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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Obama Administration and Syria; Two of America's Elder Statesman Weigh in on Syria; Interview with Anthony Bourdain
Aired September 15, 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 am Fareed Zakaria, coming to you live from New York. We have an important show for you today, starting with the Syrian crisis. First up, two foreign policy legends, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, on the latest diplomatic moves over Syria. Did Putin play Obama? What will Assad do during this intermission and who will get the last word?
Then, Richard Butler, the man once tasked with getting Saddam Hussein to give up his chemical weapons on the way to make it work this time with Assad.
Also, the three things you might want to know about Syria before we bomb. Well, or whether or not we bomb.
And from civil war to hummus wars, Anthony Bourdain on a different kind of war in the Middle East. Who makes the most magic with chick peas?
But, first, here's my take, whatever the twisted path, whether by design or accident, the Obama administration has ended up in a better place on Syria than looked possible even days ago.
The agreement forged by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, is just the first step of course. The Syrian government has to cooperate, but it will face pressure from Moscow to do so.
On hearing of the agreement, some have reacted with dismay. This agreement does not remove Bashar al-Assad from power, it does nothing to stop his regime and its brutal suppression, it does nothing to end the humanitarian tragedy in that country.
It's true that the agreement is not designed to stop the warfare and the suffering in Syria, but what exactly would do that? Do we know that a U.S. strategy, a military intervention to topple the dictator and change the regime would actually end human suffering in Syria?
Let's recall a recent example when America ousted a dictator, changed the regime and believed that peace and liberty and prosperity would flourish. It was, of course, in Iraq and what happened was very different. The deposed regime and its supporters fought back fiercely. The sectarian lines of Iraqi society turned into battle lines. Islamic militants, including al-Qaeda, poured into the country often funded by neighboring countries.
The result was a 10-year civil war with, at minimum, 130,000 dead and potentially more than 250,000 dead, Iraqi civilians, and at least 1.5 million refugees, most of whom have not come back to Iraq.
From a humanitarian point of view, American intervention and regime change substantially worsened the humanitarian nightmare of Iraq. Now, I don't believe that the example of Iraq should color all American foreign policy.
But surely when people suggest that Washington should militarily intervene and perhaps depose a dictator in an Arab country that is literally next door to Iraq, which, as in Iraq, is also composed of a minority regime with an opposition to that regime that also has within it several Islamic militant groups, it's fair to look at the Iraqi example and ask what happened.
Do we have any clear reason to believe that the struggle for power in Syria would be any different than that in Iraq, that American military intervention in this case would just stop all the fighting and produce peace?
Don't we have to think through the likely consequences of American intervention before we self-confidently propose action?
President Obama has mobilized world attention about chemical weapons. There is a chance, still small, that a process begins that monitors and even destroys all Syria's chemical arsenal.
Almost certainly, such weapons won't be used again by the Assad regime. That's more than could have been achieved through airstrikes, which are unlikely to have destroyed such weapons. Bombing chemical weapons facilities almost always releases toxins into the atmosphere. That's why they are not targeted.
This agreement doesn't end the human suffering, it doesn't rid the world of an evil dictator, but it is a step forward in a terrible crisis.
For more on this, go to cnn.com/fareed, you can read my Washington Post column this week and let's get started.
You've heard my take. Now, let's here from two of America's elder statesman, Henry Kissinger was National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He now chairs Kissinger Associations, a national consulting firm.
And Zbigniew Brzezinski served as National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter. He is now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Welcome back to both of you.
Henry, let me start with you because I think that one of the questions many people are wondering is what exactly was the Russian motivation here and sort of how did they pull it off?
You have met with Vladimir Putin, I think, more than any American stretching back over a decade. What do you think is Putin's game here?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE: Putin, in my opinion, considers radical Islam his biggest security threat, but he does not want the United States unilaterally to determine what -- how the situation in the region will develop.
So, when the administration found itself in the extremely difficult and potentially embarrassing position of having refused a request for military action -- of having been - seen a request of military action refused by the Congress, he saw an opportunity to perhaps get into step with us by easing an immediate American difficulty, but solving a common problem.
In my observation, his biggest fear in Syria was that it would lead to a radicalization of the region and not so much to protect any one individual.
