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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Ehud Barak; Interview with Philip Coggan; Interview With Leymah Gbowee; Interview with Ahmed Rashid, Peter Bergen

Aired April 08, 2012 - 13:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria. We've got a terrific show for you today, making stops in many places around the globe.

We start with what I believe is the single biggest threat to global stability right now, the tensions between Israel and Iran. Have a new round of sanctions eased Israel's security concerns? I will ask its defense minister, Ehud Barak.

Then to another trouble spot, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. With Koran burnings and protests now in the past, will the United States be able to draw down troops without leaving chaos in its wake?

Next up, debt, a fascinating historical perspective on this crucial topic, shedding real light on our present situation in the United States and Europe. We talk to an author of a superb new book, the economist, Philip Coggan.

Also, why is democracy so difficult in the Arab world? I'll explain.

But first, here's my take. Some of you regular viewers will recall that at the start of the first show of this year I predicted rather hopefully that the U.S. economy would recover nicely in 2012. I'm returning to that topic with some preliminary good news.

If you look around the industrialized world, the U.S. economy is the most promising of the bunch. The American recovery is not as vigorous as one might hope, but it is remarkably broad-based. Manufacturing is up, including, for the first time in 30 years, non- technology-based manufacturing.

Retail sales are up. Consumer confidence and spending are growing. Car sales are up. American businesses continue to do astonishingly well. Corporate profitability continues to grow, and the stock market reflects this.

The key areas of the economy that continue to lag are jobs and housing, both critical areas. Generating economic growth and corporate profits continues to be easier than creating jobs, as this week's data showed. Housing, for its part, has traditionally led every recovery since World War II. This time it hasn't because of the bursting of the housing bubble and the problems associated with mortgages and housing debt.

But at some point, that will end. The United States alone in the industrialized world is demographically dynamic. It adds 3 million people to its numbers every year and, at some point, kids don't want to live with their parents and that will produce demand for housing. And at that point, the recovery will gain full steam.

The new potentially game-changing trend for the United States is the rise of shale gas. Thanks to the new process of fracking, America now has 75 years of natural gas. And most important, it is the world's low-cost producer of natural gas.

The rise in gasoline prices and petroleum prices has obscured this much more important fact. Energy costs are plummeting in America. That's why manufacturers like Dow Chemical are actually opening new factories in the United States.

You see, Asia has an advantage, lower labor costs, but now the U.S. has an advantage, lower energy costs than Asia. And this is a process that has just begun. Add all this together and you have the prospects of a broad-based, sustainable American recovery.

Of course, there are dark clouds. Europe's woes could have an impact. China could slow down. But the event that is most likely to alter this picture is an Israeli strike on Iran, which would send oil prices sky high and could have other spillover effects.

And to shed light on that issue, we begin the show with a conversation with Ehud Barak. So let's get started.


ZAKARIA: Joining me now from Tel Aviv, the former prime minister and current defense minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. Welcome back to the show.


ZAKARIA: You have long argued that we need more pressure on Iran. President Obama announced recently that he believes that there is sufficient oil in the world, the supplies of oil are sufficient to pursue an even more stringent set of sanctions. These will be the tightest, harshest sanctions that have ever been put in place, I think, against any country.

Do you think that this will be enough to put the kind of pressure on Iran that you have wanted?

BARAK: No one can predict, Fareed. It is clear that the depths of the sanctions is different for what we had in the past, and it has its impact both the closing of the swift clearing system as well as the sanctions on the oil export and, of course, the coming negotiations that will probably encourage them to move.

But to tell the truth, we hope for the better, but I don't believe that this amount of sanctions and pressure will bring the Iranian leadership to the conclusion that they have to stop their nuclear military program.

ZAKARIA: And if they were to make -- if the Iranians were to make some proposal or agree to some proposal, would you be satisfied, would the Israeli government be satisfied if they were to accept some version of a very intrusive international inspections regime, or to accept that the enriched uranium be made in Russia?

Are these kinds of compromises ones you could accept as a solution to this problem?

BARAK: Fareed, we see the Iranian nuclear military program as a challenge to the whole world, not just to Israel. We are convinced that to deal with it once it's nuclear will be much more complicated, much more dangerous, much more costly in terms of both a human life as well as financial resources.

But at the same time, we are not against any kind of effective and urgent sanctions, not even against negotiations. But we told our American friends as well as the Europeans that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiation to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that, number one, no more enrichment to 20 percent. All already enriched 20 percent material out of the country to a neighboring trusted country. Then all the material enriched to 3.5 percent, probably except for a few hundred kilograms, should be taken out of the country, once again, into a neighboring trusted country.

Number three, the installation in Fordo near Qom under the ground should be decommissioned in order not to enable them to resume enrichment to 20 percent, and tight inspection by the IAEA, according to protocol 3.1, should be imposed. If all these are met, even if they get in exchange fuel rods for their TLR (ph), their research reactor and so on, that could be OK. It would be a different regime.

But if the P5+1 will settle for a much lower threshold, like just stop enriching 20 percent, it means that basically the Iranians, at a very cheap cost, bought their way into continuing their military program, slightly slower, but without sanctions. That will be a total change of direction for the world.

ZAKARIA: And if that were to happen, if the Iranians were to -- if you were to end up with what you regard as a suboptimal or less- than-perfect solution, you have argued that Israel has a closing window opportunity to act because, at a certain point, the Iranian sites get hardened.

Do you believe it would then be necessary -- is there time pressure on you? Do you believe that you have only a certain amount of time before which military strikes would not be effective against Iran? BARAK: You know, by definition, we have a limited time. Every quarter it becomes shorter by a quarter. But I expressed already my view that we don't have to make a decision next week and we cannot wait years, though.

It is not a matter of weeks, it's not a matter of -- but it is not a matter of years on the other hand, before Israel will be practically kind of deprived from the possibility to contemplate what could be done.

But that is not the real issue. I really see it as a major change for the whole world. I really see it as a critical time for the rest of the world as well. And I really think that the tightest possible sanctions and steps against Iran should be ratcheting in a way that will effectively corner (ph) it.

ZAKARIA: But Mr. Minister, you said you don't have to decide this in a week, but you don't have much more than a year. So, in effect, you're saying that there is a fairly clear timeline here, that around some time in the next nine to 12 months, something has to get negotiated that stops Iranian enrichment. Otherwise, Israel will feel compelled to act.

BARAK: I didn't -- you know, you're going beyond -- you go much beyond what I've said. We don't have any decision about what to do, a date for the decision.

But it's clear, that for us, it's critical. I strongly believe it's not critical for us. Actually, I believe that it's critical for you as well.

I read into your articles, right, that we, you, Fareed and me, have differences about it, but I think that you are wrong and I'm right about it, that no mutually assured destruction kind of situation will kind of -- will serve as a modifier or stabilizer in this case, because we are now continent (ph) and Israel is not either the United States or the Soviet Union.

And it's basically -- sanctions are the only option by now. And the fact that Khamenei says that he doesn't want to get a nuclear weapon is just the kind of a tricky kind of rhetoric. Amano's report could not leave doubt in the mind of any serious person that Iran is now determined to reach nuclear military capability in spite of the determination of the rest of the world to block them.

And looking into the past, drawing from the examples of both Pakistan and North Korea, we can realize that it can happen. So we feel it urgent. Of course, we look at it slightly different from other nations, but we think that it's important to deal with it extremely seriously and to -- not to remove any option from the table, except for containment.

Those who believe in containment see a ray of hope. I don't believe in containment, so I don't see how easily it's going to be solved. I will be happy to be wrong.

ZAKARIA: Mr. Minister, there's a new book out in the United States, called "A Crisis of Zionism" by Peter Beinart.

And in it he proposes that the West Bank and Gaza should be described not as the West Bank and Gaza, not as Judea and Samaria but a undemocratic Israel, the argument being that you have millions of Palestinians there who have no vote and no state. Is that a fair characterization of the West Bank, as undemocratic Israel?

BARAK: I did not read the book so I cannot make kind of a statement about, but it's clear that the deeper reason to have this solution of two states for two people is in order to make sure that Israel, we would delineate a borderline within which we will have a solely Jewish majority for generations to come, and beyond which we will have a viable Palestinian state with a Palestinian majority, that will express their identity, their dreams and their aspirations.

And I think that it's possible -- it's not simple, it's possible. It needs goodwill from both sides, a readiness to take a tough decision and certain weights toward it, if Israel remain the only political entity, west of the Jordan River, the fact that there are blocks of millions of Palestinians, (inaudible), and they cannot vote to the Knesset makes a problem.

And if they can vote to the Knesset, it make Israel by a nation of state. But that's exactly -- it's clear to all of us Israelis, including right-wing Israelis, and that's what drive most of us, including the right wing, to understand that the only solution is a two-state solution. And that's what Netanyahu said more than once.

The only issue we care about is that viewing the execution that the possessing of the (inaudible) of these two states for a solution, the security considerations of Israel and its national interest, it will be taken into account.

Because, however complicated the Palestinian state will be, a part of community of 20-odd states of Arab nature, and Israel will remain the only Jewish state in the region, and probably the only member of the U.N., which has explicitly threatened to be destroyed by other members of the U.N. That's a situation that needs to be taken care of by us.

We realize we are leaving a tough neighborhood, no mercy for the weak and no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. We want to be strong, ready to protect ourselves, under whatever kind of threat, but at the same time, stretching out our hand to make peace with any neighbor who is ready for it.

ZAKARIA: Ehud Barak, pleasure to have you on, sir.

BARAK: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Up next, we go from Israel to another hot spot, Pakistan. Be right back.


ZAKARIA: Last week, the United States put a $10 million bounty on this man's head. His name is Hafiz Saeed, the man Washington blames for masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. So imagine the surprise when he shows up openly at a press conference in Pakistan, and he had a message for the State Department. "Why give the $10 million to someone else? Why not give it to me," he said.

It is a message of defiance that also highlights the state of relations between Washington and his Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. I have two superb guests to talk about that relationship as well as another crumbling partnership across the border in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Rashid is an award-winning journalist and the author of a new book "Pakistan on the Brink." And in Islamabad itself, we are joined by CNN's terror expert, Peter Bergen. Welcome.

Ahmed, was it a mistake to have put that bounty on Hafiz Saeed? What do you think was the thinking behind it?

AHMED RASHID, AUTHOR, "PAKISTAN ON THE BRINK": Well, I fear now that, you know, both countries have been in this very dense relationship for the last six months. I fear now what we are seeing is a kind of tit for tat, a kind of proxy war going on now.

Because Pakistan did not open the road when the Americans expected. That is the road that is transporting goods from Karachi up to the Afghan border for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That road has been shut now for nearly five months.

Pakistan was supposed to open that road after a parliamentary debate, it hasn't done so. I think this is an American response to that. A week ago, we saw an earlier tit for tat when the chairman -- when the head of CENTCOM, General Mattis, was in Islamabad, and that very day the Defense Department releases a statement saying that the Americans were not responsible for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in -- on the border, five months ago that sparked this present problem.

So, you know, both sides are, instead of coming together and really healing the rift, I fear that they are going further apart.

ZAKARIA: You wrote in a piece in the FT that it really is time to start serious conversations with the Taliban and find some way to create some level, a kind of political stability. You know, this is something we have all talked about for two or three years and somehow is doesn't seem to -- nothing seems to move.

Is there any sense that there is movement on the U.S. side, the Taliban side, the Karzai side?

RASHID: Well, you know, I mean, talks have started. There have been direct meetings between American officials and the Taliban in Qatar. They have been stymied for the moment because of all these terrible incidents in Afghanistan. But it's very clear that the Taliban do want to talk.

We should remember, Fareed, that, you know, it was the Taliban who approached the Americans for talks two years ago, through the Germans and through Qatar. And they sent messages to the Americans saying, we want to talk.

Now I really believe that the Taliban do not want to see the Americans leave, and a really even worse civil war erupting in Afghanistan as a result of that.

ZAKARIA: So they are looking for some kind of a deal?

RASHID: Yes. They are looking for a deal with the U.S. so that there can be, first of all, I think, a reduction in the violence. In other words, that they want -- both sides would have to build trust with each other and take measures, which would hopefully reduce the violence, ultimately, of course, ending in some kind of cease-fire between them.

And then, you know, they would obviously want to talk to Karzai about some kind of power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government. But I think the decision has to be made in Washington that they want to pursue negotiations with greater determination than before, even perhaps with more determination than the military track.

And the military has to be told -- the U.S. military has to be sold that these negotiations are vital. And, you know, the military -- there will come a time when the military will have to play second fiddle to the negotiations.

I don't think the U.S. military is ready for that yet.

ZAKARIA: Peter, do you get a sense that in Pakistan if there were to be some settlement, if the U.S. were to withdraw, does Pakistan believe that the Taliban are basically there -- you know, is their path to influence in Afghanistan?

That, you know, the last time around, the Taliban effectively came to power on the backs of the Pakistani army. Do they view the return of the Taliban as something that they, the Pakistani military, want to push for?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think there is any great desire by the Pakistani government to have a Taliban- controlled Afghanistan, not at all, partly because there has been so much blowback into Pakistan by, you know, Taliban groups.

I think they do want to have control and one of the ways they see control is through the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan. But that doesn't mean that they want a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan at all. And they certainly don't want another civil war because, you know, an Afghanistan that blows apart on their western border will produce huge refugee flows.

Pakistan has already lived through that with one of the largest refugee populations in the world during the Soviet war. They don't want a repeat of that. So I think they want a semi-stable government that isn't aligned with India. They see the Taliban -- elements of the Taliban as part of that. But, you know, just zooming out for one second, Fareed, I'm very skeptical that negotiations with the Taliban will succeed because we have already run a controlled experiment on this question in Pakistan repeatedly.

The Taliban government has done -- the Taliban has done peace deals with the Pakistani government in '06 and '05, in Waziristan, north and south, in Swat in 2009. And the Taliban took each of those peace deals, so-called, as an opportunity to regroup and to kind of spread their influence.

So I don't think they are sort of rational actors, a sort of group of Henry Kissingers in waiting, with whom that you can do a deal, that won't necessarily stick. And as you indicated at the beginning of this discussion, you know the talks of whatever status they were, they are not going very well.

We don't have a huge amount of time before 2014. And I think it is much more important to be focused on the free and fair election in Afghanistan in 2014, a very predictable event, if that election is not seen as free and fair and -- you know, and resources are not put into it to make sure that that is the case.

That could be a sort of instigator of greater conflict in Afghanistan. And I think the U.S. has sort of put this in this binary thing. If we have a deal with the Taliban, somehow that solves the Afghan problem, when really it's a much larger political problem that, to some degree, a free and fair election in 2014 might begin to solve.

ZAKARIA: Quick final thought, Ahmed?

RASHID: Well, you know, I think, you know, there are going to be so many complications which are not necessarily being addressed by the administration or by NATO.

For example, not only is there this question of the Taliban, there is a question of a regional dialogue with the neighbors. And in fact that regional dialogue is even further away than before because now the U.S. is at odds with Pakistan. The U.S. is at odds with Iran. These are key neighbors of Afghanistan.

How are you going to prevent these countries from interfering in Afghanistan after the Americans leave in 2014? You have to try and get these countries together now. And it doesn't look like this will happen.

The internal dynamics, the elections in 2014, what role is the Northern Alliance, the non-Pashtuns, going to play? These are all very important questions. And finally, the economic question. There's no sustainable economy in Afghanistan, even 10 years after American intervention.

The American forces will leave. Thousands of Afghans who have been servicing the Americans will be out of a job.

ZAKARIA: Ahmed Rashid, Peter Bergen in Islamabad, thank you for discussing a subject that isn't going to go away.

Up next "What in the World?" Understanding the problems in the Arab world by exploring events that took place 1,000 years ago. Don't miss this.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. As Egypt's election campaign gathers pace, we are seeing the rise of candidates from Islamic parties, one more radical than the next. Across the Arab world, the promise of the new birth of freedom has been followed by a much messier reality. And it's raised the question in many people's minds, why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world? As it happens, a Harvard economics professor, Eric Chaney, recently presented a rigorous paper that helps unravel this knot. Chaney asks why there is a democracy deficit in the Arab world, and systematically tests various hypotheses against the data. He notes that such Muslim majority countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Albania, Bangladesh and Malaysia all have functioning democratic systems, so the mere presence of Islam or Islamic culture can't be to blame.

He looks at oil-rich states, and again finds that some with vast energy reserves, like Saudi Arabia, lack democracy, but so do some without oil, like Syria. He asks whether Arab culture is the culprit, but this doesn't provide much clarity. Chaney points out that many countries in the Arab neighborhood seem to share in the democracy deficit -- Chad, Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and yet they are not Arab. Then Chaney constructs a persuasive hypothesis based in ancient history and modern economics.

He notes that the democracy deficit today exists in lands that were conquered by Arab armies after the death in 632 A.D. of the Prophet Mohammed. Lands that the Arabs controlled in the 12th century remain economically stunted today. This correlation is very strong and it is not simply a coincidence. Arab imperial control tended to mean weak civil society and a large role for the state, particularly in the economy. Chaney documents the latter showing that the government's share of GDP is 7 percent higher, on average, among countries that were conquered by Arab armies than among those that were not. He also finds that these countries have fewer trade unions and less access to credit -- features of a weak civil society.

There are less medieval factors. It has long been apparent that the dictatorships of the Middle East form close alliances with religious leaders to crowd out other leaders in groups. Indonesia, for example, is a country with the world's largest Muslim population, and it has religious parties just as Egypt does, but it also has powerful groups that are less religious, more moderate and entirely secular. All these groups compete for influence on an even footing, something that is not happening in Egypt or indeed in the Arab world.

Chaney's analysis reminds us that the real problem in a country like Egypt is that the military continues to keep power concentrated, undivided, and unchecked. It maintains its central role in the economy. The chief challenge in the Arab world remains to create a vibrant civil society, which means political parties, but it also means a strong, self-sustaining private sector.

The dysfunctions in the Arab world have ancient roots going back over 1,000 years, but this does not mean that the region is impervious to change. History and the habits it engendered are democracy's biggest foes in the Arab world, but these are habits, and they can change. And there are these institutions, and they can change. And as they do, things should improve.

Chaney gives us a prescription for the very long term, but it is at least a prescription for good change. And we will be right back.

Up next, a special guest from a recent visit to London. An author who knows a lot about the history of debts and deficits.


ZAKARIA: We think of our current economic crisis as new because at its heart is the accumulation of too much debt. But the battle between creditors and debtors is age-old. I had a very interesting discussion about this in London recently with Philip Coggan. He is the author of "The Economist's" Buttonwood column, and he has a terrific new book out, "Paper Promises: Debt, Money and the New World Order." We chatted about the surprising history of our relationship with money and debt. Listen in.


ZAKARIA: Philip Coggan, pleasure to have you on.

PHILIP COGGAN, THE ECONOMIST: Thank you very much for having me, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: So you have written this book, and one of the things I'm struck by is you look at the current crisis we have with regard to debtors and creditors, you know, all of the Western world in debt. And you say this is actually not so unfamiliar. This is part of a much broader pattern?

COGGAN: Exactly. Over history, we have had periods when people have built up too much debt, and then we have had crises when the debt has not been repaid. So a classic one was the 1930s, and in that crisis, debtors have been overwhelmed by the cost of repaying their debts as we went to the Great Depression, and so governments were forced to adjust the monetary system, drop off the gold standard, and loosen the straits of austerity that they had imposed.

ZAKARIA: But you go back much further than the 1930s. You point out that this pattern of societies accumulating too much debt goes back to ancient Judea. In fact, one of the wonderful tidbits in your book is that we always think of the queen's jubilee, and the word jubilee referring to some kind of royal celebration with lots of horses parading around. What is the actual derivation?

COGGAN: The idea of a jubilee was the time when all debts were forgiven, and the Jews did that every 50 years. And it is interesting, we have had these crises about every 40 years. There was one in the 1970s when fixed exchange rates collapsed, and then the 1930s before that. So maybe they had a good idea about how often you needed to do that. And over history it's often been monarchs who have gotten into trouble with debts. It's monarchs who have struggled to pay their bills, and often they got out of their debts by debasing the currency. So in the old days, when you had gold and silver, they would add copper or lead to the coins so the coins would go further. The Roman emperors did it. Medieval monarchs did it. And some people would say quantitative easing, the creation of money to buy bonds is the same trick being tried all over again.

ZAKARIA: So we have this idea that sovereign debt is in a sense, should be risk-free, and you point out that somebody who was told that in the 17th century or the 18th century would laugh.

COGGAN: Yes, I mean, Philip II, the king of Spain who had the Spanish armada, he defaulted on his debts four times. The French, they used to imprison or even execute their creditors. If you lend money to a sovereign, the sovereign can change the laws. Look at what's happening in Greece today. Greece is defaulting to its private-sector creditors but not to the official creditors, other governments. In other words, members of their club. So they can change the rules if they like, and that's the big risk that's always occurred when lending to governments. And this crisis is just a similar pattern happening all over again.

ZAKARIA: So when you look at the current crisis, you say we have only the familiar options, right? What are the things you can do given the amount of debt we've run up?

COGGAN: Well, the nicest thing to get out of a debt crisis is to grow your economy, as we did after the second world war. The problem for Europe in particular is that demography, population stops you from doing that. In Germany, Poland, Italy, working populations will be falling over the next 20 years. It's very hard to grow the economy in those circumstances. So that leaves three nasty options -- you can stagnate, like Japan has for the last 20 years; you can default -- that's what Greece has just done and what other countries in Europe will probably do -- or you can inflate.

So those countries which can create their own currencies, which have borrowed in their own currencies, like Britain and America, we can inflate our way out of the debt.

ZAKARIA: So much of the debate in America has a very moral -- I don't want to say moralistic, but it is infused with morality. That is, it is wrong, it is immoral for debtors -- debts not to be paid. And -- but part of the argument is that it would create what economists call a moral hazard, that if we don't force debtors to pay their debts this time, it creates the danger of another bubble. But reading your book, what I was struck by was you have done it every way -- every which way, and every 20 or 30 years, another bubble forms anyway. So when you have been punitive towards the debtors, another bubble forms. When you are generous towards the debtors, another bubble forms.

COGGAN: Yes, I mean, if you look back only 13 years ago, Russia was defaulting, and now Russia is seen as one of the BRICs, one of the great new economies according to Goldman Sachs. So countries have defaulted often through history, and they have been forgiven.

Greece is a serial defaulter. But five or six years ago, they could still borrow at a roughly similar rate to Germany. So I'm afraid creditors don't learn. Perhaps it's different generations -- you can go 20 or 30 years, and this whole new set of creditors, who believe in governments, only to be disappointed all over again.

ZAKARIA: So this time around, we are going to face some crisis, and you say the power will move to the creditors, as it always does, who are?

COGGAN: Who are China this time around. So if you think back to the 19th century, Britain set up the terms of the gold standard. It was the dominant creditor nation. In the 20th century, it was America, and now it's China that has the money. And a system that China designs will not look like the system we have had for the last 30 or 40 years. China likes managed exchange rates, not floating exchange rates. China likes capital controls, not the free flow of money across borders. So, in five, six years time -- this is not something that happens overnight -- that is what the system will start to move towards. And if you look at what's happening in the world, you can see that the first phases of that process already beginning to occur.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating conversation. Philip Coggan.

COGGAN: Thank you, Fareed.


ZAKARIA: That was Philip Coggan in London. Stay with us. We have another really important discussion up next. The winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize tells me about her personal mission to protect women from a barbaric African tradition.


ZAKARIA: I heard a speech recently that captured my attention. The speaker was a Liberian woman named Leymah Gbowee. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Gbowee was one of the recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was awarded to three women for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women's rights.

In Africa, that means everything from ending child marriage to forcing gender equality, from electing more female public officials, to stopping female genital mutilation. FGM, that is the barbaric ritualistic practice of cutting women's genitals.

And for Leymah Gbowee, this is a rather personal crusade. But listen to her discuss whether she wants American help in her struggle. At a time when the U.S. is grappling with how strongly it should push certain issues abroad, women's rights in Afghanistan, gay rights in Africa, hers is an interesting perspective from someone passionate about human rights, but aware of the culture she comes from. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYMAH GBOWEE, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: I grew up in a home where almost all of my female family members went through the process of the FGM, the sandi (ph), as we call it.

ZAKARIA: Explain what that is.

GBOWEE: The secret society where women go to go through the whole process of socialization and then at the end, you have to go through the female genital mutilation. We have five daughters. My dad was the one who put his foot down to say, not a single one of them will go through this practice.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that some of those cultural traditions, are those changing so that if a young woman today, you know, does it take a man of your father's willpower to stop that, or is it becoming more acceptable for women to say, look, I -- this shouldn't happen?

GBOWEE: I think it's a conversation that has started, and by virtue of the fact that the conversation is now on the table, it means it is changing. You know, it's not -- it's not overt, it's not going to happen overnight, but that women can now sit and say, we have a choice to either do this or to not do it and others are resisting.

Whether they're running away or whether -- but the conversation is now on, and so in some villages people are now saying to some of the traditional women that don't you think we need to redefine why we do this? Don't you think we need to also redefine the process of doing this.

Because going into the secret school, there are some very good things about it, according to my mother. But then when it comes to that aspect, the health, implications, and all of those things, some people are saying, can we just look at the good side of taking our girls through the traditional schooling and just leave out this one?

So it is a conversation that is ongoing. But like I said, by virtue of the fact that it's open, it's out there, 10, 15, 20 years ago, it was a taboo. You could not talk about it in my house, because the first person would ask, what do you know about it? It was always hush, hush, hush, hush. Even when people went, no one talked about it.

ZAKARIA: Do you think it's useful for the United States to lay down markers? Hillary Clinton has spoken of it, should Americans should be more forceful about this issue?

GBOWEE: I think the whole advocacy issue should be left with people who understand the culture of context. Because sometimes what outside voices do to this process is, it makes it more, I mean, really contentious. You know, I think if the conversation, it's good to have allies outside that you can rely on, but when the conversation gets to the place where it has been driven from outside, it makes it really difficult for those inside to start talking.

Because then it's like, you are all puppets of the West.

ZAKARIA: What you did, which I assume is what got you the Nobel Peace Prize, was you mobilized people, but women in particular, in Liberia, to end Charles Taylor's bloody, long rule. What made you do it? Because you were 17 years old when the Liberian Civil War began, correct?


ZAKARIA: And it went on for...

GBOWEE: Fourteen years.

ZAKARIA: ... 14 years. So what was your life like in that period?

GBOWEE: Well, from 17 to 31, I had gone through many different things. First you see yourself as a victim from 17 up until probably the age of 26. I was constantly in this mindset of a victim. A victim who someone would come in and rescue us as Liberians. God is going to change this situation.

But gradually, as I got older, got involved in peace work, I realized that, uh-uh, this is not going to be the case. We have to solve this mess ourselves. And fortunately, I was at a place where I had now joined a community of women who understood that there would be no rescuing from any Superman or from any King or Mandela, you know, we have to do it ourselves. And that's how we stepped in, but it wasn't a pretty life. It was not a pretty life.

ZAKARIA: Leymah Gbowee, a pleasure to have you on.

GBOWEE: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: All the way to Timbuktu. Who hasn't said that phrase as a way to describe how amazingly far away something is? But Timbuktu was with actually in the news this week and it brings to our "Question" this week from the "GPS Challenge."

We know Timbuktu is far away, but where is it, exactly? In which nation would you find Timbuktu? Is it, A, Mali, B, the Maldives, C, Somalia, or D, Nepal? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge" and lots of insight and analysis. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Remember, if you miss a show, go to iTunes. You can get the audio podcast for free or you can buy the video version. Go directly there by typing into your browser.

This week's "Book of the Week is," "Breakout Nations" by Ruchir Sharma, one of the world's leading emerging market investors. This is the best book on global economic trends I've read in a while. Sharma says that the BRICs, Brazil, India, China, and Russia, those golden growing nations, are slowing down. So who is going to take their place? Well, read the book.

And now for the "Last Look." What caught my eye this week was an art installation by the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei. He put surveillance cameras up in his house in Beijing, four of them in all, and earlier this week he began streaming them live on a Web site call Weiweicam.

This was a protest against another form of surveillance, this one by the Chinese government, the police cameras trained on his house, the frequent searches Ai says he is forced to endure, the monitoring of his phone and computer. But in a move that may not surprise you, four days later the Chinese government told Ai Weiwei to take down the Web site.

The government's own surveillance cameras are, of course, still up.

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was, A. If you were to go all the way to Timbuktu, you would be going to the center of the West African nation of Mali.

It was once a wealthy center of scholarship on the far end of trade routes, hence its reputation, and today in Mali's current crisis, it has become a Tuareg rebel stronghold.

Before we go, some exciting news here at GPS. We learned this week that the show has won a Peabody Award, one of journalism's most prestigious honors. The committee awarded the prize for my commentaries last year on Iran as well as for our "Fixing Education" prime-time special. Thanks.

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