tv World Business Today CNN April 2, 2011 4:00am-5:00am EDT
>> don't be a coward? >> you're calling me a coward, young man? i've done things that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. >> tough words. that's on monday night. good evening, i'm eliot spitzer. welcome to the program. our lead story -- 12 people, maybe more, have been brutally murdered in afghanistan. most of them were working for the united nations, and their mission was to bring peace to that country. the 12 were killed by a rampaging mob of muslim fundamentalment lifts enraged that a minister had burned a copy of the koran. the horror of the event raises a frightening question. after nine years, more than
1,500 lives lost, after billions spent, what is it for? have we even begun to win the hearts and minds of the afghan people? the attack happened in the city considered so safe that american troops don't even have a presence there. a large crowd took to the streets carrying banners denouncing the united states. one sign read "death to obama." an american flag was set on fire. the mob was encouraged to protest by fundamentalist preachers at friday prayers. they turned their anger on united nations compound storming the facility, overwhelming security guards, setting the compound on fire and then the killing started. some reports say two victims were beheaded. what they were so enraged about was the burning of a koran two weeks ago by florida pastor terry jones. you may recall that jones stirred up a lot of concern and
anxiety when he threatened to burn a koran last september. it was, he said, in memory of 9/11. in a moment we'll analyze what effect the attack could have on the american effort in afghanistan. but first, diane nussenbaum from kabul has additional details on the attack. we spoke via skype. thunk for joining us. what is the latest on this horrific assault? about how many people were killed, and what were the instigating factors? >> what we're hearing now is that there were seven foreigners killed, four guards, three members of the u.n. staff including norwegian military attache, the head of the political faction, the head of the human rights section up north. what we understand is that the demonstration was precipitated by calls at friday prayers at
the nearby blue mosque, a fairly historic mosque in the city to protest against the recent burning of the koran in florida and that demonstrators marched more than a mile to the u.n. compound which is probably the most visible symbol of western presence in the city itself. and that the protesters were throwing stones and that the violence sort of escalated from there to shooting and storming of the compound which was burned and the seven foreigners were killed. we also believe that somewhere between five and 12 afghans died during that confrontation. >> one of the many horrific facts that emerges here is the area was considered to be a safe city in afghanistan. am i right about that? >> yeah. masar al-sharif is one of the
first major cities that's supposed to be taken over by afghan forces starting in july. it's always been considered one of the safest cities, and certainly considered especially shocking for there. one of the things we're also trying to pin down that you may have heard reports that two of the victims may have been beheaded which would be especially shocking and appalling for almost anywhere in afghanistan, especially in this kind of circumstance. afghan officials are contesting that, and again, it's one of these things that so far we haven't been able to completely verify. >> were there any united states, anti-united states signs, slogans, anything to make it clear the venom was really directed at the united states? >> yeah. we did hear that there were "death to america" chants during the protest. the united nations compound
there is the most visible western presence there. there is a nato presence outside of town, but it's much more remote, and this is the easiest thing for the demonstrators to target as a symbol of the west in this kind of protest. >> dion, thank you very much. as the saying goes, hate begets hate, and what more evidence do we need than this? horrific story, thank you very much for joining us. as expected, the white house, the united nations, and nato all condemned the attack, even afghanistan's president karzai called it an act against islam and afghan values. what's the american public to make of this flash of deadly violence following traditional friday prayers? we're joined by fareed zakaria and editor at large of "time" magazine. welcome. >> thanks, eliot. >> it is fundamentally distressing needless to say to have to report on these events. what do you make of it?
