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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan; Interview With John Yoo
Aired February 07, 2010 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We're thrilled to be airing at a new time in the U.S., 10 a.m. Eastern, as well as our regular time, 1 p.m. Eastern.
Now, today, we have an exclusive, an in-depth conversation with one of the pivotal figures on the world stage, King Abdullah of Jordan.
If you think back to President Obama's State of the Union speech, it was one of the longest in years. And yet, he did not find time to mention a staple of such addresses, the Arab-Israeli peace process -- not once.
This is unusual, especially for President Obama. He came into office promising to place much greater attention on this problem, appointed a special envoy to the region, and spoke about his commitment to broker a peace in his speeches in Istanbul and Cairo, to very warm receptions.
But negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, which were suspended one year ago, have not resumed. And people in the region are beginning to wonder.
George Mitchell, the president's special envoy, still believes it will be possible to get things moving soon and actually complete negotiations for a two-state solutions -- and, by the way, peace between Israel and all the Arab states -- within two years.
Yes. But few people share this optimism.
The Israelis have refused to freeze settlements. The Palestinians remain divided between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. And the United States -- historically the engine behind these negotiations -- is now clearly distracted, and perhaps lacks the kind of muscle to force any kind of concessions from either party.
And yet, many observers are worried about the situation on the ground -- no one more so than King Abdullah of Jordan, who presides over a country with a Palestinian majority, and lives right at the center of these countries and all their pent-up frustrations. The king rarely does interviews, but he sat down with me in Davos, Switzerland, and talked frankly of his near-desperation to solve a problem that he believes is at the heart of the two biggest crises America and the world face: Iran's nuclear ambitions and Islamic terrorism. It's an important interview.
And then, John Yoo, the man who wrote the infamous torture memo for President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: How is an American soldier or official -- what framework of law are you giving him if you say, well, the Geneva Conventions don't apply? Does it mean you can kind of just do whatever you want?
JOHN YOO: Well, let me say, it doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. I think what we're...
ZAKARIA: Why not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: A fascinating discussion on terrorism, Guantanamo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and presidential power.
Let's get started.
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, you live in one of the most consequential parts of the world, one of the most dangerous parts of the world, and a place that has caused great frustration for the rest of the world.
I mean, there's a saying in New York, nobody has ever lost money betting against the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And there's a sense, I think, that it's almost like a bad joke. We just keep discussing it. And yet, nothing seems to change.
KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN: We are waiting for the United States to hopefully give us their undivided attention on this issue.
So, if we don't get a clear mandate over the next month or so, then I'm not convinced that we're going to move the process forward.
What we have to keep in mind is...
ZAKARIA: Let's stay on that, though. You're saying, if in the next month you don't get a clear sense from the United States that it is pushing hard on this, you feel like things are going to stall.
KING ABDULLAH: People are disheartened. People are not convinced. I think the credibility of the U.S. is under question now.
So, we really have to be able to move the process forward in the next month or so, especially leading to the Arab summit, so that we don't have any confusion coming out of there.
ZAKARIA: But the Obama administration has tried to appoint a special envoy. It has called on the Israelis to freeze settlements.
Do you feel that the Obama administration -- I mean, what you're saying is pretty significant. You're saying there's a loss of credibility, a potential loss of America's image if it doesn't do something.
What can the Obama administration do?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, I personally believe that the president is extremely committed to it. But we also know that America is dealing with many other issues internally -- health plan, other issues. Massachusetts was, I think, something that hit the news.
Do we have the undivided attention of the United States, which is something that we desperately need in the next month or so, to set the right tone for negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians.
And the only other thing I just want to clarify is, sooner or later, there is an invisible line in the sand that we will cross, that will be clear to everybody, whether or not the viability of a two- state solution is there. And I hope we haven't crossed that yet. But when, God forbid, we do cross that line, then I think we doom the Middle East and the region to many decades of instability.
So, the more time we spend talking, as you say, and not solving this problem, we all pay the price.
ZAKARIA: And there are already voices in Israel saying that the two-state solution is the wrong way to think about this; we need to go back to thinking that Jordan is the Palestinian state, because, of course, a majority of Jordanians are Palestinians.
