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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  May 3, 2014 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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>> charlie: welcome to the program. tonight we take a look at foreign policy here and around the world beginning with jessica mathews, the director of the carnegie endowment for national peace. >> there is too much lack of clarity about what the american principles and behavior are. there are people who seem to want to go -- you start shooting at the drop of every hat. i'm not talking about shooting, but i am talking about using that part of our foreign policy toolbox, the military part, to make a strong statement, and i think sometimes that's the only way you can make that statement. >> charlie: we continue with ian bremer, president and founder of eurasia group.
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>> we cannot isolate russia. we can push them toward china. it's not in our interest. our coalition on ukraine is canada because they have a large population and elections coming up and japan because they're japan. i like canada and japan, they're great countries, but it's not a goalings. >> charlie: we conclude with ram guha, his book india at the gandhi. >> if someone oppressed you before gandhi, you ask him to treat you like a human being or bash him. gandhi invented an alternative. collective solidarity, express to non-violent action. university, worldwide. the second thing and important thing why i think he's such a great figure is the ability to forge relations between rival
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religious groups -- hindu, muslim, christian, jew. >> charlie: a look at the world as it is and what it might be when we continue.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: jessica mathews is here. she is president of the carnegie endowment for international peace. it is a global foreign policy think thank headquartered in washington. her role includes government, nonprofit sector and journalism. the obama's foreign policy in the spotlight right now. some criticized as facless and disengaged, referring to the president's trip to asia. >> typically criticism at our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. the question i think i would have is why is it everybody's so eager to use military force? for some reason, many who are
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proponents of what i consider to be a disastrous decision to go into iraq haven't really learned the lesson of the last decade. why? i don't know. but my job as commander-in-chief is to look at what is it that's going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. >> charlie: i am pleased to have jessica mathews back at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> charlie: and i confess, she's a great friend and i adore her. >> thank you. it's nice to be here. >> charlie: so is there an obama foreign policy doctrine? and is it the right one? >> well, there's a doctrine as we just heard which is let's stay out of a war. you know, he's taken a pendulum
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that swung too far and let it swing too far again. i was as strong maybe stronger an opponent of the iraq war than he, but i think he's not using all the elements of american power properly now. >> charlie: the former secretary of defense, robert gates, said the very same thing. we're not using all the tools we have, meaning economic power and economic assistance and the whole range of things. what do you mean by that? >> well, there i meant -- i did mean military power. >> charlie: yes. he is using, in ukraine vis-a-vis the russians the economic leverage that we have. >> charlie: to a degree. to a degree. >> to a degree. i think he's ratcheting up, as he says. >> charlie: slowly. but i think there are two things missing. one thing is that he never explain to the american people,
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not as a candidate but as a president, behind that big desk -, i want 15 minutes of network time and i want to talk to the american people and explain to them why and how it's important and what international laws they're breaking. it's not something you can do in two minutes in the press room and you can't do it on the campaign trail because people don't hear it that way. but he's never explained, as president, he's never communicated as president what his strategy is, and part of his frustration, i'm virtually certain, comes from the sense he has that people don't understand what he's doing. but part of the reason they don't understand it is because he doesn't tell them. >> charlie: yeah, but the problem with that argument is that he said the very same thing to me in an interview i did. i said to him, quoting doris kerns, and said it's important you learn from your own mistakes and what are your mistakes?
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he said, primarily what i've done is we've paid too much attention to the policy and not as much attention to explaining the policy. >> but i haven't seen that corrected. the second thing is i think he has to be less afraid of using the levers of military power. i mean, in ukraine, i think, to be specific -- >> charlie: right. -- in the end of february, very early, he should have accepted an invitation from the ukrainian government for multi-national military exercises. and i think he should have taken an american brigade and put it on the ground in eastern ukraine. and called and then tried to get four or five other european allies to put in a battalion each, and then call putin and say, vladimir, we're having military exercises here, and when your exercises are
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finished, our exercises will be finished. the russians aren't going to attack us, but it would have been a way of saying what you're doing matters to us not because ukraine per se matters so much, but because you're taking a gigantic step backwards in how international problems are solved, how sovereignty is respected, how borders are adjusted, how conflicts are resolved, and then we find that step you're taking unacceptable. >> charlie: and the consequence would be, in your judgment, stop and forces would go back to russia? >> i think he would have backed off. >> charlie: back to their bases wherever they were? >> maybe. not 40,000, but i think he would have -- i think he's a bully and bullies are tempted by weakness.
