Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Richard Haass; Interview with Joseph Cirincione; Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Aired 10-11:00a ET

Aired March 29, 2015 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:17] 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 have an important show for you today starting with Yemen collapsing into utter chaos and becoming a war between two of the most powerful nations in the Middle East -- Iran versus Saudi Arabia.

Then the Iran nuclear talks. The clock is ticking loudly. The deadline approaches. Deal or no deal?

Also, is Islam a religion of peace? My next gust says no. Ayaan Hirsi Ali on why her former religion needs a reformation similar to the one Christianity had 500 years ago.

And inside a silent war going on, on college campuses across America. It's the war on the liberal arts. I think it's a terrible trend, so terrible I've written a book about it. I'll explain.

Finally, the most interesting man in the world has died. I will give you my memories of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore and a man I got to know quite well over the last two decades.

But first, here's my take.

Just months ago the White House was touting Yemen as a model for its antiterrorism campaign. Since then the government has collapsed and an insurgency backed by Iran has gained ground. That insurgency is now battling against forces backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, which launched airstrikes against the insurgents this week. Meanwhile, jihadi groups are jumping in to fill a vacuum of authority.

This descent to chaos has startled many observers but Yemen's trajectory shouldn't surprise anyone. It follows a familiar pattern in the Arab world, one we are likely to see again possibly in larger and more significant countries like Egypt.

Yemen was ruled for 33 years by a secular military dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. He ruthlessly suppressed opposition groups, especially those with a religious or sectarian orientation, in this case the Houthis who are Shiite. After 9/11 Saleh cooperated wholeheartedly with Washington's war on terror which meant he got money, arms and training from the United States. But the repression ensured that over time dissent would grow. His

regime faced political and military opposition and eventually during the Arab spring he was forced to resign. While people both in Yemen and Washington promised a more representative government they quickly settled into a comfortable relationship with Saleh's former deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who quickly began to rule as repressively as his predecessor.

Soon the opposition and insurgency mounted again. This is the pattern that has produced terrorism in the Arab world. Repressive, secular regimes backed by the West become illegitimate. Over time they become more repressive to survive and the opposition becomes more extreme, religious and violent. The insurgent and jihadis have mostly local grievances but because Washington supports the dictators, their goals become increasingly anti-American.

Since we have learned little from this history, we are now repeating it. The Obama administration praises Egypt's President Sisi who arguably rules in a more repressive manner than did Hosni Mubarak. Sisi's regime has killed hundreds of protesters and jailed tens of thousands mostly members of the political opposition according to Human Rights Watch. It has censored the press and imprisoned journalists.

There was an American president who understood the danger of blind support for Arab dictators. No matter that they were admirably secular and their outlook all willing to jail jihads, all willing to stay at peace with Israel. He said, quote, "60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe." That was of course, George W. Bush.

The fact that Bush's administration so botched its remedy -- regime change and occupation of Iraq -- should not blind us to the fact that it was accurate and intelligent in its diagnosis of the problem.

[10:05:04] The Arab world provides no easy answers. Trapped as it is between repressive dictators and illiberal democrats. But that does not mean that blindly supporting the autocrats is the right answer. As Washington allies ever more closely with Yemen's and Egypt's military dictators, and engages in joint military actions with the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, we should be wondering what is going on in the shadows, mosques and jails of those countries?

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

OK. You heard my take on how history is repeating itself in Yemen but the civil war in Yemen might just bring us into a new face of history, with Saudi Arabia along with a coalition of Gulf allies attacking the Houthis who are in turn allegedly getting support from Iran, many worry that this proxy war could turn into a hot war. A great Sunni versus Shia conflagration.

Richard Haass in an opinion piece in the "FT" this week says, "Whatever happens in Yemen, we are in for 30 years of a kind of religious war in the Middle East, if not more." He is, of course, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard, explain what that would mean to be in a 30-year religious war and what are the U.S. options?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It would mean as essentially several decades by definition of struggle within and across borders. You have civil wars, you have proxy wars. You have regional wars all in one. And these things have so many logs on the fire to use the metaphor that they either, you know, burn and burn and burn for a long time simply because of what drives them.

