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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
A Conversation with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
Aired July 19, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
Today on the show a remarkable man who has saved a country on its way to collapse -- a conversation with the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
Let me start by reminding you what happened in Rwanda 15 years ago. Over a period of just 100 days, 800,000 men, women and children were killed, most of them slaughtered with knives, machetes and axes by their neighbors. It is perhaps the most brutal genocide in modern history.
Many of you probably remember its portrayal in the movie "Hotel Rwanda."
By the time it ended, one-tenth of the country's population was dead.
Most people assumed that Rwanda was broken, and like Somalia, another country wrecked by violence, it would become a poster child for Africa's failed states.
Fifteen years later, Rwanda is a poster child after all, but for entirely different reasons. It is now among the most stable countries in Africa. Average incomes have tripled. Education, health care, tourism and trade are all improving dramatically. The government is widely seen as one of the more efficient and honest ones in Africa.
Fortune Magazine published an article recently titled "Why CEOs Love Rwanda," citing the heads of Google, Costco and Starbucks as among those who are fans of the country and its president.
Kagame says his goal is to have his country stop receiving foreign aid altogether.
But before he could achieve some economic success, Kagame had to achieve social stability. And he had to do it in extraordinary circumstances.
As the "New Yorker" writer, Philip Gourevitch, points out, Rwanda is unique in post-conflict countries. In Germany, the victims -- the Jews -- left for America and Israel. In the Balkans, the warring groups split up geographically. In Cambodia, the class that perpetrated the violence was easily identifiable, and those people could be separated. In Rwanda, however, the killers and the victims live now side-by- side in every village in every community. Imagine Nazis and Jews living next door to one another throughout the country.
The only way to make peace in Rwanda was to reintegrate these communities. And Kagame came up with a specially crafted solution, using the kind of local courts called Gacacas. In each village, the killers stood before their neighbors and confessed, and in turn were often offered forgiveness -- part court, part community council, part group therapy. It made for a fascinating historical experiment that seems to be working.
We will talk with Paul Kagame about how he did this, and about some of the controversy that surrounds his presidency.
Later, a debate over Afghanistan. A fundamental question: Should the United States even be there?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW BACEVICH: The assumption in Washington seems to be that Afghanistan constitutes a vital national security interest of the United States, and therefore, we should be investing tens of thousands of soldiers and many billions of dollars to try to remake it.
I question that assumption. Frankly, I think Afghanistan is of marginal interest to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Let's get started.
ZAKARIA: And now I welcome Rwandan president, Paul Kagame.
Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.
PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Many people look at what's happening in Rwanda as a miracle. Fifteen years ago, you had this extraordinary, horrific genocide. And now, Rwanda is one of the most stable countries in Africa.
But what I'm most struck by is that you have done this with a very strange kind of process.
Why was it important not to punish the killers?
KAGAME: We realized, first of all, there are many killers. As I said, there were hundreds of thousands, because the genocide that took place in our country involved a huge percentage of our population, both in terms of those who were killed and those who killed them. And if you went technically to try each one of them, as the law may suggest, then you would lose out on rebuilding a nation, on bringing people back together. That's why we had to say, let's categorize responsibilities.
Let's there look at the masterminds of this genocide, people who were behind it, who were the actives (ph), the leaders. I think these bear the biggest responsibility in this. So those ones, we had to take them to the ordinary courts of law.
But there was this big number of people in rural areas who killed. People really thought justice had to be done, and had to be seen done, in the sense of saying, if you go to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in any way, in contributing to loss of life, directly or indirectly, you needed to be tried, you need to be sent to jail. We need to -- and that's how it started.
You had about 130,000 people in jail. And there were many more outside that you couldn't try and jail for, who had this responsibility, as well.
ZAKARIA: So then you started thinking...
KAGAME: Then we started thinking. We said, no, but we must get out of this problem. We can't get stuck with this problem. We have to move on. We have to build our future. We can't just get stuck with the problems created by our past and by our history and different responsibilities.
We have to find a formula to get out of this, but at the same time create an opening for people to live a new life, so to speak, and giving them a chance to understand that this was wrong, and that there is a future for them and for the country in which they should participate.
That's how really we modeled it.
ZAKARIA: But now you are leader, who happens to be Tutsi. The Tutsis were the victims of the genocide.
