Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
President Trump Agrees to Meet with Kim Jong-un; Trump Policies Examined; North Korea Situation Discussed; Anti-Semitic Incidents on Rise. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 11, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:34] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA: Today on the show, a stunning development. President Trump says he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Will it happen? What could get accomplished? Is the denuclearization of North Korea actually in the cards? I have a great panel to discuss.
Also, four-star General Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the man who advised President Obama on all matters military, talks about the challenges facing President Trump. And I ask for his take on the many generals around President Trump.
Is it appropriate to have so many in a civilian government?
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. The news on the Korean peninsula is being described as a diplomatic breakthrough, and it is, for North Korea. It has been the goal of North Korea for decades now to have a high-profile, one-on-one summit meeting with the president of the United States.
Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il wanted such a meeting with President Clinton. The Clinton administration agreed to send Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to North Korea to begin talks and see if enough progress was made to warrant a presidential summit. It's concluded that there wasn't.
The Bush administration, which labeled North Korea part of the Axis of Evil was even cooler on high-level talks.
The Obama administration achieved breakthroughs with the Cuban and Iranian regimes through high-level context but gave up on diplomacy with the North Korean regime because of its unwillingness to denuclearize. It adopted instead a policy of pressure and until now the Trump administration had stuck to that policy and actually escalated it. Earlier this week Mike Pence said, "Our posture toward the regime will
not change. Until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization." Trump himself previously ridiculed the idea of talks, tweeting, "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea for 25 years. Talking is not the answer." He humiliated his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his diplomatic efforts tweeting that Tillerson was wasting his time.
So what changed this week? Well, it's not clear. The charitable interpretation would be that the South Korean government received assurances that the North was serious about talks to eliminate its arsenal.
Let's be clear. North Korea has announced no concessions, no reversal of its arsenal, no denuclearization, let alone any actions.
What appears to have happened is the following. Trump was told that in the talks between North and South, Kim Jong-un expressed a wish to meet with him, and Trump jumped at the opportunity.
Henry Kissinger has often said that presidential summits should be the climax of a long negotiating process, not the beginning. Trump's gambit turns that dictum on its head. Victor Cha, once slated to be Trump's own ambassador to South Korea, warns that a presidential summit is dangerous because if it fails it leaves little room for further diplomacy. The outcome, he says, could actually end up being war.
But we should look upon this move with hope and wish the president and the administration well. Yet it does feel like it's part of a pattern. Trump talks tough towards countries like, say, China and Saudi Arabia. They then flatter him, put on parades and banquets, and he quickly reverses course, and in his eagerness to reward flattery, he makes large concessions and gets little in return.
The United States has endorsed Saudi policy in Yemen and Qatar with no noticeable reciprocal reward. Trump announced a major concession to Israel, the move to Jerusalem without even asking for something in return.
South Korean President Moon seems to have noticed this pattern. He sought to move events on the Korean peninsula away from war talk and towards negotiations, essentially the opposite of Trump's declared path, but he took pains to always praise Trump while he charted his contrary course. He did it again this week, giving Trump ample credit for his own opening.
[10:05:04] All these countries seem to understand how to play Donald Trump. What we need to watch now is whether Donald Trump knows how to play them.
And let's get started.
Let's keep going with this extraordinary news about North Korea with my terrific panel today. Sue Mi Terry was a senior analyst for the CIA on Korea issues from 2001 to 2008. She is now a senior fellow for Korea at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ian Bremmer, of course, is the president and founder of the Eurasia Group and the author of a terrific new book "Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World." And Stanley Roth was the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs for most of Bill Clinton's second term. In that role he traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 on that famous trip with Madeleine Albright to meet Kim Jong-il. Those were the highest level meetings ever held between the United States and North Korea.
So first, let's just talk about the way this happened, which I still feel is itself unprecedented.
Ian Bremmer, have you ever heard about, you know, kind of foreign policy initiative which worked out like this?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Nothing even close. We have the South Korean senior foreign policy envoy who has a meeting with H.R. McMaster on Thursday, not supposed to meet with Trump until Friday. Trump finds out the meeting is happening, says, you know what, I want to do that right now. They meet. They talk. It's clear that the invitation, which is offered to Trump, is something that President Moon himself of South Korea is not in any way suggesting that Trump should just accept.