Now for outsiders, either you have to be willing to impose a settlement, and we learned from, say, Iraq and Afghanistan, millions of troops over decades don't necessarily impose settlements or we can do things at the margins, so to help this side, reinforce that side, train another, arm another. So the U.S. position is likely to be quite modest.

ZAKARIA: What I was struck by in your piece is you point out that the Saudis feel threatens in a way perhaps that happened in a long time, which is why they are striking. You think Saudi Arabia is vulnerable?

HAASS: I do. This is the second time recently Saudi Arabia has intervened directly in a meaningful way. One was Bahrain, it's one neighbor. Now in Yemen, another neighbor. I think the Saudis, unlike, say, in Syria, where they're very bothered and upset by what is going on, say, to their (INAUDIBLE), here they feel directly, physically threatened by what is happening.

And I think what Saudi Arabia looks out, not just here -- what's happening in Yemen, but more broadly. If you does this group called the Islamic State, you know, I know, Fareed, is a question of when and not if this group says hey, we have to challenge the country that's overseeing the two holiest shrines in our region. We want to be the religious state. They're the fraudulent religious state from the point of view of ISIS. So I think that day is coming.

ZAKARIA: You also point out something which I think people have not focused enough on. Iraq is really fragmenting into three separate countries.

HAASS: Absolutely. We're not talking about autonomy or decentralization. Iraq is effectively breaking up. You've got an Iranian Shia version of Iraq. You've got a Kurdish Iraq. And now on the west you've got a Sunni Arab tribal Iraq. And I think to the United States the real question is, when do we give up the game? When do we essentially say the era of an intact Iran Shia, all those energy is over.

Because that would mean an Iran-Shia dominated Iraq. And instead, the United States might essentially have to say we're going to allow the Iranians to control southern and central Iraq. But the Kurds are now -- we're going to support their independence and we're going to try to work with the Arabs in the west with the Sunnis and that might be the only way to reduce their alienation so they're then in turn not attracted to supporting groups like the Islamic State. ZAKARIA: In some, which you're describing is a kind of forest fire

where the United States is going to have to play a modest role managing at the margins.

HAASS: Absolutely. There won't be a one-size-fits-all strategy in each country, in each subcountry. We're going to have to choose the nature of intervention. Sometimes direct. Sometimes indirect. But I think we've made a collective strategic decision for the most part that we are not going to get centrally involved again. So again, it's going to be more modest and more selective and as a result, we've got to understand that also means less results.

ZAKARIA: Stay with me, Richard. When we come back, we are going to talk about the fast approaching Iran nuclear talks. That deadline for the deal is two days away. I want to talk about what a deal like this would look like and who would really benefit. We will discuss that when we come back.


ZAKARIA: The deadline looms every larger on the nuclear talks with Iran. March 31st, which is Tuesday, is the cutoff date that the West and Iran set for themselves to come to a political agreement. A framework for a final deal on Iran's nuclear program.

And today, Israel's prime minister slammed the talks saying this agreement is fulfilling our deepest fears. But just what is the agreement he's so worried about? That's what we're here to discuss.

Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations back with us. And joining us is Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares Fund, a man who's written extensively and studied deeply the topic of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

So, Joe, what is the likely deal that, you know, that both excites some people and frustrates Prime Minister Netanyahu?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: They are trying to do three things with this deal, and the first is to cut off Iran's pathways to a bomb. Make sure that they can't transition quickly from a small civilian program to a large military program. I think we can do that.

[10:15:11] The second is to have eyes everywhere. We have to install the most intrusive inspection regime ever created so that if Iran tries to break out or sneak out or creep out of this deal, we can detect it immediately.

And third, we have to have a rapid response mechanism, something to put in place if we catch Iran cheating. Right now we have Iran in a global sanctions base. If they fulfill the terms of the deal, you loosen it up. They get to sell a little more oil. But if they cheat you want to snap it back in place. That is probably the most important point of this deal. It's what's they're negotiating today in Switzerland. ZAKARIA: Let's just talk about the first point. How do you make sure

they don't get from civilian to nuclear? That's basically about how much you can enrich the uranium and at what level. They've got 8,000 tons, right, of low enriched uranium. You only need a very small amount of highly enriched. How do you make sure that the load in which uranium doesn't become highly enriched uranium?