Did you not have important segments of your community saying to you, "How can you do this? How can you let these people pay no price?"
KAGAME: Absolutely. That's a point. That's a good point. I mean, it happened.
People who have been victims. There are others who are perpetrators. And you want, in the process of justice, to bring them back together, to live together and accept one another and value one another.
So to speak, there is a conflict here. You have to manage it. It is so complex.
And the only way we could find to get out of that was such a process, the Gacaca process, which -- there, people would come out -- some of the perpetrators would come out -- and show remorse, and apologize and confess, and even give information that people didn't have an understanding yet of what happened and who was involved and to what extent.
And then, on that basis, people will forgive -- even the people sitting there in the court after hearing that, after hearing the testimonies given by different people.
ZAKARIA: But is this process still very fragile? Because, you know, these people, the killers, are now back in these villages, living amongst the people they killed.
And there is, you know, a very favorable biography of yours. Even there -- Stephen Kinzer's book -- he says, you get the feeling these people are mouthing platitudes about reconciliation, but they don't really believe it.
There's another writer. Philip Gourevitch writes about asking this guy who killed six people. I think he said, "Did you enjoy it?"
He said, "Yes, I enjoyed killing these people."
And he's back living with those people.
Is this being held together by very fragile bonds?
KAGAME: I think there are many more cases of people who regret what they did. So these ones must also be heard. And in fact, they contribute a lot also to this future I'm talking about. So, there are many more cases of people who come forward and repent and show remorse.
And it's like, even psychologically, they have been affected. They are really at a loss as to how to lead their lives. So we are also trying to manage that kind of situation. And there are probably more people in that category than even in those who find nothing wrong in what they did.
So there is a lot of -- you know, there is a balancing act to do here. But we are still better off with this situation than either doing nothing or passing (ph) other alternatives.
ZAKARIA: But when you look at what a lot of other countries do -- I mean, in Iraq, for example, you know, one community came to power, felt that it had been persecuted by the other, a lot of vengeance, of de-Baathification. You look at the Balkans, you know, much retribution.
Do you feel like those are not the paths that will work?
KAGAME: I think maybe the facts on the ground would speak for themselves.
But in most cases, if you pass through (ph) things like that, you don't end up with good results. At least that is the lesson we've learned from our own situation.
I don't know whether it works for other situations, but I can speak for my own situation. It has worked. It has worked by -- it has worked better than anything I/THEY could have thought of.
Or even today, we don't see people giving us the alternative. We have heard the people criticize all of this we are doing that has made sense for us and given us good results. But you haven't heard from them alternatives that we should have pursued.
ZAKARIA: And we'll be back with the president of Rwanda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Why is Africa so screwed up in the minds of many people?
KAGAME: Well, it is absolutely screwed up.
ZAKARIA: In speaking with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, the one thing that struck me was his continued reliance on the idea of self-reliance, on the idea that his people, his community, his country needed to stand by itself.
This perhaps comes from the fact that his people felt let down by the international community, by the United States, by the West in general, when they most needed intervention.
The result is, he has a fairly skeptical view of outside intervention and outside efforts to help, whether it involves foreign aid, the U.N. and its involvement -- also, the International Criminal Court. He is skeptical of the efforts of the International Criminal Court to indict the president of Sudan over the genocide in Darfur.
You will listen to his very interesting, surprising, sometimes controversial views on all this right now.
ZAKARIA: You don't like the International Criminal Court indictment of Bashir in Sudan. Many people look at that and say, this is the height of hypocrisy. Here is a man who desperately sought international assistance against a genocide, and when the government in Sudan seems to be perpetrating something that can be, in some ways, seen as similar, you are standing on the sidelines and saying -- you're criticizing the process.
KAGAME: Precisely. I criticize the process, because I understand better, probably, than any one of these people, how international justice is a fraud.
First of all, Rwanda has 3,200 troops in Darfur. So, we were the first country in the world to respond to the call to try and do something in Darfur. So, we cannot even be accused of double standards, or anything, and so on and so forth.
And we came in when almost no other country wanted to come in. And even when we are there, we are not being supported or used properly to help the people of Darfur, because of the politics being played between the A.U., U.N. and different countries.
I have been arguing for fair international justice -- not selective justice. That is my point. I welcome indictment of these people who are guilty, whoever indicts them. Absolutely.
