tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 4, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley.>> first a conversation with richard haass as president obama seeks approval for his strike. we will get an assessment of whether military action is the best of all the options for dealing with assad, as well as if the presidents -- has been compromised. then we will finish with actress toni collette. we are glad she joined us. those conversations coming up right now.
against president assad. ofthe same time, news chemical weapons raises not just political questions but indeed, moral questions as well, as far as i'm concerned. joining me from new york is richard haass, author of the book "foreign policy begins at home." >> good to be back. we can't afford to do whatever we are going to do in syria but we still cannot raise the minimum wage, we still cannot talk about poverty, we still cannot deal with homelessness. if foreign policy begins at home, why are we once again even considering going somewhere else to engage militarily with all the hell that americans are still enduring at home as we speak? x the short answer is that the kinds of things that are being contemplated in syria are quite limited. and even if we were to do them,
in no way would that make it impossible or preclude going ahead with whatever domestic agenda individuals may want. you can blame american foreign policy for a lot of rings, but that list you mentioned. two things are domestic politics and getting our economy going again and growing at historic rates rather than low rates. i don't think this is a guns versus butter issue. are saying that dr. king was wrong that war is the enemy of the poor? are just wars and unjust wars. there are smart wars and dumb wars. i am not a pacifist. a war is goodyou or war is bad answer. quite honestly, it depends on the circumstances, the issues at stake. it depends on what alternative policy instruments you might
have. there are wars of necessity that by definition the united states, i would argue, needs to undertake, and there are wars of choice. sometimes it is a good choice. sometimes it is a bad choice. i think we need to take each one of these on its own merits. tavis: is syria of necessity or of choice? >> i would argue it is of choice. the kind of response to syrian use of chemical weapons is a choice. i would argue it is a smart choice. we don't want to somehow convey the message that syria or anybody else can use a chemical or biological or nuclear weapons . coming back to where you began, that is not just bad for the world, that would be bad for americans and the united states. we don't want the 21st century to go down that path. tavis: at the risk of some people that think love our nonviolence is passive and not a radical form of transformative justice, why is nonviolence
never an option on the table when it comes to u.s. intervention? why does it have to be a military strike, limited or otherwise? >> in many cases the u.s. doesn't use military instruments. aid to deal with questions of hiv-aids our economic development. in other cases the principal american tool is diplomacy. we mayl other instances, provide arms but not use them ourselves. i cannot sit here and argue a one-size-fits-all foreign policy. i cannot argue consistency. we have to take each one of these situations, look at all the options for acting. we have to look at the pros and cons of not acting. off,ome cases, hands- nonviolence might be the smartest and best way to go, and in other cases it could be folly. that is the decision we've got to make. tavis: i never ever think that nonviolence is folly, but that
is your opinion and you are entitled to it. since you mentioned africa and often diplomacy is not the -- is the option. bill clinton famously did not go into rwanda. that is not diplomacy, that is doing nothing. somalia and congo, we are late. that is doing nothing. sometimes we choose to go certain places in africa and elsewhere and sometimes we do not. how do you make that distinction? oragain, inconsistency may may not be a virtue, but it is certainly a reality. i think in each instance, you have to look at your interest. what would be likely to happen if you were to use force or another tool, diplomacy? what would be the consequences, the benefits, and the cost. then you have to make a decision . you have to look at the immediate situation and you also have to take a step back and say if we were to do this, what would it mean for other interest?