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>> charlie: and it's perceived as weak because? >> because there is too much lack of clarity about what the american principles and behavior are. i mean, i have a great deal of sympathy for what he said in that piece, that there are people who seem to want to go -- you start shooting at the drop of every hat. i'm not talking about shooting, but i am talking about using that part of our foreign policy toolbox, that military part, to make a strong statement, and i think sometimes that's the only way you can make that statement. >> charlie: it is said by some that the west, including europe and the united states, missed an opportunity early in this before the russians even went into
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crimea, we missed an opportunity to not make this, one, to facilitate a relationship with the european union, but to make ate choice. >> a terrible mistake. >> charlie: early on, you could have avoided that. >> it should have never been allowed to happen, and we really haven't had a ukraine policy for five years, but ukraine always had to be a buffer state and not a beachhead. >> charlie: right. so when you say to -- when you say to ukraine, you have to choose between the european union and the eurasian union, it awakes in the russians every worst nightmare they have about ukraine becoming part of the west. so that should never have happened. it doesn't excuse what the russians have done since, but it was a terrible mistake. >> charlie: and do you believe it was a mistake, also as some
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do -- tom freedman being one that comes to mind -- to push nato membership in front of the georgians and talk about it to the ukrainians, scaring the death out of the russians? >> yes, it's a mistake. some of the worst mistakes in foreign policy are made when you're on top. it's failing to take yes for an answer or not realizing when you've gone far enough and recognizing that ukraine -- that the russians could never deal strategically with ukraine being either a nato member or a full e.u. member right up on their borders was something we should have understood. >> charlie: so what should ukraine be? >> well, of course, you know, kissinger, as soon as this happened, said finland, that's the answer. >> charlie: yes. i'm not sure finland is
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enough, that the russians could tolerate as much of a relationship with the west that finland has in ukraine. but as i said, i think ukraine has to be a buffer state, and it will -- the other piece of this that just doesn't get talked about nearly enough is that so much of what's happening that's bad is the ukrainian's fault, that they've had 23 years of corrupt governments, you know, on both sides, pro-west, pro-russian, and been unable to deal with energy, to deal with, you know, any form of moderately effective governments, they just haven't done it. >> charlie: here's what the president told reporters in asia. "the notion for us to go forward with sectoral sanctions on our
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own would be most deterrent to putin. that is factually wrong. we'll be in a stronger position to deter putin when he sees the world is unified. there's real differences about what to do, have germany, and take other members of the european community. >> the eastern europeans. >> charlie: how does the president handle that? does he go off on his own and put troops here and there and do this and that or does he wait and try to get some kind of unified plan? >> i think he needs to do a little more leading from in front. i think he has to do both a major effort to keep the united states and europe together, understanding that the european dependence on russian energy is going to make it tough, and on
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trade with russia. german trade with russia is huge and ours is tiny. but, on the other hand, the europeans have 60 years of sort of relying on us for leadership in international affairs and particularly on national security, and they are not yet ready to be co-leaders, and i think a little more american leadership on this would have been important, even while we understand and agree with the point he's making. >> charlie: syria. when the president made the decision not to attack syria after having said it had crossed a red line and with russia made the agreement with respect to the elimination and removal of the chemical weapons, was that the right decision and did it leave people who depended on american leadership questioning american leadership?