KING ABDULLAH: What sense does that make? I mean, the two-state solution is the only solution that's out there. There are voices that every now and then say that there's going to be a Jordan option. A Jordanian option on what?
There's a -- there's pushes by certain elements of the Israeli government to say, Jordan takes a role in the West Bank. That is never going to work. And we have to be very clear that Jordan absolutely does not want to have anything to do with the West Bank. All we will be doing is replacing Israeli military with Jordanian military.
The Palestinians don't want that. They want to have their own statehood.
And again, what type of West Bank are we talking about? You know, we're talking about a viable entity.
And what I think these people are offering to try and pull Jordan in, is really nothing that would create enough statehood or make the Palestinians feel that they have something that's called their home. So, Jordan -- I'm on the record, we've said this so many times -- we will not have any role in the West Bank. By trying to make Jordan Palestine doesn't make any sense to me. That's not going to happen.
There are other certain people in Israel that are saying, well, if there's not going to be a Jordan option, the only other option out there is the one-state solution, which terrifies more Israelis than the two-state solution.
And so, I think that the only credible, viable way of solving this problem is the two-state solution, giving the Israelis and the Palestinians the ability to live together -- more importantly, allowing Arabs and Muslims to then have a peace treaty with Israel.
Fifty-seven nations, a third of the United Nations, do not recognize Israel today. So, they're isolated in the neighborhood and further afield.
ZAKARIA: You have some contacts with Israel. What is your sense of what is going on in Israel? What is the mood in Israel? Are they in the mood to negotiate?
Because my own sense is, the building of the wall has ended the problem of terrorism to a large extent in Israel, and it has made a lot of Israelis think, we can live with this. You know, what's the problem with just continuing as things are?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, this is the challenge. I met with President Shimon Peres yesterday, who has always believed in the two- state solution and the importance of it, because he is looking at the future of his country.
There are those -- I still think that the overwhelming percentage of Israelis and Palestinians do want a two-state solution, and as quickly as possible.
The challenge that we have -- in Israel, in particular -- is to get beyond the politician to the Israeli people themselves, because they are so disheartened, that they don't believe it's ever going to happen.
And trying to wrap our minds on how to deal with the Israeli mentality. Many occasions I've sat down with Israelis to say, where do you see your country in 10 years time, and work me back, so we can figure out the synergies and the connections between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. No Israeli has ever been able to answer that question.
Because of the security threat, they think in the here-and-now. They can only think of today. When is the next attack? When is the next bomb?
And so, this is the challenge that Jordan has, and the international community has, reaching out to the Israeli public and saying, do you want to continue to be Fortress Israel? What a dismal place that would be. And how it continues to affect the whole region. The challenge is to reach the Israeli people and say, we basically want the two-state solution to happen, so that you can be integrated into the neighborhood. And that's actually a lot harder than people might imagine.
ZAKARIA: You said the core issue is the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the region.
I'm hearing people in the region -- particularly in Saudi Arabia -- say to me quietly, the core issue in the region is now the rise of Iran, and what to do about an Iran that is interfering in Lebanon, interfering in the Palestinian territories, challenging us at every corner.
How do you see the rise of Iran?
KING ABDULLAH: I still go back to saying the core issue is the Israeli-Palestinian problem, because all roads in our part of the world, all the conflicts lead to Jerusalem.
Today, Iran is putting itself as the defenders of the Palestinian cause. Several days ago, Osama bin Laden in his taped message to the United States again underlined the suffering of the Palestinians. It is the injustice felt towards the Palestinian people that allow other states actors and non-state actors to take the role of being the defenders of the Palestinians.
If we solve this problem, then I believe we start to unwind all the other pressure points inside of the Middle East.
ZAKARIA: But could you in Jordan live with an Iran with a nuclear weapon?
KING ABDULLAH: If we solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, why would Iranians want to spend so much money on a military program? It makes no sense.
I mean, the country has social challenges. It has economic challenges. Why push the envelope in getting to a military program? For what cause? If you solve the problem, you don't need to pursue that path.
ZAKARIA: People in Washington who listen to this are going to say, "He's soft on Iran."
KING ABDULLAH: President Obama said something that was very, very critical about the future of the Middle East. He said that, for the first time -- and I think it should have happened many, many decades ago -- America wants to see a resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, because it is in the vital national security interests of the United States.
