Mideast Violence on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS
CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with Richard Haass PhD, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department of State (George W. Bush Administration), Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy National Security Advisor on Iraq and Afghanistan (George W. Bush Administration), Rashid Kalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and Director of the National Security Program at the New America Foundation. The panel discussed Iraq as the second deadliest nation in the world, what’s behind the violence, and who is to blame.
Additionally, David Agus, MD, author of A Short Guide to a Long Life (January 2014) talked with Fareed about how to live longer. Josef Joffe, author of The Myth of America’s Decline (December 2013) discussed whether America’s best days are behind it, or ahead.
A full transcript and videos of the interviews are available after the jump.
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.
We’ll start today’s show with some big questions. Is Al-Qaeda back? Is Iraq collapsing? We have a very sharp panel to talk about the violence in the Middle East and what is fueling it.
Also, have you made your New Year resolutions to stay healthy? Then you’ll want to listen to David Agus, one of the world’s most prominent doctors and medical researchers, who has boiled it down to some simple rules for the new year.
Next, everyone is talking about American’s decline in the Middle East vis-a-vis China, but a major European intellectual says don’t believe any of it.
And another installment of “How to Ruin Your Economy in Five Easy Steps.” Last time, Venezuela ticked off all the boxes, but we found another country that is following the same sad path.
Finally, from head-to-toe covering including the eyes to no covering at all. What is appropriate for the modern Muslim woman. I’ll share a surprising survey.
But, first, here’s my take: Here’s a startling statistic: more than 8,000 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks in 2013. That makes it the second most violent country in the world, after its neighbor Syria.
As violence has spread and militants have gained ground in several Middle Eastern countries, people have been wondering how much this has to do with America, the Obama administration and its lack of an active intervention in the region.
The Wall Street Journal and a Commentary magazine, for example, have both argued this past week that the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq to zero is directly responsible for the renewed violence in that country.
They and others have also argued that because the Obama administration stayed out of Syria, things there have spiraled downward.
Let me suggest that the single greatest burden for the violence and tensions across the Arab world right now lies with a president, though not President Obama, and it lies with an American foreign policy that was not too passive but rather too active and interventionist in the Middle East.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq triggered what has become a regional religious war in the Middle East. Let me explain how, specifically.
From March through June of 2003, in the first months of the occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration made a series of catastrophic decisions.
It authorized the disbanding of the Iraqi army and signed onto a policy of deBaathification, which meant that anyone in Iraq who had been a member of the top four levels of the Baath Party, the ruling party under Saddam Hussein, would be barred from holding any government job.
This meant that tens of thousands of bureaucrats, school teachers, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, almost all of whom were Sunni, were thrown out of work, angry, dispossessed, and many of them armed.
This in turn meant the collapse of the Iraqi state and of political order, but it also meant the rise of a sectarian struggle that persists to this day.
The Bush administration went to war in Iraq to spread democracy. But in fact it spread sectarianism, displacing the Sunni elite who had long ruled the country and replacing it with hardline Shia religious parties that used their new found power to repress the Sunnis just as they had been repressed.
Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq has been utterly unwilling to share power with the Sunnis, who comprise about 20 percent of Iraq, and that has driven them into opposition, extremism, and terrorism. During the surge, he made several promises to change his ways, but over the last few years has reneged on every one of them.
This sectarian power struggle is the origins of the civil war that has been ongoing in Iraq for 11 years. It is the cancer that has spread beyond Iraq into other countries from Syria to Lebanon.
The Bush administration seemed to have made this massive strategic error almost unthinkingly. There is a report that a few months before the invasion, President Bush met with three Iraqi exiles and appeared unaware that Iraq contained within it Sunnis and Shias.
An Arab leader confirmed to me that in his meetings with the president, it was clear that Bush did not even understand that there was a difference between the two sects.
Others in the administration, better informed, were convinced that the Shia would be pluralists and democrats. Those of us who warned of these dangers at the time were dismissed as pessimists.
So if we’re trying to understand why we see a Sunni-Shia battle unfolding across the Middle East, keep in mind that the primary cause is not that the Obama administration did not intervene in Syria. It’s because the Bush administration did in Iraq.
Let’s get started.
You’ve heard my take on what’s behind the turmoil in the Middle East. Now, let’s turn to a panel of experts to get their take.
Rashid Khalidi is a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, the author of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”
Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2001 to ’03, as the Iraq war was being planned and for its start.
From 2004 to 2007, Meghan O’Sullivan was deputy national security advisor at the White House for Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s now a professor at the Kennedy School at Harvard.
