodd, your father was one of the prosecutors at Nuremberg, so you have a long family association with issues of international law.
How did you respond when you heard about this development at the ICC?
DODD: Well, I applaud it. And I think Richard's analysis is absolutely correct. And I think the key will be, how does China respond to this, and how does Russia? Principally China.
And if the Chinese and the Russians, in effect, are supportive of this decision to indict, then I think it has great meaning. If they walk away from it and treat it as a non-event, then there are some problems with it.
But I think it's very, very important. When there are individuals like this engaging in the behavior that is well documented, it's important for the "civilized world," if you will, to respond to these situations, or you sort of invite similar behavior, I think, in future occurrences. So, I applaud the decision for them to step forward.
And I would hope that the Chinese -- someone suggested, including, I think, an editorial comment today, that maybe the Chinese ought to be considering disinviting Bashir to the Olympic Games.
We talk about nations boycotting. In this case here, I think the Chinese could show real leadership, if they were in effect to support what's been going on at the International Criminal Court.
ZAKARIA: Richard, let me ask you about another discussion on this program. We had a Palestinian and an Israel on -- the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. And they sounded so friendly, it was almost unreal.
I mean, I remember for 20 years, 30 years, hearing these real spirited, angry discussions. And now the Palestinians and Israelis seem like they're best of friends.
Is there some real chance for peace? I mean, why are these guys getting on so well?
HAASS: Well, at the elite level between Israelis and people like Saeb Erakat, they have gotten along for years. They know each other well. They've been negotiating and living side-by-side, literally, for decades.
The problem in the Middle East is not that. The problem is that someone like Saeb Erakat does not now speak for most Palestinians. And it's not clear who actually speaks for the Israeli government.
So, at the elite, diplomatic level, things are actually going OK. And you could conceivably even have some sort of a framework agreement reached over the next few months while President Bush is still president.
The real problem is going to be translating anything done at the elite, diplomatic level into something that actually makes a difference on the ground. And it's not clear to me that pieces are in places, either in Israel or on the very divided Palestinian side.
ZAKARIA: Senator, one of the points that the Israeli ambassador made was that he thinks the new reality in the Middle East is the rise of Iran and the formation of a kind of anti-Iranian alliance, which includes the moderate Arab states -- but also, tacitly, Israel.
Do you think Iran is that important in the mix when looking at what's going on in the Middle East?
DODD: I do. I remember speaking with -- I think I can talk about it now, because it was about a year-and-a-half ago -- but with the King of Jordan, and his comments at the time, that he felt this was offering a new opportunity for a new dynamic to take over, because there was a greater concern, a growing concern, obviously, of Iranian dominance, the Iranian crescent reaching over into the Arab world.
And so, I think it has served as a catalyst to bring us closer to the possibility of exactly what Richard has just been talking about. So, I think that's been helpful.
I must say quickly, as well, I'm not in the habit of applauding this administration's conduct in foreign policy, but I'm very excited about the idea that you're going to have Undersecretary Burns be traveling, I guess, with or working with Javier Solana this coming weekend for what looks like a breakthrough, at least beginning some diplomatic effort with Iran. And I think those events could actually be very helpful in bringing us closer to achieving what's eluded every administration, Democratic or Republican, as well as every administration in Israel, for the past 60 years.
ZAKARIA: Richard, when you were in government, in this administration, when you were Colin Powell's ideas man, you used to float ideas like this, like maybe we should be negotiating with the Iranians in some way. It was always shot down.
What was it that changed the president's mind? The minute you left, he seems to have adopted all your ideas?
HAASS: History will judge.
For years, the administration was beholden to the idea that we shouldn't deal with Iran directly, that pressure would not simply bring about a change in behavior, but even a change in regime.
I think the administration has decided, after six or seven years, that that didn't work in North Korea. They therefore changed their policy in North Korea. And it hasn't worked in Iran.
And instead, with higher oil prices in particular, the situation has gotten worse, and it was the United States, more than Iran in some way, that was getting isolated.
So, for all these reasons, I think you're beginning to see the administration belatedly -- but welcomely, as Chris Dodd said -- embrace a more traditional, diplomatic approach.
Now, one last thing. It's not clear it's going to work.
DODD: That's right.
HAASS: Even if the United States, the Europeans, conceivably the Russians and the Chinese, all put pressure on Iran, it's quite conceivable that Iran could push back.
But since the alternatives are so unattractive -- either using military force or living with an Iran that actually has a nuclear capability, or a weapon, or something close to it -- the idea that we would do everything possible to check out diplomacy, to see if it might work, I think makes tremendous sense.
ZAKARIA: A quick question. How would you rate the chances of an Israeli military strike on Iran in the next three or four months?
HAASS: I would think the odds of it are less than even, and I think they've actually gone down slightly with this new diplomatic initiative.
ZAKARIA: Less than even, that's pretty high.
HAASS: Well, I'd say maybe two, three out of 10, which is a way of saying not negligible, but not likely.
ZAKARIA: Senator Dodd, you're a supporter of and spokesman for Senator Obama. He's going to Europe. He's going to the Middle East. Will his wild popularity in Europe hurt him in the United States?