Because he understands, that as long as this conflict continues -- as you say, if we keep just pushing this ball down the road for the next couple of years -- we are all affected by that instability. We're all going to pay that price. And how often can we continue? Instability in our region will affect the economy. It will affect trade, energy. How long do we want to continue living under that atmosphere?
ZAKARIA: We're going to have to take a break. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Do you really believe, if you solve the Israeli- Palestinian issue, you wouldn't have some Nigerian fanatic...
KING ABDULLAH: Look. You're always going to have...
ZAKARIA: ... who believes in jihad and gets onto a plane?
KING ABDULLAH: You're always going to have extremists in every religion. We're never going to be able to get rid of terrorism, because there is always going to be evil in the world.
What I'm saying is, for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, a Jordanian man blew himself up in Afghanistan, killing CIA officers. And it led to a great deal of speculation about Jordan's role in trying to take on al Qaeda.
Do you have an active role in combating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, you have to understand that, not only were Americans killed, there was a Jordanian officer that was killed there in that particular attack.
What people fail to remember is that we have been battling al Qaeda way before America had its 9/11. And we stand for tolerance, acceptance, humanity. And these people, who call themselves Muslims, are trying to hijack our religion. And this is not just a Jordanian problem; it is a problem throughout the Arab and Islamic world. And we will continue to fight.
We had our own 9/11, the 9th of November, 2005, where three bombs were set off in hotels. We lost 60 people and over 100 wounded. If you compare that to the figures of America's 9/11, it was almost double the casualties for a country of our size.
And, you know, I made my mind up then that we were not going to be defensive. If we felt that people were going to target Jordan, we would target them.
We're working in our part of the world, in Asia and in the West. We're also looking at the educational aspect of this.
But again, I think I have to continue to underline that, you know, where do the disenfranchised youth move to? I mean, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is such an emotional issue inside of Islam, that everybody tries to hijack it for very destructive ends.
This is why it is so imperative for all of us to solve this problem. Otherwise, we will always live under the shadow of terror. And terror is not something, as you well know, that Israelis are having to deal with; Arabs, Muslims, the West are dealing with -- all because of the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli- Palestinian one.
ZAKARIA: You really believe...
KING ABDULLAH: We (ph) need (ph) to solve that.
ZAKARIA: You really believe, if you solved the Israeli- Palestinian issue, you wouldn't have some Nigerian fanatic...
KING ABDULLAH: Look. You always will have...
ZAKARIA: ... who believes in jihad, who gets onto a plane...
KING ABDULLAH: You're always going to have extremists in every religion. You're never going to be able to get rid of terrorism, because there is always going to be evil in the world.
What I'm saying is, for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. And I think that's the challenge that we have.
There is no magic wand that solves that problem. But it's not specific to Islam or Christianity or Judaism, or any other religion. Evil is always going to be out there.
But it allows us to create a new future of the people that are living in the region. And it allows us the tools to be able to bring our religion back onto focus and strengthen the role of the silent majority, that those extremists that have hijacked our religion have nothing to do with Islam.
ZAKARIA: You know there are many people who have an alternate theory of what is fueling terror. And that is actually one that was loosely associated with President Bush and his administration, expounded by people like Bernard Lewis, the Princeton scholar, which is that it is the lack of any kind of political openness in the Arab world that produces extreme opposition movements, that produces the desire for jihad, that al Qaeda began as a group that wanted to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It only later on latched itself to the Palestinian cause, and that unless you have openness in the Arab world, you will not be able to find a way to avoid these extreme political movements. KING ABDULLAH: We have the largest youth cohort in history. We have 200 million young men and women that need jobs in the next several years. If we don't create a positive future where they have a role and a say in their future, definitely, we are going to have a major problem.
I think the issues are interconnected. But on the political emotional issue, don't discount the Israeli-Palestinian one.
Having said that, there is a moral responsibility for all of us in the Arab world to move reform in the right direction.
ZAKARIA: But talk specifically about your country, because, you know, Jordan is often characterized as a benign or an enlightened dictatorship, but it is still a pretty tough set of controls that you have in the country.
Are you going to -- will your son, when he succeeds you, be a constitutional monarch?