Whether a country is doing it on their own, or international institutions, they must be indicted. That's what must be.
My point is, we cannot carry out selective justice.
ZAKARIA: This was the argument a lot of people made who didn't want to get involved in Rwanda. They said, there's problems all over the world. We can't selectively get involved in one place.
The fact that you cannot have universal justice still, you know, does not argue that you cannot, when there are cases of real guilt, as in Bashir and in the government of Sudan...
KAGAME: No, but...
ZAKARIA: ... you cannot focus on them. And by not doing that, you're eroding the moral authority you have as president of Rwanda.
KAGAME: Yes, but the moment you encourage selective justice, you are probably bringing more damage than you actually know you are doing.
And I drew the distinction. I said, with the case of Darfur, I have told you what Rwanda did. So, we cannot be accused of even being insensitive at all. No. We have our young...
ZAKARIA: But it's still ineffective without real pressure on the government. Because, at the end of the day, there's only so much these peacekeepers can do, as you know.
KAGAME: Well, it is even a not effective way. It is actually not supported to be effective.
ZAKARIA: Now, as you rebuild your nation, you are trying to embark on a path that turns Rwanda into an economic role model -- self-reliant, based on entrepreneurship. And you have cited the book of Dambisa Moyo, who has been on this program, which talks about cutting off aid to Africa.
Do you feel that you will be able to get to zero aid within your presidency, which has another seven years -- eight years?
KAGAME: And I think this is where the point lies. The emphasis is not on giving a time limit as such. I think we are still here talking about the principles, the process that must be carried out. I wish I could reach it sooner. I wish I could realize it in my term of office. But maybe it will come after.
But I have to make sure that, in my term of office, the process is on and is effectively on, so that who comes after me -- the one that comes after me -- may finish the job. That's it.
Aid is about supporting social and economic transformation of people. And in supporting them, aid must do those things that will eventually see people weaned of aid. That's when it...
ZAKARIA: So, you think...
KAGAME: ... you can say aid has worked.
ZAKARIA: ... the purpose of foreign aid should be to get people off foreign aid.
ZAKARIA: You know, a lot of people will listen to this and say, but Africa is different.
Why is Africa so screwed up in the minds of many people?
KAGAME: Well, it is absolutely screwed up.
ZAKARIA: So much poverty, so many wars, so much corruption, so many leaders who loot their countries rather than building them up.
I mean, many people point to you as an exception. But you're a lonely exception. There are not so many like you.
KAGAME: I think there has been a bad start for Africa for many reasons, some of them historical. People talk about colonialism, and so on and so forth.
And I like what President Obama has been saying, and what he said, like in Ghana. People should not just talk about that as if it is the only explanation for the failures on our continent. But that one has to be factored in as part of it. But we shouldn't dwell on that.
We should now shift to our own selves and what we need to be doing, indeed, to get Africa out of this situation. So, the process is on.
And I think, in many parts of Africa today, you realize that progress is being made. If you look at in the past couple of years, before the current global economic crisis, Africa is growing at an average of about 5 or 6 percent per annum.
ZAKARIA: Some of that was the high prices of commodities, which Africa has in abundance. KAGAME: Absolutely. So, which means there is also more work to be done.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back with the president of Rwanda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAME: In our case, we do not want anybody to control us. Nobody owns us. But we should be free to transact business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And we're back with a conversation with the president of Rwanda.
You are somebody who the Americans now love. And you have great relations with CEOs. The American government wants to give you a lot of aid.
But then I read that you have a new building complex for your foreign ministry, which was entirely built and paid for by the government of China as a gift.
Is China's influence growing rapidly in Africa? And should we worry about this in the United States or in the West?
KAGAME: No. I think China's influence is growing globally. That's why America itself is hand-in-glove with China and rushing there for business. That's why the whole of Europe is rushing there for business. The whole world is embracing China for business. So, why...
ZAKARIA: But are there strings attached? When the Chinese build you a foreign ministry...
KAGAME: Why should there be strings attached?
ZAKARIA: ... that's very symbolic. It seems to suggest that they want to have some control over your foreign policy.
KAGAME: No. That will be another problem. If they have control of our foreign policy, it will not be their problem. It will be our problem. And it will be our failure.