Be cautious, first engage at a lower level, and Trump was no, no, I want to do it, let's announce it right now. The South Koreans end up making the announcement in the driveway in front of the White House.
I mean, on every level, this is unprecedented, and yet on every level, this is par for the course and what we should expect with President Trump.
ZAKARIA: So what would -- I mean, normally presumably you would have had the president say let's think about it.
SUE MI TERRY, SENIOR FELLOW FOR KOREA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Sure.
ZAKARIA: Let's convene a National Security Council meeting.
TERRY: Of course. Even President Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, who's all for engagement and negotiations that when offered to meet with Kim Jong-un, he said, if the continues are right, let me think about this. I'll get back to you. So what President Trump, in a normal situation would have done is or should have done is convene an NSC meeting and talk about pros and cons of having such a summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, and then coordinate the policy and then announce it.
ZAKARIA: So, Stanley, what's wrong with trying this? I mean, the Trump argument I suppose would be, look, we've tried all that kind of thing. Why not do something out of the box?
STANLEY ROTH, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC: There's nothing wrong with trying this. I think extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and in my view, President Trump had no choice. First, this had been clearly orchestrated by President Moon who invested enormous political capital and prestige sending his national security adviser to personally brief the president, carrying the invitation. It would have been a massive insult to President Moon had he not accepted it, it would have been a massive insult to Kim Jong-un.
Furthermore, I think the president, because of the way he runs the White House, does not have the luxury that President Clinton had, where he could send Secretary Albright, Ambassador Sherman and a very large team. We had four assistant secretaries to pave the way for a trip.
Is Secretary Tillerson really going to be able to represent the U.S. on North Korea policy after the way the president has publicly treated him three times? Is this the right time for National Security adviser McMaster, reportedly on the way out, to be heading the delegation?
You can't have the secretary of Defense, so really it is up to President Trump to start it, but remember, the key thing, a point that I agree with the White House that I hope they stick to it, that this is not a negotiation.
Negotiation requires endless rounds of preparation and detail. This is a meeting, and if a meeting can start to form the beginnings of a relationship, and I'm not saying friendship, if a meeting can somewhat reduce the tensions and most importantly if a meeting can end up with an agreement on a process for negotiations, it is then worth the risk.
ZAKARIA: But, Sue Mi Terry, the North has wanted this meeting for a long time because this is a very repressive regime and this provides incredible legitimacy to the regime.
TERRY: Absolutely. North Koreans have sought a meeting with a U.S. leader for many years. I mean, even President Bush was invited or they wanted to meet with him. It gives North Korea legitimacy as you said. It normalizes the country, but I have other concerns.
Trump might not see this as just a beginning of the negotiation. What if he concludes, what if he agrees to something like, you know, North Koreans say if their regime security is guaranteed that they might give up nuclear weapons.
[10:10:04] But what does that mean? That means they want to break up the U.S.-South Korea alliance. They may want to kick off the U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula. So I don't have confidence that Mr. Trump is going to start something. What if he decides, hey, this might work, or at the other end I think Victor Cha was absolutely right when he said, you know, you have a premature negotiation. What if it falls through? Then there is no recourse after that.
You already have met with Kim Jong-un. Now you're going to say OK, we've used that engagement negotiation card and now we have no recourse except to take kinetic action on North Korea.
ZAKARIA: Ian Bremmer, you said to me, you knew this was going to happen in the sense that Kim -- Trump was going to want to meet with Kim Jong-un. Why?
BREMMER: Because no one else has done it. Kim Jong-un has not met with a single other leader of the world since he's become -- since he's taken power and no American president has ever met with the North Korean leader, only former secretary of state. So it's the first. It's incredible television. Clearly Trump wants to make this happen.
But that doesn't mean it's going to happen, right? And there are a lot of things that could -- simply the fact of saying there's going to be a summit has now made Trump's presidency more about North Korea than I think any of us want. I mean, the fact is, this has been the most intractable geopolitical problem for several administrations.
Now they've all decided to kick it down the road even though we know it's getting worse and they knew it was getting worse because they worried that opening up that can of worms had the potential to kill an awful lot of people, and the fact that Trump is now making his presidency more about that is, of course, a greater danger for all of us.
