Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Digging the U.S. Out of Debt; Mohammad Larijani Defending Iran's Record on Human Rights; General Motors Back From the Brink

Aired November 21, 2010 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

This week, we begin a crucial debate, one that will determine whether the United States can finally set its economy on a course of long-term stability and growth.

Look, we've got short term problems with this recovery, mainly because consumers remain cautious and mired in debt. The government can only do so much, and only for so long, to boost the economy through spending and tax cuts and low interest rates. Fundamentally, the U.S. government has to create an economic climate that convinces consumers and investors and businesses that America is open for business, and that means getting our house in order.

The Fiscal Reform Commission appointed by President Obama has presented a set of proposals from its two chairs, Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles. They're smart, centrist and sensible. I don't agree with all of them, but there's enough in there to begin a conversation that could lead to a compromise that would finally set the U.S. on a sound fiscal course.

The problem is very simple. Americans have an appetite for government benefits that greatly exceeds our appetite for taxes. For over a generation, we've closed this gap by borrowing -- lots. But over the next decades, that becomes impossible. The gap becomes gargantuan.

Over the next 75 years, the cost of entitlement programs exceed government revenues by $40 trillion. Yes, that's trillion. So, the present path is unsustainable.

What to do? The obvious answer is that we have to cut spending and raise revenue.

Each of us will prefer a different mix. In fact the "New York Times" website has a nifty feature that you can open up and simply punch in the cuts and tax increases you would prefer to close that gap. I've made my choices, and you can see them on our website. Take a look, and make your own choices.

The commission's proposals are valuable in that they take on a number of issues that have been politically radioactive so far -- advocating gas taxes, phasing out tax benefits for debt on our houses, cutting defense spending, and we need to be able to put everything on the table to make this work.

The greatest danger is not in the economic realm. There are answers in the economic realm. It's in the political realm. The political system is geared to destroy exactly such centrist proposals because the left and right tear it apart from each side, the moderates run scared, and the problem stays unresolved.

That's what happened with immigration, for example. The only problem is, this is our biggest national problem. Unattended, the costs spiral, the politics get worse, and the fiscal condition of the United States becomes more and more dangerous.

I write about all this in greater detail in my column in "Time" magazine. You can check it out online and in print, and you can also see an opposing view on the same issue from Joe Klein, who is a good friend, a bright man, but, of course, on this issue, simply wrong, in my humble opinion.

We have a great show for you today. First up, a rare glimpse of Iran's world view from a fascinating source. The Larijani Family have been called the Kennedys of Iran. Mohammad Larijani came to the U.N. this week to defend his nation's human rights record at the U.N. He'll talk to us about that defense and much more. Is Iran ready to come to the table with the U.S.?

Then, "What in the World?" A government plan that worked, part two.

Next, the U.S. and NATO say combat operations in Afghanistan should end in 2014. Should it happen? Can it happen? We'll ask a terrific panel.

Let's get started.


ZAKARIA: Mohammad Larijani comes from what is certainly the most powerful political family in Iran. One brother, Ali Larijani, is the Speaker of the Parliament. Another brother, Sadegh, heads the Judiciary. That's two of the three branches of Iran's government, and they're controlled by Larijanis. And in the Islamic Republic, they have a special status on religious issues. Their father was a very influential grand ayatollah.

Mohammad, our guest, is a mathematician, former parliamentarian, former foreign minister, who is now, among other things, the head of the country's Human Rights Commission. That brought him to New York this week to defend his country's human rights record at the U.N.

Larijani is a very smart man from a very influential family, a family, by the way, that is often at odds with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. You'll want to hear what he has to say, not just on human rights, but democracy in Iran, the nuclear issue, and relations with the United States. Welcome, Mr. Larijani.


ZAKARIA: Let -- let us talk about the reason you're here. There is a U.N. resolution condemning Iran for human rights. You have been involved in human rights for a long time. What do you say to the world when they look at Iran's record on human rights and seem appalled?


While this is the right question and the right time, this democracy, which is unique in the Middle East, and, in fact, the greatest democracy in the Middle East, led Iran less than 30 years to be a prominent country, in science, technology, political influence. So I think this is a very basic issue for us.

