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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Pivot to Asia Could be Obama's Foreign Policy Legacy; Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall; How to Navigate Today's Chaotic World; Italy is the Most Ignorant Nation Says Research

Aired November 09, 2014 - 10:00   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.

On this day 25 years ago, the Berlin wall began to fall as the world watched in shock. Today two men who were among those surprised but were at the highest levels of power, then U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and his British counterpart, Powell.

Then the economy, immigration, politics. How well do you know your world? I'll share some scary numbers on just how ignorant many Americans and others around the world are.

Also, President Obama has been called many things this week, but is he a Republican? That is what one prominent conservative says. We will have a spirited debate.

And the White House has no real solution for Syria. The GOP doesn't have one either. I will introduce you to a man who says he does, and it does seem to make a lot of sense.

But first, here is my take. Despite this week's elections, President Obama has the opportunity to do big things over the next two years, but they will have to be in the world beyond Washington. Next week's trip to Asia would be a good place to start. In fact, it's odd that Obama has not already devoted more time, energy, and attention to foreign policy.

It's been clear for a while now that there is no prospect of working with the Republican Party on any major domestic policy, but if Obama seeks some kind of foreign policy legacy, he will first have to maintain the discipline with which he began his presidency.

If he ends up with incremental, escalating interventionism in Syria it will absorb fully the White House's mind share, the public's interests and the country's resources. It will also not succeed if by success we mean the triumph of pro-democratic forces in the Syrian civilian war.

Obama's biggest foreign policy initiative is powerful and intelligent -- the pivot to Asia. The greater threat to global peace and prosperity over the next decades comes not from a band of assassins in Syria but from the rise of China and the manner in which that will reshape the geopolitics of Asia and the world.

If Washington can provide balance and reassurance in Asia, it will help ensure that the continent does not become the flash point for a new Cold War.

But the Asia pivot remains for rhetoric than reality. Having promised a larger U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Singapore and Australia, there is little evidence of any of this on the ground. The most ambitious element of the Asia pivot is the Transpacific Partnership. The idea is simple. To lower trade barriers and other impediments to commerce among 12 large Pacific economies comprising 40 percent of the global GDP.

This will provide a boost to global growth but, more importantly, shore up the principles and practice of open markets and encourage open economies at a time when state capitalism like the Chinese model and new nationalist barriers are creeping up everywhere. The good news is that the Republican victory this week actually might make this more likely. Trade is one of the few issues on which the GOP agrees with the president.

Obama has one other major foreign policy initiative -- nuclear negotiations with Iran. Again, here the basic strategy has been smart, sanctions plus talk, but it has not received presidential attention and focus.

It remains unclear whether Iran is ready to make peace with America and the West, but if it is, Obama should present Washington and the world with the deal, even though it will surely be denounced as treason by Republicans and attacked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I know the world looks messy and the administration is now on the defensive, but recall what the world looked like when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were conducting foreign policy. America was losing a war in Asia in which it had deployed half a million troops. The Soviet Union was on the march. Domestic opposition and troubles were mounting.

Nixon and Kissinger had to initiate a major retreat, but as Robert Zoellick has pointed out, they combined this with the seize of bold, positive, assertive moves, arms control deals was the Soviet Union, the opening in China, shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. The result was that by 1973 people were dazzled by the energy and ingenuity of American foreign policy.

The historian John Gaddis has described this as one of the most successful reversals of fortune for American foreign policy in modern history.

To achieve a similar kind of legacy, it's now time for a foreign policy presidency.

For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started. On November 9th, 1989, the East German Minister of Propaganda Guenter

Schabowski gave a press conference that was rather unremarkable until almost an hour in he shocked the world by saying that East Germans could, quote, "leave the country through East German border crossing points," unquote, effective immediately.

That night the Berlin Wall began to fall.

My next two guests were in the cockpits of power in the White House and 10 Downing Street and had to manage great power diplomacy through a period of unprecedented change.