ZAKARIA: Zbigniew, do you think that Russia can be trusted to have the same interests as the United States here? Should we be -- should we trust what is coming out of Moscow these days?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We don't have the same interests, but we have, in some cases, compatible interests. I think the Russians were concerned, as Henry pointed out, that the region might explode.
And this will affect also Russia's position, particularly in the caucuses where there is an Islamic resentment against Russian domination that's gaining momentum and is becoming more violent.
And, secondly, he saw in opportunity to diminish America's standing as the preeminent power in the region. The fact of the matter is our hegemony in the region is declining, but we're still the main player.
Russia saw an opportunity to actually become also a significant player in this game by arranging something that perhaps will temper the dynamic towards a regional upheaval and will consolidate Russia influence with the Syrians, with the Iranians and perhaps even with others.
There was recently a rather mysterious visit to Moscow of a very high level emissary from Saudi Arabia. Not that Saudi Arabia's turning to Moscow, but that Moscow is perhaps, again, a significant player.
This is a calculus that Putin has. It so happens it is compatible, in my view, with our interests because I see our involvement in the Syrian affair as something very unfortunate, unnecessary.
I don't think an attack on Syria to strike at its chemical assets would be very productive for us. It would not solve the problem. It might ignite a wider regional explosion.
So, I think there is some computability, tactically, maybe even strategically between us and the Russians at this stage.
ZAKARIA: Zbigniew, there is one area though where people say there is a big disagreement which is Russia wants Assad to stay in power. The president has said Assad must go.
BRZEZINSKI: The president said Assad must go without having a strategy to make him go and we have now seen the consequences of that. I think maybe there will be some formula that will resolve that dilemma.
For example, Assad's term expires next year. This issue's not going to be solve so quickly. Perhaps something can be contrived, especially if, at the same time, there is a movement in the American- Iranian dialogue so that aspect becomes somewhat contained, perhaps pacified, perhaps begins to lead to some sort of understandings.
ZAKARIA: Henry, there was an op-ed by Edward Luttwak, a strategic analyst, who argued that it does not serve America's interest to have a kind of violent regime change of the Assad regime because what is likely to follow is chaos and radical Islam.
And nor does it serve our interest for Assad to consolidate power, that in a strange way this stalemate helps American interests. What do you think of that theory.
KISSINGER: I think it was a mistake to define the issue in Syria as the removal of one leader. The issue in Syria is the historic conflict between Shiites and Sunnis and the Sunni revolt against a Shiite minority dominated Syria in which, however, most of the other minorities are supporting the Alawite, which is the Shia position.
So, the position for the United States is to work on a transition government and not make it dependent with the -- on the removal of the Syrian leader, especially not make it dependent at the very beginning of the process.
From the beginning, Putin has said that the immediate removal of Assad would lead to chaos. That's probably a correct sentiment.
ZAKARIA: Zbigniew, do you think that this is, at the end of the day, a success in foreign policy terms or has the Obama administration snatched some kind of victory from the jaws of defeat?
BRZEZINSKI: I don't think it is a victory for either side, first of all. The Russians are avoiding something that they would not like to see happen in the region.
We are prevented from doing something which would be equally damaging to the region, but worse probably for us, namely some pointless military strike which merely dramatizes American involvement in the war and probably then an escalation of the effort.
Our actions were misconceived, badly calculated and I think this gets us off the hook. We can't use force anymore overtly unless Assad is stupid enough to use chemical weapons again, which I doubt.
ZAKARIA: Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, thank you as always.
Next on GPS, how in the world do you get a dictator to actually give up his chemical weapons. We will talk to a man who did just that. Ambassador Richard Butler on his struggles with Saddam Hussein coming up next.
ZAKARIA: An Arab dictator has agreed to get rid of his chemical weapons. Now, how does one actually make that happen? That was Richard Butler's job the last time around.
In the late 1990s, Butler was the head of UNSCOM, the U.N.'s special commission charged with arming Saddam Hussein of his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. How did it work? Did it work? We'll as him.
So, drawing on that experience, what would you say is going to be the single the most important thing to look at when we address this issue? Assume that there is some kind of deal and you actually have an inspections process.
RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMISSION (UNSCOM): Fareed, the first thing required is an honest and accurate declaration by Syria of exactly what it has.
Intelligence reports that are now in the public arena suggest that they have 150 tons or so of sarin, for example.
ZAKARIA: How much is that to give us sense? I mean, it's ...
BUTLER: It's massive. It's a massive quantity. Syria is widely regarded as one of the largest individual states possessing, you know, chemical weapons in the world.
Now, the first thing is that honest declaration. Do we have a chance of getting that? I'm not sure, but let's assume that it's more or less honest. What then has to happen, and this is the second step, independent inspectors have to be able to verify that declaration.
That's a difficult process, but I assure you, Fareed, it can be done provided Syria gives complete access to the materials, the labs where they were made and processed, the weapons systems into which the agent was loaded.
And, above all, the individuals who made this stuff. Inspectors have to be able to talk to them. What did you do in that factory? What was the throughput? What went in, what came out and so on.
Then, it may be possible to get a pretty accurate handle on whether that initial declaration has been honest or not.
ZAKARIA: So, now you have this declaration.
ZAKARIA: How do you actually begin to figure out where they are? Because figuring out where they are depends on the regime.
ZAKARIA: You will be invited by the regime, in the Syrian case the Assad government, and then you would have to be protected by the regime.
BUTLER: Exactly. And I feel that that is going to be one of the very considerable difficulties. Inspectors would have to be able to go there. That implies protection of them.
And many voices are starting to be raised now in pointing out that that could be incredibly difficult in the present circumstances in Syria.
ZAKARIA: You described it once or twice, I remember reading at that time, as a "cat and mouse game," a "shell game" that the Iraqis would sometimes play with you.
ZAKARIA: What was that? What would happen?
BUTLER: Well, they would tell us that materials in a certain location. We'd seek to go to that location and they'd delay us or when we got there the materials wouldn't be there.
And they would say sorry, we forgot to tell you. We made a mistake. They were actually moved to another place. I mean literally a shell game to the point where we started to try to listen to some of their communications, you know, walkie-talkie stuff.
And we sometimes heard them say move those materials, the inspectors are coming and so on. It was literally a shell game. And, you know, one knows -- one doesn't know what will happen in the future whether that sort of game wouldn't be played again.
ZAKARIA: So, you actually think that it was the inspections process that largely worked. The air strikes -- it's not the air strikes that destroyed the arsenals because people often mistakenly think that.
BUTLER: No, we destroyed them.
BUTLER: I mean I personally witnessed, by detonation, the blowing up of some missile warheads and by other means destroying chemical glassware that was used to make chemical weapons and so on. No, we carried out the destruction. In fact, Iraq was told that it may not because that would be a good way of hiding things. They say oh, we destroyed that. And it was illegal under the Security Council Resolution for them to do that. We had to do that and we did it.
ZAKARIA: And the air strikes, of course, never targeted the chemical weapons because that would release toxins into the atmosphere.
BUTLER: Yes. And we have that problem today, too.
ZAKARIA: So the bottom line is the inspections process, through all that difficult, actually worked.
BUTLER: It did work. In my last report to the Security Council in 1999, I made clear that we had had a full account of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with the exception, interestingly, of a small quantity of chemical weapons.
We couldn't account for them. We knew that they'd been produced. We couldn't find them. Iraq had either destroyed them or, and this is interesting in today's context, we had an intelligence report that they'd moved them across the border into Syria to keep them away from us.
But basically, Fareed, the system did work and the bottom line to that, Fareed, and this may sound incredible naive on my part, but is a genuine willingness on the part of those being inspected to cooperate.
Now, that might sound a bit funny, a bit naive. We had that willingness from the Iraqi side for quite a while and then they started to withdraw it.
And I'll make this point right here and now, this can work, what the Russian's have proposed and the Syrians said they will agree to, it can work provided a system of the kind I've described is put in place.
But, above all, provided the Syrians are prepared to want and act to make it work. Cooperation, then it can be done. If they play a shell game, if they resist, it won't be achieved.
ZAKARIA: That's the million dollar question.
Richard Butler, pleasure to have you on.