ZAKARIA: But you're saying that just from a pure TV point of view, this is irresistible to the former host of "The Apprentice."
BREMMER: And I'll say something else, I think it's irresistible that at some point I believe that Putin is going to make an offer to actually host this thing because it's irresistible to have the media covering it in this sort of way. They both like that kind of thing. It's going to happen. It doesn't mean that the meeting is going to occur, doesn't mean the meeting is going to be any good.
ZAKARIA: But this is all very good for North Korea. North Korea is now, what, 95 percent of the way to a robust nuclear arsenal, with delivery systems, right?
TERRY: Yes. Yes.
ZAKARIA: Now is the time for them to talk.
TERRY: No. Absolutely. North Korea is going to spin this as going into this summit meeting from a position of strength. They're going to say it's because of our nuclear strength. They are 90 percent, 95 percent done with their nuclear program. They just have one more technical hurdle that they have to cross, which is to show successful re-entry capability but, yes, South Korea and Japan are already under North Korean nuclear threat.
They have between 20 to 60 nuclear warheads. They've already shown ICBM capability, intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach all of mainland United States. They are very, very close and they want to say, hey, we're now coming in with primal position of strength.
ROTH: But I think that there's two points -- ZAKARIA: We've got to take a break. When we come back, what I'm
going to do is ask Stanley Roth what this meeting would look like, since he's the guy who planned the last high-level meeting, when we come back.
[10:17:19] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Sue Mi Terry, Ian Bremmer, and Stanley Roth.
Stanley, you planned -- you helped plan the Madeleine Albright visit. What is your sense of how do the North Koreans behave in these situations? Do they just want the meeting or are they actually willing to engage and make concessions and all that kind of thing?
ROTH: Let me say first going back to risk, that yes, there's risk for the president but there's risk for the president in doing nothing or in rejecting the offer. And there's risk for Kim as well because an unsuccessful meeting puts him right back under maximum pressure and in the situation or threat to his economy, so nobody is risk-free in this, and I think we should remember that this is not a clear win.
Now coming to what you talked about, I think the key thing to expect is surprises. When we did the Albright trip, first of all, Kim Jong- il was not supposed to be the host. It was supposed to be Marshall Joe and yet he ended up being the host. We had expected that he would make the initial presentation, instead he turned to Secretary Albright and asked her to start, and when she stopped in intervals because we were told he didn't like long presentations he had her speak again for 30, 45 minutes. It was quite something.
There was of course a big surprise unwelcome one of the stadium event, that propaganda event with the 100,000 athletes charging the stage with fireworks and -- you know, clapping, so expect surprises. Depending on the venue of where this is held which we don't know, there may be less capacity for major surprises, comparable to the stadium.
ZAKARIA: When you say that because you don't think Trump should go to Pyongyang.
ROTH: I don't think he should go to Pyongyang and I don't think that Kim should come here. I'd prefer the DMZ, I think, you know, Peace House, because I think it gives excellent access to the ROK government. You can have daily conversations after the negotiations, and Japan could send a delegation and it's great for coordination, but still, even there, there's less capacity for major surprises, but even at the trivial level of protocol, what if on the one hand Kim gives President Trump a great big bear hug? How do you respond to that awkward moment?
What a bad scenario, he gives him a diatribe about all the U.S. sins going back to their allegations about U.S. behavior in the Korean war? So the president has to be prepared for that. I think the important point is, one, do the right thing. You're here on an historic first meeting of leaders, shake hands, you don't have to be best friends. But don't create an incident.
Second, expect surprises and try to think through of how you deal with some of them. Third, don't be provoked. The worst outcome is if they start trading insults and it becomes a race to the bottom. Fourth, stick with your plan. Don't try to solve everything because that can be dangerous. Remember Reagan at Reykjavik with Gorbachev, one of the scariest summits during my course of government service.
[10:20:08] Understand that words don't mean the same thing to each, particularly denuclearization. We don't have time to go into it but that you're not here to work out the details to come up with common definitions. Try to get a plan for a negotiating process.