KING ABDULLAH: I think, when I look back at the past 10 years, the reform aspect of our country, in many cases, sometimes you take two steps forward, one step back. There is resistance to change. There's a resistance to ideas.
When we try to push the envelope, there are certain sectors of society that say this is a Zionist plot to sort of destabilize our country, or this is an American agenda. So, it's very difficult to convince people to move forward.
I believe that...
ZAKARIA: What's the end goal? Let me repeat my final point or question, which was, will your son be a constitutional monarch?
Now, of course, given your age...
KING ABDULLAH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) aspects of...
ZAKARIA: Given your age, he's going to wait for a long time. But at some point -- I mean, you know, Prince Charles hasn't seen anything yet. It's going to take a while.
But at the point he ascends the throne, what will Jordan look like?
KING ABDULLAH: I know exactly what you're saying. And what I'm trying to say is that, the way Jordan is today is not going to be the Jordan of tomorrow.
Ten years ago I said, you know, my goal is to be able to get food on the table. What I'm trying to say by that is trying to create a vibrant, capable and effective middle class. The quicker and stronger that we can be able to do this, the easier it is for political reform to move forward.
ZAKARIA: A final question. This is 10th year of your ascending the throne. Am I correct?
In this period, you have really, dramatically transformed Jordan's economy. It's a country that has no natural resources and has been growing steadily and strongly.
What did you do, and what has been most effective? What is the lesson in terms of creating growth in countries like Jordan?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, first, don't give up, I think is the major (ph). Don't take "no" for an answer. There are members of my society that, you know, when I say, let's do something, there's a -- I wish I could translate it into English, but it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
The Arabs will know what I mean. You know, when I say, you know, let's move this sector of society (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's never going to happen.
We can't find the money.
And I think that has been the major challenge that I've had over the past 10 years, is not to be intimidated by the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that I get from society.
And it takes -- you know, we move forward. Sometimes we get knocked down. And you have to dust yourself off and just keep trying.
I'm not -- we as Jordan are not where I wanted it to be. But again, there's been a lot of regional issues. But I'm the type of person that wants everything today and not tomorrow.
If I can put it down to a single, maybe, way of -- and I think this is relevant to the rest of the Middle East -- is, if you want to move Jordan and your countries forward, it comes down to education, education, education. The incentive that you give to your youth is going to be the make-or-break future of the country.
And I've got my good friend, the Crown Prince of Bahrain here. He's moving his country -- understanding, I think, the same language that we speak. There's a core group of young countries that believe in that vision and the ability to move their countries forward.
I'm optimistic about the future. But we just can't accept defeat and "no" as an answer.
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, thank you very much.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: John Yoo -- you will remember the name, I imagine -- he was the Justice Department lawyer who wrote the so-called "torture memos" during the Bush administration. Those were the legal justifications that allowed what some regarded as torture and other controversial treatments of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and beyond.
After leaving the Bush administration in 2003, Yoo returned to his post as a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, perhaps a lonely place for a conservative with that resume. Yoo has just published a book called "Crisis and Command," and he joins me now.
JOHN YOO, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you for having me.
ZAKARIA: Let me understand what you see as the limits to presidential action, because one of the points you make is that you don't believe that we should worry about the Geneva Conventions when dealing with members of Al Qaida, because they are technically not subject to the Geneva Convention because they're not soldiers.
But if they're not subject to the Geneva Conventions, should we -- I mean, are there any limits to what we can do to people? Do you as an American believe that American officials, people acting in the name of the American government, soldiers, CIA operators, need to abide by any limits in dealing with people they capture?
YOO: Well, I think you've got two very tough questions in there. One is, what should the legal rules be? And then, what should we do or the government or the country do as a matter of policy?
I think as a matter of the legal system, I don't think the Geneva Conventions, written in 1949, ever anticipated, as you said, fighting a non-nation state that doesn't have territory, population, cities, or chooses to obey the laws of war themselves. It's just the people who wrote the Geneva Conventions could never anticipate that kind of occurrence where you'd have that kind of group that could wield the violence that only nation-states used to be able to.
ZAKARIA: Fine. But if we're not going to adhere to the Geneva Convention, does that mean we can just do anything we want? We can gouge out the eyes of these people...