CIRINCIONE: The deal is going to slash Iran's centrifuges. Those are the machines that can spin uranium gas that can be used to make fuel or bombs. How do you make sure that Iran doesn't sprint from fuel to bombs? You shrink the number. It looks like -- they're talking about going from 20,000, which they have now, to about 6,000.

But then you also shrink the gas supply. You get them to dilute or destroy most of that tonnage that you talk about even with a very small so that even if they cheated, it would take them at least a year to be able to go from where they are to enough material for one bomb.

ZAKARIA: And with the cheating, people say they've cheated in the past. They would hold facilities that we didn't know about. How do you make sure that that isn't happening? You can only have cameras where they'll allow you to put cameras.

CIRINCIONE: Well, as a part of the deal is you want cameras everywhere, you want seals, inspections, inventory controls. You want to track the uranium from the time it comes out of the mine to the time it goes into that gas cylinder.

I spoke with the director-general, the IAEA, just this last week, Mr. Amano, and he said that with the deal they're talking about, IAEA can assure that they can detect any anomaly the day it happens, the next day or certainly within the week.

ZAKARIA: So if you get that kind of a deal you -- and you think it's possible, do you think politically this would work, this deal would get through?

HAASS: This deal is going to be attacked on both sides in Iran. It doesn't allow Iran to do enough. It's going to be attacked in the United States, Israel and possibly in some of the Arab countries that allow Iran to do too much, and to keep too much, and we won't have the confidence that we can discern, the cheating soon enough.

So I think what really they're going to have, Fareed, is a debate over whether this deal is good enough and then like everything in life it's compared to what? But I think President Obama is going to face real opposition within the U.S. Congress and I think quite early on, we could have a major debate in this country about whether -- either to accept the deal under one legislative initiative or secondly, whether to introduce more sanctions at this point, which effectively would be a rejection of the deal.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that the hard liners in Iran -- will torpedo the deal there or the hard liners in Washington will torpedo the deal?

HAASS: Iran is an authoritarian system. At the end of the day, if the Supreme Court wants to steal, he gets it. President Obama, whatever his critics think, is not a supreme leader. He's going to have much more trouble selling it here.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that -- when you look at this potential deal, do you believe it is possible for Iran to maintain this enormous nuclear program and yet studiously stay within -- you know, because it is trying to build more developed greater capacity, you know.

Can you be like Japan, a very advanced civilian power that is always consciously not weaponizing?

CIRINCIONE: Well, we don't want Iran to be in that Japan situation, a threshold power. I mean, Japan can build a bomb in a matter of months, if it wanted to. So you want to keep Iran down a very low number of centrifuges. And remember, their technology we're talking about is 1970s technology that they got from Pakistan. Part of the deal is that they were limited on any kind of research.

So yes, you can put Iran's program in a box with a camera on it. That is the deal that is being negotiated. What does Iran get for that? That's part of the question that diplomats are dealing with today.

ZAKARIA: You talk about the alternative. It's important to point out that we didn't have any negotiations going on, Iran kept those in centrifuges even on the sanctions. So the alternatives are more sanctions and hope that (INAUDIBLE) stops Iran, or bombing?

HAASS: Or unconstrained Middle East where Iran is essentially allowed to get weapons and others would obviously follow suit. So these are obviously wildly unattractive alternatives. We're not looking to have another war. We don't want to see a Middle East as bad as it is get even worse with nuclear weapons under multiple hands of control.

[10:20:07] Some version of the status quo, more sanctions but we're not sure we can sustain it, which again pushes us back to say can we get a deal that is good enough and preferable vis-a-vis these alternatives. That would be the focus of the debate.

ZAKARIA: If we went down the bombing path, how long would it take for Iran to rebuild the program that we would bomb in, say, four weeks of bombing?

CIRINCIONE: People talk very cavalierly about these strikes. It's really appalling to me that this kind of discussion goes on. This is not a pinprick attack. This would be weeks of hundreds of U.S. sorties. This would be the beginning of a major war in the Middle East that look -- make the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq look like warm-up acts, and it would have regional consequences.

