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Fareed Zakaria GPS

American Saw North Korea from Inside; Improving American Education; Pentagon Out of Control?; Around the World

Aired December 07, 2014 - 10:00   ET


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

We'll take you around the world to begin the show from Russia's recession to the extension of nuclear talks with Iran to strikes in Syria and Iraq and more. An all-star GPS panel.

Also, inside North Korea. The fascinating story of subterfuge and spying inside the borders of one of the world's most secretive and closed off nations.

And an experiment in how to fix American education. The laboratory was the nation's largest school system. The investigator, a man with a stellar resume but a rank outsider. Joe Klein on what he learned as chancellor of New York City schools.

Finally, you can e-read and e-learn, e-trade, and get rid of your e- waste, but e-residency?

Yes, that's a thing now, too, in Estonia. I will explain.

But first here is my take. Ashton Carter, the president's nominee to be the next Defense secretary, is a brilliant man, but by far the best quality he has going for him is that he seems to understand the need to rein in a Pentagon now so out of control that it is difficult to fully comprehend or even explain.

The largest government bureaucracy in the world, the Department of Defense, even after billions of dollars in cuts, now spends about $600 billion a year when everything is added in. That's more than the entire GDP of Poland. It employs 1.4 million men and women in uniform, 700,000 civilians, and another 700,000 full-time contractors.

The Pentagon's accounts are so vast and byzantine that it is probably impossible to do a thorough and honest audit of it. Still, a recent Government Accountability Office report made a valiant effort and concluded that the total budget overruns for current weapons systems stand at nearly $500 billion. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program alone is now around $150 billion over budget.

In other words, the cost overruns on one weapons system are more than the total defense budget of Britain and France put together. In 1961 Dwight Eisenhower warned against the unwarranted influence of

the military industrial complex. Fifty years later on December 15th, 2011, to mark the anniversary of Eisenhower's address a renowned defense expert argued that things had gotten much worse and far more corrupt. Congress had itself been captured by the system, he said, which should now be called the Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

The experts spoke of the rampant use of earmarks, congressional pet projects unwanted by the administration, but amounting to billions of dollars annually that waste taxpayer resources for years and sometimes decades. Over the last decade or so, the expert concluded what I have described here has resulted in a massive windfall for industry but for the taxpayer and the war fighter, it has been an absolute recipe for disaster.

This radical critique of the Pentagon came from the Republican Senator John McCain. He is joined in many of his views by the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who in his recent memoir describes the Pentagon as a gargantuan labyrinth of democracy on which he had to declare war to gets results.

Forty percent of Pentagon spending goes to overhead, Gates points out in his book, and as many as 30 layers of staff sit between the secretary of Defense and an action officer.

The Pentagon resembles nothing so much as a gigantic socialist enterprise run according to its own principles, shielded from market discipline, and accountable to virtually no one.

How does it continue to function and actually perform? The way socialist bureaucracies usually do. If you throw enough money and talented, energetic, and determined people at it, things can work until the money runs out. The United States still spends more on defense than the next eight nations put together including China and Russia.

The good news is that Ash Carter has already been a reformer and as deputy defense secretary attempted to untangled the procurement process. McCain will soon be the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Mac Thornberry, who will lead the House equivalent, also appears to have a reformist bent.

The problem is so immense, however, that it is probably too much to hope for more than small victories. Secretaries of Defense will come and go, but the Military Industrial Congressional Complex lives on.

For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu called for new elections this week. Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, told a French magazine that American airstrikes were having no impact on ISIS, and on Thursday Russia's president Putin delivered his annual state of the nation address. In it he boasted about Crimea's historical reunification with Russia and he went on to blame the West for most of the problems that his strong and confident -- his word -- nation faces.

One word that was missing from the speech was recession. Earlier in the week his government predicted that the Russian economy would contract next year.

Joining me to discuss all of this and more, Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2001 to 2003.

Robin Wright is a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center. After many years of reporting from the world's hotspots, Chrystia Freeland is now a member of Canada's parliament. She was formerly a top editor at Thompson Reuters and the FT. And David Rothkopf is CEO and editor of the FP Group, the publisher of "Foreign Policy" magazine. His new book is "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear."