BUTLER: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Up next, What in the World? What is Syria anyway? Before we attack a country we have decided it's worth being able to answer that question when we come back.
Now, for our What in the World segment or perhaps I should call it Where in the World.
A new internet game, "Where is Damascus?" asks you to pinpoint Syria's capital on a map. Even if you are off by 100 miles, you will probably have done better than 80 percent of the people who played the game.
According to its creators, a number of the people inside the Department of Defense tried it out as well and only 57 percent managed to locate Damascus. Some of the guesses were as far off as India and South Africa! Let's hope those folks weren't tasked with targeting the air strikes.
So, as a public service, here are three facts about Syria. First, it became a nation recently and with much turmoil. Until World War I, the Ottoman Empire controlled most of the Middle East, plus parts of Europe and North Africa.
It had ruled much of this land for six centuries. But when the Empire collapsed after World War I, it led to a complete fragmentation of the region. France and Britain carved up parts of the empire. Syria broke free of French influence after World War II.
Then, followed a series of failed governments, then briefly it actually joined up with Egypt to create a new country, the United Arab Republic, and then seceded from that republic three years later. In 1963, the Baath Party organized a coup and that is the beginning of the Syria we now know.
Second, the borders were drawn somewhat arbitrarily. Now, that's true of much of the world. Think of Africa, where the colonial powers created dozens of states that had never existed.
But what is more important regarding Syria is that its borders contain many different communities and sects that have often not thought of themselves as one nation.
Consider the divides between Shia and Sunni, the two main Muslim sects. In his book The Shia Revival, Vali Nasr begins with a fascinating map. The portions in white are where Sunnis live, and the portions in gray are where Shia are predominant.
It is a randomized distribution. Now if you zoom in on Syria, you will see a small minority of Shia, the Alawites, who have been running the country. And that is the third point. Syria is the last of three great minority regimes in the Middle East.
The first were the Christians in Lebanon, the second the Sunnis of Iraq, and the third, the Alawites of Syria. Often as a consequence of a "divide and rule" policy, the colonial powers would favor a prominent minority group as their allies.
The reason they chose a minority was obvious - that group would always need the help of an outside colonial power.
So, what can we draw from history about Syria today? Well, over the last thirty years, we have seen revolts against these three minority regimes. In the 1970s and 80s, it was the revolt against the Christians of Lebanon, and a fifteen year civil war ensued.
In Iraq, the United States deposed Saddam Hussein and the Sunni power structure, but it fought back in a long civil war that in many ways still continues. Remember, Iraq is the second most violent country in the world today, after Syria.
In Syria, this struggle between the Alawites and their allies on the one hand and a mostly Sunni opposition movement on the other, will probably be a long and bitter struggle as were the other two.
And it's not clear to me, at least, that limited American military intervention will be able to do much to shape its outcome. Whether or not you agree with me on that, just make sure you know where the country is before you want to bomb it.
Up next, a different kind of debate on the Middle East, who makes the best hummus? When we're back, Anthony Bourdain has tales from Gaza and Jerusalem.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. A Syrian minister thanked Russia for orchestrating the deal with the United States that will put Syria's chemical weapons under international control. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the threat of U.S. military force against Syria "remains real." Vice President Joe Biden will be shaking hands and slapping backs at a steak fry in Iowa today. Predictably, that's whipping up talk of a Biden presidential bid in 2016. The annual picnic is hosted by Senator Tom Harkin has a history of drawing potential presidential candidates.
Colorado bracing for even more rain today after devastating storms claimed four lives. Another 500 people unaccounted for. Thousands have been rescued as flooding washed away roads and bridges. A helicopter carrying Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and members of Colorado's congressional delegation was diverted twice to pick up people waving to be rescued.
"Reliable Sources" begins at the top of the hour. Now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
ZAKARIA: Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Israel Sunday morning to talk about Syria, yes, but also, the other major initiative on his plate. The Middle East peace process. Now perhaps, just perhaps the solution to that problem could be found in food. Anthony Bourdain traveled recently to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to find out. The second season premiere of "Parts Unknown" airs tonight on CNN at 9 P.M. Eastern. Welcome back.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": Thank you. Good to be here.