When we look to the human rights, we see it in the way that it is pursued by countries like the United States and a number of Europeans as way to put political pressure on Iran because they don't like such an erection of democracy.

ZAKARIA: But the -- but the condemnations are not just from the United States, and they're not just from governments. They are Human Rights Watch, they are Amnesty International. You go to almost any impartial human rights organization and they will point out executions, stonings, amputations, political prisoners. This is -- this is fairly well-documented.

LARIJANI: Well, it's not well documented. It's a kind of media blitz about the issue of human rights. But the allegations are not well-founded, or it is ill-founded.

Let me take you to the -- one of the famous one, Sakineh Mohammadi, a lady which was condemned to capital punishment. She was involved in illegal relation with another person.

She received capital punishment, but our legal system in the case of capital punishment, there -- it has a lot of check and balances. It is right now going through the check and balances. While there is a chance that it should be lessened, the punishment, or not, this is dependent on the -- on the --

ZAKARIA: Well, let me interrupt, because -- because the difference, as I understand them --


ZAKARIA: -- it is not clear that Sakineh actually murdered her husband at all. This was a later charge. She's been condemned to stone -- to death by stoning, which is -- which is a cruel and unusual punishment.

LARIJANI: OK ZAKARIA: And as far as -- until the -- the Western outcry, frankly, there was no process of review that anyone was aware of. So it does seem very different.

And, in addition, you have hundreds more executions per capita than any country, really, outside of one or two in the world.

LARIJANI: Well let this --

ZAKARIA: So, this is an unusual case.

LARIJANI: Let us --

ZAKARIA: Stoning a woman to death, you know, burying her up to her -- to her head and then -- and then trying to prolong the pain as long as possible, you regard this as a -- as a -- compatible with the modern world?

LARIJANI: First of all, you should be aware that the stoning is a very rare punishment for the extreme case of crimes, which involves extreme adulterous case. It is an extreme criminal structure.

Let's go to notion of cruelty. Now, cruelty is a notion which is very much a cultural relative. You know, consider in New York and in Berlin or in London, if a -- puppy were ran by a car -- people get around it, police is coming, some people cry that there is something damaged to their -- to the body of the puppy. But, at the same time, governments are tolerated who kill hundreds and thousands of children elsewhere in the world. So, you see, this is not cruelty, and the other is cruelty.

We think punishment is cruel. It doesn't matter how to kill. If it's executed by gas, executed by injection, by guillotine or by sword, it is cruel. The idea is that what is the rationale of the -- of the punishment?

ZAKARIA: Historically, there has been -- you know, you don't flog people to death anymore. You know, you -- you regard that as cruel and unusual.

You're saying it doesn't matter if the -- if, at the end of the day, you inflict punishment, it's all the same?

LARIJANI: No, punishments are quite different. I want to say that cruelty is a notion which is not absolute. It could be cruelty in one society, in another it is not cruel as it is perceived in the other.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about democracy, because you say Iran is a flourishing democracy, but -- but not a liberal democracy. I want to see what you mean, because many of us look at Iran and we see a country where there is a kind of facade of democracy.

But you have a screening process which effectively rules out any serious political opposition, because anyone who wishes to run who is not approved by the -- by the guardian council cannot run for elections. Even then, when you have people who run for elections, the -- the vote tallies have been questioned by many, many independent authorities and, indeed, by millions of Iranians.

This is not my view, but millions of Iranians thought that the last election was fraudulently conducted and calculated, and now many of those people, the -- the leaders of the so-called Green Movement, are either under house arrest or have been in various ways persecuted.

That's a democracy? That's a -- that's a model for the Middle East?

LARIJANI: Well, our democracy is as genuine as any other democracy.

The latest election was, in fact, a great election in the sense that we had most time of the media devoted to the debates. Every issue was quite clear. The decision of the people was exactly clear. Twenty-four million voted for Ahmadinejad, about 12 million, 13 million voted for Mousavi.