ZAKARIA: ... we can put -- you know, we can...
YOO: Not at all. Not at all.
ZAKARIA: Well, then what is the theoretical basis, what is the legal basis for saying we should adhere to some standard? How you -- you can't just make up the standards that...
YOO: No, no, I think -- I think one thing you look at is the practice of tradition by states, they practice, American practice. Our practice has been to treat people humanely...
ZAKARIA: But our practice has been to sign the Geneva Conventions since 1949.
YOO: Yeah. We follow Geneva Conventions...
ZAKARIA: So if that's -- if that's the precedent, we should be following the Geneva Conventions.
YOO: Well, I think we follow Geneva Conventions...
ZAKARIA: If not, then what is the -- what is the -- what is the framework? What I'm wondering is, how as an American soldier or official, what framework of law are you giving him if you say, "Well, the Geneva Conventions don't apply." Does it mean you can kind of just do whatever you want?
YOO: Well, I think we treat them in the ways that are consistent with the ways Americans have acted in wartime throughout our history, so...
ZAKARIA: Which is the Geneva Convention.
YOO: But there was -- before 1949, there were no Geneva Conventions.
ZAKARIA: So you're saying do it the way we did it before 1949?
YOO: In terms of practice. I mean, Americans and their armed forces have treated the enemy humanely throughout much of its history and have tried to. And, in fact, the reasons we have laws of war and we have the principle of humane treatment...
ZAKARIA: But we codified those by -- by signing the Geneva Convention in '49 and have adhered to it since then.
ZAKARIA: So why not say that's the practice...
YOO: You could -- oh...
ZAKARIA: ... that's the settled practice?
YOO: Don't get me wrong. I think one could say that. I think one could say, "We should follow it as much as we can, consistent with this new kind of enemy."
I'll give you an example. The Geneva Conventions essentially require that all the detainees be put in an open barrack, which would be quite inconsistent with the nature of Al Qaida. Unfortunately, you have to put them in individualized cells. That would not be following Geneva to the letter, right, but you could try to be as consistent with it as possible. And so I think that's what I would think we would do as Americans. But I don't think -- and I think what you're asking for is, I don't think there's a legal requirement that you're compelled to do that. I think, actually, a lot of the confusion in the foreign policy community, in the United States and other countries is that for the first time we've confronted this kind of enemy, and we're actually trying to develop a regime of legal rules that actually apply to them.
And I think it's -- it might be asking too much, actually, of our leaders to have something right off the shelf on September 12th or September 12th, 2002, that tells you exactly how to deal with all the problems that are posed by Al Qaida-style terrorism for the first time.
ZAKARIA: This is a big -- this is an important point in your book...
YOO: Yes, of course.
ZAKARIA: ... that this is -- this is a new kind of war, this is different, this is -- we've never had to deal with this before. And I'm struck by the parochialism of the way -- of the way in which you look at this, because, actually, terrorism is not that new. The British were dealing with terrorism for the last 50 years. The Spanish have lived with Basque terrorism for decades. I mean, frankly, there were anarchist periods in the 1890s that affected most of the countries of Europe and the United States. McKinley was shot by an anarchist. You know, in the 1930s, there were people blowing up buildings.
The idea that terrorism is somehow this kind of completely new phenomenon on the globe -- world stage that requires the suspension of the Constitution just seems very ahistorical and uniquely American, as if 9/11 is the only act that can be described as a terrorist attack in the last 100 years.
YOO: Well, first of all, I'm not certainly talking about the suspension of the Constitution. I don't think that it's, you know, anything goes, as it were.
But I do want to say, I think that the 9/11 attacks were different and unique in the American experience. That may be parochial to say it's unique in the American experience, but because of that, the American system never had to confront and think through these problems, which I completely agree with you, Fareed, have been a source of much discussion and struggle in other countries. I think of...
ZAKARIA: Which are also constitutional democracies.
YOO: Yes. Yes, I think mostly Great Britain and Israel, in particular, had to think through many of these problems that the United States only started to confront in 2001.
But to me what's different is that we had to think about, how do we fit that into our system? And that's really where it gets back to the book, because the book is really about, how do past presidents really confront for the first time these kind of unprecedented questions that arise in war that previous presidents never had to deal with?