ZAKARIA: So, you had never been to that part of the Middle East?
BOURDAIN: I had not. ZAKARIA: I remember Martin Indyk, the -- who was then the ambassador and now the chief negotiator once gave a speech when he was ambassador and he began it by saying, we are all Semites, speaking to the Israelis and Palestinians. And it is striking when you look at the food, at least to me, you know, the difference between Israeli food and Palestinian -- it's all part of the same culture.
BOURDAIN: Very similar. But already, we're -- this is a hot topic. This is a source of much and ferocious argument. Who invented falafel? Who makes better hummus? These are -- these are things already contention.
ZAKARIA: And are you willing to weigh in on that?
BOURDAIN: No way.
BOURDAIN: I will say it was an eye openings experience for me. I think it will be an eye openings experience for a lot of people. Look, it's a difficult thing to get into Gaza. As a result, very few Westerners, very few Israelis have seen Gaza City or how people live there. How they eat.
ZAKARIA: And it's very tough. It's one of the -- what was your reaction to Gaza?
BOURDAIN: Like a lot of the refugee -- like -- the way I felt the refugee camp I saw in West Bank. There's a science fiction aspect. It's rather unbelievable. You're entering Gaza, you go through a security system. I think you see one human being. It's sort of a half mile walk through various holding areas and stages and it is very impersonal and frightening in a sense that in a world where security is increasingly a concern, is this our future as well? A future of walls and high tech security like depersonalizing high tech security. It's a -- look, it's very confusing experience. But I -- what I'm grateful for is that -- one of the things I'm grateful for is I think I got to see as someone I met on the show Laila Haddad said, when we see Palestinians on TV, they are usually crying women or men throwing stones. Here you are going to meet some people living their lives, talking about themselves and ordinary everyday things and I think there is value in that.
ZAKARIA: And did you find that in Gaza people were able to focus on something like food? I mean is there cuisine in Gaza?
BOURDAIN: There's nothing -- first of all, there is a glorious and fascinating cuisine in Gaza that's very different from that in the West Bank. Remember, a lot of the people in Gaza are from elsewhere. They were relocated and they brought with them various Bedouin-style dishes. It's sort of a spicier, more coastal cuisine. The food is fascinating, but again there is nothing more political than food. It's not just what people are eating, what they're not eating and what's coming into Gaza, what's allowed into Gaza, what is allowed out. You know, these are big issues. We were very close to being able to -- you can order fried chicken apparently from Gaza, from Egypt and they smuggle it in. You can -- they send a guy over to Egypt through the tunnels ...
ZAKARIA: The tunnels.
BOURDAIN: ... that they use to smuggle arms and other contraband and for a while there was a chicken delivery service that you can call Egypt and they smuggle you -- your KFC.
ZAKARIA: I mean Israel is now like an advanced European country. Does the cuisine reflect that? That is, you know, I mean -- I think of sushi in Haifa ...
ZAKARIA: And things like that.
BOURDAIN: Tel Aviv feels very much like southern California. Nicer. It is -- you know, it's hip. Really, the only thing that tips you off that you're not some place like southern California are basically teenagers with machine guns, you know, on the beach. I spent most of my time in Jerusalem. And but to answer your question, I think in general, it's not the new Israeli cuisine, that I'm -- the hipster fusion. And I'm not going to this part of the world for Asian fusion.
BOURDAIN: It is that glorious mix of traditional food from Jewish diaspora, from people going back to Israel. It's the various Arab and Palestinian regional cuisines, all on this -- you know, all of the things that make it such a difficult and contentious part of the world, make the food really, really interesting and I think it's one of the things that both Jews and Palestinians really enjoy and they come out from very different angles. But what -- who doesn't -- what great culture doesn't like to eat and isn't proud of their food?
ZAKARIA: You go to Tokyo, you have been many times. I think most will be surprised to know that the city that gets the most Michelin three stars is not Paris, is not New York, but Tokyo. Do you agree with that?
ZAKARIA: Tokyo is the great ...