ZAKARIA: But, Sue Mi Terry, it's still quite possible that this won't happen because Trump's own National Security Council seems to be walking back the possibility by putting on these conditions that say well, we're only going to do the summit if there's denuclearization.
TERRY: Right. So I'm getting already a sense that NSC is trying to walk back this because it is before May. I mean, May is right around the corner. And I think because they understand the danger and the risk that's going to be involved with very premature engagement with Kim Jong-un right now. When we are prepared, that's fine but it's a little bit too premature.
So they're trying to walk back. But he said, North Korea, what preconditions? They've already said denuclearization is not on the table. So what actions do they need to take? They're not going to take any more actions. So I think if Mr. Trump really wants to see him, he will.
In terms of the venue, I think DMZ is fine. Definitely I think Mr. Trump should not go to North Korea because it's going to really give -- the North Koreans is going to spin this into legitimacy, into U.S. president coming to North Korea to kowtow to their leader. So they should at least do it at the DMZ or a place that's like a neutral country like Switzerland, I don't know. Sweden or Singapore.
ZAKARIA: Stanley, a quick thought on you -- from you on China. Is China happy with the situation? They've after all wanted a diffusion of tension. This is all sort of what the Chinese want.
ROTH: Yes, I think they're happy but conflicted. Of course anything that defuses the situation makes military action less likely, is very positive for them, if it can lead to a negotiating process, even better. At the same time, they've got to be very concerned about the possibilities of a trade war, not just the steps taken but the steps that might be taken and that could influence their willingness to be helpful. And third, that's probably a bit of resentment that North Korea met with the U.S. president before meeting with the Chinese president. That's absolutely extraordinary.
ZAKARIA: And the trade war part, I mean, what's extraordinary is the South Koreans are under the gun with Trump's tariffs even at the time when we're trying to build a close alliance with them. BREMMER: Well, that's right, the fact that this invitation was
formally accepted by Trump, at the same time Trump is saying, I'm going to put tariffs on steel and aluminum against all these countries around the world and South Korea happens to be a quite important exporter to the United States, but he backed away from that significantly, not just on Mexico and Canada, with exemptions but saying that anyone can have an exemption for national security purposes. The South Koreans immediately said thank you so much, Trump, you're brilliant for organizing this meeting with Kim Jong-un but can we have an exemption? And the U.S. government quickly said yes, we're going to be working on that, we'll take care of the South Koreans.
ZAKARIA: One last thought before we go. Italian elections, Ian Bremer. This seems to be pretty big news.
BREMMER: I think this is the most significant anti-establishment vote in a major industrial democracy in decades. Over 50 percent of the Italians said that they're either for the five-star movement, euro skeptic, which is -- that is now the largest party or the Northern League's strongly anti-immigration. The establishment parties are devastated.
It's not going to matter that much near-term, because the European economies are still doing well, but the fact that anyone that hoped that Macron was sort of, like, turning the page and now we're pro- globalization, no, no. The anti-establishment sensibilities across all of Europe are a wave that's getting stronger and stronger and Italy shows that decisively.
ZAKARIA: To me, exactly right, the big news is populism is not dead. You know, we have not past peak populism and Italy shows that pretty powerfully.
BREMMER: No question.
ZAKARIA: Thank you all very much. Fascinating conversation.
For more on Italy, I had a chance this week to interview one of the nation's finest minds about what it all means. Go to CNN.com/fareed, see my chat with Beppe Severgnini.
Coming up here on GPS why tariffs have turned into the biggest political battle in the United States, not between Democrats and Republicans, but between Trump and the Republicans.
We'll be back in a moment.
[10:29:02] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. The tussle over tariffs in Washington right now is the most significant political battle taking place in America. It's much broader than a dispute over steel and aluminum exports. It is the Republican Party's last stand against a total takeover by Donald Trump. Having ceded ground to the president on everything from personal
character to immigration, to entitlement reform, Republican leaders have chosen to draw the line at free trade. If they get rolled on this, Trump will have completed the transformation of his party.
In recent weeks Donald Trump seems to have remembered that he is a populist or at least is playing one on television. After campaigning as the tribune of the forgotten working class, he handed over his presidency to the establishment wing of the Republican Party which proceeded to attack Obamacare, roll back regulations and pass a huge tax cuts for companies and wealthy Americans.