And you can say, what we should do is go to the Supreme Court or we should go to Congress. The experience with our greatest presidents has been they took the charge to deal with it themselves first. And if Congress and the Supreme Court can catch up or keep up, that's great, but if they had to act on their own, they would do so.
ZAKARIA: And that is in large measure, it seems to me, the justification that you have for what -- what the Bush administration did, which, is if you look at Lincoln, if you look at FDR, they acted during war. And I think implicitly -- and certainly for a non-lawyer -- it seems to me what you're saying is, you could have argued what they were doing was unconstitutional. Certainly Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, certainly some of the actions of FDR, but that history sort of vindicates them. It's not really a constitutional judgment. It's that, in the end, history vindicated them because there was -- you know, there was these emergency exigencies.
YOO: I think that's a fair reading. One is that history may look at things very differently than at the time. The thing I do also want to point out is there was enormous criticism or reaction to all of these presidents when they took these steps, and in some ways, the system -- the political system, Congress, the president, the whole network of commentators, observers, active public citizens can also respond and in many ways counterbalance or check those presidents when they disagree with them, in some ways much more fierce in past conflicts than what we've seen in the last 10 years in this country.
ZAKARIA: But, of course, in many of those cases, history did not vindicate them. FDR's internment of the Japanese-Americans was a classic case of essentially extra-constitutional exercise of presidential authority, which history looks upon shamefully.
YOO: Yeah, I agree.
ZAKARIA: I mean, so the fact that -- that other people have done it in the past is not necessarily going to vindicate everything that -- that you suggested...
YOO: Quite right.
ZAKARIA: ... that Bush do or that Bush did.
YOO: Well, let me also say, you know, having this kind of power in the presidents is no guarantee that presidents will exercise it wisely. We have had presidents who have made terrible decisions, wrong decisions. You mentioned internment. You could also look at Richard Nixon, who wiretapped his political enemies under the claim of national security.
I think there's a -- at the fundamental -- and I really -- this is where I really struggle with it in the book and going through these different presidents to figure out what they did that was right and wrong is, I mean, is it really worth in the Constitution and our system to have the ability for presidents to act energetically and quickly and swiftly when there's also the cost that you will have mistakes by people like in Nixon or the mistakes the FDR engaged in?
And in balance, at the end, I think it's worth it. But I'm not -- I don't ever want to be read to say that having this kind of unilateral presidential power is always a positive, that's always used for good. It can just as well be used for bad.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOO: I think when we come to the state where Al Qaida is not successfully carrying out operations or attempting to carry out operations against the American homeland in any sort of violent way that would cause a number of deaths...
ZAKARIA: But what is that -- that cedes the initiative entirely to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with John Yoo, the former Justice Department official, the author of the so-called torture memo during the Bush administration.
ZAKARIA: Let me point out what I think is the most dangerous part of the book. And I think that this is the part that unsettles me the most, which is there is a big difference between a Lincoln and an FDR, in that these were genuine wars of national survival or deep, intense national security that were by nature going to be limited in duration, whereas with the war on terror, this is frankly a definition of an ongoing, you know, response to a problem. Margaret Thatcher never called her struggle with IRA terrorism a "war."
And if you -- if the president gets to define this as a war, it is a war with no end, it is a war that will allow for a unilateral expansion of presidential authority beyond the normal confines of the Constitution, and it never ends. I mean, I think it's perfectly reasonable to imagine that, 35 years from now, there will still be some Al Qaida cell somewhere trying to, you know, send some guy into the United States with bombs in his underwear. Does that mean that the president gets to have this massive expansion of power for the next 35 years?
YOO: Fareed, I think that is -- to me, that's the most difficult legal question in all of the war on terrorism issues that we really have not discussed or aired in a very full way. And so I think there's a lot of thinking that needs to go into that question. All I can offer is just my take on it, which is -- one is that the Congress and the Supreme Court always have ways to prevent the president from going that far. Take all the struggling about the Guantanamo Bay facility now. If Congress wanted to get rid of the Guantanamo Bay facility, they could have done it the next day -- just not fund it, right? They could have -- or what we actually have is the reverse. We have Congress trying to stop the president from essentially closing it. And we've had the Supreme Court actually play a much more enlarged role than it ever has historically to extend habeas corpus to Guantanamo.