BOURDAIN: I -- If I would ask ten great chefs that I know around the world what city in the world would you like -- if you had to be stuck in one city and eat every meal there for the rest of your life, where would that be, nine out of ten would say Tokyo. It is -- there's a level of perfectionism, attention to detail, quality ingredients and tradition and technique that's really unlike any place else. It's endlessly deep subject and the show that I did there most recently, we tried to draw a direct line between that excellence and attention to detail, that fetishism, really, for food and quality with the sort of subterranean repressed eades (ph) of the Japanese male. So it's probably going to be a parental advisory type show.
ZAKARIA: On that note, Anthony Bourdain, pleasure to have you on.
BOURDAIN: Always. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Up next, a different way to look back at 9/11. What did the events of that day change for Muslim Americans? I have two great guests. The playwright of this year's Pulitzer Prize winning drama and the lead actor who's Aasif Mandvi of "The Daily Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AASIF MANDVI, ACTOR, "DISGRACED": You don't have suspicions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: This week marks 12 years since the attacks of September the 11th. In so many ways the events of that day have shaped the course of modern geopolitics. We often talk about that on this show. Today I wanted to discuss something different. The experiences of Muslim Americans in the aftermath of 9/11. I have two great guests. Ayad Akhtar who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his debut play "Disgrace". And Aasif Mandvi was the lead actor in that play. Aasif is, of course, also a correspondent on "The Daily Show." Welcome to you both.
AYAD AKHTAR, AUTHOR OF PULITZER-PRIZE WINNING DRAMA "DISGRACED": Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So you portrayed a Muslim American. A young Muslim American who's having very conflicted feelings about 9/11 and the rise of this kind of Muslim fundamentalism and taking a certain amount of pride in the attacks. That seems to be a very, very controversial idea.
AKHTAR: Yeah, you know, it is. And it ended up being. I think that, you know, as an artist you kind of are listening to your characters and you want to see where they lead you and that was one of the revelations of Amir (ph), it's one of the things that I discovered about Amir was that the ...
ZAKARIA: This is the character?
AKHTAR: The lead character. Yeah. The intensity, with which he's -- he's actually sort of defined himself in opposition to his Muslim brought up and believes himself to be the absolute sort of rationalist secular humanist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANDVI: No, the next (inaudible) attack is coming from someone who kind of, sort of, looks like me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See, I totally disagree. The next attack is coming from some white guy who's got a gun and ...
MANDVI: And he's pointing it at someone who kind of sort of looks like me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not necessarily!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go get every person of Middle Eastern descent, some of them started doing what you're doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all got used to that kind of compliance? You think we actually might have started getting a little too comfortable about our suspicions.
MANDVI: Ah! So you do have suspicions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Did you see yourself in this character? Because I think of you as a very westernized ...
ZAKARIA: Muslim American.
MANDVI: Well, exactly. I mean I think when I read this play, I -- it was one of the most difficult plays I ever read in terms of it brought up so much stuff for me personally, as someone who was raised Muslim, As someone who was raised in the West and, you know, all of the sort of -- the self-hatred and the sort of rejection of identity. You know, a lot of what the play deals with is sort of on a sort of a more metaphoric level about the West looking at Islam through its own lens and Islam relating to itself through the lens of Western identity and what the West says about it and that's what Amir's character, actually, embodies in the play, is this person who has completely taken on the attributes of a Western gentleman, you know, and yet deep down inside of him is this Muslim kid who was raised with the stuff that he's trying to reconcile in himself.
ZAKARIA: What do you think of the American Muslim experience? Leave the play aside. Do you think that this pull -- do you see this pull, on the one hand, to modernize and assimilate into America, on the other hand to stay true ...
MANDVI: I mean I think it is a -- I mean, look, I came from a very -- I grew up in a very liberal Muslim home. You know, much more than like the character in the play, for example. But still, I think there is an identification, you know, with the Muslim world, the Muslim identity in some way that it is especially after 9/11, you know, it is a question still, you know, that I live with and I'm on TV. I get to sort of say things and sort of stand on that fence and comment on the -- on both sides of it, you know. I'm very fortunate in that way that I get to do that. But -- but it is something that lives inside of me. And you still -- I mean I don't know how -- since September 11th, I don't know how far we've come, really. You know, you still have those idiots on "Fox and friends" saying, you know, Allahu Akbar means death to America, you know, confusing these things or, you know, you still have Michele Bachmann now going to Egypt and talking in a completely condescending way ...
