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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Is The Current Situation In America And Europe, Around The World, As Bad As Many Think; Or Are We, In Fact, Living In One Of The Most Prolific Productive Safe Times In History; On Wednesday, We Learned Of President Trump's Plans To Withdraw American Troops From Syria. Aired 10-11a ET>.

Aired December 23, 2018 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GPS: This is "GPS," the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria. Today on the show, a bombshell from the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis announces his resignation, just a day after we learned President Trump intends to pull all American troops out of Syria.

First McMaster, then Kelly, now Mattis -- where have all of Trump's generals gone and what does their departure mean for American foreign policy? I will ask Richard Haass to make sense of all of it.

And we'll take a step back from the apparent onslaught of bad news. Is the current situation in America and Europe, around the world, as bad as many think? Or are we, in fact, living in one of the most prolific productive safe times in history? Steven Pinker versus Niall Ferguson.

Finally, I will introduce you to a young woman whom you will surely want to meet.


GRETA THUNBERG, 15-YEAR-OLD SWEDISH ACTIVIST: We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not.


ZAKARIA: She's trying to do nothing less than save the world. But first here is my take. Emmanuel Macron has been the great hope for those who worry that global politics is being dominated by populism, nationalism or racism.

In his Presidential campaign last year, Macron was able to rally France around a message of reform and even multilateralism. Now Macron has been humbled by the yellow vest street protests. He was forced to backtrack on some of his reforms and adopt new budget busting subsidies in an attempt to mollify the mob and there is the mess in Britain as it keeps trying and failing to Brexit, Italy's budgetary woes get worse and the embrace of illiberal democracy in Hungary and Poland continues. It all adds up to a depressing picture of Europe and the west. But are things really so gloomy? As "POLITICO's" Matthew Karnitschnig

points out support for the E.U. is at its highest level in decades and on closer examination, while the forces of populism do continue to surge in tomorrow places, mostly the story of the last few months has actually been one of push back. Consider Poland and Hungary, in many ways the poster children for the Populist Nationalist Movement.

In Poland, efforts to reshape the country's Supreme Court ignited massive national protests and Europe's High Court ordered the move to be reversed. On Monday, Warsaw complied and scrapped the law. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban latest authoritarian steps changing labor laws and judicial authority have also triggered widespread protests uniting the nation's opposition forces as never before.

In France, news of Macron's demise is premature. Yes, his poll numbers are way down, but voters prefer him to the far right Marine Le Pen by a wide margin. He has a five-year term. His party controls the legislature and most analysts agree that his reforms are inevitable if France is to compete for investment and generate growth. He may end up a one-term President, but he will still have spearheaded the most important changes in France in a generation.

In Italy, the new coalition government had introduced a populist budget that promised a universal basic income and early retirement only to meet the steely opposition of the European Union and it was the populists who blinked. This week, Rome retreated from those populist measures and announced a budget conforming to the guidelines set by Brussels.

Britain remains more complicated but the basic story that every time the country comes close to actual Brexit, it pulls back appalled by the costs. You see proponents of Brexit sold the country a fantasy that it could get the benefits of access to the European Union's market without the costs of having to obey its rules. And as time passes, more and more Britains are coming to realize that they cannot have their cake and eat it, too.

Finally, look at the United States, where a President who proudly embraces populism and nationalism reins.




ZAKARIA: But in November, the opposition Democratic Party had its strongest gain in the House of Representatives since the Watergate wave of 1974. Perhaps more significant, there are now 17 separate investigations into President Trump and his associates, some of which have already produced indictments.

[10:05:05] ZAKARIA: And that does not include the series of congressional

inquiries certain to begin once the Democrats take control of key committees in the House. I don't mean to minimize the populist wave that is still coursing through the west and other parts of the world, but concern should not give way to despair. There are many people in every country who oppose the politics of anger and identity.

They are also strong and they need to run fast, but not run scared. For more go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

On Wednesday, we learned of President Trump's plans to withdraw American troops from Syria. ISIS, Trump claimed in a tweet, has been defeated there. On top of that shock, a bigger one came the next day as Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced his resignation in a letter to the President.