But I really think the legal question you're asking is the hardest -- legal and political question, when does a war on terrorism end?
ZAKARIA: And I think it's a cop-out, frankly -- not a cop-out, but it's sophistry to say, well, Congress and the Supreme Court can -- can check him, because you know that, as a political fact, the president is the single elected official of the entire country. He represents the United States, you know, as a nation and particularly has privileged position on national security.
If the president says, "I believe this is important for the national security of the United States," it is very difficult for -- and historically has been very difficult for Congress and even the Supreme Court, as you well know -- you know, the Supreme Court basically said, We don't want to get involved in most of these issues. It's an invitation for struggle between Congress and the presidency.
So doesn't the president have a responsibility to act responsibly in not trying to declare kind of open-ended war that would give him an open-ended expansion of his authority?
YOO: I agree with you. I mean, I don't think presidents should ever use their power any farther than is necessary to defeat Al Qaida. I would not want to see, for example, the economy mobilize or the country go to a total war-footing to try to defeat Al Qaida.
And I wasn't trying to evade your question about, is this really a war? Or if it is a war, is it so different because it doesn't have an end point that it raises doubts about how broad we should be, in terms of the president's powers?
But I do think that it is a war. The problem is, we can't figure out how it ends. And so your question is, should the power...
ZAKARIA: ... you just said something interesting. It's a war, but you don't want us to mobilize our economy.
YOO: Yes. Yeah.
ZAKARIA: So, in other words, there's clearly -- you have a very limited conception of what, you know, how it constitutes a war, which largely involves the expansion of presidential authority on issues relating to wiretapping, torture, and things like that. You don't think it should be a war that allows the president to nationalize private industry, for example, I'm guessing?
YOO: No, I'm -- I'm not saying not legally, but I just think as a matter of policy, I would not like to see that happen. I don't know if it's necessary.
ZAKARIA: But do you believe this is a war that -- that -- that gives the president the legal authority to do that?
YOO: Well, Congress has already passed statutes which would allow the president to do things like that if he declares a national emergency and so on. And these kind of powers have never -- haven't been trigged since the Korean War.
But I think the -- I just want to get back to the -- I think it's a really difficult question. When does this war end? Because that's when the powers -- and, I mean, I'd be the first to say what I'm talking about in this book is really about presidential powers during periods of emergency and crisis. And your concern, which is a difficult one to address, is if you can't define the end point, then you're talking about those powers just going on forever.
ZAKARIA: So eight years.
ZAKARIA: We're eight years into the invoking -- the invocation of these powers.
YOO: Yes. When do we -- when do they ever go away?
ZAKARIA: Right. You say eight years from now, we'll have 16 years, it will have been the longest war in American history. Can we then say it's over?
YOO: Yeah, no, I -- I don't know. I mean, my -- this is what I would offer as an idea, is if we were going to fight a non-state and we're not going to have a signing of the peace treaty on the Battleship Missouri, right, we have to figure out, when do we think the conflict is over for purposes of our laws or our political system? Is it -- I don't think it's when every single person who calls themselves a terrorist has been captured.
ZAKARIA: So why isn't it over already?
YOO: Well, I think when we come to the state where Al Qaida is not successfully carrying out operations or attempting to carry out operations against the American homeland in any sort of violent way that would cause a number of deaths...
ZAKARIA: What does that mean? That cedes the initiative entirely to them. You could say, if they get one -- if they get one Nigerian crackpot on a plane with -- with, you know, some chemicals in his underwear, that means we have to -- we have to suspend the Constitution for that?
YOO: Well, first of all, let me just say, we're not talking about suspending the Constitution...
YOO: Of course. But I just want to -- I don't want to be on record as buying onto it, either. You know, but I think -- you know, part of it is all built around the threat that the enemy poses, right, the potential harm they can cause the country.
And you're right, unfortunately, some of that has to do with Al Qaida, but a lot of it has to do with how successful our efforts are to defeat them. And I think a peace treaty in a way, when you're dealing with normal nations, plays the role of the other side promises to stop fighting and they promise to police their own citizens not to attack us anymore.