MANDVI: ... to the Egyptian people. So where -- I question where have we come in terms of American Muslim identity and the relationship between. You know, I don't know -- I don't know if we've taken -- we've taken some steps forwards, but in many ways we still have, I think, a long way.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the 9/11 has brought these issues to the fore in a way that ultimately is going to be good because it forces us to think and talk about this as a society?
AKHTAR: That's the hope. You know, I think there's lots of reasons to have hope. And I think there's lots of reasons not to. And I think keeping those reasons not to have hope in mind is very important. Tribalism runs deep in all of us. And without the awareness of how deep it runs, it's difficult to believe that we could ever overcome it.
MANDVI: Yeah, I think this idea that one of the things that, you know, the play addresses is this idea that we all believe that we live in this sort of United Colors of Benetton world, you know, and what the play uncovers, is that we do have this very, very distinct tribal connections that we don't even know that we have. And so as much as the Muslim character in the play, "Muslim character", connects to his tribal connections, so does everybody else.
MANDVI: So does the Caucasian -- does the Caucasian white woman, the Jewish American, the African American, everybody sort of suddenly like anchors down into their tribal connections without even realizing it and here you have these very sophisticated New Yorkers who believe that they are above all of this and can have these intellectual discussions and conversations and that's where it ends up. And I think that's why people identify with it because it's not just about -- there's a part of me that's Muslim that I can't reconcile with the West. It's true for all of us.
ZAKARIA: Thank you both very much. Fascinating.
AKHTAR: Thank you.
MANDVI: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS", some intriguing visions of a new political future in miniature. Really miniature. We'll be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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ZAKARIA: Tokyo has been awarded the 2020 Olympic Games bidding out Madrid and Istanbul, which brings me to my question of the week. Since the modern Olympic Games began in 1896, what country has hosted the games the most? A, the United States, B, France, C., Greece, or D, Japan. Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to cnn.com/fareed for more of the "GPS Challenge", lots of insight and analysis, and you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And remember, you can go to iTunes.com/fareed if you ever miss a show or a special.
This week's "Book of the Week" will help you understand Syria and much more. "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East." This is the classic by David Frumkin, it is by far the best book on the complicated geopolitics that made and remade the Arab world. You'll encounter some fascinating characters including Winston Churchill who turns out to have a large role in the story. It's a must read.
Now, for the "Last Look": all eyes are on Germany as the national election enters its final week. We found the most interesting political messaging we've seen. A 3D version of a party platform. The city of Hamburg is home to the miniature wonderland. The largest model railway in the world complete with not only trains, but a cruise ship, a soccer stadium, an entire miniature airport. The museum recently gave each of Germany's major political parties an 11 square foot plot of land asking them to create their version of the future. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union Party emphasizes Germany's link to greater Europe, CBEU flags and it includes a policeman of color showing its commitment to integration. The Free Democratic Party features a giant zeros, symbolizing its vision for a Germany with no debt. The Left Party shows an ominous high tech spying center, protesting government surveillance. And what model of Germany would be complete without some traditional later lederhosen. It made me wonder what kind of 3-D model the Democratic and Republican parties here in the U.S. would build in advance of the 2016 elections. Send me your ideas in words or pictures, email@example.com. We will post the best one on our website.
The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge question was, A, the United States has hosted the games eight times. France is next in line with five and with the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan will get the bronze when it hosts the game for the fourth time. They might have had the silver. Japan was awarded the 1940 Summer and Winter Games, but withdrew in 1938 as the Second Sino-Japanese War intensified. The 1940 Games were later cancelled after the outbreak of World War II.
A note about last week's question, which was who was the first sitting American president to visit Russia? We were trying to be clever, but we were too clever by half. When FDR was in Yalta in 1945, it was part of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Outside the borders of its Russian counterpart. So, we thought that the visit was not technically in Russia. But it turns out that Crimea was not all that autonomous, it was under the control of Russia.
All of it inside the Soviet Union, of course. So, if you said FDR was the first U.S. sitting president to visit, you were right. Nixon's was, of course, the first state visit. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."