But now, he is moving hard on tariffs and also immigration. As is often the case, Trump may be more in line with his party's base than most of its leaders. A recent poll finds that voters overwhelmingly oppose Trump's tariffs, as does the Republican establishment. But most Republican voters support them. In fact, over the last decade, Republican support for free trade has dropped a staggering 20 points.
The new Republican Party is now coming into view. It is a party skeptical about free markets. From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, every great theorist of capitalism has recognized that free trade is at the heart of what makes capitalism work. And they've all pointed out that tariffs are precisely the kind of government intervention that produces inefficiency and corruption. But Republicans are now apparently comfortable with government intervention as long as it's for the right people.
It is also now a party that has developed a total contempt for experts and expert analysis. Consider that Trump's tariffs are opposed by a remarkable array of scholars across the political spectrum, from the conservative Heritage Foundation to the libertarian Cato Institute to the center-left Brookings Institution to the left-wing Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The White House barely offers serious arguments about it, instead providing a bogus justification for the tariffs, national security, even though China and Russia supply only a tiny portion of these goods to the United States.
Despite research showing that previous protectionist policies have failed, that the steel industry has lost more jobs due to efficiency in automation than to trade, and that preserving one job in the steel or automobile industry through tariffs can cost consumers a whopping $1.5 million, administration supporters no longer even offer a response. The data is simply dismissed as partisan spin or fake news.
And the final point is the GOP is being transformed into a party that is basically hostile to foreigners and foreign countries. Even traditional allies like the Europeans are increasingly viewed with great suspicion.
It is bizarre to have chosen these tariffs that mostly threaten American allies. Now, trade does produce disruptions, especially severe ones in recent decades. The most sensible, cost-effective way to deal with them would be to provide subsidies to workers who lose their jobs because of trade, and then invest in large-scale retraining efforts. But that doesn't quite have the bite that attacking foreigners and stoking trade conflict does.
Having transformed the party's views on issues as diverse as immigration and fiscal discipline, if Trump wins the battle over trade with his party, he will have won the war. The Republican Party will be history. And given his long-demonstrated preferences in this regard -- who knows -- Trump would probably want to rename the party "the Trump Party."
For more, go to cnn.com/fareed and read my Washington Post column this week.
Next on "GPS," President Obama's former top military adviser Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on what he would advise the current president to do on military matters, starting with North Korea.
ZAKARIA: My next guest is General Martin Dempsey. He was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, from 2011 to 2015. In that role, he was the top military adviser to President Barack Obama.
General Dempsey, thanks for joining me.
DEMPSEY: Good to see you again, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So the big news is North Korea. When you think about the North Korean position, putting yourself in their perspective...
ZAKARIA: ... their shoes, doesn't this make sense, from their point of view, which is they have now built up a robust nuclear arsenal, intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. So they have the insurance policy they were looking for all along.
ZAKARIA: Now they're willing to talk. I would imagine what they're trying to talk about is regularizing and codifying that reality rather than reversing it?
DEMPSEY: Well, militarily, which is really my expertise, they can threaten their South Korean neighbors with a conventional threat. They have thousands of artillery in pieces and rockets, a raid along the demilitarized zone. So they don't need the nuclear capability for South Korea. They do need it to threaten us and the other stakeholders like Japan and others in the region.
And so I suspect they will try to compartmentalize this. And we'll have to decide, or our negotiators will have to decide, how compartmentalized do we want it to be? Are we trying to bring stability to the Korean Peninsula, which takes you on one path, or are we trying simply to denuclearize? And that will be an important decision.
ZAKARIA: Did you -- in your analysis of Kim Jong-un, did you imagine that this might be possible? Did he strike you -- because this is a fairly rational process, where he has built up his arsenal to the point where he feels secure; now he's willing to talk. That doesn't sound wild, crazy, irrational.
DEMPSEY: I think the path he has put himself on to acquire the nuclear capability is quite rational. I think some of the tactics along the way have been unimaginably brutal and, you know, caused instability in the region to spike.
Now, I suspect we'll see all of that come out. You remember the last time when we met, we did have this conversation about is he a rational actor. And I -- I certainly think he's a rational actor in the sense that he's principally interested in preserving his own regime and his dynasty into the future. The tactics are troubling. I mean, you know, we've seen he's willing to do nearly anything to do that, and this is why this negotiation will be so -- so challenging.