why are we in afghanistan when we have to report on these events when our whole mission there supposedly is to persuade the afghan public that our values are better than the taliban's values? are we losing this from the get-go? >> it's an absolutely stunning and horrific event, and i think it should be absolutely clear to everybody that the only blame and the only condemnation really should be directed at those people in afghanistan who took other human beings' lives, who slaughtered people, independent people, and whatever the provocation, it is completely impermissible to do something like this. i think that what happens here is you have radical highly politicized imams and probably political figures there who took advantage of this koran burning. remember, it happened two weeks ago. so obviously they chose a moment where they decided that this would be useful for them. so part of what's going on here is not just a religious issue, it's a political issue. the governor of the province
pointed this out. he said this has been used by certain political forces. so i would just say let's learn the facts before we draw any grand conclusions. as you pointed out, mazar al sharif was part of the original northern alliance strongholds, one of the first places liberated from the taliban. so we don't know enough about how large this protest was, how widespread it was. what we do know is that they understand media, they understand the burning of the american flag, signs that say "death to america," attract western cameras, and of course they understand that this kind of gruesome violence will ricochet around the world. but it's not clear to me that this means that we have lost the hearts and minds of the afghan people. the polls still show overwhelmingly that the afghan people don't like the taliban and actually are quite comfortable with what america is doing for the afghan people. >> you know, fareed, i always
hesitate to disagree with you in any way, shape, or form. but i say i'm so depressed when i hear about events like this, and i think that after nine years and when we see our generals coming back and testifying that we're beginning somehow to win the effort, the -- the public relations effort, the persuasion, how difficult it is town by town, village by village, and then at the slightest drop of a piece of tinder, the slightest spark, horrific events like this, you do wonder why are we sending our troops over there. billions of dollars. can we possibly win when the united states is such an easy target of provocation, even if it is only by a limited number of radical islamic ministers. it just terrifies me to think that we're losing lives, and this is the result. >> you're absolutely right. i'm -- as thoroughly depressed as you are. i just -- i think it's important to just let's step back. for example, as you saw as i did, there was a strong front page article in "the new york times" today pointing out that the taliban is being hammered. they are desperate, they're looking for ways to regroup.
their leadership has been decimated, so perhaps this is part of that desperate lashing out. and yes, unfortunately there are enough radical imams and there is enough dry wood there that it is easy to provoke people when they see something sensational like the burning of a koran. it shouldn't be that way. there should be stronger condemnation from afghan leaders and imams. one of the things we have to start seeing when these things happen is religious figures, not just president karzai who, you know, very importantly denounced it, but religious figures must start making clear that this is un-islamic, that it violates the tenets of the religion. we're not seeing enough of that. it's always been one of my complaints. that the moderates in the world of islam, maybe numerically the majority by far, but they tend to be silent. this is one more example where it would be very, very important
for them to step up and say something absolutely unambiguous about how horrific this is. >> i think are you so right about that point. the silence in what we would like to hear from moderate islam is deafening, and i think that is so important. to quickly come back, the front page stories that suggest the taliban is on the run, i hope that's the case, of course. but i remember just a few months ago we saw reports, we were having negotiations with senior members of the taliban. turns out the whole thing was a hoax and they had sent somebody in who had completely duped us, our most senior intelligence folks. you -- you wonder whether the quality of the reports is what we hope it will be. i hope you're right. >> you're right. we're dealing with a difficult enemy. first of all, there is no such thing as the taliban. they're a series of groups each of which have their own agenda, some of which fight amongst one another. but it does appear that they are on the defensive. if you look at southern
afghanistan, where american troops could not -- kandahar, where american troops could not patrol freely, they have a stronger footing. i think the broader question of whether we should be as committed militarily at the level we are in afghanistan is a good one. and i think you -- as you know, i am broadly speaking and feel we should be -- we should be drawing down, minimizing -- i think president obama has a very important decision to make in a few months which is will he have a genuine beginning of a troop reduction there or tell be cosmetic. i think there's a debate within the administration now on that. i very much hope he goes for a genuine troop reduction of, you know, thousands of soldiers. tens of thousands within a few months, and that will get -- draw us to the point where we can beat up the bad guys, but we don't have to be there feeling like we own this country. >> all right. thank you, fareed. always great to have you with us. now will cain joins me. what have you got? >> last week, you had a
compelling story of an american who had been missing in syria. we've got an update. unfortunately, we've got another american who's been missing in syria. we'll talk to one of his family members. >> thanks. look forward to it. next, an exclusive look inside the embattled city of misrata. rebels outgunned and innocent people trapped in the crossfire. a city under siege. i realized i needed an aarp... medicare supplement insurance card, too. medicare is one of the great things about turning 65, but it doesn't cover everything. in fact, it only pays up to 80% of your part b expenses. if you're already on or eligible for medicare, call now to find out how an aarp... medicare supplement insurance plan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company, helps cover some of the medical expenses... not paid by medicare part b. that can save you from paying up to thousands of dollars... out of your own pocket. these are the only medicare supplement insurance plans... exclusively endorsed by aarp. when you call now, you'll get this free information kit...