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>> sure, because the process was so appalling, on two counts. one is you never create red lines unless you know, when you enunciate them, what you will do to enforce them. you just don't ever say it. and, you know, the israelis have been creating red lines on iran for 15 years and, you know, what credibility does it have anymore? so you don't do that, and then you just don't ala lo al -- dona process to happen that makes it look so chaotic. part of people's confidence is there should be some sense of clarity of purpose and straight line and, in this case, you know, you had one position, then another. the secretary of state, the secretary of defense were not part of it. it just looked like we had no idea what we were doing. the irony is that, out of this awful process -- really just
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about the worst i've ever seen -- comes this great success. you know, sometimes you get lucky. >> charlie: the removal of the chemical weapons. >> yes, sir. >> charlie: didn't finish on time but people seem to be optimistic they l. you know something about this. can they hide chemical weapons? >> sure. and -- >> charlie: what's the verification process? >> we have pretty good intelligence. if there is 2% or 5%, maybe, even of them left, i'm not sure what the strategic significance of that is. but look at the international message of this is -- use them and lose them. you know, you really couldn't ask for a better outcome. >> charlie: you use them and, therefore, we're going to take them, and you have to do that to avoid an attack. >> you have chemical weapons,
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try using them, you're going to lose them. i mean, that's what this process says. even better, it's not just u.s., it's multi-national. so, from a nonproliferation point of view, this has been a huge success. it just came out of an appalling process. >> charlie: did the president make mistakes not offering more aid to the rebels, specifically military aid? >> you know, if you look backwards, the only answer is sort of yes. but if you looked at this as it unfolded, when there was no political process, there was no sense that if we go in and do more that, a, we have people to do it with, or, b, that there is some kind of political outcome that we can imagine working towards, that's exactly part of the lesson of the last two wars in afghanistan, iraq that you don't want to repeat, you don't
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want to go in without being able to see the political part of the military action. so i would say that, as it unfolded, he was right not to do more, not to go in with military force. as you look back, i'm a lot less certain. but who could -- nobody imagined this outcome. nobody. >> charlie: i do want to go to iran because you do foe a lot about that. where are we? we have a deadline coming up. we know that the foreign minister has written an interesting piece about what's happening in iran and how he sees it. >> i think they want and we want a nuclear deal, so i think we can get one. >> charlie: do they also want nuclear weapons? >> certainly this government doesn't. that's a really hard question to answer for this reason -- they spent tens of billions of dollars and -- what's the
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verb -- forewent hundreds of billions in lost oil revenues because of their weapons-related activities. they became international outcasts. they lied to the i.a.e.a. they did things for which there is no rational explanation other than a weapons program. on the other hand, they also said nuclear weapons don't make sense for us for our military doctrine, and the supreme leader, as you know, issued that fact law saying they're unethical in religious terms. so they've said they've covered the grounds. that means either they never made an explicit choice, or they were divided, quite likely -- >> charlie: or the japanese option, secretary of defense and
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state and say directly to me at this table, we don't know that they had made a decision to build a nuclear weapon. >> right. >> charlie: all we know is that they are doing things as you laid out. >> right. >> charlie: that certainly lead to that conclusion but do not know they made that decision. >> or they -- >> charlie: the question is -- you know, i mean, the question is you say they want a deal. they really want a deal. otherwise, they wouldn't be going lo this because the sanctions hurt and they don't want to be a pariah among nations. >> right. and they do want a deal. the deal we've already got, the interim deal is a terrific deal. it's much better for us than them. >> charlie: not everybody in america believes that. i've not had henry kissinger say at the table this is a bad deal for us and the west and a good deal for them. >> well, he wrote something different than that. he wrote about it and you had to read all the way to the end of the op-ed piece, but by the end
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of the piece -- and i would take him on on that. they gave a lot more than they got on this deal. one of the reasons i think we will get a final deal is because, if this deal persists, it's lousy for them because they've given up so much and gotten almost nothing -- $7 billion worth of unfrozen assets. >> charlie: the only thing we haven't talked about, the global economy, among others, but is north korea. what do we do about north korea? >> here's my kind of feeling about this. if there ever was any diplomatic process that has shown that it's failed, it's been our efforts to deal with north korea on this. the one thing -- and, you know, not -- >> charlie: including carter, clinton and obama? >> everybody. bush, everybody. whether it's two-party talks, six-party talks.