what tools and resources would this absorb and what would be the consequences of that echo in syria, what would be likely to happen if the u.s. were to act or not act, and what would be the likely consequences for other interest throughout the middle east or in asia? the united states doesn't have the luxury to narrow casted. we broadcast it. people take their cues around the world. though,o your point, how is it that we can assume that there are consequences to our not acting in syria and there is another side of that equation. there are going to be consequences if and when we do act in syria. why don't we talk about the former and not the latter? >> we've got to talk about both. people have argued with some validity that this is in part a consequence of the united states
doing very little. i begin from the premise that the world is not a perfect lace. when the united states doesn't some forces that are dark are evil in many cases will fill the vacuum. take yourer hand, i point. we've got to be really careful about saying what are the likely consequences in syria if we do certain things? what kind of outcomes might we set in motion? american use of military force be responded to? those are exactly the right questions to ask. going to get answers you can be 100% confident of. there is always a degree of unpredictability. you cannot throw up your hand and say it is too hard. you have to take your least had choice that is available to you. >> we both agree that this debate about syria, what to do or not to do, u.s. diplomacy or engagement or like they are --
thereof, did not start with obama drawing this line, but i certainly do not see drawing a line and daring someone to cross it as diplomacy. in my neighborhood, we call that playing a game of chicken. once you lose the game of chicken, you had better be prepared to do something. let me ask you point blank whether or not drawing that line was a mistake, and if not, do you call that diplomacy? >> i think the president has made several mistakes in the way he has spoken about syria. one was early on, saying that president assad must go, and he did not go. so already we begin to look weak , i think. as you said, he drew this line. i only would have drawn it if i were prepared to back it up. it did not make sense to draw it and then to not act, in the face of various examples of syrian chemical weapon used, and then at the 11th hour on saturday to
introduce this new consideration of going to the congress. i just don't think this is a smart way or a good way to conduct foreign policy. i believe the president has ,aised the stakes for himself for the rest of his presidency, and indeed, for his successors. i don't think this has been well handled at all. have made the argument that what the president has done is a number of things. others have argued that what he has done is to weaken the power of the presidency into the future. if you believe you are right and you have the authority and power to make that decision, why did you not just do it as opposed to going to congress for cover? the president explicitly said he believes he has the authority to act, and then a minute later he said nevertheless, he was going to go to congress. he has now raised the risk of
not getting congressional support, then either we don't act with all the consequences of that, or we have a real constitutional crisis on our hands if he were to act all the same. if not more likely is the possibility that congress gives him a yellow light, rather than a green are red light. only act ind can certain ways for so long, that could tie his hands. i think he will come to regret all this. other people around the world are taking note. they are noticing this in north korea, in iran, and in israel. friends and foes alike are going to recalibrate their expectations of american behavior based on all this. let me ask how it is that, whether we want to call it him military coup or not, then he must believe that is exactly what it was.
are dead in egypt now. how do we justify doing something in syria but doing nothing in egypt. whether you are gassed or gun, you are dead either way. massiveems there is a difference in scale between what is going on in syria, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives. 2 million people have been turned into refugees, 4.5 million people are internally displaced with what has gone on in egypt. that is not to justify or defend what is going on in egypt, but i think there is a fundamental discrepancy of scale here. we are faced with an imperfect situation. the administration has taken essentially the right tack, giving the military some rope to see if the macro secant -- if democracy can be put back on track.
i am one of those who believe that whatever little influence we have would be lost if the u.s. were to cut off aid precipitously. sometimes you got to be practical in how you deal with these situations and think about the long-term rather than about the immediate. >> i want to close where we began, and that it's back to your book, foreign policy begins at home. i take the point you raised earlier that it is not either/or, but both/and. it raises the question how it is that our leaders can agree to anyplace else, for that matter, but they cannot agree on basic domestic issues at home like minimum wage, like food stamps. i could run the list all the night long. how is it we can agree to go drop bombs and kill people but
we cannot agree to take a are of our own citizens at home e >> first of all, we can agree on foreign policy. is littley there consensus right now in the congress or in the united states about this country's role in the world. but at the end of the day, we are going to pay a price on both sides. if you think of national security as a coin and one side is foreign policy and one side is domestic and economic policy, you've got to get both sides of it right. and i wore it about our politics right now, which are getting in the way of either dimension of national security. haass, always delighted to have him on this program with his unique insights. thank you for the conversation and i'm sure in the coming days i will be talking with you again. this crisis is just beginning in so many ways. >> great, always good to be with you. a conversationp, with actress toni collette.
stay with us. [laughter] at playingte excels characters who are slightly offkilter. she won an emmy with disassociative identity disorder. this month she can be seen in a movie, a coming-of-age comedy called "the way, way back." series entitled "hostages." let's take a look at a clip from "the way, way back." >> he went as a sexy cop. nightlowed me around all
saying he was going to protect and serve me. do remember you let me help you pack your van at the end of the night. it took three months to get her to go out with me. >> three months? i did not know you had that kind of stamina. >> it definitely made me work hard, but it was worth it. >> what made you finally change her mind? >> he said we were already in this together. tavis: not enough for, i see. >> i have been lucky. there has been a lot of good material around. -- i have been enjoying the last 18 months or so. tavis: depending on what actor you talk to in this town, there is an abundance of riches, or there is a dearth and a paucity of good stuff. why is all the good stuff coming to you? well, i don't know what to
say to that. everything goes in fits and starts. it is cyclical. after i finished "the united a," it depends on who is writing and what is out there. was reading to prepare for our conversation about this particular movie, i read somewhere you said that part of what attracted you to this , what madecharacter youwant to do this was that read that every character in this particular film had an element of growth or growth attentional, trying to grow. tell me what this growth thing was. >> the most interesting thing about any story is how people change.