In it, Mattis made his own priorities clear, maintaining alliances, showing respect for allies, using American power to provide for the common defense and to stand up to those nations whose strategic interest are in tension with America's.

The retired four-star general suggested his views were not aligned with the President's. To help make sense of all of this, I want to bring in Richard Haass. Haass was Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under George W. Bush, he is the President on the council of foreign relations and the author of "A World In Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order."

Richard, let's first talk about the process here because my suspicion is that James Mattis has always known that he and Trump had disagreements, but that he felt like on the issue of Syria and maybe Afghanistan, he had gone to the President a year ago, he had gotten authorization for a new policy, 2,000 troops, more use of bombs, remember Trump used to boast about how they were using bigger bombs in Syria, and that they had informed the rest of the world, allies, et cetera, and it's the way in which this policy was just upended with no process, no strategy, no informing allies. My gut is that some part of it was just the chaos of policy making that has gotten to James Mattis.

RICHARD HAASS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF POLICY PLANNING, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: I think so and I think he made the calculation all along, Fareed, that he was never going to agree with everything. He was traditional and Mr. Trump is many things, traditional is not one of them and Mattis basically said, I'll stay here so long as on balance in that I am either accomplishing good things or preventing really bad things from happening.

And I think what actually happened in the last couple of days is he reassessed and came to the conclusion that whatever he was accomplishing or preventing, it wasn't happening anymore. Mr. Trump essentially has become not only his own National Security adviser, he has also become his own Secretary of Defense.

ZAKARIA: You saw that reserve that Mattis had, if you remember that early meeting of the Cabinet where Trump forced Cabinet officials to go around almost in a kind of North Korea fashion pledging fealty and loyalty to him and Mattis was the one guy who refused. He said it's an honor to serve the American people and to lead the Armed Services. He made no reference to Trump.

And again, in this letter of resignation, to me, the most interesting part is the omission. He doesn't thank Trump personally.

HAASS: Sure, no, and again, he ended it with a reference to the men and women in uniform. He was in that sense true to himself. There were so many signals in this letter. This is one of those great things that historians will look over. What I liked about it, it's so rare in Washington where people actually resign and then resign on matters of principle and policy and it wasn't ad hominem, it wasn't small, it was big.

He was basically saying we are not on the same page. You might as well have somebody who is on the same page as you because you sure as hell not listening to me and he spelled out his differences. Big things, fundamental issues of American foreign policy, actually thought that was healthy.

ZAKARIA: And you know, those issues started at the beginning, again, the story we know, both of you and I know is true is that Mattis was alarmed at how Trump didn't seem to get the big picture, asked the Joint Chiefs just to arrange a briefing for him in the tank, the Joint Chiefs kind of facility and laid out for him what the goal of American foreign policy had been for 70 years, which was to build a world of stability based on institutions and alliances, why these were important and how Russia and China were trying to destroy that or destabilize that world.

And at the end of it Trump, apparently said, I don't buy any of this, and what's interesting is Mattis' letter replays that difference of opinion.

HAASS: What's also interesting is so many of us kept thinking that somehow what Mr. Trump would learn in office, the realities of office, would make him more traditional, would make him more of an establishment foreign policy figure, and guess what? He's not. He has stood by his earlier views.


HAASS: He thinks the costs of American foreign policy and leadership simply aren't worth it. He doesn't see the benefits, he doesn't believe in trade accords. Donald Trump is an outlier. He is a radical. He is not in the post-World War II foreign policy tradition of the United States and what I think we've seen in the last couple of days is further evidence that he is not going to change.

ZAKARIA: And it's felt like a kind of isolationism where he was saying we're just going to get out, but we have a big stick if anyone does anything to us. It reminds me of that book that was written with the counsel by Walter Russell Meade under your tutelage where he -- where Meade talks about the Jacksonian tradition, this is Andrew Jackson.

We're isolationists, but if you come after us we have got a big stick, we will beat you up and we will retreat back home.

HAASS: It's just that, but it's a very narrow conception of American views in the world because he was also saying, but if you don't come after us directly and you just after others, well, have at it, boys. It's such a narrow view of the potential of the world that have adverse effects on the United States and it almost undermines his own philosophy.