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>> charlie: failed. and part of it is rational people trying to deal with crazies. >> charlie: and the chinese, too, is an element to it. they've got a lot to lose. >> the chinese have been less helpful than they could be. they have a strong interest in getting the issue dealt with. but here's the thing that's always struck me, the north koreans talk all the time about the fact that we're still technically at war with them, legally at war with them, because all we did was sign an arms agreement not a peace treaty. and during the periods where the negotiations were active, they kept saying why won't you declare you're not at war with us? and we say, you know, the usual thing, what you're taught as a diplomat or any kind of negotiator, it's a bargaining chip and we're holding the chip and of course we don't think we're at war with you.
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my view is bargaining chips you don't get to spend are not worth anything. so why not just say, okay. just say yes. >> charlie: right. and try it. maybe we'll get nothing but we're not getting anything anyway. >> charlie: right, we're not using it. barbara will be proud of you. >> proud of her. >> charlie: you should be. jessica mathews. ian bremmer is here, he is the president and founder of eurasia group. the crisis in ukraine dominates headlines. the company's acting president said his forces were helpless to control. last week saw president obama travel to allied countries in asia. one of the key stops japan. ian bremmer is returning from a recent trip to that country and pleased to have him back at this
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table, welcome. good to have you. >> thank you. >> charlie: let me turn first and just talk about this obama trip to asia. a success? >> a success. >> charlie: because? well, first, he needed to make this trip. these were a number of ala lies of the united states that have felt that they have not been a priority, that they have been overlooked. obama went to japan four times and the japanese ambassador of the u.s. will make this clear, four times he has said he is committed to the alliance in japan -- with japan and that the east china sea issue is explicitly a part of that. they needed to hear that. it was very important in the meeting all the way through. the japanese liked it. the philippines happy with an expanded security relationship announced by the united states just before obama's visit. malaysia, south korea, he hit
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all the right notes. it's not a pivot, but he said the united states is not going anywhere from these countries and he didn't offend the chinese. he made it important to say how close it was to work with the chinese. >> charlie: and had no ambition in trying to contain the chinese. >> yes, and obama is credible in saying he has no ambition to contain the chinese. so the fact you've both made the allies in the region happier and the chinese feel no reason to overrespond with their own saber rattling is about as much as he's done on this trip. >> charlie: why is a trade agreement important. >> when the trance pacific partnership was first announced the chinese response is this is containment, we don't want it, are opposed to it. now that it's going to happen, that it has heft and momentum, the chinese have changed their tune. what they're now saying is we need to study it very carefully,
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do we want to join? do we want to express our interest in eventual membership? the chinese understand if you're going to create tighter trade immigration among a bunch of countries and china doesn't want to be left behind, they will have to reform more, engage in the behaviors that initially got them in the world trade organization. we couldn't ask for a better outcome. that means we need to get our ducks in a row. we have to get it done. the p.p.t. is one of the stories you would have liked to have seen move faster in asia but obama didn't have much to say because congress is still slow on this. >> charlie: jessica mathews said to me the president hasn't clearly communicated exactly what he means and wants to do and define his own sense of america's place. >> well, that's certainly true, but what jessica is implying is he actually knows it, he just isn't willing to say it. >> charlie: an important
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difference. >> i don't think he wishes to create, in this very dynamic and changing geopolitical environment where countries are in play and it's difficult to get what you want done, i think that obama would rather not have a doctrine, not have a clear view of america's place in the world, rather say what we don't want to do. we don't want to be the world's police. >> charlie: yeah, but what's immerging in a variety of places is this idea, you know, we have to stop thinking that we can cure everything by going to war. >> sure. >> charlie: and that i will do the american people something very valuable if i keep them from mistakes, that they're somehow avoiding traps is an important presidential mission. >> and syria is a good example of that. the process was very badly mismanaged, but the outcome, which is the united states
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avoided getting into a crisis, a conflict that has no win, is one that most americans happen to be aligned with. so i agree with that. but, again, to hit back at mathews a little bit, the fact that he's disengaged from iraq, popular. disengaging from afghanistan, popular. >> charlie: and with a new afghan president may have the possibility of american troops remaining there, which was not true -- >> definitely, but i would argue america's wielding of diplomatic instruments and economic instruments has been less successful than obama's unwillingness to wield, with prudence, the military instrument and that has actually been a challenge, and one of the reasons why the last year has seen american views of obama on foreign policy at record lows. >> charlie: what do you think at ukraine and what do you think the russians will do and what do you think the u.s. and the west, how should they respond?
