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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Israel And Hezbollah Exchange Fire At The End Of Truce; Israel's Strategy In Gaza; Interview With British-Palestinian Doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah About Gaza War Zone; Gaza Health Ministry: More Than 15,000 Killed; How Do Gazans Feel About Hamas?; The Future Of Hamas In Gaza; The Heated Controversies Around Henry Kissinger. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 03, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA: Today on the program, after seven days, the truce between Israel and Hamas is over and the war is back on. I'll ask a former IDF officer whether Israel's tactics will change in this phase. Will it be more precise, more careful about civilian casualties as the United States has asked?
Then I will talk to a man who knows those casualties well. A British Palestinian surgeon who has worked in Gaza's hospitals during the war.
Finally, the death of America's most famous 20th century statesman, Henry Kissinger. I will talk to his biographer Niall Ferguson about how Kissinger changed the world for better and for worse.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take.
Henry Kissinger, who died this week at 100 years old, may have been the most famous foreign policy practitioner in modern American history. But he practiced foreign policy for just eight of those hundred years. He left office as secretary of state nearly half a century ago. And yet admired or despised, he managed to hold the world's attention long after his power waned.
What explains this remarkable run? He was that rare breed. A doer and a thinker. Someone who shaped the world with ideas and action.
First, his accomplishments. Kissinger presided over a pivotal moment in the Cold War when it looked to much of the world like America was losing. The United States was in fact losing a hot war in Vietnam, the first major defeat in its history on which it had staked its reputation over four administrations. The Soviet Union was on the offensive, building up a massive nuclear arsenal and gaining allies across the world.
By the end of his eight years in office, things look different. The Vietnam War was over, the Soviet Union's forward momentum had been thwarted by a diplomatic coup, the opening of relations between Washington and Beijing. That one stroke moves China, the world's second most important communist power, cleanly out of the Soviet camp. Simultaneously relations with the Soviet Union softened and negotiations yielded major arms control agreements.
In the Middle East, Moscow's long-standing ally Egypt expelled its Russian advisers, moved into the American orbit, and began negotiating with Israel. A process that culminated some years later in the first peace treaty between an Arab country and Israel.
Kissinger was the mode of force behind each of those four achievements. Everything Kissinger did was surrounded by controversy. The right blasted him for the opening to China which was seen as a betrayal of Taiwan, which until then was the only China that Washington recognized. Conservatives also hated the detente with Moscow and many liberals believe that with an obsession with credibility.
Kissinger dragged out the Vietnam negotiations for far too long, signing a deal in 1973 that was not so different from the one he could have accepted in 1969 which would have spared the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians.
He presided over terrible failures as well. His support for Pakistan as it tried to brutally crush a rebellion in what became Bangladesh was an abomination and a failure. The bombings of Cambodia and Laos caused untold human suffering and distorted the politics of the region for decades. His disregard for human rights in places like Chile and Indonesia left a long shadow over America's reputation.
Kissinger was the first Jewish secretary of state and also the first immigrant to ascend to that office.
Thirteen members of his family died in the Nazi death camps. That background shaped his world view. Though he spoke about it rarely. He grew up in Germany as Hitler came to power and watched what was perhaps the most advanced and civilized nation in the world descend into barbarism and mass murder. He developed a lifelong obsession with order. He was too suspicious of democracy and human rights but it was because he had seen demagogues like Hitler rise to power through elections.
He often remarked, sometimes attributing it to gutter, that between order and justice, he would choose order because once chaos reigns, there is no possibility for justice.
I met him first three decades ago and over the years got to know him quite well. We had both ben graduate students in the same department at the same university and many of his colleagues had been my professors. He was a complicated man. Warm, witty, proud, thin- skinned, sometimes paranoid, but always deeply curious and intellectually serious about the world.
He was the only global celebrity I ever met who when the lights dimmed, retreated to his library to read the latest biography of Stalin or reread Espinosa. He was famously attributed his success in American to being seen as a loan cowboy pursuing his mission. The image of Kissinger as cowboy might seem odd, but he was right about being a solitary figure on the American strategic landscape.