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you'll get this free information kit... and guide to understanding medicare, to help you choose the plan that's right for you. as with all medicare supplement plans, you can keep your own doctor and hospital that accepts medicare, get help paying for what medicare doesn't... and save up to thousands of dollars. call this toll-free number now. in libya, moammar gadhafi's forces are battering misurata. some fear a massacre is imminent because the opposition is so
outgunned. fred pleitgen has an exclusive look at the city under siege. how grim is the situation in misrata right now? >> reporter: yeah, it's very grim. precisely because so many fear that there could be a massacre on the civilian population, a lot of people have fled their homes within misrata, but there's nowhere for them to go because the city encircled by gadhafi's troops. have a look. as heavy fighting rage in downtown misrata, many residents have fled from the tank and artillery shells raining down on their neighborhoods. they have nowhere to run. the opposition-held city of misrata is encircled by pro-gadhafi troops. this man says he barely managed to get his family out of the city center and into the school on the outskirts. "all the houses next to ours were knocked down in the
fighting," he says, "people were killed in the houses right next to ours, including women and children." constant barrages of artillery, tank, and mortar fire have clearly traumatized especially the children. as urban combat destroys more and more of downtown misrata, many foreigners who came here to work during better times are now stranded. some were hoping to leave by a misrata port, but they can't get out so they've ended up here at a makeshift refugee camp near the port. it was set up when the fighting started, and now stretches for several miles. all along the road leading to misrata port, you find thousands of refugees, most of them from african countries. and they're stuck here. they're stranded here. they can't get anywhere. the worst thing about it is, first of all, all the refugee camps are makeshift. they have basically no food, no water that they're getting from the international community. what they're getting, they're getting from the people of misrata, and they're right in
the middle of the combat zone. they gave us this people of shrapnel they say artillery shells fell right near the area where the refugees are. this man from ghana says he and many others have been staying under the tarps for more than a month and feel abandoned by their government. >> want to go to ghana simply because it won't be comfortable -- we hear gunshots and -- shouting all over. the city, we want -- people are dying. people are dying. we are not comfortable. we want to leave. so we need help from u.n. >> reporter: cries for help have so far gone unheard as the situation of those caught here gets worse every day. while misrata remains under siege, food, water, and medical supplies are further depleted and desperation grows.
and it doesn't look as though there is any help on the way. there was one turkish aid ship that was supposed to dock in the port and at least evacuate some of the casualties. but that never happened. the ship never came because the port is under almost constant artillery attack. >> fred, great reporting once again. now to moammar gadhafi and his staying power. there are few analysts who know as much about libya as oliver miles. he served as british ambassador to libya in the '80s and has been in close touch with the country's senior leaders for more than 30 years. ambassador miles, welcome. ambassador, thank you for joining us. >> that's fine. good to be here.ations between from gadhafi and negotiations with the british government. do you credit these rumors? do you think if there were such a negotiation it could lead to anything meaningful that would give us a cease-fire? >> no. i think that that's unlikely.
you're referring to this visit by muhammad ismail, a libyan official to london which has caught the attention of the media. it seems to me that considering that we're not at war with libya and we still have diplomatic relations with libya although we've with drawn our ambassador, it's quite normal that there should be communications. i don't attach any great importance to this particular one. the identity of the guy who's come to london is interesting. >> in what way? >> well, he's got a past. he's -- he was or perhaps still is a libyan intelligence officer. he was involved four or five years ago in the alleged plots to murder king abdullah, then crown prince abdullah of saudi arabia. after that, he became one of the senior staff people, perhaps the senior staff guy running the foundation which was in the name
of gadhafi's son. i would say it's relating to islam in some way rather than relating to colonel gadhafi himself. that's just a guess. >> even if his visit relates to the son, saif, does that indicate there are beginning to be cracks in support that gadhafi, the father, has within both his family and the concentric circles that emanate out from him such that his base of support within tripoli would begin to disintegrate? >> no, i wouldn't see this as evidence of that. we have evidence of that in the form of the defection yesterday of foreign minister and former head of external intelligence, and there are many stories now of other senior libyans who are allegedly on the point of defecting -- one it seems has defected, one in cairo. that is significant and does indicate cracks in the -- in the gadhafi circle.