If you think Iran has influence everywhere, well, they are going to use that influence everywhere. This is not a war any military leader in the United States wants to fight.

ZAKARIA: Would you agree with that?

HAASS: Like everything else in life, it depends. Want to fight, of course not. But we also cannot live in a world where Iran has nuclear weapons and where several other countries in the region follow suit. That would be catastrophically dangerous. So the real question again is can we come up with a diplomatic alternative that's not perfect? That's not an option. But again, is simply good enough and better than the alternatives because the alternatives are not attractive.


ZAKARIA: From the --

CIRINCIONE: I think Richard is exactly right. This is what we are weighing it against. The deal is going to be imperfect. You never buy the house for the price you initially offer. There's going to be compromises. But what are the alternatives? I think once you get this deal and you look at it, it's far better than any of the risks in war or allowing Iran to go ahead with an unconstrained program.

ZAKARIA: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

Coming up, 500 years ago Christianity had a reformation. My next guest says Islam needs a similar reformation today. She says the religion is in crisis and it is decidedly not a religion of peace today. Hear from Ayaan Hirsi Ali when we come back.


[10:26:25] ZAKARIA: Islam is not a religion of peace, that's what my next guest says. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has never been one to mince words. She was born a Muslim in Mogadishu, Somalia, renounced her religion after 9/11 and has spoken out against radical Islam ever since. Now she says Islam needs a reformation on the scale that Christianity had in the 16th century.

Indeed, Martin Luther had his "95 Theses" that sparked the Protestant Reformation, while Hirsi Ali has just five for her Muslim reformation. And she lays them all out in this important new book, "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now."

So you say Islam is not a religion of peace. What is it?

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, AUTHOR, "HERETIC: WHY ISLAM NEEDS A REFORM NOW": Islam and reform today is not a religion of peace. If you look at the geopolitical reality today, you see that tragically 70 percent of fatalities across the world in all conflicts Muslims are involved and the greatest number of victims are Muslims. The Islamic civilization is in a crisis and I think that instead of having a military confrontation with every other civilization, the answer lies in a reformation.

ZAKARIA: So you disagree with President Obama when he says the Islamic State does not represent Islam or he says it isn't Islamic. And what I want to ask you is this, you are a very smart and you understand that he's not writing an intellectual dissertation. This is not a thesis about the accurate way to describe ISIS. What he's trying to do is delegitimize them.

ALI: Yes.

ZAKARIA: And thus the king of Jordan also says in an interview with me, please don't call them Islamic.

ALI: Yes.

ZAKARIA: We don't call them Islamic because we regard them as renegades. So the point is not that any of these leaders don't see that, of course, they are drawing on a version of Islam.

ALI: Yes.

ZAKARIA: But they are trying to delegitimize it by denying them that label. Do you disagree with that strategy?

ALI: I think the strategy of let's not call it Islamic because we're going to delegitimize them has actually being tested. We've seen it, you know, in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, but in the Muslim world, perhaps in, you know, three or four or five decades ago, and it hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped them.

ZAKARIA: But let me understand. So you would rather that the president of the United States say yes, the Islamic State is Islamic, it draws on important strains within Islam and Islam is a bad religion. You think that's going to be a successful strategy?

ALI: I don't think I will ever have our president say Islam is a bad religion, but I would actually have the president acknowledge that we are fighting, we're engaged in a war of ideas and then only the use of, you know, military means drones and counter insurgents and counter terrorism tactics will only take you so far.

I would like our president to acknowledge just like we were, you know, at war with the Soviet Union, that we have, you know, amazing ideas, what America stands for. He gave this great speech in Selma and, you know, that's what America is about, and I think if we engage in public diplomacy, if we market the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we did in the past that we can persuade more and more Muslims to give up these five core concepts within Islam that are holding them back.

ZAKARIA: Stay with this question, though, because I really do agree with your diagnosis of the problem. I wonder, though, about the effectiveness of this idea of the West ideologically confronting the world of Islam.

Do you think that the right strategies for the West, you know, an outside force, powerful.

ALI: Yes.