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>> well, i give obama an a minus on the asia trip, maybe even an a. on ukraine, i'm not grading on a curve here. this is failed policy. >> charlie: failed policy. this is failed policy. this is the united states saying, russia, if you don't behave the way you want, we're going to isolate you. no we're not. russia is not iran. we almost lost -- the sanctions process with the europeans, we almost lost that last week. we could barely get the europeans to the digita table os issue. >> charlie: why? because they don't want to punish the russians. they want to support the ukrainians. but they have a lot at stake economically and can't coordinate. >> charlie: what do they have at stake? >> you look at banking and the transactions between the europeans and the russians, and gas and look at the europeans and the russians, you look at even real estate in london is
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important. then you look at germany. germany, you have a population, a german population, which especially after snowden, is mistrustful of what the u.s. wants in foreign policy, doesn't want to get dragged in, strongly opposed to sanctions. you have an industrial lobby and financial lobby in germany telling merkel in no uncertain terms, we want no sanctions whatsoever. then you've got caterpillar in the united states that just lost a $1 billion deal that seamans picked up by going to moscow, meeting with putin and said, hey, we're dealing. so you can't keep the europeans on board. the last order of sanctions the americans just put on this week after we said there have been consequences and they have been basically ripping up the gee neva agreement -- geneva agreement they made on ukraine, there is going to be consequence
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queens so tough that the russians market go up on them. us saying we'll isolate the russians, not a single brick, not brazil, india or china, that is listening one iota to our policy. the chinese just announced 5 billion more, the chinese development bank in developments in china. we can't isolate the russians. we can push them toward china. it's not in our interest. right now our coalition on ukraine is canada because they have a large ukrainian population and elections coming up and japan because they're japan. i like canada and japan, they're great countries, but it's not a coalition. we wouldn't have gone to syria with that coalition but we're using economic power. >> charlie: so what's the bremer solution for the united states? >> well, one is to try to back down on sanctions. >> charlie: we backed down on sanctions. so what do you do, then, to stop the russians? >> i think the russians were not
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stoppable in crimea or southeast ukraine. you mentioned at the outset that the ukrainian government said there's nothing they can do. they can't defend themselves in jeeft ukraine against the russian onslaught. we made it clear we're not providing military support, nobody else is, so looks like southeast ukraine is going. what we need to do is provide support for the ukrainian government, real economic support. do you know what we've done so far for the ukrainians? a billion dollars in loan guarantees, so categorically we lost 2 billion. we're willing to punish the russians and hurt our own economy and companies and we have a billion dollars loan guarantees for the ukrainians? i think it's senseless. >> charlie: you think it should be $16 billion, $18 billion support from europe and the united states and the i.m.f.? >> the i.m.f. is doing a lot. we know kiev is losing legitimacy every hour because what the russians are doing in southeast ukraine and can't be stopped. if we want toe balance it out,
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we better support the ukrainians so some of the legitimacy comes back. a know a lot of the money you give to ukraine will go into a rat hole. but again, compared to the damage we're doing the international order by trying to isolate the russians with no effect -- >> charlie: the president just said if the russians can go into ukraine and have their way. >> if you're asking me am i happy with the russians taking crimea, the answer is no. >> charlie: we're past crimea. am i happy with the russians having occupied 12 cities, police stations, legislators and giving weapons to locals and having clearly russian forces on the ground, i'm not happy with that either. i'm saying given that we are not considering military action and escalation of sanctions won't work we'll have to look at what's feasible. >> charlie: you said to the united states, sanctions are not going to work and you can support the ukrainians in kiev and hope that they can do it on their own.