>> i'm interested in your take on the military dynamic right now. we seem to be involved in a bit of a seesaw battle, but something that appears to be approaching a stalemate. is there any way to break out of the stalemate, and if so, what would it require in terms of assistance to the opposition forces? >> i think there is a military stalemate or very soon it will be a stalemate because the rebel side or the opposition side, whatever we're calling them, don't have the -- the logistic ability to move large quantities of fuel and ammunition and supplies over these very long distances across the desert, which is what they would need to mount a serious attack on gadhafi's position in and around tripoli. and the government side, gadhafi side can't do it because they're liable to be knocked out by air power, by the coalition who will probably not allow them to move
heavy armor and weapons and so on and maybe not ammunition in an assault against benghazi. so i think we have a deadlock. and i think the way it's got to be resolved, i hope it can be resolved, is politically, and i don't mean by that necessarily the negotiation, i mean by a political process which could on optimistic assumptions mean the collapse of gadhafi's position, the gradual leaking away of support from his position which would in the end force him to throw in the towel. that's an optimistic scenario. the pessimistic scenario is that you simply have deadlock, and you have the two sides sitting at the opposite ends of a long desert road looking at each other and unable to do anything about it. >> first let me drill down a little bit. is there any way to alter that military dynamic? >> my feeling is that the answer is no. it's -- i don't think that distributing arms would make much difference because the weapons would be in the hands of virtually untrained and
disorganized soldiers. so i -- i don't see any military answer to this problem myself. >> i want to come back to -- i think the phrase you used was the leaking away of support for gadhafi within his inner circle. what can be done to promote that leakage, that seepage, that dissipation of support? >> well, i think it's ultimately up to the libyans. but there's quite a lot i think that outsiders can do in the way of, for example, as i referred obliquely just now, making them nervous about the military pressure that may be brought to bear on them, and also simple things like propaganda. i think it will be useful if moussa koussa were to come out openly to say, first of all, i've defected because i think gadhafi is wrong. secondly, to say that gadhafi is using, for example, he could confirm, i believe, that he's using mercenary troops, using
african troops to attack libyans, and that would be very, very bad news for his image in libya. the libyans are very, very sensitive to the idea that mercenary troops are being used. that type of perfectly legitimate, straightforward political action i think could be quite effective. >> in terms of having moussa koussa sort of stimulate or promote the notion that others should defect, how in your judgment, was it wise or not to say so clearly, a, that he had not been granted immunity, and for people to be seeking his prosecution by the international criminal court? >> well, i'm really quite worried about that. first of all, i think that my own government, the british government, were too hasty to say that, even though personally i don't think that he should be given immunity from prosecution. i don't think there was any need straight away to say that he was not going to be given immunity. it would have been better to stay silent at least for a few days, until we've seen what the effect of his defection is on other people. >> interesting. it sounds as though you're
basically recommending patience and strategy over the desire to throw one knockout punch. and that may be wise, but is that politically palatable given the sense of urgency that seems to pervade the conversation about libya right now? >> no. i think you're right. i think i'm on the wrong side politically speaking. i mean, i expressed considerable misgivings about the whole concept of a no-fly zone and of military intervention in libya. having been around the middle east for most of my adult life, i'm convinced that it's extremely difficult to imagine an intervention by britain or america or france which will lead to the result that we're actually looking for. so many times we've gone in with good intentions, and the results have been horrible. >> ambassador, thank you very much for your wisdom on this. and i look forward to talking to you later on. >> i hope so. thank you. fascinating stuff.