Chrystia, I've got to start with you because you know Russia and Ukraine well. The Russian economy, it feels like, is in more serious trouble than even many people in the Obama administration were predicting when the sanctions were put in place.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, MEMBER OF THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENT: That's absolutely right. I mean, there is a real economic crisis in Russia and it's going to get worse. It's partly the sanctions. It's compounded by the fact that the oil price has fallen so sharply, and then the other thing is there's tremendous capital flight and a tremendous brain drain outside of Russia. The Russian businessmen I talk to, some of whom are close to Putin, are incredibly unhappy. They can't believe that what they thought were real businesses, as real fortunes, or just dissolving.

ZAKARIA: David, Russia -- I think the Russian government gets more than half of its revenue from oil. People often say economic sanctions don't -- you know, don't really force governments to change because at the end of the day, you know, the pain is felt by ordinary people, but this is a case where the government needs revenues and it needs oil to be at, I don't know, $85 a barrel I think I saw for Russia to balance its books. It's well below that now.

DAVID ROTHKOPF, CEO AND EDITOR OF THE FP GROUP: Well, and Putin was in denial when he gave his speech. He talked about the budget. What he didn't say is that the budget anticipates the price of oil being $100. Right now the price of oil is in the 60s. He didn't talk about the $85 billion in capital flight in the past year that the Russians have had, and, therefore, he's ignoring the reality of his economy.

I think the real question is, what does this drive him to? Does this make him more docile and in need of the West and the rest of the world or just to drive him to some kind of wag the dog strategy where he says look over here, look at the crisis that I am in the midst of creating in Ukraine or someplace else as a way of stirring up nationalism? Because that's been the playbook in the past with the Russians.

ZAKARIA: What's your gut? Which way will he turn? Will the economic pressure make him more conciliatory, Bush, the president you worked for, 43 said that when he made that statement about looking into Putin's eyes and seeing his soul or whatever it was, that oil was at $25 a barrel and Putin was trying to make nice. That was why he was so nice to Bush that time.

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, you know, the fact is that it isn't necessarily a choice. Mr. Putin can continue to do the kinds of things he's doing in Ukraine or other places that won't bring about greater sanctions and let's be honest, the real sanction against Russia is nothing that the United States and the Europeans have done. The real sanction is oil at 60 odd dollars a barrel.

There's a joke going around Russia. What does the number 63 have in common? Mr. Putin is turning 63 in a couple of weeks, oil is getting close to $63 a barrel and the ruble has fallen about 63 percent. But Russia still has enormous reserves. And my hunch is he doesn't have to do things to trigger more sanctions, if he may tactically, what you're asking me, my guess, he tactically cools it a little bit but strategically he doesn't necessarily give up on his goals of some kind of a restoration project for greater Russia.

ZAKARIA: We've got to get to down things already. Iran negotiations. You have never been particularly optimistic.

HAASS: I think actually the most interesting space to watch, Fareed, is what happens when the new Congress gets in. Will a Republican Congress, and also Democrats, by the way, be willing to let this play out through the end of June or will they decide that the time has come to introduce new sanctions?

I actually think Washington might be more important than the negotiating table for the next couple of months.

ROBIN WRIGHT, DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, WILSON CENTER: Yes. Look, you can look at the glass half full. But the fact is that in a year we have achieved a level of dialogue and exchange with Tehran that is unprecedented since the 1979 Revolution, that the Iranian and American foreign ministers called each other by their first name. They call each other on their cell phones. There actually is serious dialogue and both sides really do want to deal.

The question, of course, has always been, can the Iranians bite the bullet on the toughest issues and make the kind of concessions that the Russians, the Americans, the Chinese, the British, the French, and the Germans all agree on. And that is unclear. There is the danger as always in the Middle East that diplomacy is overtaken by events on the ground. But ironically in the last couple of weeks Iran is now bombing ISIS just as the United States is bombing ISIS in Iraq and ironically using American war planes, old American war planes, to do it.

ROTHKOPF: That's not even just an irony. There's a kind of a farce surrounding the irony. Right? We are saying we're not coordinating with the Iranians because the way we do it is we speak to an Iraqi and we say our planes are going to be here. The Iraqi speaks to the Iranian and the Iranian says our planes are going to be here and that he's the air-traffic controller. Now if that's not coordination, I don't know what is.

And so we have this tacit alliance with the Iranians in going after ISIS and then in a kind of a secondary farce, we're also saying this has nothing to do with the negotiations. That the fact that we're partnering with them against ISIS on the ground has nothing to do with these negotiations and that, of course, isn't true. That denies human nature, it denies the, you know, national interests and all of history.