Brent Scowcroft was the National Security adviser to then President George Herbert Walker Bush and Charles Powell was his counterpart in Britain, foreign policy adviser to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Charles, when you were watching this happen, did you realize that the wall meant the end of the Soviet empire?

CHARLES POWELL, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY TO PM MARGARET THATCHER: I didn't think I realized immediately, but I did think we were at a crisis point. I think this was the last of the great Cold War crises. You can trace it through the Berlin airlift, the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Prague, the deployment of Soviet intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe.

This started out as a characteristic Cold War crisis, really, with uncertainty about exactly what would happen, risks because Europe was awash with nuclear weapons. We really didn't know from one minute to the next quite how it would play out, what the Soviet reaction would be.

We received messages from Mr. Gorbachev around midnight in London time. That was never a good sign in the Cold War, a message from a Soviet head of state at midnight, usually it meant trouble of some sort. So the immediate thought was not so much about what would follow but how do you contain and regulate and stabilize what is happening at that moment?

ZAKARIA: Brent, what did it look like from the White House because the stakes there must have been even higher. Any miscalculation by the White House could have had catastrophic consequences.

BRENT SCOWCROFT, PRESIDENT, THE SCOWCROFT GROUP: That's absolutely correct. We -- when we came into office in 1989, there was a lot of ferment in Eastern Europe, and we decided we wanted to try to make it different from earlier cases where Berlin in '53, Hungary, and so on, to try to keep the violence down and to keep it at underneath the level at which the Soviet Union would feel compelled to respond.

ZAKARIA: Charles, Mrs. Thatcher had very famously said that she thought Gorbachev was a man you could do business with. But that didn't I assume that she thought he was trying to dismantle communism in any sense or let alone the Soviet empire. POWELL: I think she realized that he was trying to reform communism,

make it a somewhat more humane doctrine. As she constantly advised him that was a useless task because communism was unreformable and should be gotten rid of. She never used to mince her words, as you will remember.

But I think she also believed in Gorbachev's basic humanity, that he was a decent man, a man who was far less likelier than earlier Soviet leaders to crush dissent and repression in Eastern Europe. But indeed one of the miracles of what happened with the wall coming down was the fact that the Soviet Union stood back, did nothing to defend the East German leaders. That was the real change.

In any earlier time they would surely have gone in and propped them up. But this was an amazing admission of the failure of the system above all in East Germany.

ZAKARIA: Brent, when you look at it, what is striking to me -- I was a researcher at Harvard at the time and we were studying the collapse of multinational empires and lesson number one seemed to be they always have violence, bloodshed, and war associated with them except this one didn't. And if you look at the way the Middle East is collapsing now, you can see how easy it is for these things to spiral into violence.

Why didn't the collapse of the Soviet Union result in bloodshed and war?

SCOWCROFT: Well, first of all, we didn't want it to because what had happened before every time there was any kind of an outburst in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union would crack down, kill the leaders, and even be more repressive than before. So what we wanted to do was to keep indications of violence and dissent underneath the Soviet radar, and we tried very hard to do that.

And when the announcement about the wall came, President Bush Senior was told by his press secretary, you're going to have to talk to the press. Everybody is wondering about this. So I said, we don't really know what the facts are, but anyway the press came into the president's office, and he described what was happening and how uncertain it all was.

After he finished that explanation, one of the members of the press said, well, Mr. President, you don't seem very elated. I would think you would want to go over and dance on the wall. And he said, well, I'm just not that kind of a person.

What we were worried about was that this event would force Gorbachev to violence and all of the hopeful signs would be destroyed.

ZAKARIA: And Bush got a lot of criticism for that statement that you describe, Brent.

Charles, do you think it was the right thing to be -- you know, a lot of people felt that Bush should have gone to Berlin and made a major speech celebrating the victory of freedom over communism. POWELL: He was absolutely right not to do that. What he needed to do

was to defuse the situation. Speeches at the Berlin Wall were for a different era. They were for the time of President Reagan or President Kennedy when you could deliver that sort of speech.

Once it came to the fall of the wall, you needed extreme caution, you needed to avoid any possible provocation for Soviet forces in East Germany. The whole thing had to be handled very carefully.