Why should -- you've just said a while ago, friends with Americans and with others. Fine. Are Americans controlling our foreign policy? The answer is "no." It happens in other cases. But in our case, we do not want anybody to control us. Nobody owns us. But we should be free to transact business. That is in the interests of Rwanda and those we transact business with. And it doesn't matter where they come from.
So, when China offers something like that, we will take it. It has nothing to do with controlling us.
ZAKARIA: All right, let me ask you. You have a lot of -- you have a lot of faith in people, in your people. You talk about self- reliance, building them up as entrepreneurs.
But you don't give them much political space.
Let me read to you what the "The Economist" magazine says.
"Kagame allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe. He may be planning to bring Rwanda out of poverty, but his prime goal is to maintain his Tutsi government in power. Anyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly."
KAGAME: People today talk about Rwanda as if it is the Rwanda of 15 years ago. Some people will want to paint Rwanda as if nothing has happened there that is positive. And these are the people reading it.
But we have...
ZAKARIA: He talks about prosperity. He's just saying that there's restricted political rights.
KAGAME: Yes. But the political rights are also there to speak for themselves.
We have built institutions from nothing. We have a judiciary that has been contributed to in terms of building by the best judges from the United States here, the best lawyers from Europe. They have helped to build our judiciary. Well trained lawyers who have done well.
And even in the whole set-up and the work it is doing will speak for itself. I don't have to wait for an economist to say to me, yes -- come and rubbish everything, and to say nothing is working.
The freedom of press they are talking about, the issue is not about freedom, because that's why CNN or BBC or others will come and work there and do whatever -- turn things upside-down as they want -- and leave.
So, how can we say there is no freedom of that?
But the problem is, in Rwanda itself, institutionally, is that we started from a very low base on everything, including the press in Rwanda, the actual practitioners. We don't have -- the press is not vibrant itself (ph). It has not developed. And they call it oppression. That's not true. There is a lack of capacity they should recognize. Maybe they should be doing a good job of trying to build these capacities, so that we see more vibrancy in the media and in the press.
ZAKARIA: Do you guarantee that, at the end of your second term -- I'm assuming here that you're going to win reelection, because you won your first election by 95 percent -- a slightly strange statistic, again, to people in the West.
But assume you win your second election next year. Do you guarantee that you will leave after two terms?
KAGAME: Yes. But strange why? Because this is again hypocrisy.
ZAKARIA: But the only people who get 95 percent tend to be Arab dictators in phony polls.
KAGAME: Oh, but when I saw in France not so long ago, the president won by 88 percent. Eighty-eight percent was very high. That was under Chirac.
ZAKARIA: Right. But it was...
KAGAME: Was it...
ZAKARIA: It was on the second round.
KAGAME: Was it strange?
ZAKARIA: No, but you know how it was.
KAGAME: But was it strange?
ZAKARIA: But the first round he did not get that. And then, he was up against a very weak competitor.
KAGAME: Also, if you are weak against a competitor, it means competitors in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Europe are not in a...
ZAKARIA: Are you going to tell me that you won't run for -- that you won't be in office for longer than your two constitutional terms?
KAGAME: No, I think the constitution is not there by accident. It was there for a purpose, and I am there to serve that purpose.
So, I respect our constitution, and, in fact, maybe would wish to give -- or to leave a gift with my people. And that's -- and I want to do it -- most of the things are happening today. And that gift would be to leave a legacy behind where power can leave -- people can leave power, and pass it on for others to run and lead the country, and it happens in a stable environment, and it becomes a culture and a norm that it will go on like that.
I want to leave that, probably (ph), as one of the things I should contribute to. ZAKARIA: President Kagame, a pleasure to have you on.
KAGAME: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World?" segment. What caught my attention this week was silence -- silence from the Muslim world over the plight of their brethren, the Uighurs.
They are, you recall, the Muslim ethnic minority in northwestern China, who claim they have been discriminated against for years, and in the past few weeks have been caught up in ethnic fighting with the majority Han population.
Those clashes have left more than 180 dead.
This week, al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video calling on Muslims to back the murderous militants in Pakistan. But where was his call to support the Uighurs?
Religious authorities in Pakistan issued a fatwa this week against citizens who steal electricity. But where was their outrage on behalf of the Uighurs?