And Peter Bergen, of course, is CNN’s National Security Analyst and the director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Rashid, when you look at all this turmoil brewing in the Middle East, what do you see as the cause?
RASHID KHALIDI, AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF MODERN ARAB STUDIES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, there are many causes, but one cause is that you have some sectarian issues that are working themselves out.
Another cause is a whole generation or so of American policies that I think exacerbated things.
A third cause is American alliances with countries that have their own dogs in some of these fights, Saudi Arabia, Israel, others.
Each of these, I think, exacerbates a set of problems.
ZAKARIA: How do you see it, Richard.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: A big part of the cause, it comes from within Middle East itself. These are societies that have never really dealt with — successfully with modernity.
You’ve never had a clear divide between the religious and the secular. People confuse democracy and majoritarianism. There’s not a real sense of minority rights or places in these societies. So all sorts of divides also between governments and individuals.
So those issues have never been sort out. It’s, in some ways, the least successful part of the world.
And, then, in many ways, I agree, American foreign policy has exacerbated things by removing centers of authority, in many cases, unattractive, but still …
HAASS: Centers of authority and not doing things that were needed to put something better or at least enduring in its place.
So we say Assad must go, put pressure on him, but then virtually nothing happens to see that he goes, much less to replace him with something better.
Gadhafi must go, then what? No boots on the ground.
HAASS: I’m not saying we should have done boots on the ground, but before the United States starts advocating or pushing for regime change, be it Iraq or Libya or Syria, we need to be sure that we have something we think that’s better to go in its place and we are prepared to do the expensive process of putting there.
If not, we had better start thinking twice before we make regime change the default option for American foreign policy.
ZAKARIA: It’s seems to me, Meghan, that what Richard is describing, you know, is that there was a settled order in the Middle East. It may have been an unjust one and, in many of those cases, the Shia were persecuted.
And one of the things that Iraq unlocked was this — you know, what Vali Nasr calls the revival of the Shia. And I remember reading his book, which was I think published in the middle of the Iraq war.
And in it he said, “All the wars of the Middle East are now going to be wars within Islam on these sectarian lines” and it turned out to be quite prescient.
MEGHAN O’SULLIVAN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, PROFESSOR, KENNEDY SCHOOL, HARVARD: I think Vali was right on that point and what we saw is not only Shia majorities coming to power, but we really saw kind of the upending of the whole orders in the Middle East.
And we’re still seeing that play out where you have minority regimes governing majority populations from another sect.
ZAKARIA: Like Assad …
O’SULLIVAN: Like Assad …
ZAKARIA: In Syria.
O’SULLIVAN: And, in some ways, Syria is the exact mirror opposite of Iraq where you had a Sunni minority governing a Shia majority.
So I agree that’s there’s been an upending, but I think it’s too easy to think that that calm stability, which we fondly look back on in some cases, would have persisted in the absence of what happened over the last decade.
As both our guests here have already intimated, sectarianism didn’t come about after 2003 and the removal of Saddam. Certainly, as someone who spent the better part of two years in Iraq, I’ll be the first to admit that there were things that we did that inadvertently really did increase sectarianism.
But I would say that nothing that has happened from that point to where we are today was inevitable.
ZAKARIA: Peter, what do you think.
PETER BERGEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, clearly, Prime Minister Maliki has added to the kind of tensions in Iraq by, you know, excluding Sunni officials.
And, of course, then you have Al-Qaeda coming in now taking parts of Fallujah. You know, one of the reasons this is not an inevitable situation is you might see Sunni tribes in Fallujah rising up against Al-Qaeda again.
You might see, as we’ve seen, some of the other Syrian rebel groups attack Al-Qaeda groups in Syria and so, you know, they — encoded in their DNA as they tend to make the same set of mistakes which is they try impose Taliban-style rule on a population, that doesn’t go down very well and people rise up against them or wait to be liberated by some outside force.
ZAKARIA: You talked about the mistakes that were — may have been made inadvertently, but I know that you also feel that one mistake the Obama administration made in Iraq was going down to zero.
Do you really think that 5,000 American troops would have been able to materially affect the — you know, what appears to have happened, in my sense, is the Shia majority simply have not shared power with the Sunni minority which has radicalized them and made them more extreme and made them now finally resort to a kind of brutal terrorism?
Would 5,000 American troops have changed that?
O’SULLIVAN: Certainly, I think it’s too simplistic to say had the Obama administration left a residual force in Iraq, 5,000 or 10 or whatever, that things would be dramatically different today.