ZAKARIA: All right. When we come back, Robin Wright is just back from the Middle East where she reported a great story on the war against ISIS. Her piece says the war is the most complicated one in the modern history of the Middle East.

We'll be back.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Richard Haass, Robin Wright, Chrystia Freeland, and David Rothkopf.

Robin, you're just back from a trip to the Middle East and a big piece in the "New Yorker." What is the picture of Syria that we should (INAUDIBLE)? What do we need to understand about it today?

WRIGHT: Well, I went along the war front and I think the thing that struck me the most is the fact that this is in many ways the most complicated war that has been fought in the Middle East in a century. Really since the Middle East was established in its modern borders after World War I. That there are more than 1,000 different militias that are now fighting there.

But we're also so focused on Kobani, this little town on the border between Turkey and Syria, that we're kind of losing sight of what's happening elsewhere. And Aleppo, which is the biggest city, the commercial center, the New York of Syria, is on the verge of being lost. Assad's troops have taken advantage of the international focus on ISIS and Kobani to make headway in Aleppo dropping, you know, hundreds of barrel bombs against civilians.

And he holds about half the city now and the danger is that he'll surround it and basically besiege it and then isolate up to a million people which would make life, you know, very tough for not only those people but it would also make it very tough for the rebels to hold any territory in the north.

We've really reached a moment of truth in terms of what are our priorities are in Syria, and there are two different wars that are being fought here. There's the one between the rebels who were --- who came out of the uprising in 2011 and took on the Assad regime and then there's the other war between the same rebels who are fighting extremists ISIS. The irony is that in all this ISIS and the Assad government are not really fighting very much against each other.

And that the rebels are the weakest of the three forces, and these are the guys we want to build up over time. And the prospect of doing that, there's a lot of disillusionment. We're having trouble get recruiting members. This is a tremendously hard moment.

ZAKARIA: You know, whenever you hear -- at least whenever I hear that we're having trouble recruiting locals to fight, and if only, you know, they want America to help. That's a very bad situation to be in. If they don't really want to fight unless you support them, it means they're not going to fight.

HAASS: You can't want to make peace more than negotiators want to make peace. You can't want to make war more than locals want to make war. That's one of the lessons we ought to have learned from the Middle East by now. And I think the idea that we're going to get some kind of a wonderful moderate Syrian opposition any time soon enough to make a political and military difference is a pipe dream. It's not going to happen.

So either we've got to work with the forces that exist, Kurds, Sunni tribes, and so forth which is what we're doing increasingly in Iraq, or we've got to get serious about working with Turkey, working with the Arab governments, working with NATO and cobbling together some type of an expeditionary force. It's not -- it's difficult. I don't think it's a pipe dream or impossible, though. What we would say, here's the political end game we want to bring about.

We, the United States, are prepared to be involved. I think the Turks could be conceivably be involved in that situation. The Jordanians, the Saudis and others. Nobody wants to do it but you can't just have an air campaign. You've got to have someone to take and control any ground. Right now we're in the ridiculous position where we bomb and who benefits?

And even if we push back ISIS, so what? Bashar al-Assad can fill the vacuum. That can't be our strategy but that's what it's turned into. We need a ground partner. We've got to put one together from the region.

ZAKARIA: You write a lot in your book about the process of decision making and, you know, the way in which in the Obama administration it's all about very centralized. My sense is that Obama fundamentally views the Middle East as kind of a hell hole that's going to suck America dry. He wants to contain it and cordon it off, give it to Asia, do some of the bigger, most strategic things he wants to do.

And so he's never going to embrace a kind of very ambitious strategy there because he doesn't think it's worth it.

ROTHKOPF: Right. Look, it's easy to understand how Barack Obama wants to avoid another war like Iraq. He was elected to get out of that and to understand why he wants to avoid ISIS getting much stronger. But at a certain point you have to make a choice. Ambivalence can't be your central operating principle of the military campaign. You've got to win and that involves committing, picking a side, deciding what your strategy is.

The Syrian war may be the most complicated in the last 100 years but the Iraq/Syria war which is this really is, is even more complicated than that. FREELAND: Yes. And what's also complicated is the domestic politics.