The problem with a group like Al Qaida is I don't know if we can ever sign a peace treaty with them.
ZAKARIA: But then you're saying it'll go on forever.
YOO: It could go on for quite some time.
ZAKARIA: We're not going to -- and we're not going to agree on this by the end of this program, but I very much appreciate your coming on. Thank you, John.
YOO: Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed it.
And we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If the U.S. leader chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and cooperation between China and the United States.
GIBBS: We want to work on issues of mutual concern. I don't think that either country can afford to simply walk away from the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World?" segment. What caught my attention this week was not one thing, but a series of small things that could add up to trouble. Let's start with the proposed meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama. Such an event a Chinese official warned on Tuesday would, quote, "seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-U.S. relations," unquote. Strong words.
Also in news recently, the American plan to sell $6.4 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, fulfilling a pledge made in 2001. China again responded aggressively. It immediately suspended contacts between the Chinese military leadership and their American counterparts. It pledged to punish with unspecified sanctions any American company involved in the deal. And it tested one of its long- range missiles.
The harsh words are not just emanating from Beijing. Hillary Clinton recently publicly scolded China for its continued refusal to support U.N. sanctions against Iran. And she gave an eloquent speech on Internet freedom right after the spat between Google and China. The Obama administration is also still smarting from China's treatment of President Obama at Copenhagen when junior Chinese officials wagged their fingers and angrily disagreed with the president and kept him waiting outside conference rooms.
So how real is all of this tension and how will it play out? At least one analyst has said that the Google case may be remembered by history much like today we remember the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the first shot fired in a war.
But Minxin Pei, one of the world's top China scholars and a frequent guest on this show disagrees. He says most of this is bluffing, posturing bluster. And that the Chinese are responsible for about 90 percent of it. China needs to pound its chest to show both its own people and the rest of the world that it is a power to be reckoned with, that it won't be toyed with.
Inevitably the United States has to respond to these nationalist actions from China's side. Minxin Pei points out though that these two nations are so closely tied, their financial fortunes so interconnected that neither side can hurt the other without hurting themselves.
Some have used a Cold War analogy, if China and the U.S. went to war economically, it would be nothing less than mutually assured destruction. And that's what keeps things stable. Well, one big test of just where things stand between the two nations will come in April. China's president Hu Jintao is expected to travel to the U.S. that month for a nuclear conference.
Whether he follows through with his plans or cancels them will speak volumes. And if Hu does come, look for how well or how poorly he gets treated by the White House. We will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "Question of the Week." Last Sunday I asked you who you thought had the greatest effect, good or bad, on the American economy out of the troika of key U.S. financial leaders: Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers.
The great majority of your votes were not surprisingly for Ben Bernanke. Some saying he was brilliant and deserving of a Medal of Honor. Others like Josh Siderowitz of New York thought Bernanke's actions were detrimental: "By bringing interest rates down to near zero, he has set the stage for roaring inflation."
And one viewer said it wasn't any member of that troika who deserves credit for saving the American economy, it was, quote, "the hard working people who pay full taxes."
For this week I want to know on a scale of one to 10 how likely you think it is that we will see a resolution of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict in the next 10 years. Let me know what you think. And please don't forget to include your name and where you live. We like to know who is watching and we like to give credit where it's due.
Also, as always, I would like to recommend a book. It's called "Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility." It's about what everybody was talking about in Davos last week and in Washington this week, America's crushing governmental debt.
President Obama's new budget forecasts an astounding $1.6 trillion deficit. The book was written by David Walker, the former head of the Government Accountability Office, a comptroller general of the U.S.
While in office, he went on a fiscal wake-up tour to warn that the U.S. was spending way beyond its means. He continues to do so today as president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The book has some very good ideas for reining in spending, paying down the debt. It's a wonky book, but it's short, well-written, and terribly important.
Of course, whether politicians in Washington pay any attention is another matter altogether. Though you could help with that by reading it.
Also don't forget to try your hand at our weekly world affairs quiz, "The Fareed Challenge," it will test just how well you know your world and what's going on in it.
Coming up right now on CNN, "RELIABLE SOURCES." Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Don't forget, we're now on at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern in the U.S., our times on CNN INTERNATIONAL remain unchanged.