ZAKARIA: And you -- you don't think there's anything to the reports, the widespread reports in Iran, by Iranians, which said the vote tallies were announced in places where the voting could not have even begun --

LARIJANI: You know --

ZAKARIA: -- that -- that within 15 minutes of the voting being over, the -- the announcements were out there that Ahmadinejad had won by these large margins.

LARIJANI: No, no. No. This is not --

ZAKARIA: You don't even have computer votes. You were --


LARIJANI: No. (INAUDIBLE) computer votes.

ZAKARIA: But, in many of these places, it was being hand count (ph) --

LARIJANI: No, no. We have computer votes. In fact, we check computer votes with the hand records as well. We do have them.

I think even themselves and even other countries in the world, they consider the election was correct.

ZAKARIA: No country considers that. I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. I mean, there are a lot of countries that reconciled themselves to it, but every independent observer got reports from Iranians saying that they --


ZAKARIA: -- these were fraudulent. LARIJANI: No, Iran -- Iranians, if some Iranians --

ZAKARIA: There were -- there were millions of people on the street protesting in Iran, not in the United States.

LARIJANI: Protest after revolution is not a strange thing for -- for democracies. Any democracy could have protests and dispute over election.

In Iran, there were disputes about election. Obviously, there were dispute. How we could be a democracy without dispute?

ZAKARIA: But not dispute over whether or not the election had been -- had been manipulated.


ZAKARIA: Not a dispute saying I -- we preferred one outcome.

LARIJANI: So, this is (INAUDIBLE) issue. It was a general election, Mr. Fareed.

Well, democracy needs to be strengthened and flourished. Democracy needs a culture. The great mistake of the Green was they were carried away by the exploitation of the United States and Western countries. It was an ugly scene than Obama and others interfering with the internal affairs of Iran, siding with one of the candidates against the other.

This was a great mistake of the Green. This is the reason they lost even the popular support of the people.

ZAKARIA: We will be right back with Mohammad Larijani. He says the Iran and the U.S. don't need to be enemies forever, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Could you imagine normalization of relations with the U.S.?

LARIJANI: Why not? Why not? I mean, hatred and hostility is not authentic. We think we should have good relation with all countries in the world.




ZAKARIA: And we are back with Mohammad Larijani. He is the Human Rights Commissioner of Iran. One of his brothers is the Speaker of Parliament, another brother is the head of the Judiciary. They have been called the Kennedys of Iran.

Mohammed Larijani is also a mathematician who has been deeply involved in Iran's nuclear program.

All right. Let's talk about nuclear weapons and nuclear issues. Does Iran wish to -- is Iran on track to build nuclear weapons?

LARIJANI: Iran is on track to advance as a nuclear technology. Nuclear weapon does not add to our security. It wouldn't be an asset for our defense. It is mostly a liability for us.

ZAKARIA: Is it -- are you categorically ruling out the -- the possibility?

LARIJANI: Absolutely and categorically, Iran's strategic interests and practical strategy is not to go after weapons.

ZAKARIA: If you say you're not going down the weapons path, why not find a way to clarify that and therefore have a different relationship with the international community? Do you foresee a possibility of a deal?

LARIJANI: Well, there are people on different perspectives.

I am myself very optimistic. I think the sign of success will come from the moment that the Western countries and the United States reach the position that they should live with an Iranian capability which is not directed toward weaponry.

ZAKARIA: But -- but everybody, from President Obama to Secretary of State Clinton have informed that Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear technology. The issue is really just the weapons.

LARIJANI: Well, if they're really serious on that --


LARIJANI: Well, if they -- well, they are not serious, because the platform is obvious, is NPT. NPT has three pillars.

ZAKARIA: Right, but let's -- let's just stay with whether or not -- you say you're optimistic.


ZAKARIA: Why are you optimistic? Do you think the --

LARIJANI: The reason that I'm optimistic is that the hostile policy of the United States on depriving Iran from nuclear technology has failed, and it's failed drastically. Our first --

ZAKARIA: Wait a minute, but you have -- you have more and more sanctions against you every -- every month.

LARIJANI: Well, sanction is not success.

ZAKARIA: Where is the optimism? You -- where is the deal possible? I don't understand.