You know, coming back to a point that Brent was making, it wasn't just us who didn't know what was happening. Chancellor Kohl of West Germany didn't have any idea what was happening. Every day running up to the fall of the wall, the West Germans briefed us on events. And by the same evening every single day, by the same evening everything they said had been overtaken by the time of the evening news. The situation was quite extraordinarily fluid and fast moving.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, more with these two great statesmen on foreign policy today, Russia, China, Iran, much more.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Charles Powell who was Scowcroft's counterpart as foreign policy adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He is now the Baron Powell of Bayswater.

Brent, when you look at the world today, does it look more dangerous, more messy than the kind of world you confronted as national security adviser?

SCOWCROFT: Well, it certainly is more messy. I wouldn't say more dangerous because in those days if we made a mistake, we easily could have brought down a nuclear war. That is not the case now. But there's no unifying sense to the crises around the world today, not one solution fits them all, whereas in the Cold War we had one goal, and that was to hold the line until the Soviet Union changed.

And that's -- that was the strategy, and we argued about how -- about the tactic, but the strategy was quite clear and there was no difference of opinion about that fundamental thing.

ZAKARIA: Charles, when you look at the Middle East, for example, today and you see this crisis and ISIS and all the instability and violence, do you think there is a clear foreign policy or strategy that the United States or the West could have that would -- that would be successful?

POWELL: What I would really like to see was a much closer unity preserved between the United States and Europe. I think they're being false on both sides but there's no doubt NATO is not quite the organization it once was. There is no doubt that defense spending in Europe has slipped to scandalously low levels where it can't really play a very useful role in standing alongside the United States in dealing with these international crises. At the time of the -- fall of the Berlin Wall, we were still at the

height of alliance unity and President Bush played a very great part in that. It's what enabled us to get through the Berlin situation peacefully. Everybody worked together. Everybody was on the same side. That is sadly no longer quite the case.

ZAKARIA: Brent, what about Russia? How would you deal with Vladimir Putin? You have dealt with Russian leaders for 30 or 40 years in various ways.

SCOWCROFT: Well, he feels apparently very deeply about the end of the Cold War, and he says the collapse of the Soviet Union was the fundamental event of the 20th century. So he has his feelings on his sleeve, and he reacts very sharply, but I don't think we should try to cast him into outer darkness and refuse to talk to him.

ZAKARIA: Charles, what would you do with the Russia-Ukraine situation?

POWELL: Well, right to punish Russia or right to punish President Putin particularly for the invasion of Crimea, for destabilizing the eastern parts of the Ukraine, but we all know at the end of the day we're going to have to negotiate with him. It's not a question of whether we like him or not. He is the Russian president and he is one with popularity levels that any Western leaders would give his eye and teeth for. So he's a factor, and we have to deal with him and deal with him in a sensible way.

ZAKARIA: Charles, when you look at the world, we don't have the single threat from nuclear war and the Soviet Union that you had during the Cold War. What is the thing that worries you the most?

POWELL: I would say rising nationalism accompanied by increasing military power. Not just in the Middle East or even in Russia, I even worry these days, as you know, about the Asia-Pacific. We've become very used to stability in the Asia-Pacific since the end of the Vietnam war but some of the recent developments there do worry me.

The more forward Chinese line on these disputed islands and waters. The fact that Japan is reacting sharply. The rising defense expenditures of both China and Japan. The tensions there worry me a lot, and I would like to see in particular the United States engage more with China.

ZAKARIA: Brent, what kind of grade would you give Barack Obama on foreign policy?

SCOWCROFT: I think not very high grades, but I do think that he is presiding over a world which is dramatically changing. The whole kind of communication that we have now makes everything easier, makes it easier to have violence, easier to get people together on extreme positions, and it has politicized parts of national entities that never before were involved in political matters, and that makes it a very, very complex and confusing world. And we need to be careful but thoughtful and work together in trying to cope with it.