If you believe in making America great again, it's not obvious to me how that can happen in a world that's unravelling. But Mr. Trump seems unable to see that connection.

ZAKARIA: So let's talk about the specifics. The Syria decision. I have never thought the U.S. has had a very solid strategy in Syria, we basically don't have -- we don't have a team to back. So the Russians, the Iranians, they have a team to back, they have got Assad, they back him, he's got real power and with some people, legitimacy in the region, a brutal dictator. We don't. We are sort of looking around and so we keep playing the game with some hope. Will it matter that much that we take these 2,000 troops out?

HAASS: It will matter in the narrow counterterrorism effort. The idea that you've defeated terrorists and they go away, no, that's not the way it works. They will reconstitute themselves so that will come back. That will be a decision either he or his successor will rue, the American people will pay a price for it.

In terms of the future, see, long ago we had accommodated ourselves to the reality that this government, this regime, wasn't going anywhere. The question now I think is whether the United States and others can use the incentive of economic help for rebuilding to try to bring about a degree of political reform, a bit of restraint on the part of Mr. Assad before he and others settle any scores. But the fact that we don't have 2,000 troops there obviously reduces our leverage.

ZAKARIA: Afghanistan, reports are that we're going to drop by 50 percent. That worries me because it feels like Afghanistan is actually a moderate success in that we have kept the country sort of together.

HAASS: Right.

ZAKARIA: And what I worry about is if we destabilize the government, that is a case where we know who will take advantage. The Chinese have been waiting to have greater and greater control of Afghanistan.

HAASS: You will see the -- basically the Pakistanis, the Chinese, terrorists -- all of these, the Taliban will come back. That can't be god. I think we have to understand our goal in Afghanistan can't be to win. We can't -- we are not going to turn the place into Switzerland, but simply to keep it from falling apart because we saw what happened back when, just before 9/11 when that happened. Unfortunately, we are on a trajectory where the possibility of Syria's

back sliding is real and, again, we can't insulate ourselves from that. I don't understand why it's so difficult for people to understand that what happens elsewhere can sooner or later or will sooner or later affect the quality and security and prosperity of life here.

I would have thought 9/11 was enough of a class in that, but I'm afraid we may have to basically learn that experience again the hard way.

ZAKARIA: One final thought. You've worked in four administrations and I'm told that a third of the spots at the NSC are empty, something like that that in the National Economic Council, key White House positions are not being filled. It feels like really a kind of chaotic and very thinly staffed White House.

HAASS: It feels that way because it is. And then Mr. Trump doesn't -- he tends not to even use what little staff he has, and I think one of the lessons of the last week or so is process matters. Process is there to protect. It's meant to inform people, to say, "Hey, if you do this, there's a decent chance this will come of it. Are you sure you want to do that?" And by not having the place staffed up, by not using the staff that you do have, by essentially flying by your gut, the United States dramatically increases the odds that bad decisions will be taken and then there won't be any serious execution or implementation.

Government is hard. Foreign policy is hard. Particularly in this world where so many others have such power. And the idea that a President wouldn't totally staff himself up and use the resources around him from the CIA to the Pentagon to the State Department, it's like going to a card table and basically saying, "Don't deal me all the cards, I'm prepared to play five card stud with only three cards. Not a very smart way to play the game.

ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, pleasure to have you on.

HAASS: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: It may seem like a frightening time for America and the world, but is it really? Is it perhaps actually the greatest time to be alive? Are those two options in conflict? Two terrific scholars, Niall Ferguson and Steve Pinker have a discussion and a debate when we come back.

Now for a moment, let's put aside the details of border walls and shutdowns, threats of Syria, North Korea and nuclear weapons, AR-15s, shrinking sea ice, rising ebola infections, and look at the big picture of the world today.

Are we in a dark moment as it may seem to you if you read the front page of most newspapers, or spend a few minutes on Twitter on any given day? [10:20:07]

ZAKARIA: Or are we in one of the best periods in all of humanity where a few bad trends overshadow all the good news? Well, it's a big crucial debate and we are going to have it here today.