LARIJANI: Well, the deal is obvious. If the United States reached this conclusion that let us work with a capable Iran, I think this is the beginning of the success.

ZAKARIA: And do you think that in the next few years there is a likelihood of Iran having direct conversations with the United States?

LARIJANI: Well, this is up to the United States' administration. They are (INAUDIBLE) the -- the most hostile policy toward Iran, politically, media, and even infiltrating within Iran and sabotaging in Iran, supporting terrorist groups in Iran.

So, for any common person who talks to the normalization of relation with Iran, the major question is that, so what is the expectation of the United States? What do they want? Why they are so much hostile toward Iran? I think it's up to them.

Iran is not going to be a country to be ordered, like some other countries, for the relation.

ZAKARIA: But you -- if -- if the United States made an overture to have comprehensive negotiations on all issues with you, would Iran accept?

LARIJANI: Iran will very much welcome such a comprehensive discussion, which the reason for that is we are interested to bring the tension down in the region. It is in our basic national interest as well.

ZAKARIA: Could you imagine normalization of relations with the U.S.?

LARIJANI: Why not? Why not? I mean, hatred and hostility is not authentic. We think we should have good relation with all countries in the world, so why not United States? There is nothing intrinsically bad in here. It is the policy and the continued policy, and, unfortunately, persistent policy of the United States in hostility toward Iran. This is the main blockade.

ZAKARIA: And you will get rid of the death to America chants and the -- the ritual burnings and -- and desecrations of the American flag in Iran?

LARIJANI: Death to American chant is not death to America. It's -- it's death to -- to imposing. It's death -- it's death to bringing country under pressure. It is death to superstition. So definitely, nobody wants to have death to a single country.

It is not death to America. It is not death to the United States as such. It's is death to --

ZAKARIA: That's -- that's what you say.


ZAKARIA: That's what the chant says. You are now -- this is a literary (ph) interpretation of it.

LARIJANI: No, no. The death means no more American intervention in Iran.

Iran is an independent country. If they are ready to deal with a strong Iran, influential Iran, on -- on a very legal base and just base, the doors are open.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you another question about which there is much discussion. Some Iranian officials, particularly President Ahmadinejad, have said things that have led many to believe that Iran wishes to attack Israel. Can -- can you say categorically that Iran will, under no circumstances, launch an attack on Israel?

LARIJANI: It is not in our interest to attack any country, and we never did that.

ZAKARIA: So when President Ahmadinejad says Israel should be wiped off the map, what did he mean?

LARIJANI: Well, what Ahmadinejad has said is very clear-cut. He said the policies that Israel is following, the policy of occupying, the policy of depriving the Palestinians from their homeland, ethnic cleansing, this policy has failed. We consider this regime a grand failure, a grand, unjustful act in the area, the source of a lot of tension, and the source of tension which the debris of that is -- is felt even in New York.

What is the source of 9/11? The sad story which happened in here, more than 3,000 people lost their lives. Well, the source is over there.

The source of a lot of tensions and terrorists acts in the world is stemming from this -- this point, and I think these approaches that the government of the United States, one after another, is following, giving a carte blanche to the Jewish state, this is a continued mistake.

LARIJANI: Mr. Larijani, thank you very much.

And we will be right back.



ZAKARIA: And now, for our "What in the World" segment.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): This was the remarkable scene at 9:30, Thursday morning at the New York Stock Exchange. The largest IPO in American history. The people revving that engine were executives of General Motors, and they were about to raise $20 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: Let me remind you just how bad things have been for the car company.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Amidst the global financial crisis in November, 2007, GM posted the biggest quarterly loss ever, a staggering $39 billion in the red. In the summer of '08, things only got worse when gas hit $4 a gallon. Shortly thereafter, General Motors looked at its books and warned that the company might soon run out of cash.

That's when we all witnessed the now infamous shot of the executives from the big three automakers on Capitol Hill pleading for tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans.

In 2009, General Motors filed for bankruptcy and suffered one of the biggest Wall Street insults, being delisted off the New York Stock Exchange. And, in the end, the U.S. government bailed out General Motors with more than $50 billion taxpayer dollars.