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>> you can support the ukrainians in kiev to a vastly greater degree than we have so far. you do it together with the europeans. and by the way, i understand that it's a loss in southeast ukraine and crimea, but there is a win to be had with nato because you've got governments right now in europe, in eastern europe that are saying, my god, we thought nato wasn't relevant. nato is really relevant. we should be pushing hard, our allies in the region saying, you know what? defense spending is important now. germany needs to play a leadership role on nato. long-term, this is not a win for russia. sanctions can't stop them in the near term. >> charlie: talk about countries where you think reform is working. >> absolutely. >> charlie: china? hina, yes. i would say the biggest is china, japan, mexico. china, i see their leader
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exceeding expectations in consolidating support for true economic reform, not just meaningful anti-corruption but financial reform moving toward internationalizing the r.m.b. that's hugely meaningful. >> charlie: japan? despite the fact that the markets have a little lethargic about the pace of japanese reform, the commitments of the corporates in japan to the l.v.p., the liberal democratic party, to creating consensus around this third arrow -- >> charlie: and what about ave's nationalism? >> if you ask me the single thing i like the least is the hawkishness on china. having said that, the last month, obama has had success in getting japanese to engage with china and talk closer with
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chinese leaders, the governor of tokyo was just meeting with the deputy prime minister of china, i suspect we'll see less tensions in the east china sea in the last three months than the past three -- next three than the last three. obama's visit is air part of that. >> charlie: syria a stalemate? probably doing better. consolidating power and upsetting a lot of people. >> charlie: what happens to the refugees. >> hopefully we'll create stability in syria. i don't know if that's a silver lining. >> charlie: you think assad will remain in power? >> i think so. the thing blows up in jordan and iraq and turkey, who picks up the pieces. >> charlie: what about turkey. you saw my interview, didn't you? >> yes, i thought it was an extraordinary interview.
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he is feeling good after 46% success. >> charlie: in local elections. >> in local elections. did a lot better than most people expected. >> charlie: the corruption charges and what about the the gulan movement and all of that? >> his response to corruption was problematic, to say the least. saying i can't possibly be corrupt because how could i build all these roads? (laughter) the thing is, what he said, if i watch closely, i think that interview will play very well for his domestic audience, for the folks who voted for him. i think he is taking the fights he has to get individually. the single thing i took away from the interview that i think is important is winning should lead to consolidation, now he can do what he wants. he wants to go after these guys. even if they leave his country, he's going to hunt them down. >> charlie: is it scary?
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not for me and you. >> charlie: i mean for the future of turkey. >> yeah, i do. i think that this is a country that has spent so many decades working to slowly and methodically build and consolidate institutions, it takes a long time, and he is starting to unravel and undermine that fabric. >> charlie: but there were positive things in terms of israel. >> i think we'll see more from turkey internationally. i think he'll make himself more as a statesman, he sees himself with a legacy. the problem is internally in turkey, it will be much less consistent place to invest. >> charlie: because they don't like what they hear from him? >> the volatility of a guy after he's won, he's going to do everything possible to go after the enemies. you win, you lose, but you still have to work together. even if you don't work together like in the united states, you
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don't -- >> charlie: he appears to be angry, vindictive and unwilling to be criticized. >> he appears to be willing to go after a series of folks critical to the functioning of turkish society even if they're not in power and if i were an investor in turkey, that would unnerve me. >> charlie: thank you for coming. >> good to see you, charlie. >> charlie: ramachandra guha is here. he is an historian, an author, his work has brought to life some of the most significant leaders in modern and contemporary south asian history. "time magazine" has called him indian's democracy's preeminent chronicler. his book garnered critical acclaim. his new book is part one of a two-volume biography about gandhi, called gandhi before india. i am pleased to have him at this table. tell me where you think india is
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today. >> well, it's the 16t 16th election in our history as a democratic country. each election in india is the greatest exercise of the democratic franchise in human history just because there are so many of us. they're free and fair. they're always contentious. almost this time we're almost certainly going to see a change of government. that's all we can say. what it bodes, what the new leader will do, we don't know. imagine, 600 million citizens, humans, going to the ballot box and exercising their preference and i can say, particularly after florida, our election -- >> charlie: oh, come on! you don't have to say that.