Steven Pinker is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard and a bestselling author, perhaps best known for his 2011 book, "The Better Angels of our Nature." And Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and also a bestselling author, his latest is "Then Square and the Tower."

Two terrific scholars, I am delighted to have you both. Steven, let me start with you because you feel as though that there's almost a kind of systematic way in which we ignore good news and overemphasis bad news in the media. Explain what you mean.

STEVEN PINKER, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, HARVARD: Well, the nature of journalism is going to emphasize the negative because bad things can happen quickly, but good things aren't built in a day and they can creep up on us by stealth.

So if something explodes, if there is a shooting, if a building collapses, that's news, but if the global extreme poverty rate declines by a few percentage points there's never a Thursday in October in which it happens in which it makes the headlines, but when you track the data year by year, you see that the world can be transformed and there's never a point at which it makes the news.

ZAKARIA: And, Steve, your thesis as I understand, you now have two books that essentially make this point with a lot of detail. You think we are living in the most peaceful, prosperous and progressive, you know, in the sense of greater and greater rights for more and more people in human history, correct?

PINKER: Yes, and it's not a matter of what I think, it's what the data shows. Now, of course, these improvements don't happen inexorably year after year after year, there are always wiggles and bumps, sometimes there are nasty surprises, but the overall trend over the decades, over the centuries is for every measure of human wellbeing to improve.

ZAKARIA: Niall Ferguson, what is your response to that?

NIALL FERGUSON, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, I don't violently disagree with Steve that the world is a good deal better at the end of 2018 than it was 100 years ago or for that matter, 50 years ago, there have been enormous improvements in most economic measures, even in equality which is something that people worry about a lot has actually gone down globally not least because of the extraordinary economic miracle in the world's most populous country, China.

Where I disagree with Steve is the inference that he draws about the future because you could equally well have published a book a little -- along the same lines as Steve's in, say, 1911 and it would have been true that the world was significantly better in 1911 than it had been in 1811, but that wouldn't have been a reason to be naively optimistic about the future because you were just three years away from cataclysm in the form of World War I.

And indeed, the middle decades of the 20th Century were catastrophic for really large proportions of humanity. So I think the right way to think about this is that history does have some very pleasing trend lines when it comes to economic welfare and indeed to conflict, another thing that Steve emphasizes, but history teaches us to watch out for sudden discontinuities and in a highly networked, highly integrated world of the sort that we've built in the last 30 years, there are enormous vulnerabilities.

So the story could change from a good news story to a bad news story in a day, and that would not be fake news if it were a global pandemic of the sort that the world was struck by at the end of the First World War. So I don't entirely agree with Steve in the sense that sometimes, there really is bad news and history doesn't necessarily prepare you for it.

ZAKARIA: Steve, let me pick up on the point Niall was making in. So 1911, of course, there was such a book written. It was Norman Angell's "The Great Illusion," international bestseller, in which he said essentially "War will never happen again." It's more complicated --

PINKER: He did not say that. He did not say that.

ZAKARIA: He said that he thought it would be so expensive that it wouldn't pay but it was read by --

PINKER: He was right.

ZAKARIA: It was read by many people just to mean that wars are not going to break out. And the point is you had World War I, you had the great flu epidemic in which more people died than in many countries in World War I, you had the Great Depression, you had Stalin and his madness, you had the Second World War and then you had Mao and his madness.

So from 1914 to 1954, let's say it certainly looked like it was a pretty bleak period.


PINKER: It did, and by the way, Norman Angell did not predict that war could not happen, he just predicted if it did happen --

ZAKARIA: And many people read the book and said that, you know -- because it represented what seemed like a century of peace and progress that had taken place.

PINKER: Well, only if you look at certain parts of Europe. It wasn't so peaceful in the United States which had the worst war in its history, the Civil War, it wasn't so peaceful in China which had the worst Civil War in human history, the Taiping Rebellion, not so peaceful in Southern Africa, which had the Conquest of Chagga --

ZAKARIA: Then you're making my point. I'm not so quite sure that the -- the point. I am not so quite sure that -- the point I am trying to make is that despite that illusion of peace, the next 30 years proved to be war-filled, violent, bloody --

PINKER: Yes, and it can happen and I'm not predicting that it can't happen, no one could predict that, but of course one could also make predictions of impending doom repeatedly, that also turned out to be false.