ZAKARIA: -- to say to the world of Islam, you are all screwed up, you need to fix yourself because in a sense, that's what many of the people who take the kind of views you do say -- and I wonder to myself, look -- and you know this because you grew up in Somalia. I was growing up in India. If you had an outside power like the United States and the West

telling you you're all screwed up, your attitude is actually the opposite, to get very defensive, to say why -- you know, I tended to say there is nothing wrong with me.

ALI: Here is the statement I make in the book, which is when it comes to the job of a theological reformation, it has to come from within. I regard myself as someone who was born within Islam and whether you like it or not, whether you agree with me or not as a Muslim, I can take these theological positions. I can propose these five amendments.

I'm not saying that our governments, Western governments do the same but what the governments can do, what the West can do -- and the West is powerful and the West has choices but above all, the West has the values that made the West prosperous and peaceful. The West can choose our allies and so far we have allied ourselves with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We've allied ourselves with the despots. We've seen the results of that --


ALI: -- many of us in foreign policy we regret that and now there is this emerging group of reformers and I think that is the key change that the West can make. The combination of offering a counternarrative in political freedom and economic freedom and allying ourselves with the dissidents who share our values instead of with the despots (INAUDIBLE).

ZAKARIA: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, pleasure to have you on.

ALI: Thank you. Great to see you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Up next I think learning how to read deeply, how to write compelling prose and how to analyze well are skills every human being needs to have if they are to thrive in the world. Many people seem to disagree with me and think that all you need to know how to do is code computers. Hear about the war against the liberal arts when we come back.




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): That was President Obama in January of last year. He later sent a handwritten note of apology to an art history professor who had written to the president to complain about what he said.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: Apology or not, the president's remarks struck me. I felt at the time and still do that the liberal arts are under attack. College students are increasingly being pushed away from majors like English and history and philosophy to skill-based ones closer to engineering or computer science.

To me, that trend is terribly short sighted. I felt passionately enough about it that I gave a commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence College, explaining just why the liberal arts are so important. I received a pretty positive reaction to that and I turned it into a book.

The book is called "In Defense of a Liberal Education," and it hits bookstores Monday.

Joining me now is a man who is going to turn the tables on me, my esteemed colleague, Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And a liberal arts major myself. So I was actually relieved to read the book because I have always made fun of the education I received that was from Yale, a very good university, but I felt like I graduated without a skill and this -- and you write about this in the book.

We heard from President Obama -- but this is an issue it seems like Republicans and Democrats actually come together and agree on this. You're making the opposite case, that a general liberal arts education is the best way for young people to prepare themselves for a career.


ZAKARIA: Yes, you know, this mantra about skills-based education has achieved that rare status in Washington. It's the one thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on, it's the one thing Obama and John Boehner probably agree on, but it's wrong.

Because traditionally America has always believed -- unlike in Europe, where they always thought apprenticeship and skills and very specific job-based training -- we believed that a broad based education is the best thing you can do because you teach people how to think, read, study, write and that those broad skills and most importantly, perhaps you teach them to follow their curiosity and to kind of love learning. That those broad skills are actually much more useful in the long run.

The president of Harvard once said that the purpose of a degree from a liberal education is not to train you for your first job but for your sixth job because what you need are these basic skills.

Of course if you want to do science and you love science, that's part of a liberal education, but don't just do stuff because you think you'll learn the skills for that first job because life is going to change. You're going to be working for 40 or 50 years.

COOPER: I often found too that what you end up doing, the thing in your sixth job or whatever it is, you could never have predicted, given your first job, where you were going to end up and to try to predict is going to lead you down the wrong path.

ZAKARIA: And that's the genius of the American system, where it allows people to have that breadth so they start new companies, they switch careers. There is a very interesting book about 19th century education where it points out that one of the reasons America embraced this broad liberal education was it was a big country. People kept moving. They didn't want to get stuck in some trade in New York City or Boston for the rest of their lives.

And that's what the work today is. Things change all the time. Technology changes. If you learned coding 10 years ago, it's obsolete today.

COOPER: But I feel like every few months or year there is a new study that comes out that shows U.S. education falling far behind in rankings of other nations in math and science.

Does that matter?