But restructuring the company worked. General Motors has been steadily paying back the government's money to the tune of about $10 billion, and that's before the IPO. It made $2 billion in the third quarter of this year, and every quarter of 2010 has been profitable. The company has said if trends continue, General Motors will make $19 billion in pre-tax profits this year.

So the much derided government bailout saved an American icon, rigorously restructured a company, and brought it back to profitability in virtually no time at all. It also saved jobs, about a million of them, according to a new study from the Center for Automotive Research, which tallies with other estimates.


ZAKARIA: And so, as we enter Thanksgiving week, instead of constantly deriding the American government, this may be a case where we should say thank you, something along the lines of Warren Buffett's thank you note to Uncle Sam for the TARP that was published in the "New York Times" this week.

Buffett says the company faced an extraordinary emergency, a destructive economic force unlike any seen for generations. The only thing that could save us, Buffett says, was Uncle Sam, and save he did, with remarkably effective actions.

Look, the government does plenty of things badly. In fact, government actions, bad regulations, deregulation, bad policies, helped cause the financial crisis. But sometimes government acts wisely, as well. And, thank God, in the depths of 2008, it did just that.

And we will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIR ROSEN, AUTHOR, "AFTERMATH": We spent billions on the Afghan army and it didn't show up -- I was in Helmand in 2009. It didn't show up for that surge. They're not showing up for this surge. So I don't know where the hell they are.



ZAKARIA: 2014 -- that's when combat operations in Afghanistan are now set to end, but Afghan president Hamid Karzai wants to reduce military operations before then. So just what is the right strategy to end this war and not create bigger problems in the process?

I've gathered a panel who come at this question in very different ways.

Rachel Reid is the Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. Max Boot is the senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes prolifically on Afghanistan and all kinds of defense issues and has been called in to advise General Petraeus, General McChrystal, and various other key U.S. officials over the years. And Nir Rosen is a journalist and film maker who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting on America's wars there.


So Max, is ending the war really the right way to think about this in the first place?

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think our goal should be not so much to end the war as to transition the war from our troops to those of the Afghan national security forces, and that's something which I think is eminently achievable by the 2014 deadline that NATO is going to put out there. I mean, just in the past couple of years, you've seen the Afghan security forces increase in size from about 150,000 to more than 250,000, and their quality has been going up because of more -- of more intensive mentoring and a closer working relationship with American troops.

So that should be our -- our goal. It should not be to make Afghanistan as peaceful as Switzerland, but we don't have to. All we have to do is make it so that the Afghan government can defend its own territory. That's -- that's our real objective.

ZAKARIA: Nir, what -- what's the problem with that vision?

ROSEN: Well, on paper, you have 220,000, 250,000 Afghan troops, sure. In reality, you only have a fraction of that because of attrition, because of who's actually fighting, and the best example of that is Kandahar today.

Kandahar is billed as the most important battle in -- ever in the war in Afghanistan. Yet, who are we relying on? Not the Afghan army but Colonel Abdul Razak from Spin Boldak's border police, a warlord -- a very destructive, brutal warlord. So we've spent billions on the Afghan army, and it didn't show up -- I was in Helmand in 2009. They didn't show up for that surge. They're not showing up for this surge. So I don't know where the hell they are.

But in terms of what should we do, this is a political conflict. It requires a political solution, which requires negotiating with the Taliban, and unsavory as that might be. But they're not any more unsavory than the warlords we've empowered. But, instead of doing that, Petraeus has basically ruled out negotiations, he's killing or capturing Taliban, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Taliban are pushed into the hands of al Qaeda.

So, right now, there's really no reason on earth for the U.S. to be in Afghanistan, because al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan.

BOOT: Nir, if I could --

RACHEL REID, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I would agree that I think there's not enough focus being pushed on to some of these questions about government -- governance and rule of law, and too much focus on short term military gains, too much focus on handing over to the Afghan security forces without really looking at or trying to shape the political environment that underlies much of the conflict that we're seeing.