In a country of optimists, Henry Kissinger was a European pessimist. He began his career worrying about nuclear weapons and he ended it worrying about artificial intelligence. Over the years in our conversations he would speculate gloomily that Japan was going to become a nuclear power, that Europe would fall apart, and that Islamic extremism would triumph. In our last lunch just a few weeks ago, he worried about Israel's ability to survive in the long run.
From start to finish, over a century, Henry Kissinger's abiding fear was that disruptive forces once set in motion could easily rip off the thin veneer of civilization and stability pushing the world into the abyss like the one in which he came of age.
Go to CNN.com/Fareed for a link to my column this week. And let's get started.
The delicate seven-day truce came to an end Friday as Israel accused Hamas of firing rockets into its territory. The IDF then swiftly resumed air strikes on Gaza. The truce had seen Hamas released over 100 hostages while Israel released almost 250 Palestinians. Now Israel isn't just fighting Hamas, it's also trading fire with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Islamist militant group based in Lebanon.
CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is in southeastern Lebanon with the latest on that front.
Ivan, tell us, is there a kind of escalation? Because so far what has been striking is, despite many fears, both Hezbollah and Iran seem to have been fairly restrained. So if there is some heating up here, how did -- who is escalating on which side of the border?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, since the truce ended in Gaza, that truce was applied to some degree here along the border between Lebanon and Israel. And since the fighting resumed in Gaza, this kind of artillery duel between Hezbollah and Israel on the border has resumed. So just where I am, I've been hearing the thud of incoming Israeli artillery over the course of the last couple of hours.
There was a blast, some kind of strike about an hour and a half ago that shook the building I'm in and frightened some of the remaining residents in the surrounding villages. Some of whom said they've never felt an Israeli strike this close to this area. It has not been of the same intensity of the fighting that you've seen in Gaza in part because this area is not nearly as densely populated. The villages around here are largely evacuated. The buildings are closed right now. The civilians do have places to run to. But it's right, you've pointed
out, we have not seen the war on this border, the conflict escalate to the levels that we saw in 2006 when Israel was bombing targets in Beirut and triggering a mass exodus by sea of people out of Lebanon.
That said, it has been deadly in the first month and a half here. At least 100 people killed on this side of the border. The majority of them Hezbollah fighters but also more than a dozen civilians including journalists. So this is something to watch closely right now because there are fears, I think on both sides of the border, that this could ramp up. And Lebanon is not in any position to sustain a war. It is in political crisis.
It hasn't had a president in more than a year. It has an acting prime minister. And it is still reeling from a devastating economic crisis which the World Bank has described as one of the world in the world since the 19th century where last year you had 30 percent unemployment, and from 2019 to 2021, GDP per capita shrunk some 36 percent.
So anecdotally while many Lebanese have a lot of sympathy for Gaza civilians and the tremendous death toll in Gaza as a result of Israel's offensive there, I think there's very little appetite for a full-fledged war. And even this kind of low-level conflict that we're seeing along the border here is having an impact on Lebanon's economy. This is a time when tourists normally come in ahead of the Christmas holidays and we're not seeing that right now because of the fear. If anything, people are leaving Lebanon because they're afraid this could escalate further -- Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Fascinating summary, Ivan. Thank you so much. Stay safe.
Next on GPS, I will talk to a retired IDF colonel about Israel's main war in Gaza. What is its strategy there? We'll find out.
ZAKARIA: French President Emmanuel Macron said that Israeli leaders need to more precisely define their goal because the total destruction of Hamas would mean the war will last 10 years. Vice President Kamala Harris said Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians.
So as Israel resumes its offensive in Gaza, what is its strategy and will it heed America's call to safeguard civilian lives?
I'm joined by Miri Eisin, a retired colonel in the IDF and director of the International Institute for Counterterrorism.