If you pick, for example, predictions that I grew up with that World War III between the United States and the Soviet Union was inevitable, it would be a nuclear war. If you looked at predictions after 9/11 that were going to be weekly massive terrorist attacks that shoulder launched missiles were going to shoot planes out of the sky, that there were going to be massive explosions at football matches, if you look at predictions in the early '90s that a new generation of super predators was going to shoot the crime rate up just before it plunged.

You can have false predictions in both directions. And I'm not making a prediction that these positive trends will necessarily continue, but we should inform our predictions by which way the trend lines have been going, while being aware of the possibility of nasty surprises.

ZAKARIA: All right, we've got to take a break. When we come back, I will ask Niall Ferguson to make the best prediction he can about the future.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson talking about the world, is it falling to pieces or better than ever? Niall, let me ask you to give us a sense of where you think the world is going because you and I have had this debate while I was sort of taking Steve Pinker's side in Toronto and I recall some of the points you were making, which I thought were quite valid which was that if you look at the world from the point of view of the state of democracy, there seems to be a retreat both in important countries and smaller countries.

If you look at the support for kind of international order, what was often called the liberal international order, that seems to be declining, you see the rise of nationalism and populism. Many political trend lines don't seem as positive as they might have ten years ago. Correct?

FERGUSON: I think there's some truth in what you say, Fareed, though I'm careful in saying that there are very clear trends with respect to, say, democracy. The trend that I'm most interested in which I think has the greatest potential to disrupt democratic and undemocratic societies is our trend towards being a networked world.

Because one of the arguments I made in "The Square and the Tower," I think has been vindicated that by creating a highly integrated network world online with giant network platforms such as Facebook and Google, we've created a much less stable public sphere in which fake news and extreme views are, in fact, proliferated because of the way that the algorithms work in the business models of these companies.

Now, that's a trend that is disrupting all kinds of different countries, from the United States all the way to Myanmar in ways that I think are actually quite troubling. I don't think we have a good answer to the question, what do we do to preserve democracy and the rule of law in an age of institutionalized fake news on social media?

That seems to me a big worry and coming back to the discussion we had a moment ago with Steve, if you're asking the question what could possibly go wrong with this best of all possible worlds, the thing that I think is most likely to go wrong is that the unintended consequences of highly globalized, highly integrated platforms are likely to be disruptive in a whole range of dimensions, disrupting our politics, potentially also disrupting financial markets if you think about some of the impacts that technology can have there, and ultimately even disrupting the climate of the planet.

It wouldn't take much to derail the trend lines that Steve talks about in his books and that's why I'm fascinated by the one law of history that really matters and that's the law of unintended consequences. Nobody who built Facebook expected that it would be a decisive variable in the election of Donald Trump, but it was.

PINKER: That is certainly true, although whenever there is a new medium such as the printing press, there is often a period of a kind of Wild West where apocryphal stories, conspiracy theories proliferate until the system recalibrates and mounts an immune response and figures out how to control it. We haven't done that yet with the rise of social media, but when the printing press originated, there were fake books of the Bible being disseminated, we had "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" which blamed the world's problems on Jewish conspiracy.

There was massive plagiarism, fake authors. Eventually, a regime settled into place that got rid of the worst excesses. It remains to be seen whether we will fail to implement that in the case of social media.

ZAKARIA: But tell me how you would respond --

FERGUSON: Steve, that was after 130 years of religious conflict that the printing press undoubtedly fueled. It took a long time to get from Martin Luther to the Peace of Westphalia, and I think one of the lessons of our time is that that analogy that you've just made is very good that in many ways the personal computer and internet have done the same to our era as the printing press did to the 16th and 17th Centuries.


FERGUSON: But that's a disquieting thing because it really did produce polarization, epidemics of crazy ideas. You didn't mention the best example which is the idea that witches lived amongst us which went completely viral on both sides of the Atlantic and led to thousands of people being horribly killed for absolutely no good reason.