ZAKARIA: Brent Scowcroft, Lord Powell of Bayswater, thank you very much both. Fascinating conversation.

When we come back, the American electorate issued a mandate for change on Tuesday. But did it know what America and the world really looks like?

I'll take you inside a stunning study about just how ignorant Americans and others are about the world around them.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.

Americans voted on Tuesday for big change, but did they understand the facts that they wanted to change? Not according to a groundbreaking new survey.

You see, Americans think the unemployment rate is much higher than it is, that there are many more immigrants and pregnant teens than there actually are, that the population is much older than it actually is.

Now maybe this gap between perception and reality is because of American ignorance or hyper partisanship except we're not alone. In the first international study of its kind, the UK research firm Ipsos MORI highlights the political ignorance of participants across 14 countries.

Here are some of the findings from Ipsos MORI's quiz.

When asked what percentage of people are unemployed or looking for work, Americans guessed 32 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate is actually closer to 6 percent, of course. In fact we could only find one country on the planet, Macedonia, which has had more than 30 percent unemployment in recent years according to IMF data. It turns out, every country overestimated its unemployment level.

So what about immigration levels? Well, there, too, the participants of every single country imagined that they are being overwhelmed by foreigners. Italians think 30 percent of their population is comprised of foreigners when it's really closer to 7 percent. Americans think it's 32 percent. The actual number in America is more like 13 percent.

Now how many people did respondents think identified as Muslim in their countries?

Here the French embellished the most reporting that 31 percent of the population was probably Muslim instead of the actual 8 percent. Americans think it's 15 percent. It is really just 1 percent.

Overall, the Swedes fared the best in this study and the most ignorant, the most oblivious nation in the world -- nope, it's not America. Phew. It's actually Italy. Don't celebrate yet, the United States ranked second in the Ipsos MORI Index of Ignorance.

Why does it all matter? Well, if there is a chasm between perception and reality, then this does have huge implications for elections and policymaking. Politicians are then left to deal with false assumptions or over-imagined issues many of which they by the way created or at least exacerbated.

If a nation's citizens are convinced that illegal immigration is a bigger problem that it actually is, they will push their elected officials to spend billions on fortified walls and deportations. If they think the government is spending a disproportionate amount of money on foreign aid, for example, they will advocate sharp cuts in what is actually a small aid budge.

Sadly pervasive ignorance is hardly a new phenomenon as the scholar Ilya Somin points out in his book "Democracy and Political Ignorance." He notes that only 38 percent of Americans knew that the Soviet Union was not a member of NATO in 1964 at the height of the Cold War. In 1986, a majority of Americans were unable to identify Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev by name. Now, someone concedes that it's rational for people to not worry about acquiring the knowledge to vote smarter, because the chances of a single vote counting are negligible. But in the aggregate, it's scary when more than half of Americans don't know whether the Senate or House are controlled by Democrats or Republicans, which is the case according to a recent poll from the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

We all worry about the quality of politicians in today's democracies. But what about the quality of voters? How can we make decisions about war and peace, expenditures and values if citizens are totally wrong about the basic facts involved? America's founding father James Madison perhaps put it best, quote, "Popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both," unquote. We've linked to the perils of perception quiz on our website. Take it at your own risk and then do go and read a newspaper and DVR this show. Next on "GPS" a conservative who believes that Obama has governed as a Republican. Really? We'll talk to that conservative and to another one who disagrees.


ZAKARIA: Ever since Tuesday night's GOP victory, giving Republicans control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, you have heard a lot from the right side of the aisle. Some grandstanding, some crowing, some gloating, you get the picture. But in the midst of all this, I read an article by a tough fiscal conservative and advisor to Ronald Reagan no less, Bruce Bartlett, who argued that Barack Obama has governed this country like a Republican. He made an interesting case, he got me thinking. Then what explains voters' move to the right last week? And what do other conservatives think of Bartlett's thesis? So joining me now are Bruce Bartlett, who is now an economics columnist and author and historian and Reihan Salam who is the executive editor of "The National Review and also a CNN contributor. So, Bruce, why don't you start us out by explaining why Obama has governed as a Republican?