Miri, welcome. So if you were, in response to President Macron, to define Israel's strategy, how would you describe it?
COL. MIRI EISIN (RET), ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Destroying Hamas is very challenging as he said. But what the Israeli strategy is, is we're focusing on their military terror capabilities. That is actually something you can break down in a very specific way. You're going after 16 years of building positions, accumulating weapons, building the subterranean arena, and training these different thousands of terrorists. And that's what Israel is doing with the military capability.
It goes hand in hand with the diplomacy because of the issue of the hostages, you want to try to get to the hostages. I'll remind that that's part of the picture. But it's most definitely focusing on destroying military capabilities and thinking about that next day of what will come instead.
ZAKARIA: So if it is focused on destroying those specific military capabilities, presumably these are tunnels, these are passageways, these are weapons caches, shouldn't there be a greater emphasize on sending in IDF special forces rather than what appears to be a kind of more carpet-bombing approach? In other words, I realized that of course puts IDF forces in harm's way, but isn't that a more precise and tactical way? I mean, this is something the U.S. discovered in Iraq that you have to send special forces in rather than just bombing the entire neighborhood to smithereens.
EISIN: So you could say in that sense, Fareed, that what we were doing in the three weeks of the ground offensives is what you're talking about. But it isn't only special forces. It's a combination of different type of infantry forces because you need to go in its urban area, very densely populated. The first thing that Israel did before we went into the ground operation at all is we were telling civilians, please move. Go to the areas that we defined to save your lives.
You're going into urban areas that are still unhappily filled with civilians and so when I say systematically and slowly, you're going in to make sure that you never target civilians but you do get to the different positions that are built, into apartment buildings, into mosques, into schools, into kindergartens, so you need the forces on the ground to do that. You need a large portion of forces to be able to detect the shafts that go into that subterranean arena.
You have to have forces on the ground. It's a combination of special forces together with the different types of infantry of engineering corps that could go in and blow up those tunnels. And all of this, Fareed, where we all know that there's the challenge that the hostages themselves most likely held mainly inside the tunnels so you have to do everything systematically and slowly.
I know it seems like we're doing it from the air. It's actually very much on the ground. We were still on the ground in this week of the pause which was done to get out our hostages as much as possible. But it's taking it systematically and slowly to save the civilian lives, we need to do so, not just for us, it's the right thing to do, but because at the end of the day, the civilians in the Gaza Strip deserve a much better future than one where Hamas rules.
[10:20:05] ZAKARIA: The reason I think many people think it's been a war mainly from the air is by the IDF's own numbers, the number of bombs it has dropped in northern Gaza far exceeds -- in 45 or 50 days far exceeds what the U.S. dropped in Afghanistan over four, five years. So when you look at Southern Gaza, I'm wondering you've already moved a million people into that area, so now it's twice as densely populated as it was, how will you manage this balance? Is there a different, more precise, more targeted approach or is it going to be a replay of what we saw over the last 45 days?
EISIN: The biggest challenge in that sense is the way that the terrorists themselves, over 16 years, embedded themselves and built themselves all of these different positions within the urban area underneath and in that subterranean arena. So when we look towards the south, and you're absolutely right, it's a way larger amount of people as we told the people to go from the north to the south, and we have been doing that again now, Fareed.
We've been telling people in the area of Khan Younis, specifically, where to go to save their lives. Doesn't make it easy. Doesn't make it pretty. How do you actually change in that sense? You do it carefully, with as much information as you can have. The information is not from the air, per se, you need to go in and to start it.
I don't think in that sense that my biggest challenge for me as an Israeli is that I can't as an Israeli leave the Hamas there in any way. What they built there over 16 years is something that threatens our existence, in the fact that if this type of terror organization could do so, embedded in the population, this is a threat for the entire Middle East. So we will go in, we will try to be as exact as possible.
And I say it not just for myself, but for my kids who are the ones who need to do that kind of targeting we're talking about Israeli soldiers who have to make these decisions, you never target civilians, but the entire Gazan arena is urban warfare and that's the biggest challenge there is. Slow, systematic, careful.
ZAKARIA: Miri Eisin, thank you so much. That gives us a much, much better sense of what is going on.
Next on GPS, we will bring you a vivid picture of the toll of the war is taking on Gaza civilians. I'll talk to a surgeon who has just returned from 43 days in operating rooms in the Gaza Strip.
ZAKARIA: Israel has issued new evacuation orders for southern Gaza similar to the ones they gave in October before the ground invasion of northern Gaza. This has prompted fears that a new brutal campaign may be imminent in the south.
Joining me now is a man who has seen for himself the devastating effects of the war in Gaza on civilians. Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah is a British Palestinian reconstructive surgeon who returned to the U.K. last week from 43 days in the Gaza Strip, operating at the Al Shifa and (INAUDIBLE) Arab Hospitals. He has given evidence to Scotland Yard of what he alleges are war crimes.
Welcome, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah. Let me ask you. You have treated wounded civilians in the wars in Iraq, in Yemen, in Syria, and in the wars in Gaza, I think everyone since the second intifada. I'm wondering how what you're seeing now compares to what you have seen in the past?
Oh, I think we've lost -- no, there we are.
DR. GHASSAN ABU-SITTAH, BRITISH PALESTINIAN SURGEON: For me, the --
ZAKARIA: Please go, sir.
ABU-SITTAH: I can't, the volume is really low. But if I understand your question about the difference between the two experiences, it is really the difference between (INAUDIBLE) I've never ever experienced something of this magnitude. The idea that you would be operating for 43 days and 50 percent of those that we're operating on were children. The sheer number, the magnitude of all of the injuries and all of the killing was like nothing I've ever seen before.
ZAKARIA: And what about the facilities? Were they getting better? Were you finding it was possible to get power, to get, you know, medical supplies, or are things getting worse?
ABU-SITTAH: Every day was worse than the day before. And we were running out of -- initially running run out of antiseptic solutions and especially dressings. But by the end, we'd run out of morphine, we'd run out of ketamine that we used to anesthetize patients that needed dressing changes, was having to do dressing changes to keep wounds clean with nothing but (INAUDIBLE) and no ketamine as the ketamine ran out.
The day that I decided to leave literally that 5:00 morning, we finally ran out of all of the anesthetic medication. We're no longer able to treat any of the patients and in the O.R.
ZAKARIA: do you worry that with, with these operations in southern Gaza, there could actually be a total collapse of the, of the healthcare the hospital system itself?
ABU-SITTAH: The thing about Southern Gaza is it only had between a third and a quarter of all of the beds in the Gaza Strip. And with the doubling of its population, and now the sheer number of wounded, I mean, when I moved to the south, the last two days, I felt completely helpless. There was no way getting inpatients with the operating rooms and social supplies was such a pressure on the operating rooms, and there were so few operating rooms (INAUDIBLE). That's why I decided to leave fast (ph), that because I felt as a surgeon, I'd become redundant, the system had collapsed so much. And so now there's a major loud invitation. It really is just the end of anybody who gets wounded and wounded (INAUDIBLE) starting up lost. Because as things stand, that system is incapable of dealing with the injured.
ZAKARIA: Doctor, I will say that you know that, you were in Al-Shifa Hospital, you were operating there, you know that the Israeli government says that this was a key headquarters for Hamas or a control center for Hamas. Did you see anything there? Do you have any comment on that Israeli allegation?
ABU-SITTAH: First of all, that that does not I mean -- so the whole narrative about Shifa that, you know, distracts from the fact that the whole system was attacked and dismantled before they got to Shifa, they dismantled four pediatric hospital. You know, they had attacked and since Shifa, they've attacked now the hospital in the north (INAUDIBLE). And so, same that the whole -- the health system, more than us on what's being dismantled. When I was at Shifa, I had no stage come across any armed present. I would walk freely as I was trying to find the kind of equipment and the dressings as we were running out of them. I would go around the hospital trying to get what I needed from other departments and (INAUDIBLE) stage that I see an area that looks out of bounds and has been down to the radiology department to get radiologists to comment on some CT scans of my patients. Still, I could not see anything.
Actually, at some stage, I came to the realization because we weren't getting any kind of men that looked like they were fighting men, I came to the realization that most likely there was a parallel military medical system, because even the wounding that we were getting were all civilian, and you weren't getting any of that fighting men that were being (INAUDIBLE).
And so, it was obviously became obvious to me that there was a parallel system that existed in Shifa hospital, even the policemen who were trying to maintain crowd control in front of the emergency department so that the relatives would not completely overrun the emergency department have (INAUDIBLE).
ZAKARIA: Thank you so much, Dr. Abu-Sittah. Pleasure to hear from you. Even though it was a very grim message.
Next on "GPS," how do Israelis and Palestinians feel about each other? Their own governments about Hamas? About prospects for peace? We have some fascinating answers from important surveys, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: So how do the Palestinians feel about Hamas? About Israel? About the prospects for peace? My next guest has the answers to some of the biggest questions about the war. Amaney Jamal is the Dean of Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. She is also a Founder and Principal Investigator of the Arab Barometer a polling organization. Her most recent survey of Gaza is completed on the eve of the Hamas attacks provides a surprising snapshot of people deeply disillusioned with their leaders.
Dean Jamal is with me now to unpack that survey and discuss the broader changes in public opinion across the Middle East. Amaney Jamal, pleasure to have you on.
AMANEY JAMAL, DEAN, PRINCETON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Pleasure is mine. Thank you for having me.
ZAKARIA: So, let me start by asking you a question that I often get asked, what does it mean that the Palestinians elected Hamas? How much weight should you put on that statement?
JAMAL: Well, that that's a really good question, Fareed. I mean, when you think about today, what's going on today? How much weight should we put on the elections in 2006? First of all, I want to sort of draw the attention of everyone that about 50 percent of the population of Gaza has been born since 2006.
ZAKARIA: So, they weren't even born (INAUDIBLE) --
JAMAL: So, they weren't even born. So that's 50 percent who weren't even born. But even when we go back to the day, when we sort of dissect that 2006 election, what we know is that Hamas won 44 percent of the popular vote, so it was never that they have this landslide victory. And we also know from 2006, a lot of that vote was based on combating corruption in the ranks of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas succeeded because it had at a platform of holding the Palestinian Authority accountable for their largest in their corruption, levels of corruption and their excesses in terms of the way they were governing.
ZAKARIA: So, when we look at it today, what did -- what do we know from polling data about the level of support Palestinians had for Hamas before the attacks?
JAMAL: What we know is that in the three to four weeks before October 7th, two-thirds of the Palestinians said they had no trust or little trust in the Hamas governing regime of Gaza. On the West Bank, those low levels of trust are even lower.
ZAKARIA: For the Palestinian part --
JAMAL: For the Palestinians on the West Bank. So, across the West Bank and Gaza, there was very little support, if you may, or very little trust in the Hamas led government. Only about a third of Gazans said they trusted that government. More importantly, 72 percent of Palestinians in Gaza said they felt that there was widespread corruption in the ranks of the Hamas led government.
ZAKARIA: So, what do we know? I mean, I know I'm asking you to speculate now. But about the sort of rally around the flag effect now that the -- that Gaza has faced this massive bombardment from Israel. Is it possible that they're rallying around the Hamas flag? JAMAL: So, when we look historically at our data, what we know Fareed is that when you have these cycles of violence, it plays brilliantly in the hands of Hamas. Hamas ends up benefiting with more people supporting its government, because it's seen as trying to, quote unquote, protect the Palestinian people in the --
ZAKARIA: Resist the (ph) --
JAMAL: Resist the Israeli sort of assaults onto Gaza, and whatnot. So, this has traditionally benefited Hamas. Having said that, this time, we're seeing levels of destruction devastation that we haven't seen in previous cycles, we need to think about how these levels of violence might sort of bode well or not for Hamas. But I think if we take a more dynamic also and multi sort of contextual -- a multifaceted perspective on what's going on, I think support for Hamas is also going to be linked to what happens with support for the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank.
So, if the Palestinian Authority continues to be seen as de- legitimated or lacking legitimacy, and lacking credibility, and seen as a governing authority that is also corrupt and lacks popularity, and has been unable to move the peace process forward, then this might mean that citizens will still sort of rally around Hamas, because there isn't an obvious governing authority to rally around.
ZAKARIA: You do polling or in the whole region. So, what -- another question that I think a lot of people might have is the Abraham Accords, where Israel makes peace with it, some of the Gulf Arabs, and Morocco, was premised on the idea that the Arab street says it cares about the Palestinian issue, but they really don't, and that these governments could make a deal with Israel without worrying too much that they will be offending the their street, their population. What does your polling tell you?
JAMAL: So, our polling tells us that this has never been substantiated across time, consistently, throughout our polling, the issue of Palestine resonates. Well, it's an extremely important high priority issue among populations across the Arab world. I do believe maybe among the leaderships, among the governments, there was a desire to move on, beyond the Palestinian issue, some believing that the policies issue was holding them up. As you know, regional dynamics have shifted more of the countries, including Israel, along with Arab countries sort of view Iran as a threat, so that people would like to sort of maybe have alliances with Israel to sort of protect against the Iranian access.
And those leaders also needing to move beyond the Palestinian issue to form those alliances. So --
ZAKARIA: But it's a state issue. It's not -- it's not the perspective of society.
JAMAL: No, this is a state issue Fareed, not the perspective of society.
ZAKARIA: In a post, yes, after this vile, after the war, whenever that is, what do you think we'll see in terms of Palestinian public opinion in Gaza particularly?
JAMAL: So, I really do believe, Fareed, it's going to depend on what happens now. You know, violence breeds violence. And if violence were going to solve this conflict, it would have been solved by now. So, my worry is that this, this violence is going to set a whole new generation in the future to sort of believe that in violence as a discourse.
If we're able to emerge from this crisis, where, where, where there's some sort of agreement that lets say, you know, Hamas emerges weakened or agrees to some sort of demilitarized sort of status quo. This might allow the Palestinian Authority plays a much more meaningful and impactful role in the transition.
But if the discourse is we've had this destruction in Gaza, Hamas might remain viable, and there needs to be just another governing authority to govern the citizens of Gaza. With no hope for peace or for statehood, or better economic or political future, I think we're going to see more of the same, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Pleasure to have you on. Thank you, so much.
JAMAL: Pleasure is mine. Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," I'll unpack the life and legacy of Henry Kissinger with Niall Ferguson, the statesman's official biography.
ZAKARIA: Few public figures in the United States have been so lauded and so loathed as Henry Kissinger. Joining me to discuss this complex legacy is the renowned historian Niall Ferguson. Niall is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University, he spent nearly two decades researching the statesman's life. His biography entitled, "Kissinger, The Idealist," spans roughly 1,000 pages, and that's just Volume One.
Welcome, Niall. Let me ask you, you've seen social media, you've seen some of the articles. And the, you know, there is an enormous amount of animosity and hostility surrounding Kissinger, and an often very personal, personally calling him a war criminal. I wanted to ask you just what is your first, what is your reaction to that kind of charge?
NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR: Well, my reaction to much of it is revulsion, frankly, an illness, the bottom is a good rule, but it hasn't held back the haters. Of course, Henry Kissinger never expected to win a popularity contest on Twitter. Indeed, from his earliest times, he understood that to pursue a successful foreign policy, a statesman was almost bound to be unpopular.
So, I don't think it would surprise him that there's been a loss of vituperation. To me as an historian, it's just frustrating, because it misses some very fundamental and important points about the nature of foreign policy, for example, that most choices are between evils, and you just have to try and choose the lesser evil.
ZAKARIA: So, give me let's talk specifics. Take the bombing of Cambodia, a secret bombing tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of Cambodians killed, and the critics would charge all this, you know, a terrible tragedy for nothing, because it was sort of meant to frighten the North Vietnamese into concessions, which they never really made.
FERGUSON: Well, a couple of points about the Cambodia controversy. The first is that the most influential book on that subject is William Shawcross' sideshow. But William Shawcross has since largely repudiated that book and concedes that it exaggerated significantly the death toll to Cambodian civilians. So that's a little bit of a problem for the Twitterati. The second point is to remember what the objective was not just of bombing Cambodia, but later sending U.S. troops into Cambodia, which in fact, caused even more controversy.
The North Vietnamese were the ones who advise violated the neutrality of Cambodia, and they were using it to funnel troops and weapons into their war against South Vietnam.
So, there were strong military arguments for attacking the North Vietnamese bases in certain parts of Cambodia that were crucial to their war effort. This didn't really particularly emanate from Kissinger, it really came from the Department of Defense and (INAUDIBLE) came from the U.S. military, in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon was president, not Henry Kissinger when these decisions were taken.
So, I think that the second point I'd make is that most of the critics don't have the faintest understanding of the conflict in Indochina, and in particular of the malignant role that North Vietnam has played in violating neutrality, not only of Cambodia, but also of Laos.
ZAKARIA: What about Bangladesh? This is the one I have the most difficulty with, which is Kissinger wholeheartedly backs up Pakistan as it, you know, really engaged in a pretty brutal campaign. In this case, we do know hundreds of thousands were killed. And again, unsuccessful because East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh, the attempt by Pakistan that is West Pakistan to continue to control it, didn't work. And yet, you know, you have this moral abomination on your hands. What do you make of that?
FERGUSON: Gary Vassal (ph) is an excellent book on this, which is highly critical, channeling, really the arguments of State Department personnel who felt strongly engaged in the issue. But Kissinger's point, all along was there's a hierarchy of priorities. What were the strategic priorities of the Nixon administration role? The first was to get out of Vietnam. The second was to improve relations with the Soviet Union to avoid a kind of third world war, which, after all, had come quite, quite close in 1962. And thirdly, to open to China and that opening to China is generally regarded as Henry Kissinger's most brilliant strategic move.
Well, there was no easy way of getting communications to Beijing, particularly at the height of the Cultural Revolution. And it turned out that the key channel that the Chinese were prepared to trust, they tried many, but that was the one that Chinese trusted was Pakistan.
There's another dimension to this, which would -- was Richard Nixon's quite strong aversion to the Indian leader Indira Gandhi, but I don't think that was crucial in Kissinger's mind. For Kissinger ultimately you had to sacrifice lesser pieces on the board in pursuit of ultimate victory in the chess game. And I think it's important for you to see that that was very much the way Henry Kissinger thought about diplomacy as an elaborate game of chess. There were really two big players, the United States and the Soviet Union. And tragically, a country, like Bangladesh, as it became was just a relatively small part.
Now, this is very hard for the critics to accept because most of them have never sat in the situation room, the most difficult decision most critics of Henry Kissinger ever have taken as a tenure decision that a history department. But they find it very hard to realize that when you are making decisions at the highest level of foreign policy, there have to be -- there has to be a hierarchy of priorities. That is, by the way, just as true today, as it was back in the 1970s.
The odd thing to me Fareed, is that there's a double standard for some reason, and one can guess about why Henry Kissinger has been subjected for 50 years to a much tougher standard of moral judgment than other national security advisors and secretaries of state. And this is a puzzling phenomenon because it's not as if he's the only secretary of state or national security adviser who ever had to turn a blind eye (INAUDIBLE) --
ZAKARIA: Niall we're (INAUDIBLE).
FERGUSON: -- (INAUDIBLE).
ZAKARIA: We're flat out of time, we will have you on again as we always do. Thank you for that.
And thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.