As Moises Naim, a good friend of this show points out, when a Danish newspaper printed a cartoon about the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, the Muslim world erupted. Embassies and consulates were burned to the ground. People were killed in rioting. Eleven ambassadors from the Muslim world formally protested to the Danish government.
So, where are those 11 ambassadors now? Why aren't they protesting to Beijing?
The strongest Muslim condemnation -- but it is a lone exception -- has come from Turkey. The Uighurs are a Turkic people, so that makes sense.
Prime Minister Erdogan said what was happening there is a kind of genocide. The Chinese reacted very angrily to that label, demanding that Turkey retract it. The state-run "China Daily" labeled Erdogan's remarks as groundless and irresponsible.
Now, I am not actually suggesting that other countries should get involved in this. But look at the hypocrisy of the self-appointed leaders of Muslim communities around the world, who scream at the smallest slights against Muslims -- real or perceived -- when America is involved, but remain quiet on all other violence against Muslims, from the genocide in Darfur to terrorist attacks against Muslims in Pakistan.
The silence is deafening.
And we will be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW BACEVICH: Remaking Afghanistan is something that we're not capable of doing, that we can't afford to attempt to do, and then, frankly, is unnecessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Here are some facts. July will be the deadliest month for NATO forces of the entire Afghanistan war. The Pentagon is even admitting that the U.S. has lost troops, quote, at an alarming rate this month.
And eight British soldiers were killed in a single 24-hour period last week. When their caskets returned home, the United Kingdom held a day of national mourning.
Britain is, of course, the United States' most important ally in this fight. Many believe, if the casualty rate remains high, the British public could soon abandon their support for the effort.
Could that happen in the United States as well?
Joining me to talk about all of this, David Kilcullen. David is a former Australian army officer who helped the United States plan the troop surges both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Andrew Bacevich is a professor at Boston University.
As you will see, they disagree on how we should handle this.
David, let me ask you, is this uptick in violence good news? By which I mean, when the surge began in Iraq, General Petraeus warned that the initial effect of the surge would be to actually raise troop casualties, because the United States forces would be actively engaging the enemy in ways that they had not done so far.
Is that what's happening in Afghanistan?
DAVID KILCULLEN, AUTHOR, "THE ACCIDENTAL GUERILLA: FIGHTING SMALL WARS IN THE MIDST OF A BIG ONE": I think we're inevitably going to see some increase in casualties in the next few months. But I do think casualties aren't necessarily a particularly good indicator of whether you're winning or losing.
Casualties, both to the civilian population and to coalition forces, tend to be very low in two kinds of places: places that are completely controlled by the government, and places that are completely controlled by the enemy.
So the absence of casualties doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing well or doing badly. And the presence of casualties -- that is, that we're fighting in some area -- just tells you that fighting is going on. It doesn't really indicate whether we're seeing progress on the ground.
Just to pick up something that you said in the introduction, though, I think, in fact, the most important partner for the United States in Afghanistan is actually not the British people, but the Afghan people. And I think that has to be the focus of what we're doing here in the next fighting season.
If we don't really rebuild that partnership with Afghans that we once had, then I don't think any amount of troop surge or any amount of actual fighting is going to get us there.
ZAKARIA: Andy, what do you make of these casualty numbers? Because again, it's worth pointing out, in Iraq they spiked quite substantially, and then dropped down as we started winning those engagements and, more importantly, providing security for the population so that it felt more secure.
Is that a wise strategy in Afghanistan?
ANDREW BACEVICH, AUTHOR, "THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM": The big question, it seems to me, is not whether casualties are up or down, or why they're up or down. The big question has to do with, what are U.S. interests in Afghanistan?
The assumption in Washington seems to be that Afghanistan constitutes a vital national security interest of the United States, and, therefore, we should be investing tens of thousands of soldiers and many billions of dollars to try to remake it.
I question that assumption. Frankly, I think Afghanistan is of marginal interest to the United States.
ZAKARIA: Well, let me press you on that, Andy.
If we withdraw -- if the United States withdraws, Britain withdraws -- by every account, the Afghan government is pretty weak. There's a very good chance it will either fall, or large parts of the country will be taken over by the Taliban, which has in the past and is now quite closely allied with elements of al Qaeda and al Qaeda- like groups.