DODD: I think it's important that when he's in Europe -- particularly in Europe -- that he be not only talking but also listening, and being careful not to be in too many public settings where it could appear he's become a candidate for Europe. I don't think he'll do that. I think he'll manage this well.
But there is some dangers associated with a trip like this. But I'm confident now, having gotten to know him very, very well over the last number of years, that he'll handle this very, very well.
ZAKARIA: Richard, final thoughts on Obama and his world tour?
HAASS: What really matters is whether Americans, when they look back and say, "Yes, I can see him as president. I can see him as commander and chief."
ZAKARIA: So, he has to look more like Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, and less like Dukakis in the tank.
Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you very much.
We'll be back.
ZAKARIA: I was in England recently and had a chance to talk with the man who is widely expected to be the next prime minister of Great Britain.
David Cameron is a Conservative. And if he takes over from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he'll be the first Conservative to hold that post in more than a decade.
But he is a curious kind of Conservative, who often sounds more like an American Democrat. And like many younger British politicians, he is fresh, energetic and camera-ready.
Listen to what he had to say.
DAVID CAMERON, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER, UNITED KINGDOM: The conservative parties of the world, and conservative movements, should never be purely about economics.
Of course, we tend to be on the center-right in politics. We tend to be in favor of free trade. We tend to want low taxes. We tend to want to keep the size of the state small. Those are all things that should inspire conservatives. But we also believe in a good and strong society. We believe in backing families as the basic unit of that society.
And on the environment, to me, passing on an inheritance to our children is part of being a conservative. Well, what more inheritance is there, what more important inheritance is there than a green and clean planet?
So, I've been saying to the Conservative Party here in Britain, let's actually champion some of the progressive goals -- like a green environment, like tackling poverty, like unblocking social mobility -- but let's do it with conservative means.
So, let's back families. Let's have markets and technology and innovation to help improve our environment.
All these things can be conservative goals. They just need vision and drive to achieve them.
ZAKARIA: But when hearing people talk about things like society, Margaret Thatcher once famously said, "There is no such thing as society," was she wrong?
CAMERON: I think she was widely sort of misquoted and taken out of context, because what she said was, "There's no such thing as society, only individuals and families and communities."
It was maybe the wrong way to put it. And I wouldn't put it like that.
The point is, the conservative sees society from the bottom up. We look at society and think it's made up of individuals and families and communities, and associations and groups. Whereas, I think the left, the socialist looks at society from the top down and thinks of the state.
And so, my alternative to Margaret Thatcher's formulation is to say there is such a thing as society. It's just not the same thing as the state. And I think that's something that the center-right understands in politics that often the left don't get.
ZAKARIA: When you watch American conservatives and American conservative rhetoric, which is largely about lower taxes, less government regulation, the right to own a gun, issues like abortion and gay marriage, do you think American conservatism is on the wrong track right now?
CAMERON: Well, I think the point about conservative movements and conservative parties is we're all different. And I think that's a good thing.
I mean, if you were a socialist, you pretty much believe the same thing wherever you are in the world, because that's your creed.
The point about conservatives is, we believe in understanding our inheritance and our background and our history and our institutions. So, what a conservative thinks is very important in America is not always going to be the same as what a conservative thinks is important in a European country.
ZAKARIA: Except that...
CAMERON: You know, for instance, gun control or gay marriage, these aren't issues in the same way in British politics.
In fact, I've come out very strongly in favor of civil partnerships between gay people, because I think what matters is commitment. I want to see more stable families and more people in stable relationships. And so, we should celebrate civil partnerships.
ZAKARIA: But how could that be right for Britain but wrong for the United States? I mean, you're making an argument that is about the inherent rights of human beings to be wedded together in some sense if they're gay. You are in effect saying that the American conservative movement is on the wrong track.
CAMERON: No, I don't want -- no, I just think conservative movements, because they come from different backgrounds, because they've got different history and inheritance, they often are very different in different countries.
I mean, the Republicans are our sister party. We have a very good relationship with them, a very strong relationship. But if you take the issue of gun control, that's something that is very important in American politics, and I think I understand why. I'm not sure I agree with them.
In Britain, gun control just isn't an issue. We have very, very tight gun control. And anyone with a gun has to have a very tight sort of license. Now, that's partly...
ZAKARIA: And there's no conservative...
CAMERON: ... because there's a different...
ZAKARIA: ... and no conservative argument.
CAMERON: That's because there's a different history between Britain and America, because of what the right to bear arms meant in America. So, we're different, and we should respect that.
In some ways, strangely, as the world globalizes, and as maybe you get a Starbucks on every high street, actually, the politics of different countries is in many ways getting more different rather than more similar. And that's not such a bad thing.
ZAKARIA: So, you don't see yourself or the rise of the British Tories as part of a kind of wave? Because I do notice center-right parties doing better and better across Europe, certainly, than they have for a long time.
CAMERON: I think that's very true. If you look at Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France, both of whom I work with, and also Fredrik in Sweden, the conservative prime minister there, I think there are some common themes coming out.