That seems to me a reason to be quite cautious about where we're going from here. It may not be 130 years of religious conflict, but we could certainly have, say, 13 years of really bitter ideological political conflict with the potential that it shades over from verbal violence which we currently have plenty of on the internet to actual violence. That's a reason to worry, I think.

Steve's great peril is that one day future historians will look back and they will cite Steve Pinker the way historians today cite Norman Angell as somebody who was broadly speaking too confident in the trends and underestimated the black swan low probability high impact events that can completely change the historical trajectory.

ZAKARIA: I will have to give you a short response, since Niall asked you directly. Will you be cited like Norman Angell?

PINKER: Well, not to anyone who reads me because I do talk about fat- tailed distributions, low probability, high impact events and, yes, they can occur. Again, Norman Angell did not predict that war was impossible, just that it would be ruinous and he was right.

ZAKARIA: On that note, good news and bad news. I just have to thank both of you, it was a really fascinating discussion, wonderful way to close out the year. Thank you both.

Next on "GPS," President Trump says he's not building an ugly concrete wall on the Mexican border. No, he tweeted, he plans to build a wall of artistically designed steel slats. It will, he says be beautiful, but ugly or beautiful, what can the world teach us about walls and whether or not they work? We have the facts when we come back.

Don't forget if you miss a show go to for a link to my iTunes podcast.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Well, here we are, the government has ground to a halt over Trump's insistence on a big, beautiful border wall. You might consider the President's fixation singular or even quick sodic, but Trump is hardly alone in this quest.

Across the world, we are in an age of walls which is the subject and title of a new book by the British journalist, Tim Marshall. At the end of the Cold War, there were only 15 border walls around the world. After 2000, the number spiked and by 2016, there were 70 according to Elizabeth Valet, a Professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

The reason shouldn't be hard to fathom. They include unprecedented levels of migration globally and of course, the conflict in the Middle East. Then there is the rise of nationalist leaders eager to fence off their countries some of whom have succeeded. The question is, do these walls work? Well, sometimes they do.

Take the massive wall that separates the west bank from Israel, it's forbidding, made of 25 foot tall concrete slabs and electrified fencing. Trump has admired it publicly. Palestinians calls it a symbol of apartheid. Construction began in 2002 after a rash of suicide attacks from the West Bank.

And Suicide attacks did fall from 60 in 2002 to just five in 2006 according to the political scientists Ron Hassner and Jason Wittenberg. Fatalities similarly plunged and have stayed down. Let's look at an older example.

The 1,700-mile long wall made of sand that morocco built along the disputed territory of the Western Sahara. Construction began in 1980 to defend against a violent insurgent group of the indigenous Sahrawi people who reject Morocco's claim on the territory. The wall is flanked by millions of mines, a hundred thousand soldiers stay on guard, perhaps not surprisingly Morocco did gain the upper hand and violence drastically reduced by 1991 when the U.N. brokered a peace deal.

And take the fences along Hungary's borders with Serbia and Croatia built in late 2015, the peak of the migrant crisis. Within days of Hungary closing the border with Croatia, migrant arrivals virtually ceased, the "Washington Post" notes. But whether or not the walls achieve their narrow objectives should not be the only criteria used to evaluate them.

As after as Marshall notes in his book, the Berlin wall technically succeeded, it stemmed mass desertions of East Germans, but it also turned a country into a prison. In Israel, the suicide attacks have come down, but the wall has also deepened Palestinian disaffection. The Moroccan wall stemmed violence but is estimated to have cost 40 percent of the country's GDP to build and defend, and the fences in Hungary compelled nearby countries to follow suit with their own marring the ideal of an open Europe with creeping divisions.

So what bearing does all this have on Trump's wall? Well, a colossal expense, alienating neighbors, promoting divisions, Trump's wall seems to have most of the costs and few of the benefits of these examples. Unlike in Israel and Morocco, there hasn't been any real threat of terrorism coming from the southern border since 9/11.