So, you will have a country that allows al Qaeda and its ilk to operate, to train, to have bases, and then potentially to do terrorist activities everywhere from Mumbai to London to Madrid, and, of course, the biggest target -- which they often talk about as the biggest target -- which is the United States.
Why is that not a threat?
BACEVICH: Well, it is a threat, but it's a modest threat.
With regard to what becomes of Afghanistan, and whether Afghanistan does become some hotbed of Islamist activity that gets exported to the region, it seems to me that we should at least examine the possibility that there are ways to prevent that from happening that don't require us to maintain tens of thousands of U.S. troops there in perpetuity.
And there, I think, the limited success achieved by the surge in Iraq is again instructive. And that surge, to the extent that the surge achieved, it did so in large part because the United States paid off the Sunnis, who were at the heart of that insurgency.
It seems to me that, by analogy, we can explore the possibility of paying Afghan warlords to rule their little patch of Afghanistan in ways that prevent al Qaeda from taking up positions there.
ZAKARIA: David, why is that not a good idea? I know that you were in favor of it in Iraq. I know that you've talked about it in Afghanistan.
It does seem to me that that key element of the surge doesn't seem to be happening. We don't seem to be reaching out and trying to find members of the Taliban, members associated -- maybe they don't call themselves the Taliban -- and effecting some kind of switching of sides.
KILCULLEN: Well, I think there were two very distinct, specific circumstances about the situation in 2007 in Iraq, which are not necessarily present in Afghanistan.
The first one was that the Sahwa, the "Sunni Awakening," was happening within the Sunni community with a number of different tribal groups turning against al Qaeda in Iraq and trying to push them out of their communities.
When we were there in 2007, that was the fifth attempt by the tribes to throw al Qaeda off their backs. And we participated by helping an existing movement that was already starting to reject al Qaeda.
I don't see a similar large-scale turn by tribes or warlords, or anybody else, to try and push the Taliban out of their communities in Afghanistan. So, that's one issue.
The other issue is, you know, we should never have invaded Iraq. We got ourselves into an incredibly difficult position in 2007. We got ourselves into an environment where the Iraqis were suffering 3,000 to 3,500 civilian casualties every week, week after week after week.
That's a 9/11, every week, on a population 10 times smaller than the United States -- and a population, by the way, that had nothing to do with 9/11.
So, there was a moral imperative to save Iraqi lives.
And we did what we had to do in 2007 to rescue ourselves from a situation that we really should never have been in. Now, the situation in Afghanistan, again, is somewhat different. I think that, in fact -- getting back to your earlier point -- the real center of gravity here is not Afghanistan, it's Pakistan. And what's happening in Pakistan actually concerns me a lot more, and I think it's actually a lot more strategically important to the United States.
ZAKARIA: But the...
KILCULLEN: There still is this small inconvenient issue of, you know, the moral obligations that we as an international community assumed in getting involved in Afghanistan. And a lot of people are getting killed here, and we need to think about what our moral obligations are.
ZAKARIA: But does that mean you accept Andy Bacevich's strategic point, that, actually, Afghanistan is of marginal national security interest to the United States, that we can protect ourselves with a combination of kind of vigilance on the homeland security front, perhaps a little bit of buying off of locals, you know, doing things that treat Afghanistan with the attention it deserves, which is moderate, but not have 100,000 or 50,000 troops there?
KILCULLEN: Well, I think that I wouldn't necessarily use the term "marginal." But I would certainly agree that Pakistan is a much more important problem than Afghanistan in terms of its regional implications and in terms of the broader counterterrorist threat.
ZAKARIA: But does that mean we should get troops out of Afghanistan, David?
KILCULLEN: Well, I don't think -- I mean, I don't think that's quite the issue this year. I mean, I think everybody wants to get as many troops out of Afghanistan as we possibly can, as soon as possible, consistent with not having state collapse and not having a major bloodbath.
When you actually look at how quickly we can get troops out of Afghanistan, I think it turns out that we have to stabilize the environment. We have to work with the Afghan people to restore that situation that once existed, where they are actually in a position to handle the threat themselves. And then we can start pulling out.
So, just as the surge in Iraq, we had to go up so that we could start coming down. I think in Afghanistan, something similar is true.
ZAKARIA: Andy, do you buy that?