BRUCE BARTLETT, POLICY ADVISOR IN REAGAN AND GHW Bush ADMINISTRATIONS: Well, I think if you just step back and ignore the partisan attacks and look at the actual substance of his policies, he's kept foreign policy basically on the same track that it was on from the Bush administration, even kept on Gates as the Secretary of Defense and appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state even though she ran well to his right, at least on foreign policy during the 2008 campaign. I think an honest assessment of the health care reform would show that it's essentially based on Republican ideas that came out of the Heritage Foundation that were implemented by Mitt Romney himself up in Massachusetts. I think he has shown a very great willingness to go along with Republicans on cutting the deficit. I could go on and on, but I really think that if you just step back and are honest about it, he's been what I would call essentially a liberal Republican as far as his governing policy is concerned.

ZAKARIA: So, Reihan, what's wrong with this picture of Obama?

REIHAN SALAM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I guess my understanding of these categories is very different. For example, when I think about Obamacare, it is true that Obamacare used markets as a mechanism in its state level exchanges, let's say, except it uses them in a very proscriptive kind of way. And moreover, when you look at the structure of the law, this was law that was primarily intended as a measure of redistribution. It is something that largely redistributes to Democratic leaning groups, the goal is a more centralized system as opposed to one that is decentralized that is allowing for competition and business model innovation.

ZAKARIA: What about cutting the deficit. It is true the deficit has got down by more than, you know, a third ...

SALAM: It is absolutely true that that's the case, but, of course, the thing is that the deficit started out at an unusually high level, right? Because we had a fiscal calamity and then after that it partly reflects the imperatives of governing in divided government. You had sequestration, you had a variety of other measures, you didn't have the new stimulus measures that the president and his allies have championed, so this was to some extent a function of things that were beyond his control.

ZAKARIA: So if Obama did govern as a Republican, what to you explains the public's clear rejection of him in some sense in this last week's elections.

BARTLETT: Well, I think the real story of the election was not a Republican wave, but rather the disappearance of the Democratic base. The Democrats stayed home to a very large extent, and I think they stayed home precisely because those in the Democratic Party, those on the left, recognized the basic truth of what my article was about, that Obama has given them very, very little over the last six years, and I think they came to the conclusion that what difference does it make who controls Congress? Nothing is going to change. It really makes no difference. And I think Republicans have somewhat deluded themselves that their control in Congress will allow them to advance their agenda rather than simply continue to block Obama's which they've already done. So, I'm not really sure anything changed substantively.

ZAKARIA: But what you're saying is fascinating. You're proscribing for Obama what Elizabeth Warren and, you know, in an earlier incarnation Howard Dean was saying, which is that he should have moved more to the left, governed more with a passion that would excite his base and that would have brought out the vote.

BARTLETT: I think there's a lot more he could have done from a left point of view. I think he was very -- has been very weak on job creation. About infrastructure investments. Historically that's an area where Republicans and Democrats have been able to work together, and I just think he's -- and he's also not given any red meat to his base. I mean, Ronald Reagan I would argue governed not a whole lot further to the right than Obama has, but people think he was a lot more conservative because he gave these, you know, thunderous speeches about conservative values and conservative policies and he tried to do some things but he kind of half-heartedly that gave the Republicans' base reason to cheer but at the end of the day, he was perfectly willing to work with the Democrats on things that he cared about.

SALAM: By historical standards, Fareed, the first two year of the Obama presidency were a period of legislative hyperactivity. And enormous - was accomplished. You had a dramatic overhaul of the financial sector. You had progressives achieve a goal of universal coverage that they have been seeking to achieve for almost a century. You had also a dramatic transformation of student loans, a variety of other things. So I think that this notion that President Obama hasn't accomplished much from the progressive side of the street seems very, very odd to me and I think it actually frankly doesn't give him enough credit.

ZAKARIA: So, what do the next two years look like as far as you can tell?