You know, one of the things that Robin's piece, which I recommend to everybody, you should read it, it was great. One of the things that you bring up, Robin, is this sort of descent into warlordism, and the way in which it's not only Syria as a country which is being torn apart but the opposition which started with this idea of fighting for a new, different post-authoritarian Syria is descending into warlordism.

And I think we need to worry about something similar happening in Iraq, the collapse of the state and the collapse of an idea of, do you belong to a state. Who are you really with? Who are your people? And, you know, Richard, I think, has written really brilliantly about this new 30 years' war in the Middle East and Robin is saying that's about, you know, it's more complicated than it's been for a century.

I think part of the problem for Western leaders is we've forgotten how to deal with complexity and how to deal with really long-term situations, how to deal with situations where there are no good guys.

ZAKARIA: Well, and you in this foreign affairs essay, you talk about this age of disorder almost where not -- and you're quite nonpartisan about it. This is happening for big structural reasons. We're going to have to live with the messiness of these old structures of stability just coming unglued.

HAASS: Well, absolutely. You've got these powerful trends in the world. You've got a diffusion of power in many forms, to many types of actors. Many of which are quite maligned. You've got a decentralization of decision making in part because American reliability isn't what it was for any number of reasons because of globalization. This is a difficult time at the best. You've got a Middle East that's truly unraveling.

The post-World War I order is humpty-dumpty. It's not going to be put back together. You've got Russia in a very different place. You've got the uncertainty of Asia. The only thing I would say, in fact, if I'm allowed to introduce one piece of good news, and this as if you'll allow me, Fareed, is Asia. In the last couple of weeks what have we seen? We've seen the Japanese national security adviser meet with the Chinese foreign minister, and they agreed to basically park some of their differences and to begin a process of some at least limited normalization.

You have Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, give a speech which seemed to echo some of Deng Xiao Ping, a little bit of OK, let's calm the region down. Why? Because China has an awful lot of internal challenges it needs to meet. So the part of the world which his most worrisome and potentially most significant for the 21st century, is not the Middle East, it's Asia and there at least we can see a little bit of progress.

ZAKARIA: We're going to use that one bit of good news, though I would add Latin America also is also doing pretty well, and we're going to thank all of you for a fascinating conversation. Coming up, Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York. Two

locations, two weeks, two grand juries who decided not to indict white police officers in the death of black men.

Is this just the tip of the iceberg? We'll dig in when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Michael Brown killed by a police gun in Ferguson, Missouri. Eric Garner killed at the hands of the police in Staten Island, New York. These two cases of the deaths of black men by white law enforcement officers have stood up segments of America resulting in riots and protests clear across the nation and raising questions about the practices and procedures of the American criminal justice system.




ZAKARIA: Those angry Americans who took to the streets aren't the only ones concerned. The United Nations weighed in recently as well in the form of a new report from that world body's torture watch dog group. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights who oversaw the committee said essentially that it was too early to weigh in on Ferguson specifically, but the report does note its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings of fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.

And deeper digging reveals calls for more than the U.N.'s diplomatic deep concern. According to a new investigation from "The Wall Street Journal," police killings are significantly underreported in federal statistics. The "Journal" analyzed data from 105 of the nation's biggest police departments and found that between 2007 and 2012 more than 550 killings by police were missing from national records.

In all, the journal turned up about 45 percent more police killings than the official FBI statistics. Given that the vast majority of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies hadn't reported any killings by cops, the "Journal" reporters acknowledge that it's impossible to actually get a full picture of the under reporting. But when there is transparency in the system, it's clear that minorities are disproportionately affected.

Young black men were 21 times more likely than white men to be shot dead by cops between 2010 and 2012 according to a ProPublica analysis. With regard to drugs, many studies, including by the Justice Department itself, showed that blacks are about three times as likely to be arrested than whites. That's true even though government data shows that they do not use drugs and anything like three times the rate as whites.

The nonprofit Sentencing Project concludes starkly racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested. Once arrested they are more likely to be convicted and once convicted they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males. If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime as can one out of every six Latino males compared to one out of every 17 white males.

The project does not throw around the charge of racism. In fact, it makes the point that the American system of justice is not racist by design. The real problem, it contends, is that America has two systems of justice, one for the rich and one for the poor.