ZAKARIA: You know, it's a really interesting question, Anderson, because the truth is, I looked into this. The truth is the United States has never tested well.

COOPER: Compared to other countries, really?

ZAKARIA: Compared to other countries. The tests started in 1964. That was the first international test, I think, was 12 countries. The United States was middle of the pack. We still are middle of the pack.

But if you ask yourself over those last five decades how has the U.S. done in innovation, research, creating new industries? We've dominated the world.

So there is this paradox where the United States doesn't test well in these science and math tests but continues to dominate the fields of technology and science, and why is that? So I tried to sort of figure this out and I looked and asked myself what are the other really innovative countries, where everyone says Sweden is probably the most innovative in Europe. It gets more venture capital funding for example than Britain or Germany.


ZAKARIA: -- countries much larger than that, Israel -- there is this wonderful book Dan Senor has written called "Startup Nation." I think they have more Nasdaq listed companies than any country other than the United States and China.

This is, you know, 5 million or 6 million people. So what I noticed is they also do very badly on these international tests. In fact, they do worse than the United States.

But what do they have in common? They have non-hierarchical educational systems. You can challenge the professor. You can follow your passion. You can ask questions. It's a very flexible dynamic economy.

So look, a force would be best if everyone had strong math and science skills. But maybe in creating real innovation, what is equally or maybe more important is these other broader factors that, you know, you can fail and you can still pick yourself up. You can question authority. You have confidence.

COOPER: We have to take a short break.

When we come back, I'm going to talk to Fareed about what he learned from two guys who have done pretty well for themselves, Jeff Bezos of and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

GPS will be back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back on GPS where Anderson Cooper, anchor of "AC 360," is talking to me about the ideas behind my new book, "In Defense of a Liberal Education."


COOPER: It's interesting, because when I first started to read the book I thought maybe you're just defending a liberal arts education because that's what you had or you feel passionately about it but you actually look at a lot of high-tech people, Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

And all of them, they put a lot in a liberal arts education. Bezos puts a lot in the ability to actually write, to learn how to write. He makes these executives write these long memos that you talk about in the book and Zuckerberg himself really credits his training in psychology as much as anything to do with technology for Facebook.

ZAKARIA: I thought that was the most fascinating piece for me, when I talked to Mark Zuckerberg and asked him, you know, what he thought made Facebook distinctive.

He said it's not the technology, though technology has to be world class. He said that, before Facebook, the Internet was a land of anonymity. We can remember this, it was anonymous or you had these handles that were pseudonymous. What he did was create a safe space where people could reveal their true identities. And in doing that he created a much more powerful platform because people could trust one another. They could share information, real information. And of course it's an advertiser's dream because now you know who these people actually are.

All that came out -- by his own admission -- his interest in psychology. He was a psych major at Harvard before he dropped out. Before that was a Philips Exeter and he studied ancient Greek.

So he's very much a liberal arts student. Steve Jobs puts it best. He says, look, of course, technology is important. He said this when unveiling one of the iPhones, he said, but for Apple, it's technology married to the liberal arts that makes our heart sing.

COOPER: And Bezos at Amazon, which I hadn't realized until I read your book, makes executives write these six-page memos with a narrative and with complete sentences and in meetings sometimes, there is a quiet time in the beginning where everybody has to read these and make notes about them.

I think the ability to write is something that is so underrated by those who are just interested in the tech field or those interested in science or math.

ZAKARIA: You know, I think the simplest way to explain it to somebody would be to say if you can't organize your thoughts and present them in a clear, logical form that's going to persuade somebody, you can have the best tech idea in the world. No, you're not going to convince somebody to fund you. You're not going to convince a consumer to buy it. I think that's why Bezos does what he does.

You describe it exactly right. In fact, he begins all senior strategy meetings the way you describe, a 20- to 30-minute period of quiet because in effect he's saying I don't want people to pretend they've read the memo. I want to force you to actually read the memo.

But think about a the pressure on the memo writer. Now you've got everybody is sitting there reading. So it also makes these memos really well written.

His argument is if you can't write it clearly, logically, cleanly, you don't have a good idea.

COOPER: How much trouble, then, are we in?