I was just in Kandahar a couple of weeks ago and looking into some more recent allegations of human rights abuses by Razak, and I do think it sends a terrible message that this was the year that the Americans and -- and NATO were talking about going into Kandahar and sorting out government -- governance, and look who their partner is. It's a man who's notorious for past human rights abuses, narcotics smuggling, a whole host of -- of problems, and this is the man that they're standing shoulder to shoulder with.

BOOT: Well, a lot of the reason why we've been so dependent on a lot of these malign actors, the warlords and the -- and the local power brokers is because we have not had a lot of our own troops in Afghanistan. So we have not been able to exert our own power and we have not put a lot of money and effort into training the Afghan security forces, and now both of those things are changing.

I mean, the number of our troops has surged from only 30,000 in 2008 to 100,000 today. And, to Nir's point, he talked about how we shouldn't be fighting these guys, we should be negotiating with them, but it's not either/or.

I mean, what General Petraeus realizes is you have to fight them to set the preconditions for negotiating. And this is a point that was driven home to me by a NATO officer in Kabul who said you have to knock them on their backside before you offer them a helping hand up, because if you reach out to them right now, they're going to slap you away.

ZAKARIA: Well, Nir, when you traveled there and when you look at these people, one of the -- the puzzles in Afghanistan is that the Taliban seems to be able to make inroads in large parts of the Pashtun areas, even though the polls don't suggest that there's over much support for them. So, if you look at the polls, it says they have -- what? -- 10, 15, 20, 25 percent support, depending on what poll you look at and what area you look at.

But then, you look at the -- the towns and the villages, and the Taliban is able to very easily come in and replace some Karzai-backed governor or replace some Karzai-backed official.

ROSEN: Polls in Afghanistan are nonsense. It's not the actual Western polling companies who conduct the polls. They use Afghan subcontractors. Afghanistan is the most corrupt country on earth. People are sitting in their homes and making up the answers. You can't actually go and conduct the polls in much of the country.

But, yes. It's true that the Taliban aren't necessarily winning because they're beloved by people, but because the government is losing and the government is hated, and the Americans are hated as well. We are not a benign actor. We are as much a maligned actor as are the warlords. We're dropping bombs on weddings, we're empowering warlords, we're arresting innocent men by the thousands and breaking into homes and special forces guys are killing pregnant women.

I mean, the occupation is a brutal systematic imposition of violence.

BOOT: Nir, Nir, Nir --

ZAKARIA: I want to just -- I want to just -- I just want to hear what Rachel has to say in this.

REID: I want to (INAUDIBLE) a very -- a very clear example of -- of just this -- that point that -- that Nir is making. I was in Kunduz in September, and you've got incidences of gang rapes, of murders, of daily thefts and extortion, and people have nowhere to turn to because if your district governor or your district police chief or district judge are all connected to the same militia, you have some cover that goes back to the cabinet or the vice presidency, then where do you turn?

So, one of these things that we say often in Afghanistan is that this kind of predatory behavior among the local government officials drives the insurgency. And in Kunduz you really feel it. It's very palpable.

BOOT: Well, there's no question that there's predatory behavior driving the insurgency, but a lot of the reason for that is that we have not made a serious effort at nation building. We have not given Afghanistan the attention it deserves. We certainly have not given it the kind of resources we've given in the past to Bosnia or to Kosovo or to Iraq or other countries, and that's only now starting to change.

And so, I -- we're -- we're training the Afghan security forces, we're making a bigger push on governance, the -- the number of civilian U.S. officials in Afghanistan has gone up 300 percent in the past year. So there's no question that these abuses are a problem, but now we have the resources to begin to address them in a way we didn't before.

ROSEN: You're --


BOOT: -- pursuing the live footprint strategy in -- for -- for nine years.

REID: You know, you -- you made one point that I think is actually really pertinent, which is that when -- when we have more stability, then -- then, we can do these things, and that's been -- that's been the mantra from the beginning that it's security first and justice later. And I think we see the -- the results of that written large across the country.

ROSEN: OK, in Iraq the conflict was about oil, and people wanted to control the state so that they could get the resources. In Afghanistan there are no resources, except for American dollars. We -- our presence is -- is this corrosive presence which fuels the conflict.