BACEVICH: Well, I think Dr. Kilcullen made a very important point, that from a strategic perspective, Pakistan is far more important to our security and to international security than is Afghanistan.
And it seems to me that a key question is whether or not this U.S. and allied military presence in Afghanistan is alleviating the threat to Pakistan or is exacerbating the threat to Pakistan. And it seems to me that it's pretty clear that, indeed, it's exacerbating it. It is contributing to the destabilization of Pakistan.
ZAKARIA: I'm not quite sure I entirely understand that, because the international presence in Afghanistan is trying to create a reasonably stable government there that controls the territory.
If you had a more powerful...
BACEVICH: Well, we're...
ZAKARIA: Listen to me. If you had a more powerful Taliban in Afghanistan, isn't that going to destabilize Pakistan more, because, of course, they will be engaged in more cross-border violence and they will destabilize the Pashtun parts of Pakistan even more?
BACEVICH: We're pushing the Taliban into Pakistan. We are increasing the Islamist threat to Pakistan as a result of our presence in Afghanistan.
KILCULLEN: The argument, that if we pull out of Afghanistan, everything will become quieter in Pakistan, that may have been true back in '02 or '03. I don't think it's true now.
I think we've seen the Pakistani Taliban develop to the point where they threaten the Pakistani state. And if we were to move out of Afghanistan, I think that would probably just increase the resources available to them to take on Islamabad.
ZAKARIA: A final question to each of you, just a quick bottom line.
Andrew Bacevich, you think the best thing to do, cut our losses, withdraw, and we'll be surprised at how little the instability, if there is any in Afghanistan, affects us, our core national security. Correct?
BACEVICH: Yes, by and large. I mean, last week TIME magazine, Fareed, had a story about the new U.S. commander in Kabul. And the headline on the cover described him as the general who's remaking Afghanistan.
I simply believe that remaking Afghanistan is something that we're not capable of doing, that we can't afford to attempt to do, and then, frankly, is unnecessary.
And so, we need to examine strategic alternatives rather than simply continuing down this path that we've been on for almost eight years.
ZAKARIA: And, David, your view would be, you've got to give this a little bit more time to stabilize the environment. Am I correct? KILCULLEN: Yes, I think we need to be there. We need to make it stable. We need to step up to our moral responsibilities to the Afghan people. But I would agree with Professor Bacevich that we need to do that in the cheapest way possible. And we need to make sure that we don't over-commit and we don't soak ourselves up in an unsustainable effort.
But you know, the international community has signed now three international agreements with the Afghan government, and there are a lot of expectations out there. And I think we have some obligations that we need to consider. And I think we should figure out how to meet those obligations in the most sustainable way possible.
ZAKARIA: David Kilcullen, Andrew Bacevich, thank you very much.
KILCULLEN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: I want to share some great news with you. GPS has been nominated for an Emmy Award. It's for my interview with Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao.
If you missed it, you can watch it on our Web site, cnn.com/gps.
Now, our "Question of the Week."
Last week I asked you if you thought the United States needed second stimulus. Listen to some of the responses.
"No, no, a thousand times no," says a viewer named Betsy Goss.
"A second stimulus would fit the clinical definition of insanity." That's Dave Henning of Chandler, Arizona.
Now, I happen to disagree with both of you. I think another stimulus might turn out to be needed, because American consumers are just not spending. They are maxed out, and so, somebody has to. The government is the only option.
But I love hearing all your input and your insights, even when you disagree with me.
For this week's question, here's what I want to ask.
Do you think that some countries actually need a strong man?
As you saw earlier in the program, Rwanda's Paul Kagame is an amazing success story. But some of what Kagame has done in Rwanda might be called autocratic.
My question is: Might it take a tough, even autocratic leader to turn a country around, as he did with Rwanda? Let me know what you think.
As always, I'd like to recommend a book. It's by a "New Yorker" writer named Philip Gourevitch, and it has an unusual title. "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families."
It is an award-winning book about the genocide in Rwanda. It's not a new book. It came out 10 years ago. But it is unforgettable.
One final note before we go. I continue to hope for the release of Maziar Bahari. He's a former guest on this show, a distinguished journalist with "Newsweek," a filmmaker. He's being held in Iran without any formal charges, without access to due process, without access to a lawyer. We hope for his release.
Thanks to all of you for being part of the program this week. I will see you next week.