ZAKARIA: When you look at the Iran deal, what's your assessment? And, you know, how would you respond to the argument that Iranians, after the deal, have not moderated their behavior; they're still a troublesome force in the region?
DEMPSEY: Yeah, I think it's a little early to tell. I mean, you know, we've been at it for a couple of years. I think it's important to note that it wasn't a U.S.-Iran deal. It was the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany and Iran. And so, again, in the spirit of inclusion, these complex problems are best solved with, you know, allies and partners and coalitions and teams, rather than unilaterally or autonomously.
So I would -- you know, the most important thing for me is that we keep that resolve alive that we will keep pressure on Iran not to go nuclear.
Can you imagine, by the way, if we were dealing with a nuclear-capable North Korea and a nuclear-capable Iran simultaneously?
I mean, that's -- that's the definition of a bad day in the Pentagon. And so, you know, I would hope that we would stay strong and resolute in allowing this agreement to move forward, while still keeping pressure on them in other ways, for the other maligned activities that we see out of Iran, cyber, weapons proliferation, surrogates and proxies.
But I think the Iran -- the Iran nuclear accord was important for the time, and I think we have to give it time to see where it leads us.
ZAKARIA: We will be right back. More with General Martin Dempsey, including his take on all the generals that surround Donald Trump, Kelly, Mattis, McMaster. Is it a good idea to have so many military men running American democracy?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: And we are back with General Martin Dempsey.
You know, what's interesting to me about your book is that you're a military man, and people think of military men, general, you know, it's about hierarchy; it's about commands, and the whole book is actually about the importance of radical inclusion, of almost a kind of flat organization, of consensus, of trying to share both the decision-making and the responsibility.
Do you think we understand the armed forces wrong, that we don't understand how you actually -- that you actually are persuading a lot more than you're commanding?
DEMPSEY: Absolutely. And think it's because, if you think about how we've -- we as a nation have constructed our national security apparatus, it's through allies and partners, since the '50s. And in fact, we have 53 allies and partners around the globe, 28 of them in Europe in the organization called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and that's how we've built our security.
Well, as a result, military leaders who have come through that system have learned that, to achieve particular outcomes, it's not just about achieving them yourself; if you want them to last, it's about achieving them through allies and partners, which can take longer and can, you know, create frictions, but you're more likely to gain the knowledge you need to find optimal solutions. You're more likely to share the burden so solutions are affordable. And if you find optimal solutions that are affordable, they actually have a chance of enduring.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a question about civil military relations...
ZAKARIA: ... right now. As you know, one of the things that the American military has striven very hard to do is to be independent of the civilian authority but to also be subordinate to it.
ZAKARIA: We now have a situation where you have generals running core parts of the American government. The secretary of defense is a former general; the chief of staff is a former general; and the national security adviser is a sitting in-uniform general.
ZAKARIA: Is that -- is that smart? I mean, is that -- is that too many generals?
DEMPSEY: Boy, you know, smart is a tough -- a tough metric for me, but I'll tell you, it's probably smart in the sense that they're terrific individuals. I mean, they are very capable men. There is precedent, of course, where you would have these -- these
episodic cases where these military officers may migrate into the administration. I think the reason we're reacting to what we see now is that it's happening all at once. And they are capable individuals. I worry, as I've said in other -- when I've had other opportunities, that we just have to be sure that we don't confuse the American people about our military's relationship with them. And for them, which is everybody, whatever side of the aisle or whatever your politics are, we have to make it clear that we are acting in their best interests.
And to the extent that some people now believe the military's holding back their president and some people believe that it's just the opposite, that not only -- that they're in his way, is not a healthy thing for civil-military relations. So we just have to ensure that we continue to make it clear that the military serves the country and they are non-partisan when it comes to political affiliation.
ZAKARIA: And do you think that -- is there a danger in a democracy of having so many generals? Could it confuse the public into thinking this is a government run by generals?