The warlords want us to stay there. Nobody wants peace. Everybody benefits from war. Warlords that we're using to protect our convoys are benefiting from us, Karzai and his drug dealing brother are benefiting from us. The Taliban who are demanding kickbacks from private security from different contractors to work in the areas are benefiting from us.

Our money is the main source, is the main cause of the conflict in the first place. So all we want is more and more and more, more troops and more money.

BOOT: Nir -- Nir, I agree with you that there's a lot of corruption in Afghanistan and a lot of our aid money has been siphoned off to various maligned actors. But I completely disagree with your implications, which is that if we weren't there, there wouldn't be a conflict. If we weren't there, you would see a repeat in the 1990s where you saw horrific civil war with Kabul getting bombed every day and with the Taliban eventually taking over that would happen again if our troops weren't there.

ZAKARIA: All right. And we are going to take a break and we're going to talk about what is likely to happen when we do start pulling back 2014, whether that's realistic and what Afghanistan will look like after 2014, when we come back.


REID: It is something you hear very often in Afghanistan, people's fear that there would be a return to civil war.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley and here are today's top stories.

Ireland plans to ask for an international bailout from its financial crisis. For more than a week the country has insisted that it didn't need help.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says he will not resume peace talks with Israel unless there's a freeze on Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Israeli hard-liners say they will reject any plan that includes halting settlements in East Jerusalem.

And AIDS activists are praising Pope Benedict XVI for condoning the limited use of condoms. The Pope says condom use may be morally acceptable to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Those are your top stories.

Up next, much more "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," and then, on "RELIABLE SOURCES," an interview with Former President Jimmy Carter.


ZAKARIA: And we are back talking about Afghanistan with Rachel Reid, Max Boot and Nir Rosen.

Max, if we go -- if things go according to plan, we do transition, we do start passing stuff over to the Afghan authorities 2014, what I'm not sure I understand is, why will some of this not simply start up again, that is the violence, because in Afghanistan -- in Iraq, we were in effect backing the majority of the country in a civil war. They won. In Afghanistan, it's not quite that situation, because the Taliban, which is the largest part of the country, is divided, the northern alliance is not going to go anywhere. So it feels like there are still elements of a kind of ongoing civil war.

We can repress it, you know, it's like putting a lid on -- on it, but when we leave, wouldn't it all just bubble up again?

BOOT: It's not really a civil war, Fareed. It's really an intra-Pashtun conflict, because the Taliban have very little support outside the Pashtuns who probably about 40 percent -- 42 percent of the population. And even there they're a minority (INAUDIBLE), as you pointed out yourself the public opinion polls suggest very little overall support for the Taliban.

We can stand up, Afghan national security forces that are fairly robust, they're not necessarily going to eliminate the insurgency but they can tap it down to a fairly low level where it's not a threat to the integrity of the state.

ZAKARIA: And Rachel, is it likely this all starts up again?

REID: It is something you hear very often in Afghanistan. People's fear that there would be a return to civil war and I think that unless you actually engage in a serious kind of political reform and bring in some accountability and start to marginalize some of these most abusive figures who head these different ethnic blocks, I think it's a very real risk.

And I think also in this move with the international so impatient to get out and move on, I think we're much more likely to see hasty and bad deals done in the name of reconciliation which will basically just be deal making rather than genuine reconciliation, and I think that too is very dangerous for long-term security.

ZAKARIA: And what about the role of Pakistan, which at the end of the day, the -- the single most likely scenario seems to me is if we pull back, wouldn't they move forward?

ROSEN: It depends on how you pull back. I mean, you need to reach some kind of political accommodation. You have to reach a settlement with the Taliban. You can't just kill them. There's no negotiation now, just killing them or attempts to do that.

So, yes, if you just suddenly withdrew from Afghanistan, you would have Pakistan backing militias with Russia, China, Iran, India, everybody would be backing militias and that would be terrible for the Afghan people. I don't think it would affect American national security in a significant way. We keep on talking about -

ZAKARIA: Why? Explain.