For a variety of reasons: race, class, economics, minorities mostly have access only to the second class system of justice. These are tough words, but facts are facts. Perhaps the events in Ferguson and New York will make Americans ask some more questions about a criminal justice system that doesn't seem to work equally for all its citizens.

When we come back, we'll take you deep inside North Korea.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just basically have the most abusive nation in the world.


ZAKARIA: You'll meet an American woman born in South Korea who got a job teaching up North. What she smuggled out could be very dangerous to those she left behind. She'll tell us all about it when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the most horrific place to be in the world.


ZAKARIA: Very few Americans are allowed inside North Korea even for just a visit let alone allowed to stay for months and work there. But that is just the opportunity my next guest had. Suki Kim spent months in the secret of hermit kingdom as a teacher at a private university in Pyongyang, the capital, in 2011. As Kim used subterfuge to get into the country, subterfuge to get her notes on her experiences out of the country. And with those notes she wrote a highly acclaimed and very controversial new book "Without You, There is No Us." Suki Kim joins us.

How did you get it?

SUKI KIM, AUTHOR: I have been following North Korea. I went there first in 2002 as journalist. I did a piece for (INAUDIBLE) your books, and then I went back for Harper's Magazine during the philharmonic concert, philharmonic in Pyongyang in 2008 and I realized that there was no way of covering this country because you would end up being just a North Korean (INAUDIBLE) propaganda. Then I found out about this private school that was being built in Pyongyang and stuffed with foreigners. So I applied for a job and I got in. It was all male boarding school in a suburb of Pyongyang. 270 young men were there in 2011, which happened to be the last six month of Kim Jong- Il's life. And these young men, 19 and 20, were all completely sons of elite.

ZAKARIA: What kind of things did they talk about? What kind of things did they ask you about?

KIM: Well, there was - I mean it's - they, first of all, they didn't know anything about the rest of the world. Any them dead, they were fearful to admit that because every conversation that we had, even at meals in the cafeteria, there was -- somebody was reporting on it. They were all watching each other, and if they were curious - you know, there was little slips here and there where they would be curious about democracy, for example, how it functioned in the rest of the world. At the same time, some of the students really thought people - spoke Korean in the rest of the world. So, the utter lack of information was astounding.

ZAKARIA: Was there knowledge about the outside world all wrong in terms of propaganda or did they just learn nothing?

KIM: It was all like a mismatch. You know, they didn't know the existence of the Internet in $2011, and this was a Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Their major was computer, a lot of them. But they thought Internet, which is North Korea's, you know, just like a pre-downloaded information system. They thought that was the Internet.

ZAKARIA: So, how did you get the notes out? That itself is a story.

KIM: I wrote, you know, morning and night and I had a laptop with me since I was a teacher, so - or posing as a teacher. But then I would write all this information and then put them on the USB stick, a couple of them and erase them all from the laptop because I knew that they could search my things.

ZAKARIA: When you got it out, did you think about - what it would mean to write the book in terms of the effect it would have on those students because it was a kind of total violation of the deal you had made.

KIM: Well, I mean, I'm not sure if it's a violation of a deal, first I went in undercover, and ever - when I said undercover, though, I went in there, with my full name. All the school had to do was Google who I was. I told them that I was a writer. Student-wise, I did everything I could do to protect their identity. I changed all their names and blurred all the identities and characteristics. Most of all, in the book, they come through mostly being obedient to the regime. So I don't see how it could possibly affect - when they can't even single out the students and also they basically love their great leader.

ZAKARIA: The sense one gets from the outside looking at North Korea is honestly, it's the weirdest country in the world. It is the most strange social experiment, and the puzzle is how does it survive? How does it -- how is it that people just docilely accept this incredibly authoritarian regime that's not just authoritarian, but, you know, totalitarian, really kind of tries to shape how you think, feel, breathe. What's your answer to that?

KIM: Well, I think it's a combination of many things. It's sort of this perfect storm of, you know, you have, first of all, this cult. Serious personality cult. It's religious, really. Absolute he's the great leader, where, you know, this generate - three generations of these men who -- these hugely narcissistic men basically wiped everything out of their culture accept themselves. Every North Korean, wears the badge of the great leader. The only holidays are the great leader holidays. Every book, every article, every television, every song, I mean you name it. There is some - there's not a single thing, every building has a great leader slogan. So, I think when you have that kind of a personality cult, that's an incredibly powerfully thing to be doing it for three generations. You also have a very brutal military dictatorship. That's been in place for a long time, and also to wipe out every communication method, you know, there's no Internet. The phone calls are tapped. Or, you know, it's a small country. You can't travel within the country without a permission. And so, you take away education, tool, you take away any way of critical thinking, and you literally take away the tools where people can communicate each other. Then I think that you have a nation where they just basically have the most abusive nation in the world there. These men just own their people. It's the most horrific place to me in the world.