we are all really happy with what is familiar, but what is inevitable in life is change. that is what life is. my particular character thinks she knows what she wants. she goes into her relationship with the guy who is really a bad person. arrell. is steve correl >> it is quite a dark, manipulative, shady movie. one thing i loved about the , it is his story. he is dragged on this holiday in ahis mom who is relatively new relationship and seeing if they can make it as a family, and it all goes horribly wrong. but he reveals his mother. he has this idea about grown-ups knowing everything.
guy for who heis is and he is the one who opened my eyes to it, and his change in ables might change. carrell in is steve a movie we are not accustomed to seeing him in. >> i think the feeling he will take away from this movie, and has such a big heart. it ends on such a high. me, i am given a chance at the premiere to go and kind of not watch the movie, but i wanted to watch it. it is so exciting to watch all the other actors doing their work. this journey you are going on with this boy who is completely uncomfortable with himself learning to be confident. it is done in such a funny way, it gives you a great feeling. it is just so joyous. so you are anxious to go to the premiere to see it?
>> i like to see everybody's work and if it paid off or not and how it is all thrown together. you have to let go and someone else continues the journey. i find this movie just so lovely. earlier, andioned i assume i'm not too offkilter ,yself in making the comment what is that attraction for you? >> there are so many movies that this kind of idea of what it is to be human, which is so off the mark from the whole version of what life is. first of all, i really think there's no such thing as normal. if you believe that, then everyone is a character. i personally yearn to play characters who are complex and a chord in me and who
move through those challenges. >> what are you learning about the complexity of our individual humanity? i am finding it more and more troubling for me that as humans we cannot revel in the quality of each other and the complexity of each other. you have to raise kids in this world where they are trying to develop their own identity, and yet in so many ways, people don't revel in humanity. >> i really believe in a oneness. if i'm looking at somebody else, not in a specific way, but kind of you are seeing yourself. what i do affects others and what others do affects me. we are all in this together. and it early age, kids have to develop a sense of
individuality. it is just something that everyone goes through. i think the older i get, the more i appreciate the fact that we really are just so connected, you know? there are so many different things to believe in, but i think ultimately, we are all energy, and that energy keeps changing. connectednessis a . it is strange, because it seems that society is kind of promoting or nurturing this kind of ostracized existence. people are very much in their own little world. i don't know, it's a funny time. i am sure in any time you live in, you consider it funny. it is a matter of embracing it or not. tavis: we can have a whole show about this notion that there are
so many different things to believe in. the movie in some ways is about that notion. you are trying to raise this boy who is trying to figure out what to believe in. does that make sense? >> yes, absolutely. tavis: how, in a world where there are so many things to believe in, how do you direct and guide -- >> your own children. like everything in life, you have to follow your gut. if you believe it wholeheartedly, it is not like you are kind of pasting on an idea. first of all, i allow them to have their own ideas and nurture of foster that sense following their own instinct. older -- my kids are five and two.
my husband and i, one of us will give an answer and then look at each other and go, is that ok? [laughter] all infuses and we are living together as a unit. that is a great thing to feel solid in. not everyone gets that in life. tavis: now that you have two young children, does that in any way factor into the choices you make about the work that you take now, that you know years from now they will be looking at? if they knew i started to kind of amend my ideas and choices, i think they would find that disappointing. i hear about actors who have planned, i'm going to do this kind of movie and that will get me from a to be.
i have never done that. i honestly just follow my gut, and i don't think you can go wrong with that. i have never really been a file and -- a fan of violence -- i mean, who is? i am more into a character in their journey and you just don't really allow for that to be the focus. >> the new movie is about the journey of characters arriving. , i always enjoy having you on our program. >> thank you. tavis: that is our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with best-selling --hor terry mcmillion
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