ROSEN: -- what we can do. Because I can't imagine any national security interest America has in Afghanistan today. Al Qaeda was defeated in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. Al Qaeda to the extent that it even exists is not in Afghanistan. It's in Pakistan. It's in Yemen. It's in Internet cafes and slums around the world and it's a symbol, it's motivation and inspiration, but it's not some James Bond villain, which is planning and sponsoring operations around the world.

BOOT: You know, I can't -- I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to somebody say you can't imagine what national security interest we have in Afghanistan. Well, all you have to do is think back to 2001 to remember why we're there because of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which emanated from Afghanistan.

ROSEN: Or from Hamburg, Germany or in Florida really.

BOOT: It was planned from Afghanistan, which was the headquarters of al Qaeda. And, yes, it's true that we succeeded in chasing the al Qaeda headquarters across the border into Pakistan, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't come back if we leave Afghanistan.

You know, and another huge consequence of our departure if we leave in a way that creates a vacuum for the Taliban, for the terrorists, for all sorts of maligned actors, is that this will be claimed as a major victory for al Qaeda in the same way that they saw the departure of the Red Army in the 1980s as being an inducement for further terrorism. They will see Americans leaving with the tails -- with our tails between our legs as an encouragement for more attacks on us.

ROSEN: You know, people talked about prestige and loss of prestige after Vietnam. So (INAUDIBLE) has lost their prestige. We're still the only superpower in the world.

ZAKARIA: Rachel, what do you think about this underlying debate that's going on really about what is the effect of American military actions in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, there's, you know, there are those who say like Nir you're creating more Jihadis. You're creating anti-Americanism. You're creating radicalism.

So when you see it on the ground, what is your sense of people's reaction to the use of American military force?

REID: Well, I've done a lot of work on civilian casualties in Afghanistan over the last couple of years and certainly it's been very true to say that this has been the recruitment tool for the insurgency, the number of civilians that were being killed by U.S. and NATO forces.

I was in Mirwais Hospital, which is the main hospital of the south, a couple of weeks ago interviewing all the conflict related patients there, and every single one of the patients that I interviewed except for one INA soldier said that their injuries were caused by American bullets, American bombs, American mines, which is almost certainly not true because the majority of civilian casualties as we know are caused by the Taliban.

But it is notable that despite their efforts to reduce civilian harm, there is still enough disruption and anger and hostility in some of these areas that have been so battered by the conflict that still the Americans are being blamed for it.

ZAKARIA: And on that note, we are going to have to stop. Max Boot, Rachel Reid, Nir Rosen, thank you very much.

We will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Our question this week from the "GPS Challenge" is which of the following was not added this week to the U.N.'s list of intangible heritages that are in need of preservation? Is it A, Spanish flamenco dancing; B, Mexican tequila; C, French food; D, Chinese acupuncture.

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for 10 more questions. While you're there, don't forget to check out our podcast. You can subscribe to it on iTunes and that way you will never miss a show and the price is, of course, zero.

This week's "Book of the Week" is Martin Jack's "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order." The subtitle essentially says it all. The book basically says we ain't seen nothing yet. China is going to change the western dominated world we are all comfortable with. Whether you agree with it or not, this is a very forcefully written lively book that is full of provocations and predictions.

Now, for "The Last Look." After the recent U.S. elections, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped that the incoming class of Congressional freshmen can't read. I don't imagine his honor meant that literally, but down in Brazil, there's a politician whose literacy is being questioned by prosecutors.

The candidate in question is a clown. Yes, an actual clown named Grumpy. I kid you not, I'm not making this stuff up. Grumpy won his Congressional seat by a landslide, garnering more than twice as many votes as his nearest competitor, Sleepy, the sleepy part is not true. But Grumpy might be even grumpier. He has been forced to submit to a literacy test to see if he's fit to serve. Grumpy's campaign slogan by the way was "It can't get any worse." Here's hoping Grumpy lives true to his slogan.

For this week's "GPS Challenge" question we asked you, which of the following was not added this week to the U.N.'s list of intangible heritages in need of preservation? The correct answer to the GPS question was B, Mexican tequila. That was the only one of the four not added to UNESCO's cultural heritage list this week. Go to our website for more.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES".