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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Obama's Risky Syria Move; Does the American Government Spy on You; Is Edward Snowden a Hero?; China's Central American Canal
Aired June 16, 2013 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 great show for you. First up, does the U.S. Government spy on you? Michael Hayden, who has run both of America's major spy agencies, the NSA and the CIA, will give us some straight answers.
Then, is Edward Snowden a hero or a zero? Two of the New Yorker Magazine's finest journalists who follow the subject disagree; Jeff Toobin versus John Cassidy; a fight to the finish.
Next, we look at the tumult in the Middle East; Turkey, Egypt and much more, what to make of it all.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ich bin ein Berliner.
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ZAKARIA: Ich bin ein Berliner 50 years later. We'll talk about that speech and another, one that Jeffrey Sachs says is the most important presidential speech of the modern era.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that is the most important topic on Earth, peace.
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ZAKARIA: But, first, here's my take: So, the Obama administration has now decided that Syria's use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. As a result, the United States will supply the opposition will small arms and ammunition.
This strikes me as a risky decision; too little to have a real impact and enough to commit the United States in a complex civil war. First, let's be clear. This will not ease the humanitarian nightmare unfolding in Syria. The opposition forces will now have some more arms and will fight back, presumably killing more of the regime's soldiers and supporters.
So levels of violence might well rise not decline. What exactly is the objective of this policy shift? Is it the defeat of Bashar al- Assad? If so, can such a small shift in American support for the opposition really do that?
The opposition forces are disorganized. Joshua Landis, the Syria scholar at the University of Oklahoma, estimates that there are 1,000 militias that make up the rebel forces.
Such a decentralized opposition would need a lot more than more small weapons and ammunition to succeed. It would need training, organization, centralization.
Now, if they did succeed, that would be a good outcome. But it will almost certainly mean that the various militias would then begin a massacre of the Alawites, the sect that the al-Assad regime comes from.
It is unclear what would happen to the Christians and Kurds, who have tended to stay neutral in this conflict, but they too might feel the wrath of newly empowered Sunni militias.
The Alawites, the Christians, and the Kurds collectively make up about a third of Syrians, so this could become a large, many-cornered struggle. And, remember, with 180,000 troops in Iraq, the United States could not stop massacres, ethnic cleansing and massive human rights violations.
We are now planning to achieve lofty aims in Syria with almost no means. The most likely scenario is that this small step up in American assistance will not make much difference.
At that point, pressure will build on the Obama administration. John McCain will make speeches saying now, America's credibility is on the line. Having supported the opposition, we have to ensure that they succeed.
Now, it is possible that the administration can just stand pat and do the little that it is doing. That would be a clever, effective, brutal strategy to bleed America's enemies.
Contrary to much of the media commentary, the fact that Iran and Hezbollah are sending militias, arms, and money into Syria is not a sign of strength. It is a sign that they are worried that the Syrian regime might fall and are desperately seeking to shore it up.
Keeping them engaged and pouring resources into Syria bleeds them. It weakens them substantially. But can the United States pursue such a cold-blooded strategy of realpolitik, which would have huge human costs? Bill Clinton recently said that he favored some American intervention because, "Sometimes it's just best to get caught trying, as long as you don't over commit."
That suggests that supporters of interventions see it as some kind of symbolic policy, to show that we care. But this is like trying to get a little bit pregnant. The outcome is rarely what you want.
Let's get started.
Let's right to it with Michael Hayden, a man who has run both the National Security Agency and the CIA. General Hayden, welcome.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA CHIEF: Good morning, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Tell me what your reaction is to the revelations of Edward Snowden?
HAYDEN: Well, I'm very disappointed that these legitimately secret things have been pushed in the public domain where they help our enemy and punish our friends; our friends overseas and our friends in corporate America.
But, in terms of what the agency is doing, frankly, Fareed, I think it's what the nation expects the agency to be doing, to be defending the United States while still respecting American law and American values.
ZAKARIA: So let's first try to understand what it is that the agency is doing. When -- you know, we've heard so many characterizations.
ZAKARIA: So I want to ask you, is the NSA listening in on American -- on phone calls that American's make?
HAYDEN: No, it's not unless, of course, it's got a very specific, individualized FISA warrant, which has been the situation for more than three decades.
In terms of the one program, which I'll just call the "metadata" program, the one that they FISA ordered to Verizon seemed to reveal. This is, indeed, about metadata. It's about fact of call.
NSA is getting, from the telecom providers, records that they create for their own purposes. These are essentially billing records that the telecom providers are sharing with NSA.
Fareed, NSA puts them in a very large database and, then, sits and waits until it has a predicate related to terrorism, a proposition that a reasonable man would look at and say, yes, this is correct, to ask that database a question.
Let me give you a concrete example. We raid a safe house somewhere in Yemen. We pick up a cell phone we've never seen before. There's pocket litter in the position of the individual clearing indicating he's affiliated with al-Qaeda. He's a terrorist.
We take that new phone number and we simply ask that database does this phone number show up in connection with any of the phone numbers, any of the phoning events that we have gathered here.
And if, for example, a phone number in the Bronx kind of raises its hand and says, well, yes, I've been in contact with that phone regularly for the past three months, we then get to the ask the phone in the Bronx who else do you call?
At which point, Fareed, we're done in terms of what this program authorizes. If we want to do anything more with that domestic U.S. number, we've got to go back to the court.
ZAKARIA: So, would it be fair to describe this, as I have seen somebody do, as the metadata program is collecting data, in a way, that is on the outside of the envelope, who you wrote to, what the return address was, but nothing about what's inside the envelope?
HAYDEN: No, that's absolutely correct and that's almost a perfect analogy. It's the outside of the envelope.
And, by the way, the Supreme Court ruled, back in 1979, that that outside of the envelope information, the metadata is not protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There is not a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to that information.
ZAKARIA: Do you feel as though when you were a NSA or watching when you were at CIA looking at these things, that there were areas where you wouldn't go even though you felt as though it might be useful because of privacy concerns?
In other words, did the privacy wall com up and you guys would say, well, you know, we could try to find this data, but that would be too much?
HAYDEN: Fareed, the first thing you have to understand that when it comes to privacy, what CIA, NSA, all the elements of the American intelligence community are concerned with is the privacy of U.S. persons, which I think you know is a group a bit larger than just American citizens.
It includes everyone in the United States and U.S. citizens no matter where they are in the world. Those are the people whose privacy is protected by the American Constitution and that's the guiding light. That's the guidepost for American intelligence collection.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the fallout here though, just in terms of the diplomatic fallout, political fallout -- how bad is it? How should we think about it?
HAYDEN: There is going to be some fallout, there's going to be some operational fallout. We will have reminded our enemies how good and comprehensive we are this.
We will have punished American business who have cooperated with -- under U.S. law at the direction of the U.S. courts. This is bound to be bad news for them in terms of their international business.
And, then, finally, globally. A country or a source that might be thinking of cooperating with the United States should have almost no confidence in our discretion or in our ability to keep a secret.
All of that's harmful.
ZAKARIA: What do you think should happen to Edward Snowden?
HAYDEN: Look, this looks like a very troubled young man, but he did a very bad thing and I would not call him a whistleblower.
I mean a whistleblower is someone who (a), points out wrongdoing and (b) follows the procedures laid out in law which gives a whistleblower protection.
Raise your hand, talk to your supervisor, talk to the inspector general, talk to the general counsel, talk to Congress. He didn't do any of this.
He fled the country with incredibly sensitive documents, gave them to two newspapers, who badly mangled the story so that we're now dealing domestically and abroad with the misperceptions created by the stories.
And, now, Lord knows what will happen to him and whatever he took with him now that he's in Hong Kong.
ZAKARIA: General Michael Hayden, thank you very much.
Up next, a debate, two New Yorker writers debate the fate of Edward Snowden. One is in favor of him, the other opposed, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: So, Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked U.S. intelligence secrets to the world. Do you think he's a hero or a traitor or somewhere in between?
Well, we saw two smart columns on opposite sides of the issue in one magazine, The New Yorker. We assume the magazine was too gentile to have its writers actually duke it out in person so they'll do it here.
John Cassidy is pro-Snowden and Jeffrey Toobin was against him. Gentlemen, en garde.
ZAKARIA: All right, Edward Snowden is a hero, your column says. Why?
JOHN CASSIDY, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I wasn't really making a personal argument. Obviously, I don't know Edward Snowden from Adam, but I think the contribution is made in revealing something that the public deserves to know in terms of what the NSA is doing.
Not -- we all know the NSA's a spy agency, but the scale of this, the fact that they could everybody's phone records on a routine basis for seven years without anybody knowing it, I think that, you know, putting that out into the open was a public service.
And I think that's why I think, you know, to some extent, he was a hero. And, obviously he took a big risk doing it. We don't know what's going to happen to him, but he could well end up serving decades in jail for what he's done. So, I don't think we can dismiss his motives lightly.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, first of all, it's a crime what he did and I don't mean to be, you know, too fastidious ...
TOOBIN: About that, but it's illegal and I guess it's the former prosecutor in me that's offended by that for starters.
But is this a legitimate act of civil disobedience and I think not. You know, there are channels to protest what the NSA does, especially if you're an insider.
And I know that the whistleblower laws are not that strong and I know that it's difficult to go to Congress, but, I'm sorry, to take it upon yourself to undo the work of thousands of people who work in these programs, who spend billions of taxpayer dollars because you don't like something.
Not that you think -- he doesn't even think it's illegal, he just doesn't -- he doesn't think it's right. I think that's an offensive act.
ZAKARIA: What about the point that Jeff makes that this -- you know, you quote Daniel Ellsberg as saying ...
ZAKARIA: That he'd revealed dangerous, unconstitutional activity.
CASSIDY: Right ...
ZAKARIA: That strikes me as wrong because, in fact, these programs were authorized by law
ZAKARIA: Reauthorized by law. CASSIDY: Right.
ZAKARIA: The Congress put in place -- well, the regard it ...
ZAKARIA: As constitutional safeguards, courts that then oversee the process.
So, this has all been done by a democratically elected government under Congressional supervision.
ZAKARIA: How is it unconstitutional?
CASSIDY: I didn't make the argument that it's constitutional. I mean I accept that most of this is actually legal and I think that's the great scandal.
I mean I -- my argument here is that, in a sort of broader context, we go back to after 9/11, several things happened to the U.S. You know, we had some positive things. We all came together in a sort of wave of patriotism and that's all good.
But we then, you know, took several steps in foreign policy, invading Iraq, in national security renditions, Guantanamo, drone attacks and the domestic part of it was domestic surveillance.
As President Obama said, about a month ago, on his speech on drone attacks and the sort of the war on terror, it's time to sort of reassess whether we went too far in certain areas and I think we did.
And I think -- I see Snowden's leaks as part of that process. Maybe we went too far on domestic surveillance and it's time scale it back.
Now, as you say, the people in the know, the lawyers, the people who follow Capitol Hill hearings closely, know that we did set up these FISA courts and everything is done by the book.
But that's part of the scandal, isn't it? I mean the FISA courts, aren't they a bit of joke? Nobody knows what ...
TOOBIN: But what is ...
CASSIDY: It is so secretive if even Google, when it gets an order to handle your e-mail accounts, they can't disclose the fact that they received an order. There's a gag order.
TOOBIN: But, what ...
CASSIDY: That doesn't seem to me to be very democratic.
TOOBIN: I guess the scandal is a little mysterious to me. You know, when I send John an e-mail from by G-Mail account to set up a golf date, as I have done in my life, Google reads that e-mail and tries to sell me golf clubs in an ad.
You know, that's what's done on the Internet now. Why is what the government is doing here so different from that and so -- and so, you know, so damaging that it has to be thrown out in public?
ZAKARIA: So you're saying that, in any case, a lot of this mass data is aggregated and sold to a Walmart, to stores and if the government is getting that kind of data ...
TOOBIN: Right. And the phone company knows all the phone numbers that I call. Why is that so different from what was going on here?
CASSIDY: Sure, when we do a deal with Google to provide internet service, we're sort of making a big of a Faustian pact. We know they're going to use our privacy -- infringe upon our privacy in some ways, as Jeff said, sending golf club ads, whatever, based upon our usage of the Internet.
But I don't think we knew that the government was going to write down or record somewhere every call we've made and be able to go back and check it out at any point in the future. I mean it seems to me there's enormous scale for abuse there.
Once this database is in place, the law enforcement agencies, at some point would love to see that data.
ZAKARIA: But that -- so, that policy debate is I think a perfectly interesting and rich one, but there is this question of when you can take the law into your own hands.
ZAKARIA: You write a lot about business. How would you feel if some American businesses were to start saying we believe that the current tax structure is prohibitive and confiscatory and violates the Takings Cause of the Fifth Amendment and so we're going -- we're just not going to -- you know, we're going to violate the law?
You would say that's criminal behavior, right? I mean or that's a violation of the law. That's essentially what this guy said. He said, I don't agree with these laws, so I'm going to break the law.
CASSIDY: He violated the law willingly obviously. I'm not -- I haven't made the argument that he should be completely pardoned. Some people have made that argument on-line.
I don't think any NSA or CIA employee should be able to just say anything he wants to the public, but you've got to balance that against what sort of contribution he's made to the public good.
In my estimation, because he's part of this big public debate, we need post 9/11, or post-post 9/11, I think, on balance, it was a public service. But I think it would be better if he came back and, you know ... TOOBIN: And I certainly think that this policy debate is important, but when you consider that he has gone to of all places Hong Kong, which is controlled by China, which is our leading adversary when it comes to intelligence matters, who could easily take the stuff he has and use if for their own purposes.
And, believe me, they are not in favor of free speech and free access to the Internet. So I think he is a very -- he's not a great symbol for the people care about this debate, but the debate is still worth having.
ZAKARIA: All right, so we are going to have to leave it at that. I will leave it to the audience to decide who won.
GPS, why China wants to build a canal in Nicaragua and why the U.S. better get ready for it.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. We know that China does infrastructure better than anyone in the world. Their trains, their roads, their airports, their subways have been built at amazing speed, on a grand scale and with great foresight.
Well, the next great Chinese infrastructure project is a canal. But this canal won't link two Chinese cities together with a waterway, this canal will link the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Sound familiar? Yes, we have one of those already in Panama, but a Chinese company wants to help build another one. The HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company, Limited, will help finance a Nicaraguan canal at a total cost of about $40 billion.
Geographically, a canal there might seem to make sense. It's just 12 miles from the Pacific to Lake Nicaragua and from the lake, a river flows to the Caribbean and, thus, to the Atlantic.
But we don't know if that's the route the canal would take. For Nicaragua, as a nation, the canal seems to make sense. The canal's proponents claim that the effort will almost double the nation's per capita GDP which last year was just $3,300.
But why do the canal when we already have one just a few hundred miles away? Well, here's one reason, there is so much demand for the Panama Canal that the average wait to transit can top 12 days.
Here's another, the biggest cargo ships that can go through the Panama Canal are called Panamax. Each Panamax ship can carry about 4,500 shipping containers. But there are newer, bigger ships called post-Panamax. The newest ships on the block, so-called triple Es, can hold more than 18,000 containers. That's four times the capacity of a Panamax ship.
Here's what shipbuilder Maersk says 18,000 containers would look like stacked in Times Square.
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(UKNOWN): Higher than many of the buildings beside.
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ZAKARIA: The first triple E will be delivered on June 28th. These ships obviously have to find other routes since the Panama Canal cannot accommodate them and that is exactly what they're doing.
In the meantime, Panama is frantically trying to revamp its canal to accommodate bigger ships, but it still won't be able to accommodate the biggest ships. This massive effort in Panama will just about double the canal's capacity and cost more than $5 billion.
Now, when the Panama Canal is widened and if the Nicaragua Canal project actually comes to fruition, those post-Panamax ships will obviously need somewhere to dock, to pick up goods and to drop them off.
And therein lies the problem for the United States. By 2015, when the enlargement of the Panama Canal is expected to be complete, only 10 of the United States' approximately 55 major commercial ports will be ready for the bigger ships, according to the chief economist of Colliers.
But will that be enough? Listen to this, in just 18 years' time, 60 to 70 percent of shipping will be on the bigger post-Panamax ships. And a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that over the next 30 years, U.S. imports are expected to grow four-fold and exports more than seven-fold.
The U.S. needs to keep up with that demand and to stay competitive with the rest of the world's ports. And, yet, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America's ports a C rating. That shouldn't be the case.
The United States collects a Federal Harbor Maintenance Tax of about 0.1 percent on each container that comes into port. That money is supposed to go back to the waterways, most importantly perhaps helping U.S. ports stay competitive. But for the last 20 years Congress has diverted more than half of those funds. And Congress does not seem to understand that this kind of spending is an investment in the nation's future economic growth. If we don't modernize our ports, the new big ships won't dock there and we will be the losers.
Up next, inside the turmoil in Turkey, and what it means for the rest of the world.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. Authorities in Colorado say firefighters finally have the upper hand in the worst wildfire in state history. The black forest fire is now 45 percent contained. The blaze has burned more than 15,000 acres just north of Colorado Springs and has killed two people.
Russia is warning the United States that enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria in an effort to help the country's rebels could violate international law. So far the White House has not said it plans to establish a no-fly zone, but President Obama has decided to send U.S. military aid to Syrian rebels who have been engaged in a two-year war with the Syrian government.
And Russian president Vladimir Putin is accused of theft. The item, a Super Bowl ring. The "New York Post" reports New England Patriots honor Robert Kraft says Putin stole the diamond-encrusted ring back in the 2005 meeting in Russia. Kraft says he tried to get the ring back, but the Bush White House encouraged him to give it as a gift. A spokesman for the Russian president says the ring was indeed a gift. Those are your top stories. Now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
ZAKARIA: The tumult in Turkey continues, but let's not forget that other countries in the region are also grappling with the dilemmas of democracy. Let's talk about it all with two smart observers of the Middle East. Steven Cook is a senior fellow from Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian born columnist who has lived in the United States and now lives in Cairo. She writes on issues in the Arab world.
Mona, how does it look to you from Cairo, what is going on in Taksim Square?
MONA ELTAHAWY, COLLUMNIST AND COMMENTATOR ON ARAB ISSUES: I think the most important thing about what's happening in Turkey is that for me it seems like Turks are trying to find a middle ground or third way between what used to be just kind of the Ataturk nationalist way and the Islamist way as modern as it is of Erdogan. And for me as a Muslim from the Middle East, that's really important.
ZAKARIA: Steve, does it strike you that they will find this middle way? That, you know, because it's a middle way not just between, it seems, hyper-secularism and hyper-Islamism, it's also a middle way between authoritarianism and democracy. Because Erdogan is this strange hybrid. I mean he's an elected leader, very popular, but essentially kind of in many ways something of an authoritarian.
STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Indeed, over the course of the last four or five years or so, there has been this authoritarian turn in politics. It's unclear whether the groups that are out there protesting now can actually translate their enthusiasm and their opposition into a viable political movement. They do have an opportunity. Turkey's opposition parties are extraordinarily weak and have very little to offer. And these groups, although they remain a minority, clearly have struck a chord with many, many Turks who are upset about the kind of closing of democracy, the closing of the kind of liberal opening that happened in 2003 and 2004. ZAKARIA: Mona, I have to ask you about the role of women. And, you know, you spent ten years in America and have gone back to Cairo. Do you worry that while, you know, you would like to see a more secular republic, you're worried by Erdogan's Islamism or the Muslim Brotherhood Islamism, on the ground that stuff is pretty popular. I mean, so when Erdogan has put in these moderate restrictions on the sale of retail alcohol or he talks about women being allowed to wear the headscarf, in my experience all my friends in Istanbul hate him for it, but the country at large likes it because these - you know, these are 99 percent Muslim country, most people devout. That actually resonates a lot more than people think. And I assume the same is true in Egypt. Do you worry that your preferences are actually the preferences of a very small, urban kind of educated class?
ELTAHAWY: I often compare the Muslim Brotherhood and their platform to the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. who love to tout moral values. It's very easy to tout moral values, to be against abortion, to be against same-sex marriage here. I mean in Egypt and in the Middle East it's very easy to say I'm going to ban alcohol and I'm going to make sure that all girls can or should wear head scarves. That is too easy and that is a violation of people's rights. So, you know, be as Muslim as you want, be as religious as you want. But I think the goal of the revolution was never about banning alcohol. The goal of the revolution was never about head scarves. The goal of the revolution was (inaudible) liberty and social justice. And in that spirit I think that we should be aiming for rights that encompass everybody and their way of life.
So I think when it comes to women especially, we're unfortunately very cheap bargaining chips. But what helps us is that women were side by side with men on the street. This revolution is ours as well. It might not have been a revolution for women's rights, but now that we started the political revolution, we don't have a social sexual revolution that works on the ground, that political revolution will fail. It's not about replacing one misogynistic patriarch with another.
ZAKARIA: Are you hopeful about -- on this issue?
COOK: Well, knowing what I know about Egyptian women as well as Turkish women, I would not bet against them. I certainly think that given that in both countries women have been at the forefront of social critique, they are not going to give it up so quickly. But the turn towards authoritarianism, it's really not about Islam, it's about authoritarian politics, it's about a crackdown on the press, it's about punitive pressures against all kinds of people who happen to disagree with the government. It is about the marginalization of people. The government has called them marginal, but it's actually been the marginalization. And similar to Egypt, these people are responding to a system that is rigged in favor of those people who are in power. Who seem intent on institutionalizing their power. They don't want to let that happen.
ZAKARIA: Quickly tell me about "Girl Rising" before I let you go. ELTAHAWY: It's a fantastic documentary that paired women writers with girls from their countries. So I was paired with a wonderful 13- year-old girl in Egypt who was a survivor of rape. And I myself was sexually assaulted close to Tahrir Square in November of 2011, so when the two of us met, we had a lot to share. But, you know, there I was at the time, you know, 44 years old, 43 years old and she was 13. And the spirit of this girl, who had never had any kind of formal education, the way that she fought back, the way she and her mother went to the police to demand justice for the rape that she survived and her enthusiasm for education and her mother's agreement to, you know, to have her daughter be paired with me and have her story told was just wonderful. And I urge everyone to watch the film because it really goes to the heart of this. When girls are educated, everybody benefits. So I'm glad (ph) and it's showing, I was glad to be a part of it.
ZAKARIA: Thank you both very much. "Girl Rising," this documentary that Mona is a part of airs tonight on both CNN and CNN International at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. Don't miss it.
Up next, if I asked you to quote a line from a speech by John F. Kennedy, you would probably say "Ask not what your country can do for you" or perhaps -"Ich been ein Berliner", but Jeff Sachs believes that Kennedy gave a more important speech 50 years ago this month. We'll tell you what it is.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY: But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace, where the weak are safe and the strong are just.
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ZAKARIA: On Wednesday, President Obama will deliver a speech at the Brandenburg Gates in Berlin. It will come almost exactly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy delivered his "Ich been ein Berliner" speech in what was then a divided city.
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CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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ZAKARIA: That remains one of his best known speeches. But my next guest, Jeffrey Sachs, says it's a series of speeches that are lesser known today that we should take a closer look at. Sachs is, of course, a famous economist, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the author of a new book, "To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace." Welcome back to the show, Jeff.
JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, THE EARTH INSTITUTE: Thanks a lot, Fareed. ZAKARIA: You say that 50 years ago Kennedy delivered what you describe as the most important speeches any American president has ever delivered.
SACHS: I think it is the most important speech of the modern presidency. It was a commencement address at American University. It was 50 years ago just now. And it said there's a way to make peace with the Soviet Union. It was so compelling that Nikita Khruschchev, Kennedy's counterpart, heard the speech, first stopped the jamming of it so the Russian Soviet people could hear the speech, had it printed in full in "Pravda" and "Izvestiya" and said to the U.S. envoy of the time, Averell Harriman, called him and said that is the finest speech by an American president since FDR, "I want to make peace with that man." Seven weeks later, the partial nuclear test ban treaty. And what's striking is, that the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, which was just a few days after this was part of the strategy. It was not just an isolated event, it was an incredibly well thought, brilliantly led strategy by President Kennedy to pull the U.S. and the Soviet Union back from the brink of nuclear annihilation, which of course was the brink at the Cuban missile crisis. And Kennedy and Khrushchev felt after having that near death experience, and not only that we all had in the world, but that they had as the two leaders, felt something different has to be done. Kennedy took incredible risks and pulled it off.
ZAKARIA: And you see the centerpiece of this speech as being Kennedy's recognition that this kind of nuclear brinksmanship, the nuclear arms race was very dangerous, was something that could result in a catastrophe and that there had to be a kind of - there had to be not simply a tinkering around the edges, but a fundamental shift in the way we were thinking about great power relations with these massive powerful weapons.
SACHS: Absolutely. And, you know, the experts of the day talked about mutual assured destruction or MAD as it was called by its acronym, and it was a bit mad that the idea that there was a balance of terror that kept the peace. But Kennedy realized and Khrushchev also realized, this wasn't a balance, it was an imbalance, it was a set of accidents waiting to destroy the world. Kennedy came into office as president in 1961 very much conscious of World War I as a war that had no reason to have taken place, resulted from a set of alliances and trip wires and accidents and miscalculations that led to this massive destruction, unprecedented destruction, and he was determined to not have that happen and to prevent that from happening in his own time.
ZAKARIA: So how would you react to somebody who would say, look, all that is true, but we didn't go down the path that Kennedy asked, there was the partial test ban, but we had a nuclear arms race, we have nuclear weapons, we have thousands and thousands of them, multiple warheads, and look at the net result is we haven't had a great power war and in fact, perhaps we haven't had a great power war because the countries at the end of the day pulled back because of the fear of nuclear annihilation. In other words, MAD, mutually assured destruction, has worked. SACHS: Well, there's some truth to that in a way, except if you look at the spiral of events from the late '60s up to the Cuban missile crisis and up to this moment in 1963 that we're talking about, it wasn't working and there was one showdown after another. What stopped in essentially this moment in 1963 was the brinksmanship. So I would say what Kennedy proved decisively was a proposition that Khrushchev wanted also to prove that peaceful coexistence was possible, that saber rattling and worse was extremely dangerous. There has to be a measure of trust, not simply a balance of terror.
ZAKARIA: Is that the message going forward? Is that the message of Kennedy's speech, that it is possible to make -- to negotiate peace with bitter adversaries?
SACHS: You talk to the adversaries, you envision the reasons why they should care as well whether it's Iran, whether it's Hamas, whether it's North Korea, and one of the things that's absolutely relevant for us today, the reason that Kennedy went forward in part was that he came to profoundly distrust the CIA and the military on giving him advice on what would lead to peace. They were trained, the CIA, to spy or to cause unrest. And the military, of course, to fight wars. Neither of them is the right instrument for envisioning how to actually reach agreements with the other side. I fear that our recent presidents have not had that discerning understanding that the security agencies will not make peace. They may know how to spy, but they will not find a way to peace. And it takes leadership to understand that there's something that only a president can do, not NSA, not CIA, not the military, to find that other path that's also crucial. The path that is based on the idea that both sides have a strong stake in peace. There are human beings on the other side. That was Kennedy's huge message to the American people. Do not demonize the Russian people. They are a people of virtue. They have great courage. They should be praised for their achievements. What a message at the height of the Cold War. But that's the one also that Khrushchev heard and led to this successful treaty.
ZAKARIA: Jeff Sachs, thank you very much.
Up next ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am delighted to greet members and guests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Why world leaders might want to think twice before trying a foreign language they aren't entirely comfortable with.
ZAKARIA: Don't adjust your sets, that is Chilean president Sebastian Pinera sitting at the desk of the president of the United States in the Oval Office, the famous Resolute Desk. Don't worry, Chile hasn't invaded America, this was all fun and games, just a world leader who wanted to see what it felt like to be leader of the free world. Now, granted, it was a bit of a breach of protocol. It brings me to our question of the week from the "GPS Challenge." Which president was the first to use that desk, the Resolute Desk? Was it Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford Hayes, Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to cnn.com/Fareed for more of the GPS Challenge and lots of insight and analysis. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Also, remember you can go to itunes.com/Fareed if you ever miss a show or a special.
This week's book of the week is "Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era" by Joseph Nye. Nye is one of the finest scholars of international relations around. This is a very smart set of essays on presidential leadership with some surprising conclusions. Anyone interested in what makes a good leader should read the book.
Now for the last look. The world has known Russian President Putin to be a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it.
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VLADIMIR PUTIN (speaking Russian)
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PUTIN (speaking Russian.
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ZAKARIA: He certainly is not the shy and retiring type. That's why earlier this week I was surprised to see this.
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PUTIN: Not once. Sure the time has come to change this.
ZAKARIA: It was Putin asking very nicely and gently for the world expo to be held in Russia in 2020, please.
PUTIN: But in all this time Russia has not hosted the world expo. Not once.
ZAKARIA: Having sat with him at close quarters, I was stunned by this Putin. He seemed so soft and tame. Perhaps it was because uncharacteristically, he was speaking in English. Now, to be fair, at least he can speak English and quite well.
PUTIN: Completely free of charge.
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ZAKARIA: Very few American or British leaders can speak any language other than English. Remember, Newt Gingrich's bilingual apology a few years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (speaking Spanish)
ZAKARIA: Or here's President Obama trying his hand at Hebrew.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (speaking Hebrew)
ZAKARIA: Maybe they should all listen to Tony Blair, who admitted that trying to speak French was a bad idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR (speaking Spanish)
ZAKARIA: But then again, he tried it anyway.
BLARI: Merci, de me voir. Ecuter e Au Revoir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was B. The Resolute Desk was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880. It was constructed by the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British warship that had been abandoned in the Canadian Arctic, only to be found by American sailors and returned to Queen Victoria. The desk was a token of good will and friendship, as the plaque on it attests.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."