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>> it will be better than most. >> charlie: don't point a finger at our democracy in florida. if the new party is in control, does that change india significantly? >> well, india is so large and complex, and we are a parliamentary system with 28 states and one government so one leader can only do so much. we've had for the last ten years a highly educated man who's proved to be weak and incompetent. >> charlie: why was that? because he was too differential to the gandhi family, indifferent, insecure of his position, no political courage, bad advisors and so on and so forth. he's a very different kind of personality. he's angry, abrasive, can be extremely intolerant, he is sectarian. so we have to exchange a weak and incompetent prime minister for an aggressive and possibly
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intolerant one but india will survive because we are a large and complex democracy. we have checks and balances, a free press, a hyperactive intellectual class and he will find it will be just a democracy scriewt advertised fearlessly. >> charlie: he wasn't a great student. >> he was a mediocre student, a second-class student. there's a distinction in being a first-class. also a distinction in a third-class student or dropout. he was certainly mediocre as a student. he was also a failed lawyer both in bomin bombay and his hometow. >> charlie: because he was so disinterested in politics? >> no, he was a charismatic leader, started as a bad lawyer who had a stammer, couldn't argue his case in court and was saved by professional suicide by asked to come to south africa.
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>> charlie: and what changed him how? >> he won a case where he found the indians disenfrance choosed, exploited, worked with them, stayed 21 years and forged relations between different exiewnts, understood the diversity of india pt because he came from a certain part of india. when he went to south africa, he was exposed to all religions. >> charlie: so he formed a philosophy of being able to bring together diverse groups? >> he understood the diversity of india and to forge, as you say, the relations between different castes, communities, religious groups, he understood this only in south africa. >> charlie: what brought him back to india? >> i think when he organized the first successful movements in south africa and realized the power he had to command appeal,
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attention and devotion, he was a great and also ambitious man. he said in south afterria, i can only be a community leader. there are 150,000 indians, i can represent them to the whites. but in india, there is a much larger theater, i can be a great national theater. he didn't articulate it in this way, but similarly, if you read his writings and letters and what his friends say, he recognized his leadership abilities and his skills. hoe was a great writer, he wrote in four languages. >> charlie: partly about vegtarianism. >> among other things. so he says, i have these skills as a leader, let me apply them. >> charlie: so i need a bigger stage to fit my talents. >> something you and i understand, charlie (laughter) >> charlie: yes, indeed. so he was an ambitious man. >> indeed, he was an ambitious
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man. but he was also a questioning man. he was asking himself questions about society, himself, the world, expanding his vision. some of the most interesting aspects in south africa were friendships he formed with jewish people who were marginalized in south african society. he picked people to argue with, expand his world view. >> charlie: so he sharpened his skills. >> expanded his world view. >> charlie: what did he have that made him who he is today in the history of india? >> we would remember him for inventing a technique of resistance to discrimination and oppression that was not based on violence. it was based on collective action. charlie, before gandhi, there were two options. if someone oppressed you, you politely write him a letter or
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took up a gun and bashed him. and gandhi invented this novel alternative. collective solidarity, express to non-violent action, the fearlessness to go to rest. the second and important thing, charlie, why he's is such a great figure is the ability to forge relations between rival religious groups, hindu, muslim, christian and jew. >> charlie: right. for some reason, i think more and more we're coming to recognize he was precocious in his criticisms of the environmental damage that industrial civilization could do. he warned against it. >> charlie: yes. he said -- >> charlie: how did he warn against it? >> partly because he lived an extremely frugal life. as president obama said, i would have liked to have lived with gandhi but it would have been meager. >> charlie: yeah. he said they're using the
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same intensive cal tall and technologies. he said india will strip the world bare like locust. and you can add china. these massive countries, they need to grow, end poverty, expand economy, end suffering and dearth but do it in an environmentally responsible way and gandhi recognized that. >> charlie: back then? back in the 1920s. >> charlie: he was a good writer. >> he was a clear and effective writer. >> charlie: he was going to write an argument. >> exactly. and precisely, clearly, directly. >> charlie: and when he developed -- what was his biggest flaw, do you think, during the south african. >> he saw them like a middle-class english-educated indian without as uncivilized. there was a hierarchy of civilizations.
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civilizations. he grew out of it and by the end of his stay he recognized they were not what he thought them to be. but his greatest flaw in south africa, he said, was he was an indifferent husband and a disastrous father. >> charlie: unhappy father? indifferent, but a disastrous father. >> charlie: go ahead. i think he imposed on his two eldest sons impossible conditions. because he had given up his career and become a social activist he denied them a proper education. said when you turn 16, you must go to jail and stay with us. he was obsessed with sexual virtue and wanted his kids to do likewise, and his diet. so he made experiments of his first son who was devastated by the excessively high
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expectations his father pressed upon him. >> charlie: what happened to the son? >> well, the son became a broken man. he was deeply in love with his wife. the wife died. he became an alcoholic. he died destitute. it's a story, of course, not uncommon among great writers, activists who are so obsessed with their vocation, so obsessively committed with what they want to do with the world that they disregard those closest to them. >> charlie: consumes their time. >> yes. >> charlie: was there a constant journey of discovery for him in. >> of course, he was learning his own abilities to inspire people. he lived in harsh conditions. he was meeting new kinds of people. shedding the racial prejudices towards africans. because of his women friends, he was becoming more sympathetic to gender rights. so he was learning all the time and this continued even after he went to india. when he went to india in 1915,
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when he returned there, he thought the caste system has divided society into four hierarchies was religiously sanctioned so should not be questioned and it took him a long time to recognize the basic injustice of the caste system. so gandhi was open to criticism, reflection, and to shedding the prejudices of his religion, his caste, his class and nationality. >> charlie: what was his vision for india? >> had several components. i think when he succeeded is he wanted an india in which religious minorities would have equal rights. so despite the provocations and problems, india is not a hindu pakistan, it's not a denominational state. he wanted an india where everyone would have freedom to speak their own language. we have 17 languages and scripts. that part has been achieved. but he also wanted an india where the rich would help the
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poor. that they do not do. you have exhibition of the wealth. corruption of government, dishonesty of public officials and the environmental devastation of much of the indian countryside. this would have been dismaid gandhi. he would have been appreciative today of the democracy that we're not a hindu state that we respect pluralism and diversity, but on the economic policies and the immorality of the rich and the corruption of the ruling, he would have had serious problems. >> charlie: what about his fifth son? >> he was deeply attached to them. they disagreed on economic policy and religion and faith. it was strained. >> charlie: what did he die of? >> he died just after the horrible riots of '47, '48,
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refugees fleeing the borders, and a climate of great religious animosity. because gandhi was killed by a fellow hindu, the other hindus were abhorred by what had been done. he afforded india two decades of peace. >> charlie: they said he was assassinated and killed by a jew, as did so many people say. and his place in history for you? >> his place in history for me was one of the most influential, charismatic and remarkable figures of the 20th century. not without flaws or controversies, but in many ways a gloacial figure. >> charlie: who do you think influenced him the most? how he thought about the world? >> i think many influences. i think tolstoy would be one. but tolstoy felt the kingdom of
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god was within you. that interested gandhi. gandhi said regardless of the bishops or priests or imams say, the kingdom of god is in you so every human must follow his own part to the divine. he was also a successful professional who abandoned it for political activism. he became a campaigner for pacifism and rights of peasants. gandhi was a successful lawyer who gave up rights to fight for the disenfranchised. that was important. there was a gentleman who influenced his vegetarianism. >> charlie: who was that? a man whe gandhi met when he was young. he said every religion was a different compartment to a train. you go from your compartment to the next and next and come back.
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>> charlie: what was his problem with churchill? >> churchill said i've not become the king's first minister to preside. >> charlie: that reminds us today of lyndon johnson as we think of all the things he did in terms of civil rights and also about vietnam. >> yeah. >> charlie: and churchill had the same attitude about india. >> absolutely. that was churchill's thoughts about india, he saw it through the prism of a young army officer. unruly natives who had to be controlled. he never grew out of that. >> charlie: because it has so many people and a democracy, there was a time that people thought that india might very well surpass china in its own development. do you believe that's still true? >> no, i don't think so.
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i think we're having serious economic problems, and we haven't been able to get our act together in many aspects. but that's the nature of a democracyt i'm very glad we're not like china. if i was a chinese national and intellectual, i could not live in my country. where i am, i can be critical of the parties, the gandhi family and be an artist. a democracy gets its act together slowly, change is incremental but mostly stable in the long run. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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