When you look at the statistics, the trend is not toward liberal arts education.

ZAKARIA: It's terrible. I mean, if you look at majors like English, history, philosophy, they are plummeting. They're down to 20 percent, 30 percent of what they used to be.

And by the way, it's not like we're all becoming mechanical engineers or biologists because people's aptitude for science is in some cases limited or it's not -- what people instead do are getting majors in marketing or business studies. And I don't mind if you had a true passion for it, but don't do a marketing major as a way of succeeding in business. If you're passionate about English or history, you can do just fine.

COOPER: What's your message to parents who are listening now who's sending their child off to college and paranoid that their child will become a philosophy major?

ZAKARIA: I think they should remember that the chairman and CEO of the company that owns the company that owns CNN -- which is to say TimeWarner -- was a philosophy major at Yale.

COOPER: Good advice.

I got to say, just talking to you has given me hope that I haven't completely wasted my four years at college.

Thank you. It's a fascinating book, "In Defense of a Liberal Education."

Fareed, thank you.

ZAKARIA: Anderson, thank you.



ZAKARIA (voice-over): Next on GPS, the most interesting man in the world -- at least for me -- has died. My thoughts on Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore and why I think that superlative is perfectly apt. All when we come back.




ZAKARIA: People often ask me who is the most interesting political figure you ever interviewed?

The answer to that question died last week and was put to rest today in a state funeral.

What made Lee Kuan Yew special?

Most political figures can either talk a good game or do stuff. Men of great ideas are rarely also men of great action. Lee was first class at both, conceptualizing and strategizing but then also executing. He saw the big picture but he could then fill in the details.

Singapore was an accident, a country that was not meant to be, a small British naval port abandoned by the British navy after World War II, it was part of Malaysia but then expelled from that country in 1965.

It had a poor polyglot population of Chinese, Malays and Indians and no resources to speak of, other than a plucky young leader, Lee Kuan Yew. He built the city-state into one of the world's great ports, entrepots and service centers, so much so that today Singapore is one of the world's richest and most advanced economies.

Singapore's political system is closed with one party, Lee's, ruling since its independence. But its courts are independent and its administration is highly effective and regarded as clean by most international observers. Its economic system favors free markets and free trade, but with the

government playing a large role in guiding, investing and encouraging at all levels.

In an interview with him in 2008, I asked Lee why he exercised so much political control over his society.


LEE KUAN YEW, FIRST PM OF SINGAPORE: What is it I'm trying to do?

I'm trying to create in a third world situation a first world oasis. I'm not following any prescription given me by any theoretician on democracy or whatever. I work from first principles, what will get me there. Social peace and stability within the country. No fight between the races, between religions, whatever.

Fair shares for all. Everybody is a homeowner.

Must I follow your prescription to succeed?

Do I want to be like America?

Yes, in its inventiveness and its creativeness, but do I want to be with America, like America, with its inability to control the drug problem?


Or the gun problem?

No. These are my choices. I go by what is good governance, what are the things I aim to do. A healthy society that gives everybody a chance to achieve its maximum.


ZAKARIA: Lee also had to maintain a careful balancing act between the United States, China and other powers to keep his city-state independent. I asked him a question about foreign policy that remains pertinent.


ZAKARIA: What do you want from the next president?

LEE: Engagement with the world. Keep trade going. Don't backtrack or put yourself at a disadvantage or put the world at a disadvantage and you'll make conflicts more likely. Try and maintain a balance so that peace and stability is assured without more conflicts.


ZAKARIA: Lee was as prescient about his personal life as he was about politics.


ZAKARIA: You turn 85 tomorrow.

Is there a lesson, what are the secrets to longevity and success?

LEE: Your lifespan depends on what you inherited from the two helices you got from your mother and father.

My father lived to 94. My mother died at 74 with some heart problems. I had my first heart problem when I was 74 in 1996. Fortunately, unlike her time, they could do an angioplasty and a stent, so that solved it. Day before yesterday, I had atrial flutter. So I don't think I'll reach my father's 94.


ZAKARIA: He was right. Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23th at the age of 91.

And that is our show today. Thanks to all of you for being part of it. I'll see you next week.