DEMPSEY: Yeah, I don't think -- instinctively, I don't think there's a risk to our democracy. But I do think that, let's just say hypothetically that the White House goes in the other direction in the next or the election after that, I think there will be a natural instinct for the Democratic Party to be suspicious of the military and its senior leaders because, you know, they are so present in the Trump administration.
That's not a challenge to democracy. It's actually -- frankly, it's a troubling issue for civil-military relations and for our profession.
ZAKARIA: So I've had former generals, very distinguished ones, ones I think...
DEMPSEY: Until today.
ZAKARIA: ... ones the names of which the public would know, but unfortunately they told me this off the record, who said they did think that General Kelly has politicized his role more than a military person should, that they pointed to Mattis and said "That's the way to do it. You take off your uniform. You really are not called General Mattis anymore; you're Secretary Mattis. You -- you are now serving, you know, as a civilian leader in a democratic system. And they contrasted that with General Kelly, who has been very political in his support for Donald Trump, made political statements of his own. And of course, as Admiral Mullen said, in his view, in Admiral Mullen's view, politicized even the death of his own son by saying, "Well, President Obama didn't call me when my son got killed."
Is that a distinction worth bearing in mind, between Mattis and Kelly?
DEMPSEY: Well, the distinction, I think, is not between Mattis and Kelly but between the role of the secretary of defense and the role of the White House chief of staff. The secretary of defense has to deliver national security policy, has to go and argue for a budget, has to -- by the way, and all of them have to go and support the president's budget, presuming they've negotiated it to a satisfactory level. But the chief of staff job is inherently political. You know, the chief of staff is the one who keeps the trains running on time, if you will. The chief of staff is the one that, after the National Security Council makes a recommendation, talks about what is this going to mean to our politics; what's it going to mean to midterm elections; what's it going to mean to our caucus?
ZAKARIA: But then maybe he should be called Mr. Kelly?
DEMPSEY: Well, maybe he should. I actually would support that, Fareed, yeah.
ZAKARIA: Always a pleasure having you on, General Dempsey, Mr. Dempsey, whichever.
Next on "GPS," the alarming new statistics about anti-Semitism and a disturbing theory on what is driving it, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Egyptians are preparing to go to the polls in a few weeks, but the country is hardly a beacon of democracy these day. It does bring me to my question. An Egyptian pop star was recently sentenced to prison for a joke about what: the Nile, the Pyramids, the Sphinx or the Suez Canal? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
My book of the week is John Lukacs "Five Days in London: May 1940." If you watched "Dunkirk" or "Darkest Hour" and you want more, this is a short, compelling case that Adolf Hitler almost conquered Europe in May 1940, with France of the verge of defeat, Britain alone with virtually its entire army surrounded by Nazi forces on the French coast. But one man fought back and turned the tide -- riveting reading.
And now for "The Last Look." We are all aware of the rise in incidence of hatred and violence against immigrants and more generally minorities in the last year, but a striking statistic makes one aware that this is an even larger problem than we realize. The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged in 2017, increasing by 57 percent, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League.
You might have thought that Jews in America could live safely and securely, fully assimilated and integrated into the country to which they have contributed so much. But last year, America had its second- highest number of reported incidents of harassment, vandalism or assaults against Jews or Jewish institutions since records began in 1979, with nearly 2,000 such incidents. The ADL says it was the largest single-year increase on record.
This report came out just one week after the Southern Poverty Law Center published a study which found the number of neo-Nazi hate groups in America grew by 22 percent last year.
So why is all this hate rising? Well, one ADL associate director told CNN that the current mood in the U.S. has some people feeling more liberated to express their hate. I guess the lesson is that, when leaders unleash the darkest sides of human nature, the hatred can spread to places that might have seemed safe and secure.
This report should serve as another very sad reminder to the United States and other nations, not only is there work still to be done, but that progress can be undone, and quicker perhaps than we think.
The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is A, the Nile. Pop star Sherine has a song based on the Egyptian saying, "If you drink from the Nile, you are destined to return." But after she joked at a concert that drinking from the Nile would actually give you a parasite, she received a six-month prison sentence for spreading fake news and insulting the state, according to state-run media.
The biggest joke in Egypt, however, may be the pretense that the upcoming elections will be free and fair. Following the arrest or withdrawal of any serious opposition candidate, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is effectively running unopposed.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.