But I would say that there are at least two ways in which the Obama administration might have had a different policy that could have materially affected the outcome.
The first is if they had left a residual force, it would have been able to train, continue to work with the Iraqi security forces which have just shown themselves not to be up to combating the Al-Qaeda infiltrants from the Syrian border.
And, secondly, and this is the part that I think most people really underestimate, is the fact that U.S. presence was sort of a corrective compass on Iraqi politics.
For the last — since 2003, Iraqi politics were a competition between the traditional Arab political culture and the new institutions that Iraqis and Americans were trying to bring in. And the fact …
ZAKARIA: Except that we supported Maliki who has turned out to be a hardline Shia thug. In fact, we supported him even though he didn’t win the last election with a majority.
O’SULLVIAN: We supported him right, but after we removed the troops, he actually, and the rest of the Iraqi population, really looked at this and said well, America isn’t really there to buttress these new institutions against the resurgent Arab political culture.
And Maliki took that as a signal that he actually could have his way and that there wouldn’t be as much of a push-back on him.
And then what we see really happening in the last week, is the fact that Al-Qaeda has learned to be very good at exploiting social and political tensions in Iraq. And you see these two things coming together in the real and very serious problems that have manifested themselves in Anbar.
ZAKARIA: All right, when we come back, we’re going to talk about what the Obama administration could do to respond to all this regional stuff. And, of course, we’re going to talk a little bit about Bob Gates’ memoirs though none of us have read.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Rashid Khalidi, Richard Haas, Meghan O’Sullivan and Peter Bergen talking about the Middle East.
Rashid, when we talk about all this turmoil going on in the Middle East and, you know, almost everywhere it seems to have taken on a sectarian quality, sect against sect.
You know, this brings this — this old topic which is are these ancient hatreds or are they modern politicians who are exploiting these divides. The Shia-Sunni divide goes back to the 7th century. Is that what, you know, is at the root here?
KHALIDI: No. Very simply, no. You had people converting from Shi’ism to Sunnism in Iraq in the early 20th century. You had intermarriage all over Iraq, all over Lebanon between Sunnis and Shia.
I challenge anybody to find an instance from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century where sectarianism is the primary divide in any one of these societies where Sunnis and Shia live together.
ZAKARIA: So what turns it on over the …
KHALIDI: One of the things that turns it own is the creation of sectarian structures by the colonial powers, the French, in particular in Lebanon and in Syria and the British in Iraq, played a sectarian game.
We then came in with our, in my view, somewhat limited understanding of these things and in Iraq dismantled the awful structure that the Ba’ath had created. But we also dismantled a state that had been built up since Ottoman times.
And that is, to my way of thinking, one of the serious problems that we’re facing all over this region, in Libya, I’m afraid increasingly in Syria and certainly in Iraq.
ZAKARIA: When once looks at this from an American foreign policy point of view, what is also striking is if our real enemy are the Sunni extremists, militants/Al-Qaeda, their biggest enemy is also Iran.
So we, in a very odd way, are — you know, we have the same enemy as Iran, but, of course, we also — Iran is also our enemy so how do we make sense of this?
HAASS: One of the rules of the Middle East is the enemy of your enemy can still be your enemy.
We proved that well during the Iran-Iraq war. And so simply because you do have common enemies doesn’t mean you’re necessarily aligned.
I think now though, look we are where we are now in the Middle East and we’re I’m afraid still in the early phase of what could be a generation long struggle. It’s hard for me to exaggerate how pessimistic I am about it.
I think we have to basically acknowledge we can’t remake these societies anytime soon or quickly. We’re going to have to do some counter-terrorism things ourselves, find limited partners with governments where we can, with tribesmen in some cases where we can.
The good news is that we’re a little bit less dependent on the region in terms of energy. We’ve built a little bit of our cushion.
But for the next phase of history, we’ve entered essentially a post-American era where our ability to be the dominant …
ZAKARIA: Nice phrase.
HAASS: Yes. Someone should write a book about it.
But it’s true and it’s not going to be good. It’s not going to be good for the people in the region. It’s not going to be good for ourselves. It’s not going to be good for the world because we can’t do away with the ability of the Middle East, largely for worse, to have real repercussions beyond the geographical confines.
ZAKARIA: Do you think Iraq could unravel because, you know, it feels as though what’s happening now, as Richard was saying, it only seems to have a downward trajectory.
O’SULLIVAN: I think that the possibility is real and we’re seeing the potential reemergence of two very familiar and ominous patterns and we see them playing out in Anbar even over the last week.
One is the exclusion of the Sunnis from the political process. You can’t have a multiethic, multisectarian society governed by one group and as long as politics are organized along those realms.
So the second thing that is ominous is really this idea that Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda affiliates would have a toe-hold, a safe haven in Anbar. That was the beginning of the civil war in Iraq in a sense that it was from those strongholds that Al-Qaeda in Iraq was able to actually execute a wide number of attacks on Shia civilians.
ZAKARIA: So give us, Peter — listen to all of this, give us a sense of what is the state of Al-Qaeda. How much should we worry about it?
BERGEN: Well, they control more territory in the Middle East than they have in their 25-year history and there an Arab organization. They care about the Arab world and its close …
ZAKARIA: And Afghanistan was always a camp …
BERGEN: For them, that was — yes it was a training camp in a sense.
So that is worrisome. You know, the counterbalance against that, we’ve seen perhaps a handful of American citizens go to fight in Syria. It hasn’t attracted a lot of sort of jihadi militants from the United States. It has attracted, you know, hundreds or — over a thousand from Europe.
European governments are rightly concerned, the British, all the Scandinavian countries, the French. You can drive from Paris to Damascus. It’s a pretty easy place.
And it’s been incredibly attractive, much more attractive than Iraq, as a sort of jihad because Assad is almost the prefect villain. He’s an apostate because he’s secular. He’s a heretic because he’s an Alawite. He’s a totalitarian dictator inflicting a totalitarian war on the Sunni population.
So he’s been very attractive as someone to go and fight. So, you know, there’s good news and bad news. I mean, you know, one of the reasons the Obama administration didn’t intervene in Syria was the two most effective forces were Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah who were fighting each other so why get in that mess.
So from a — if you look at it from a strictly realist perspective, we may not have much to worry here. If you look at it from a more global perspective, it’s obviously a very bad kind of development.
ZAKARIA: Finally though in terms of the length of this, is this going to be a forest fire that just burns and burns?
KHALIDI: I think that if we continue to allow, in may case, our allies, countries like Saudi Arabia, which have a sectarian agenda and our obsession with Iran to dictate policy or affect policy to the extent to which they have or letting the Israelis calling the shots sometimes, these things really are going to be harmful.
The United States has to understand that it has absolutely no dog in a sectarian fight. It helped create this, but it’s a problem that’s beyond us. And we cannot control or determine outcomes in this region.
And I agree with Peter, they’re very — potentially very dangerous not just for the region, but for the world.
ZAKARIA: Final, final thought, Bob Gates. The man had a reputation for complete discretion and then he writes this memoir that does not seem the sole of discretion.
What was your big takeaway? You’ve worked with him.
HAASS: Good friend. He clearly feels more comfortable in the state of Washington than he does in the District of Columbia.
Look, this is someone whose worked for seven or eight presidents and we’ve talked about it and he clearly had some things he felt he needed to say. And I think so much of the attention’s been on the personal stuff, what he says about this or that figure.
I’ve not had a chance to digest the 600 pages. What Bob really wanted to write was a book about how Washington has changed, how policy-making in many ways has become more difficult, how the quality of foreign policy is suffering as a result. And I hope that doesn’t get lost, if you will, in the near-term look at the sensational details.
ZAKARIA: Which of the sensational details surprised you the most?
HAASS: Why don’t you ask somebody else that question?
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, trying to preserve his friendship.
Meghan O’Sullivan, Peter Bergen, Rashid Khalidi, thank you.
Up next, What in the World. Why some in Argentina are proposing they move their capital city away from Buenos Aries? I will explain.
ZAKARIA: Now for our What in the World segment. I was struck by a strange proposal this week. A top Argentine leader says his country should move the national capital from Buenos Aires in the east, facing the Atlantic, to a new city up in the north, closer to the Pacific.
This would be an immense change, akin to Brazil moving the capital to Brasilia. Now I like Buenos Aires and I would hate to see it abandoned, but the idea that Argentina needs some shaking up is right on.
A few weeks ago, we ran a report titled, “How To Ruin Your Economy.” In five easy steps, it showed how a country could turn itself into a basket case by bad decisions.
The segment was about Venezuela, but Argentina is a worthy runner-up. It starts out much stronger than Venezuela. Remember, Argentina is part of the G-20, the group of 20 big economies. The average Argentine earns more than the average Indian and Chinese combined. But all these facts mask a troubling trend.
Let’s see how it fared on our five-point test. First, attacking big business. The Argentine government began 2014 by forcing the country’s supermarkets to fix prices for 200 products.
So, basically, the price of milk or flour stays the same for the consumer, even if demand goes up, inflation rises or if the supplier has to pay more for it. It defies basic economics.
Step two, the official statistics bureau says prices rise by about 10 percent annually, but that’s a total fabrication. In reality, inflation in Argentina runs around 25 percent a year. A basket of goods that cost $100 in January would cost $125 in December.
Argentina’s blatant fudging of official data has gotten so bad that the International Monetary Fund publicly warned Buenos Aires to start telling the truth or face expulsion.
Now, what does hyperinflation usually do? It hurts your currency. And that’s step three. Argentines have been rushing to buy U.S. dollars as a safer currency to park their money.
In response, the government announced limits on the number of dollars you can buy. The result? A rampant black market. While one dollar officially buys you 6.6 Argentine pesos, you can actually get almost double that rate on the street, about 10.8 pesos. The effect is a corrupt economy, suffering businesses, and a loss of foreign investment.
Argentina is ticking off a fourth box from the Venezuelan playbook as well, subsidies. According to Merco Press, a regional news agency, Argentina’s total bill on subsidies like energy for the first half of 2013 rose by 62 percent from the previous year.
This isn’t the only form of government support. According to the World Bank, Argentina is the one of the world’s most protectionist countries, meaning that it imposes the most restrictions on global trade, shielding its favored sectors.
Now that brings us to our final category, becoming a dictatorship. Argentina, is of course, a democracy, but President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has displayed worrying symptoms.
Between her and her late husband, the Kirchners have now ruled Argentina for a decade. In recent months, Cristina Fernandez has clamped down on the media, floated rumors of amending the constitution to run for a third term.
She’s building a cult of personality, fashioning herself after Evita, the populist widow of the former president Peron made famous on stage and screen.
Argentina’s attempt to mirror a failed state like Venezuela tells a larger story. Look at this map of Latin America from a great article in “The Wall Street Journal” this week. On the left in green you have the countries that are facing the Pacific. Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia are among the countries opening up their economies to great success. On the right in red you see the opposite. Countries that face the Atlantic, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, are closing their economies and resorting to populism. The countries in green are projected to grow nearly twice as fast in 2014 as the countries in red. Perhaps changing Argentina’s capital to be closer to the countries in green, closer to the Pacific, is not such a bad idea after all. Up next, a conversation with one of the world’s top doctors and cancer experts. He has a great list of tips on how to get the new year started right.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I’m Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. West Virginia’s water crisis may continue for several more days. Officials say tests must be completed to determine if a chemical leak is still contaminating the water in nine of the state’s counties. In the meantime the federal government is shipping in truckloads of bottled water for the 300,000 residents who are unable to use tap water for washing hands, brushing teeth or bathing. Former NBA player Charles Smith is speaking out about the controversial trip he made with Dennis Rodman to North Korea. In an exclusive interview with CNN this morning, Smith defended both the visit and Rodman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES SMITH, FORMER NBA PLAYER: What Dennis wants is he wants to — he has a deep desire to do something good in a big way for his family, his kids, and so his kids can be proud of him. And I felt for him. I felt for him on this trip because I saw the pressure mount, I saw him change and it was very difficult keeping him and everyone together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Smith says he believes the mission of using basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange was accomplished during his North Korea visit. Those are your top stories. “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter is at the top of the hour. Now back to “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
ZAKARIA: The best way to tackle cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all these other diseases that plague the modern world is prevention. So says my next guest who has a list of ways to ward off these dangerous illnesses. Perfect for your new year’s resolutions. David Agus is one of the world’s leading cancer specialists, he is the author of a new book “A Short Guide to a Long Life.” He was Steve Jobs’ doctor, among other things. David joins me.
DAVID AGUS, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UNIV. OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: So, what struck me about this is you really feel strongly about this whole idea that if you just take some simple preventative tasks, you can reduce the possibility of many of these very bad diseases, heart attacks, even cancer, so give us like your three or four rules for how to reduce your likelihood of getting cancer and a heart attack.
AGUS: So, first of all, it’s not me and my belief. These are the data. All I’m doing is trying to put the data in a format that people can understand.
ZAKARIA: And the data of these are double blind studies. You’re very rigorous about that. You are not just taking one study.
AGUS: No, these are the real data that at certain point, it needs to become normative behavior. Right? When data hits a critical mass that it’s incontrovertible what the conclusion is we need to act on them as a society. So the first is something very simple. And it’s called movement over time. In 1953 in the British Transit Authority there were 26,000 workers. Half were the bus drivers that sat 90 percent of the day and half the ticket takers that walked up and down these double-decker buses. They weighed the same, smoked the same and lived in the same environment, yet dramatically lower heart disease and cancer in the ticket takers.
ZAKARIA: The guys who were walking up and down.
AGUS: Walking up and down. But we’ve become a society of bus drivers, of sitters, right? The more important you are in the company the closer your parking space is to your office. The richer you are …
ZAKARIA: So, I – you know, I know you have these views. And so, I think to myself, OK, I try to exercise mostly every day, probably about 30 to 40 minutes. You say that’s not enough. That if you’re sitting around the rest of the day it’s like you’re smoking cigarettes.
AGUS: Exactly. Sitting for five hours …
ZAKARIA: What are we supposed to do?
AGUS: Well, you’re supposed to get up every half hour and walk for four or five minutes.
ZAKARIA: Just four or five minutes?
AGUS: Four or five minutes. That’s it. Your body was designed to move. Your lymphatics that control your immune system have no muscle. So, it’s the rhythmic contractions of the muscles in your legs when you walk that actually make your body work.
ZAKARIA: OK. Get off your X.
AGUS: The second preventative strategy is, you know, a very simple one. Is that 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said you take the bark of the willow tree, and chew it and pain and fever go away. And this is a compound that if you take it every day over the age of 40 you reduce the death rate of cancer by 37 percent. It’s called a baby aspirin. Baby aspirin blocks inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of cancer, heart disease and neurocognitive decline. Dramatic data, we as a society don’t act on it. If everybody over the age of 40 took a baby aspirin we’ve had a dramatic effect on life expectancy in this country, but we don’t do anything about it.
ZAKARIA: You also like statins.
AGUS: I like statins also, because statins have an anti-cancer effect and they can delay heart attack and stroke, even in people with a normal cholesterol. So very important that we think in those terms and that we actually think preventatively there. And I say it out of weakness, not strength. Now, you alluded to the fact that I was involved in Steve Jobs’ care. I know that most people with advanced cancer will die of the disease and I have to look at someone in the eye a couple of times a week and say I’ve got no more drugs for your cancer. I don’t want to do that anymore. So, what we have here is a list of 65 rules of things to do and not to do that can prevent disease that are based on data.
ZAKARIA: Now, so you’ve — you say, you know, aspirin, statin, movement, but it’s interesting, aspirin and statin are really the only as far as I could tell, medicine-like things that you recommend. For the most part you look at this whole industry of vitamins and supplements and you think it’s all bogus?
AGUS: I don’t think it’s all bogus. I know it’s all bogus. The data have shown and the biggest study came out several weeks ago, the data have shown in now over 65 separate studies there has yet to ever be a benefit in a normal individual with vitamins or supplements. Ever. Yet, if a man takes vitamin E, he has a higher rate of prostate cancer. If smoker or former smokers take beta carotene and vitamin A, the significantly higher rate of lung cancer or death. If a woman takes high dose of vitamin D increased bone fracture rate. So I look at those data, significant harm potentially. No benefit clearly, yet we spend more …
ZAKARIA: The kids shouldn’t have these gummy bear vitamins?
AGUS: I’ve never seen a kid with scurvy or rickets or beriberi. No, don’t take gummy bear vitamins. Eat real food. It’s the key.
ZAKARIA: You are against juicing. Explain why. This is fascinating because a lot of people think they’re being very healthy by having, you know, something in the morning.
AGUS: But we’re a society of shortcuts. Right, you get a juice, I’m going to get all my vegetables and my nutrients, because it’s too hard to eat fruits and vegetables. So in 1746 James Lennis (ph), head of the British Royal Navy, and he has limes on his ship. And back then you were at sea for months at a time and you would get scurvy. They won the battle at Trafalgar. At the end of it, because his soldiers didn’t get scurvy, at the end of it, he said I happened to sell the extracted limes to cure scurvy and it didn’t work.
ZAKARIA: So, they had been eating limes on the ship, but then he sells the juice of the limes and it doesn’t work.
AGUS: Yes, totally different. As soon as you squeeze it or put it in a blender it oxidizes and degrades right away to byproducts. And basically, all you’re getting is a big bowl of sugar. You’re getting something with very high glycemic index. Eat the real food. Fruits and vegetables as good as you can get, juicing no benefit at all. It’s just lots of sugar.
ZAKARIA: Wow. When you talked about inflammation, I noticed, this is another piece that you focus on a lot, which is that if the body gets inflammations, if it gets the flu, this is not just — even if you get over the flu, this has a long-term negative effect.
AGUS: And again, that’s one of the things we have to think about in terms of public policies. That if you got the flu, you skip the flu shot, you would survive most likely, although tens of thousands of people die. A decade from now because of having the flu and the inflammation your rate of heart disease and cancer are elevated. And so, we as a society say, you’re welcome to get the flu shot or not, you get heart disease and cancer we will pay for it.
ZAKARIA: What do you think is — you — one of the things we’ve talked about is, you’ve said to me that if, you know, you know all these people who are exposed to asbestos are going to get cancer, we could easily — if by putting them on a prevention program, we could actually make sure many of them don’t develop cancer. Have them take aspirin, have them take statins. Why don’t we do that?
AGUS: Well, I think, you know, there’s a liability issue here and whether that the Fukushima in Japan, whether that’s the asbestos here in the United States, once you start to say, listen, you have been exposed to something that could cause a problem and I may have exposed you, you put yourself up for liability. And so we need to change that.
ZAKARIA: But ironically as a result of that you’re not actually giving people the preventive …
AGUS: No question about it. But, you know, the penetrance of getting cancer with asbestos exposure is probably going to be ten, 20 or 30 percent. So, 70 percent of people you wouldn’t have to pay anything. And so, it’s a financial game. And we’ve got to change that. We need to change – and for the last decade our country has been about health care finance. All of the talk in Washington. We need to change it back to health.
ZAKARIA: You were advising the Japanese government, including Prime Minister Abe on the Fukushima business. What’s the lesson you drew from that?
AGUS: Well, I mean the lesson is, we know what happened and that we as a society have to learn from it. You know, one of the problems is, we don’t know who was exposed and to how much. We don’t have a blood test for radiation exposure. So one of the things we have to start to develop is a triage tool. We know dirty bombs will happen in the world. Horrible to say, but it will happen. And so we need to learn from every experience we have and get better.
ZAKARIA: So when I listen to all these rules, and we’ve got how many of them? 60 something of them, the thing, of course, I think to myself is, how many of these do you actually follow?
AGUS: Well, listen, I do as much as I can. And the key is moderation. The good is, I’m in charge of my health, I’m making the conscious decision of what I want to do. And so, I really believe health will change from each of us, it will change from the ground up, not the top down. We’re in charge of ourselves.
ZAKARIA: And the key is, do it now, do it regularly, don’t wait for something to …
AGUS: No question about it. We’re reactive field medicine. But at the same time, I want people to think about tomorrow, not just today.
ZAKARIA: David, pleasure to have you on.
AGUS: Great. Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Up next, the case for being bullish about the United States. My guest is not even an American. He is a well-known European thinker and he says America is going to stay number one for a long time. We’ll be right back.
ZAKARIA: America is in grave decline say the worriers. China is on our heels. Now, it’s hardly the first time such concerns have been voiced, says my next guest. In 1957, there was the Sputnik scare. The doubters were certain the U.S. had lost the space race and thus the entire Cold war. In the ’60s and ’70s, there was Vietnam, later in the ’70s came the economic malaise of Jimmy Carter and then, of course, the Japanese companies that were buying up New York’s Rockefeller Center and Swords (ph) of California. Once again, many saw the U.S. as having lost to a rival. But none of those came to pass as Joseph Joffe points out in his new book “The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half Century of False Prophecies.” Joffe is the publisher and editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. He’s currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. So, why is he so bullish on America? Listen in.
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ZAKARIA: What to you are the key indicators of its strength and success? Because you know, Americans look at Washington and they can’t quite imagine success?
JOSEPH JOFFE, AUTHOR, “THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S DECLINE”: Yeah. Well, I deliberately did not look at the kind of stuff we do in day-to-day journalism, which is, you know, the blockade in Congress, polarization of parties, stalemate, et cetera. I mean these kind of pathologies are part of daily life in politics in other countries too. What I looked at two kinds of factors. One was possessions, asset in the banks, or nuclear weapons, projection forces, Navies, and then you look at these things and you wonder how could anybody talk about China being a great power when you see a U.S. Navy, which dwarfs the next 14 Navies. When you look at projection forces where the United States has 10, 20 times as many bombers and troop transporters, et cetera. So, that’s the kind of cash in the bank. But then I thought, well, what was more interesting was, to look at drivers of future power like education. 17 out of the top 20 universities are American. And you and I went to two of them, didn’t we?
ZAKARIA: But a lot of people look at education and they think that below the university level, that’s one of our great vulnerabilities.
JOFFE: Guess what? When you look at some of the comparative data, you always see the countries, 30 countries, the United States comes out on top of midfield, ahead of the Italians, ahead of the French in terms of reading and writing, reading and arithmetic. This is where the human capital of the next generation is being produced. If you look at R&D spending, research and development, the United States, spends three or four times as much than the Chinese. If you look at patents, which already shows you how the human capital generated in the universities, it’s just telling – you know, huge gaps. And to me the most important thing is immigration. The United States is an immigration country, it’s going to be the youngest country, and immigrants, it turns out, and you know, you are one of them, I’m kind of one of them, do something miraculous for the country. It keeps the country from freezing up. And the Japanese and the Chinese and the Russians, haven’t even begun to think about immigration.
ZAKARIA: So, as you know, I like your argument, I think a lot of the data is quite — is striking and powerful.
JOFFE: And correct. And correct.
ZAKARIA: And correct. The place that you have gotten a lot of attention, big “Wall Street Journal” article is on this issue of whether China will overtake the United States. And there I want to argue with you and tell you why I think you’re wrong.
ZAKARIA: I think with the Japanese analogy, which is 1990, the Japanese economy stops growing and therefore China will never make it is wrong because Japan is one fourth the size of the United States. In order to overtake the U.S. economy, it would have had to have a per capita income, average Japanese four times that of an American. China, by contrast, is three times the size of the United States, four times by many measures, so all it needs is to have a per capita GDP one quarter that of the United States. In other words, the argument is not that China will become an advanced industrial country easily with all the technology that that implies. The argument is China can be about as modern an economy as Brazil, but because it has 1.2 billion people.
ZAKARIA: Once it does that, it becomes the largest economy in the world.
JOFFE: This is true. However, two points. Point number one is that the Chinese are following exactly the same growth model, overinvestment, overexporting, undervalued currencies, underconsumption, that the other tigers and dragons have followed in the ’50s and ’60s. But if you look at the demographics you get something that is often overlooked in the rest of the world, I call this a curse of 2020. At that point, Chinese will be one-fifth of the population, gross population, but one quarter of the over 60 population. So that all these great miracles have been fed by ample and cheap labor and strangely enough, even though it’s such a huge country, the supplies labor is going to come down. By the way, double digit no longer exists, double digit growth in China, so they’re now at 7, 7.5, OK, we can say part of it is cyclical because of the world economy, but there is something structural there which repeats the sort of experience of the tigers and dragons and that’s why I’m not sure.
ZAKARIA: Yeah, but I just keep pointing out if they get to Taiwan’s per capita GDP they’re actually 1.5 times the size of the U.S. economy.
JOFFE: Yes, this is true, but, you know, meanwhile, the U.S. …
ZAKARIA: But that’s the other point.
JOFFE: If you want to play this game, say yeah. But the U.S. has a per capita income, which is ten times larger than any Chinese per capita.
ZAKARIA: Joe Joffe, pleasure to have you on.
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Up next, how should the modern Muslim woman dress? I have a surprising survey from Muslims themselves.
ZAKARIA: U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew toured European capitals this week calling on larger economies to do more to boost growth. It brings me to my question of the week. What nation joined the Eurozone this month, A, Lithuania, B, Latvia, c, Liechtenstein, D, Luxembourg. Stay tuned and we’ll tell you the correct answer. This week’s book of the week is Benjamin Barber’s “If Mayors Ruled the World.” If you like cities you will love this wide-ranging book that captures the energy, excitement and importance of what is going on in the world’s great urban centers. Now for the last look. When thinking about women’s clothing in Muslim countries, fully covered may be the phrase that comes to mind. Well, a fascinating new study by the University of Michigan asked respondents in seven Muslim nations, what style of dress they thought was appropriate for women to wear in public? Their answers were not one size fits all. The all covering, recognizable burqa was not popular in any nation. The niqab, the second most conservative option was the winner in Saudi Arabia and was favored slightly in Pakistan. On the liberal side of things, almost half the Lebanese surveyed said women don’t need a head covering at all and a third of the Turks polled agreed. The most popular option a tight fitting white hijab that covers a woman’s hair and ears completely but leaves her eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks fully showing. That particular style received the most votes in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. And if that doesn’t surprise you, this trend might, the study asked the respondents if women should be able to choose whatever style they want, about 50 percent said yes, in Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon and even believe it or not Saudi Arabia. Go to cnn.com/Fareed for a link to the full study. The correct answer to our question is B, Latvia. Latvia became the 18th nation to adopt the euro on the currency’s 15th anniversary this month. And so, if you have any Latvian lats convert them soon. The Eurozone now encompasses 333 million people. Latvia added 2 million to that total. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.