BARTLETT: I think we're looking at two years not dissimilar from Gerald Ford's two years as president. I think we're going to see lots and lots of vetoes. I think Democrats in the Senate would be well advised not to do a lot of filibustering. Just let the Republicans get stuff out of their system so they can tell themselves, well, at least we voted. The House and the Senate. We sent a bill to the president to repeal Obamacare. He vetoed it and, you know, get those things out of their system and then maybe you've got three or four issues, tax reform, immigration reform, patent reform, perhaps a few others where there's maybe enough mutual interest that after that is over with they can sit down at the table and actually negotiate.

ZAKARIA: What do you think?

SALAM: I think that conservatives should be articulating an agenda and I hope that they unite around compelling domestic policy proposals. My concern is that there will be theatrics from people who are thinking more about - and what we - can we - how can we use the leverage we have to accomplish things immediately rather than thinking about the long term. So my hope is that they're going to do the latter. They might do the former. We'll see.

ZAKARIA: Thank you both. Fascinating conversation. And a great article which we will link to. Next on "GPS," Syria. Most people throw up their hands when asked what the solution is, but my next guest is the country's leading Syria scholar and he has a way out. When we come back.


ZAKARIA: To most American officials, pundits, scholars, Syria is a problem with no good answers. I for one have never heard a sensible solution until now. My next guest is in my opinion the top Syria scholar in the United States and he is a man with a plan. Joshua Landis is the director of the University of Oklahoma Center for Middle East studies. Josh, let's go through this because everybody has heard so much about Syria. Let's start with the map of what Syria looks like right now, and explain to us what those colors mean.

JOSHUA LANDIS: The colors are that the government led by Bashar al Assad in Damascus in the South rules over this purplish color in the South. The ISIS, this new big state that has formed, dominates the east and the north --

ZAKARIA: But a lot of that is just desert, right?

LANDIS: Yes, much of that is desert, it's not the big populated areas. And then you have the blue which has also rebel activity. Now, you've got to remember, that there are over 1,000 militias in Syria according to the CIA.

ZAKARIA: So, let's understand why you think that the solution that so many people keep pushing, which is that the United States supports those rebels in the blue areas and that they will, therefore, win, they will establish control, create perhaps a Democratic Syria, why is that not going to work?

LANDIS: Well, it's not going to work because most of the blue area are dominated by the big rebel groups which are al Qaeda and the Islamic Front, which are Jihadist, very anti-American groups. The pro-American militias just got wiped out in the northern blue spot Jablazawi (ph). They just got pushed aside by al Qaeda, and so they're very small. They may own perhaps one or two percent of Syria today, the rebels that are being backed by the United States. So to turn those two percent into winners that would not only wipe out ISIS, but take on Assad would be a gargantuan undertaking.

ZAKARIA: So, they have to beat al Nusra and al Qaeda and Khorasan, then they've got to beat ISIS, then they've got to beat ...

LANDIS: It's not going to happen. And we've - we've only - President Obama has given them half a billion dollars. Now, that, you know, at the University of Oklahoma we have an endowment of much more than $1 billion and we can't even pay the students to go for free. So, they're not going to build an army for that kind of money. This is just chunk (ph) change that's there to satisfy, I presume, people who are criticizing the president.

ZAKARIA: So, let's go to what you think the -- the reality is emerging toward and what could be a stable outcome.

LANDIS: What could be an outcome is leaving Assad in southern Syria. Assad, although he owns less than 50 percent of the territory, he owns over 60 -- about 65 percent of the population because Damascus, in the big cities and all the cities on the coast are still under his control largely. So if you just left him there, these lines, battle lines have been more or less static for the last two years. The north is the problem. That's where we're bombing. That's what's dominated by ISIS and al Qaeda. What one would have to do if they want to solve this problem and not just make a narrow counterterrorism approach to it, would be to try to draw the Turks into Syria with Saudi, American backing, and NATO backing to try to disarm the militias and set up a government that was a good government that everybody could get behind and pour money into for development and try to fix this problem so it wouldn't be a festering, radical ...