ZAKARIA: And it doesn't seem like it's changing.

KIM: I don't know how they're going to rise up. They can't even get to the next town without a permission. They don't have the Internet. There's no way of going there. Transportation system, there's just nothing that connect people. So, I think it is up to us in the rest of the world to do something where this system is not going to be maintained the same way. #

ZAKARIA: Fascinating account. Thank you so much.

Next, on "GPS," imagine being thrust into a job where you have more than 100,000 employees, more than a millions of clients and a budget in the tens of billions of dollars each year. Imagine taking that job when you have very little experience in the field. That's exactly what happened to my next guest and he will share his lessons with you when we come back.


ZAKARIA: How do you even begin to try to fix America's largest school system? A huge bureaucracy with passionate competing interests arranging from teachers to unions to concerned parents. How do you get your arms around the problem when you're essentially a complete outsider? Well, that was the challenge that Joel Klein faced in 2002 when then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed him the chancellor of the New York City public school system. He's written a really interesting book about his ten-year tenure and the lessons of hope that he learned while on the job. Joe Klein, thanks for joining me.

JOE KLEIN, FORMER CHANCELLOR, NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS: Thank you. Great to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Before we get to the school's - the public schools, I'm going to ask you a question, because before you were doing this in another life incarnation, you were one of America's great litigators in the Justice Department, you took Bill Gates and Microsoft to trial in very famous antitrust case, and so you know the law, and what I'm going to ask you about ism the law where it's meeting higher education. Asian Americans are suing, a group of Asian Americans are suing Harvard University on the grounds that they believe that Harvard and presumably other Ivy League institutions are maintaining a quota, not allowing more than about 16 or 17 percent of Asians to apply. Have you looked at that case how strong is that case in your view?

KLEIN: It depends ultimately on the facts. These are allegations, but the allegations are powerful. And I think if universities put a quota on any racial group, I think that's going to end up in trouble in terms of where the court is right now and its thinking on sort of Constitutional litigation and affirmative action. So, if they prove the facts now people say that, you know, it may have been based on test scores, it may have been other factors, but if they prove those facts, I would think that's a troubling set of facts, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: And the basic fact that they present is that even though applications of Asian Americans have almost tripled I think in the last 20 years, the percentage admitted has been strikingly the same.

KLEIN: Well, there's where I want to be cautious. Because, you know, not allegations are always different from facts. Like you said, I did a lot of litigation in my life and I found that people often allege things that aren't true. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but that ...

ZAKARIA: You want to check it.

KLEIN: I would want to see the facts.

ZAKARIA: All right. High school. How bad is the problem to begin with? When you look at America's high school education or education in general.

KLEIN: It is really bad, and I don't want to sound hyperbolic, but let me just give you one number. Today in America by any fair assessment, somewhere around 35 percent of our kids are exiting high school ready for college. Still about 20 percent don't even get out of high school. In a world in which increasingly skills that are being demanded of our kids are much, much more than they used to be. So we have what I would call a crisis, and I don't like to be hyperbolic, but we are massively under educating our kids in America and it's going to exacerbate the problem that's bedeviling us right now which is this massive inequality. ZAKARIA: What is the solution? Is it longer school days? Is it

higher standards? Is there a kind of set of obvious best practices that should be followed?

KLEIN: Absolutely. And longer school days, starting kids way before the age we're starting them now, not just pre-K, but particularly for minority kids who come to school with such limited vocabulary pre-pre- K, but the most important things it seems to me are wrapped up in three core ideas. One, professionalized teaching. The model we have now, it's not working for teachers. Half the teachers quit in the first five years. That's not a winning model. Albert Shanker, the great union leader in 1985 wrote a piece called "The Making of a Profession." Let's follow that. Let's have more demanding requirements who gets into the profession. Let's have our ed schools do a much better job educating people. I have lots of ...

ZAKARIA: Can I just stop you on that?