And what I would argue is, the center-right is doing best where we're taking these progressive goals of the green environment, solving poverty, strengthening the economy, strengthening society -- we're taking those progressive goals, but we're using conservative means to back them.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, another familiar piece of conservative rhetoric in the United States and across large parts of the world, that the struggle against radical Islam is the defining struggle of our times, the existential struggle of our times, as John McCain puts it.
Do you agree with that?
CAMERON: I do agree that we face an enormous challenge from Islamic extremism that we have to face up to. And we have to recognize that this scale of terrorist threat -- even in a country like Britain, where we've had terrible terrorism from the IRA over the years -- this is of a different order. It is worse.
These people are prepared to kill and maim as many as they can, and martyring themselves in the process. And yes, this is a huge struggle we face.
I think, though, in facing it, I think we can make a mistake, if we pretend it is one global jihad. We want to try and break it up and deal with all the individual bits, rather than posit one single struggle against one single foe. I think if we do that, we can sometimes help the people that we're trying to defeat.
ZAKARIA: Are we overreacting to it in Western societies with the infringement of civil liberties?
CAMERON: What we need here is not some soppy, defensive civil liberties in all circumstances. What we need is the hard-nosed defense of freedom. But what we get from our government sometimes is what I call ineffective authoritarianism. Very tough sounding measures, but when you examine them, actually they're not what's necessary to defeat terror.
I would argue, much more important is to change the rules so we can actually deport the preachers of hate who are poisoning the minds of young British Muslims, deport them back to the countries they came from, have a tough approach in that way. But actually threatening our traditional freedoms and having 42 days imprisonment with charge, that is not sensible, and it could be counterproductive.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that Tony Blair made a mistake in readily agreeing to go to war in Iraq when George W. Bush asked for his support?
CAMERON: No, I don't. And I voted for the action that was taken. I was a backbench member of Parliament at the time.
I think it's -- I think Britain should be a very strong ally of the United States. I am an Atlanticist. I'm very keen that we have that close relationship. When I worked in business I traveled across the United States.
When you meet American politicians, there's that immediate tie of history, of language, of culture, of so much that we share together. And we should really build on that relationship. And I totally believe in that.
My criticism of Tony Blair is that I think what Britain should be with America, if I can put it this way, is the best friend. The friend that, yes, is there to support and to help, including in all sorts of ways, but also tells you what you need to hear, rather than the newest friend -- which I think is what Tony Blair was sometimes -- who just wanted to be there, but I don't think did ask the difficult questions, or did make the candid and frank points that sometimes needed to be made.
So, be the best friend, but tell you -- tell your friend what you need to hear, not just what they want to hear.
ZAKARIA: One of the many reasons that people regard you as politically somewhat difficult to pigeonhole in the United States, certainly, is that people have heard you say nice things about Barack Obama. What is it you admire about Barack Obama?
CAMERON: Well, I've enjoyed watching his speeches. He's a tremendous orator. And I think it's been a fascinating race. The whole primary race, for politicians to watch on this side of the Atlantic, has been very exciting.
The politician -- the only one I know is John McCain, who came to speak at my conference, at my invitation, two years ago. And I hugely admire him. I think he'd make an excellent president of the United States.
But I must stay neutral. I mustn't get involved.
I think what is great for America is that two politicians of such ability and of such sort of brilliance have come forward for this great contest, which we're all going to be watching with so much interest.
ZAKARIA: David Cameron, thank you very much.
CAMERON: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: One final note about David Cameron. He's what the Brits call a "toff" -- a product of the upper class. He attended some of England's most exclusive schools.
In 1983, while at the prep school Eton, he got into trouble for smoking pot. At Eton, that was not grounds for expulsion. Rather, he was ordered to copy 500 lines of Latin text.
We'll be right back.
ZAKARIA: Thirty-nine years ago today, man walked on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle landing craft and stepped into the Sea of Tranquility on the lunar surface.
He uttered what became one of the most famous sentences in human history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL ARMSTRONG, APOLLO ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Eight years earlier, John F. Kennedy had announced the Apollo program as a way of competing with the Soviet Union in space, but also giving a boost to American science and technology. It fulfilled that secondary effect very well, spurring huge leaps in aviation, computers and telecommunication.
But the moon walk came at a price. The total cost of the Apollo program was close to $150 billion in today's money. And at its height, the program employed 400,000 Americans and required the support of over 20,000 companies and universities.
There is an obvious and urgent need for a similar effort today to find new forms of energy. But as with the Apollo program, it will be a massive, disruptive undertaking, and it certainly won't be cheap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That's it for GPS this week.
Before we go, I want to thank you all for your e-mails. Last week I asked you what you thought was the world's greatest manmade structure. There were lots of inspired choices, many of which have meaning beyond their physical beauty or ingenuity -- the International Space Station, the Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge.
But the two most popular choices were fascinating: one ancient, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and one very modern, the Internet -- a virtual structure, but a structure nonetheless, that is truly a work of genius.
So, my question for this week is: What single form of alternative energy do you think has the greatest potential to free us from our dependence on oil?
You can e-mail me at FareedZakariaGPS@CNN.com, and you can visit our Web site, CNN.com./GPS, for highlights from this program.
See you next week.