ZAKARIA: But recognize that the forces who support Syria are simply not going to live under that Sunni north and the Sunni north is not going to live under Assad.


ZAKARIA: And so create a clean break.

LANDIS: Because what people are talking about now and are emerging is autonomous regions with a political solution where the Alawites and us ought to sit down with rebels who are very Islamist and come up with some agreement. That's just never going to happen. These different groups have radically different visions of where Syria should be.

ZAKARIA: And then we look at the map that shows us what would happen to the Kurds over there. So you keep them in autonomous region which is much like the one they have in Iraq and then finally where the Alawites are already clustered, right? So, this is what Syria would look like. It would be stable. The Kurds would be - would have their area. The Alawites would have their area

LANDIS: No, the Alawites would be under Assad. Alawites - Bashar al- Assad, the president is an Alawite. And he dominates today. You wouldn't - you couldn't build an Alawite enclave. People thought of that in the beginning, but it's indefensible. If Bashar Assad loses the rest of Syria, they are going to storm - and conquer the cost. That's why he's kept these cities.

ZAKARIA: So, finally, the map of 1999 that the British and French drew was wrong. This is a map that reflects the realities of sectarianism and is possibly more stable.

LANDIS: Yes, it is. And what we see today if you were to pan back and look at a map of what the Islamic State has built from Baghdad, which stretches from the edges of Baghdad all the way to Aleppo today, is a Sunni state, and it's already emerged, and what America is doing by bombing it is trying to destroy this state that is there, and it's going to be a very hard thing to do from the air.

ZAKARIA: So you say, you know, accept reality, don't try to ...

LANDIS: Accept reality, accept that state, but try to get better rulers for it, not ISIS. ZAKARIA: Joshua Landis, as I say, the single best solution to the Syria problem I have heard. Next on "GPS," when the Berlin Wall feel, the hope was that freedom would ring across Eastern Europe and through the former Soviet Union. How did that work out? Not so well in many places. I will explain when we come back.


ZAKARIA: I am glad to be finished with the midterm elections in the United States so we don't have to see ads like these anymore.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too extreme for Maine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unethical, irresponsible, unfit for Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gary Peters' lone sharknado.


ZAKARIA: Charming. The Oxford dictionary blog points out that American English has a unique vocabulary of insults reserved for political party associations. Think wingnut. But as reported, a lexicographer at the Oxford University press recently analyzed 1,200 insults to see if run of the mill putdowns vary when used with partisan adjectives like left wing or right wing. It brings me to my question, which two insults are most commonly associated with conservatives and liberals respectively? Is it nut a, nut job for conservatives and radical for liberals, or b, zealot and fool, c idiot and idiot, or "d" extremist and hack. Stay tuned, we'll tell you the correct answer.

The week's book of the week is "Collapse. The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall" by Mary Elise Sarotte. A professor at Harvard. This is easily the best book on the fall of the Berlin Wall. It reads like a thriller, it's deeply researched and smoothly written. It will remind you how unlikely it was that the Soviet empire would collapse until one day it did.

And now for the last look. Many of us remember when the Berlin Wall fell, the celebratory atmosphere, the cheers, the singing, the hammering, the fireworks, and most of all the promise of freedom. On this 25th anniversary we thought we'd look at Freedom House's rankings of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics to see how those liberated countries have actually fared. Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have all done very well although countries like Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina do need improvement with scores of partly free. Of the 15 former Soviet republics however, only three countries, the Baltic States, received an overall score of free. Five were partly free, but seven received a score of not free. 12 of the 15 countries do not have an entirely free press. In fact, only North Korea has less press freedom than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Most received poor scores on civil liberties and political rights. And finally, only six of the 15 countries can be considered electoral democracies at all, according to the most recent data. 25 years from now, let's hope we see an improved picture, one worthy of the feeling we all had on that day.

The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is "D," extremist was the most widely used insult for conservatives while hack was the top insult for a liberal. I'm not sure which I would rather be called, an extremist or a hack, and I wonder if there are any examples of that worst of all possible words, an extremist hack. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.