ZAKARIA: And net migration from Mexico has been zero for years now. The wall is geographically implausible, the terrain at parts of the border would make its construction, all but impossible and for all these reasons, a majority of Americans oppose Trump's wall. And they are right.

Up next, I saw a video this week that stopped me in my tracks. A young woman from Sweden making a passionate plea for the world to finally do something about climate change.


THUNBERG: We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: She will join me here in the "Global Public Square" in just

a moment.

"You are never too small to make a difference," that is what a brave and powerful 15-year-old said to the assembled world leaders, other dignitaries and NGOs at the COP24 climate conference in Poland.


ZAKARIA: Greta Thunberg is a young woman from Sweden who has decided to make it her life's mission to save the world from climate change. Listen to her speak truth to power as she looks to the future.


THUNBERG: The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn't do anything while there still was time to act.

You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.


ZAKARIA: Greta went on to tell the grown-ups, "You are not mature enough to tell it like it is." Well, she certainly is mature enough to do so and she joins me now from Stockholm, Sweden. Thanks for joining us, Greta.

THUNBERG: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: You first came to our attention at least when you began to skip many, many days of school, I think it was three weeks in all, and you went and protested outside of Sweden's Parliament. What made you think of doing that?

THUNBERG: I got the idea from -- there were a few youths in the U.S.A. that refused to go to school because of the school shootings and then someone I knew said, what if children did that but for the climate. Then I thought that was a very good idea. And then I decided I was going to do that because no one is doing anything and nothing is happening. So then I guess I have to do something.

ZAKARIA: So it was the Parkland shooting in Florida and those children who decided to protest in that way that in a sense inspired you, and when you've decided you wanted to do something like this, did you -- you talked to your parents, did they agree? How did you -- how did you proceed?

THUNBERG: I told them and they said, "Are you sure that's a good idea? Isn't there anything else you can do to make your voice heard?" And then I said, "No, this is what I'm going to do." And then said that we are not going to support you with this, you are going to have to do this alone if you are going to do this, because they are parents and they can't support this. ZAKARIA: Why do they not support it? And what did they mean not

support it? They couldn't support your taking time off from school, they felt that that was inappropriate?

THUNBERG: Yes. I mean, a parent's duty is to make sure that their child goes to school. Of course, they can't support that I'm skipping class like this.

ZAKARIA: What made you decide that this was going to be the thing that you wanted to do? Have you always been looking for some -- for a cause? Have you always felt like you wanted to make a difference in the world, or is it that climate change just strikes you as so big that you felt moved by that?

THUNBERG: Yes, I mean, the climate crisis is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced and if we don't do anything right now, we're screwed. Then I thought that I want to be able to when I grow up to look back and say, "I did what I could back then and it is my moral duty to do what I can," and then I just decided to do it because there's nothing I have to lose.

ZAKARIA: And you are not just talking about it, but as we say in the United States, you're also walking the walk. You have changed your life, your lifestyle, to try to have as low an impact as you can both in terms of climate and sustainability. Outline some of those measures.

THUNBERG: Yes, I have stopped flying, I have stopped eating meat and dairy and I have stopped consuming new things and buying new things.

ZAKARIA: So we're coming up on Christmas and New Year. You're not going to get any new -- any new things as gifts?

THUNBERG: No, not me. My parents, they don't get me many presents because I don't want any presents.

ZAKARIA: Greta, what would you say to people, particularly in places like the United States, what's your message to, you know, to the adults in the room, as it were?

THUNBERG: My message to the people in general is that we have to understand the emergency of this situation and we need to realize that our political leaders have failed us and then we must make our voices heard and to say -- to put pressure on the people in power and say to them that we are not going to allow this to continue anymore.


THUNBERG: And the young people need to say that we must hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created and expects us to live with and say to them that "You cannot continue risking our future like this." And so we need to get angry and then we need to transform that anger into action.

ZAKARIA: Well, I admire your conviction and your courage. Greta, pleasure to have you on. THUNBERG: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be on here.

ZAKARIA: Next Sunday in our time slot, don't miss my latest documentary, "Presidents Under Fire: The History of Impeachment." You won't want to miss it. Happy holidays, happy New Year and we will see you in 2019.