KLEIN: Sure.

ZAKARIA: It's one of the things I noticed is that the countries that do very well in Northern Europe and in South Korea and Singapore draw their teachers from the top third of the graduating college class. We draw our teachers, sad to say, from the bottom third.

KLEIN: Bingo. Right. Right then and there that's a problem. And then second, those countries educate those teachers much, much more in content knowledge and classroom practice than we do. And they have a much more professional view of their role. Second thing to do is give everybody choices. One of the things we did, we talk a lot about in New York is, we opened up some 600 new schools of choice under Mayor Bloomberg. And, you know, everybody we know, every middle class person insists on choice. Why not give it to all the kids and set a much more competitive system. And the third thing which you focus on in many of your programs, is the intelligent use of technology to improve teaching and learning. The technological revolution that impacted the whole world, but seemed to miss education. And it's so much opportunity to really use technology, to help our teachers, empower our teachers and engage our kids. To me, those are the core lessons of hope, and all of those lessons were lessons we applied in New York and we saw results as a result of applying those lessons.

ZAKARIA: Are you optimistic?

KLEIN: I was born optimistic. I call the book "Lessons of Hope" for a reason. And I have also seen the results. When you see -- we started with ten years in a row over 45 percent graduation rate. That rate under the mayor went up to 65 percent. Not high enough, but that's a lot of lives being affected. When I see 70,000 or 80,000 parents applying for 20,000 slots in communities where people were really told it's one and done, that gives me real hope and real optimism. And in the end, you know, I think it was Winston Churchill who said America always manages to do the right thing after we try to do everything else and I think that will happen in education as well, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Joel Klein, pleasure to have you on.

KLEIN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS" there's e-mail, e-commerce, eBooks, and now e- residency. Why your digital identity could be Estonian or Estonian. We'll be back.


ZAKARIA: Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The following day, December 8th, 1941 ...


FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: A date which will live in infamy.


ZAKARIA: U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his famous Pearl Harbor address to Congress asking for a declaration of war. That brings me to my question of the week. How many times has the U.S. Congress officially declared war? A, seven, B, 11, C, 15, or D, 19. Stay tuned, we'll tell you the correct answer.

This week's book of the week is David Rothkopf's "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear." This book helps remind us that since 9/11 America has been too fearful, too reactive, too tactical in its foreign policy. We saw that with ISIS, which tried to bait Washington with vivid and vicious videos and it succeeded. Rothkopf also describes how the system of decision making in Washington has broken down. This is an important book about the process of foreign policy. And now for "The Last Look," actually it's the first look at e-residency. What's an e-resident, you may ask, as I did? Well, in the ceremony in Estonia, one of the world's most wired countries according to Freedom House, Edward Lucas, a senior editor of "The Economist" was given the world's first e-resident card by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves this week.


EDWARD LUCAS, "ECONOMIST": I'd asked him ages ago if you ever make these cards available to foreigners, can I have the first one, and he said yes and he was as good as his word.


ZAKARIA: E-residency is not the same as citizenship or legal residency. It is digital residency that gives you special powers, sort of like a super hero. Are you sick of passwords like I am? Well, maybe then e residency is for you. It could replace p-a-s-s-w- o-r-d as the most popular way to prove your identity.


LUCAS: It's allowing to you travel all over the Internet to prove who you are in very secure and safe way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: We caught up with that, Lucas, the new e-Estonian in his London office so he could show us what he could do with his new e- identity.


LUCAS: I think this is absolutely revolutionary in the way in which we interact with other people and other things on the Internet.


ZAKARIA: You can launch a company in Estonia without having to be there and utilize the country's financial services. Insert your e- resident card into the smart card reader attached to your computer, and you can access these services anywhere in the world, as if you were physically present replacing the need to sign things on paper. And Lucas says this is just the beginning.


LUCAS: Just we have competition between Visa and MasterCard and American Express. We are going to have competition between providers of digital identities. And the one that offers the best combination of security and convenience will come out on top.

ZAKARIA: The only downside? At the moment to get the card, you do have to go to Estonia, and winter is not the most delightful season in Estonia.

The correct answer to our "GPS" challenge question was "b," 11. The first time that Congress officially declared war was the war of 1812 with Great Britain. The last was 1942. Six of those 11 times were as were Japan in 1941 against various countries during World War II. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week, and I will see you next week.