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encouraging numbers on the job front as unemployment fell to 8.8%, the lowest level in two years. it's better than most economist were predicting, but there's still alarming trends hidden in the numbers. the chairman of the white house council of economic advisers joined us earlier. mr. goulsby, today's job numbers were relatively encouraging, 230,000 private sector jobs
created. on the negative side, 14,000 government jobs eliminated, which may be in the long run is a good thing. i guess you're pretty happy with that as an overall figure. >> i would say it was a pretty solid report. and i think that two things that are most encouraging about it are, number one, how broad based it was. you know, manufacturing, services, really almost across the board increases. two, that it's not a one-time thing. this is the 13th straight month of private sector job growth. and over the last 13 months we have added 1.8 million jobs. i'd say that's a trend that we want to buy. >> austin, obviously that is better than the alternatives and what we've been seeing a year ago. that is certainly going to make people happy. i don't want to be the cassandra here, but there are two trends that are still somewhat discouraging to me. one is that we've got the average duration of unemployment
is increasing, and also that 45% of those who are unemployed have been unemployed for six months or longer. i mean, that is telling you there's just a hard core sort of underclass who can't get back in the work force. how do you address that in particular? >> well, those two are related to the same issue of the long-term employed which is a serious issue whenever you're going to have the unemployment rate as high as it has been and continues to be now, you know you're going to have more people long term unemployed than in normal times. i think the two ways you address it are, number one, you got to get the engine of recovery humming along. we've got to have growth like what we've seen so far this year. but you've got to sustain that so that there are jobs available, and then two, you've got to put a focus on the training and retraining of workers. and so that's why in the midst of all of these discussions about the budget, the president's been pretty clear that we got to care about where we're cutting, not just about
how much we're cutting. we cannot afford to cut the training which is going to be the way that we get people back into the labor force working in their jobs. >> those training programs, those that work are absolutely central. there's another trend which is, you know, the issue of g.e., which had $14 billion in profits, paying no taxes, a lot of people are saying where's the equity in that. we gave the rich a tax cut last december, compromise that, you know, let's not revisit that issue. but that was there to benefit the rich. g.e. doesn't pay taxes. is there a need for an overall tax reform to bring back some equity into our system here? >> you know, i think the president has stated a lot of times that there is. you know, i saw yesterday that jeff imeld himself said that we need to bring equities into the tax system. now, i don't know the details about any companies' tax returns. i understand that their claim has been that the story was very misleading because they had some huge losses.
but i think the president's made clear he's the one arguing we need to broaden the base to get the corporate rate down to make companies more competitive. but to equalize the disparities across companies. some companies in the u.s. are paying 35%. you got some companies paying very little. depends if you have debt. it depends whether you have overseas operations. all of this -- these kind of exemptions and deductions, they don't make sense. doesn't make sense to have a very narrow base and a very high rate, which is what we have. >> look, again, on the equity issue which i think is something we got to be thinking about every day, word came out that the ceos of fannie and freddie, basically government institutions, were paid a total of $17 million in salary i think over '09, '10, i don't want to personalize it to them. but simultaneous we're getting a report, i think ceo comp up 20%. average wages as reported by the bureau of labor statistics today only went up 2%. basically the rate of inflation.
is there a fundamental disparity there still that we got to be thinking about? why are ceos doing so well? high unemployment, and average workers are not doing well? what do we do? >> i think we do. yeah. i think absolutely we got to think about these issues. and -- and as you observed before, you know, it wasn't like even before the financial crisis, wasn't like it was going great guns. the middle class was losing out over a boom followed by worst recession since 1929. we don't want to get back on the same old treadmill that we were on before of just widening inequality where a way disproportionate share of the benefits of economic growth is concentrated to a small number of people. i think for the practical reason that that kind of growth is prone to bubbles. if you have a very small number of people getting all the profits, it's prone to asset price increase that's are not sustainable, broad-based growth.
now in the jobs report today, i would highlight a couple of things. number one, the manufacturing job growth was quite robust and has been -- we're having the best year for manufacturing in the last 13 months. to highlight the importance of exports, the importance of business investment, if you shift away from excessive spending and excessive housing construction fueled by bubbles toward more sustainable exports, investments, innovation, i think you're going to see better impact and a wider, more broad-based recovery and hopefully that will help on the inequality side too. >> i think that's right. your point is correct that what you're talking about ceo comp going up when median wages are not is a continuation of the trend lines that predates the recession, predates president obama. so what we're saying is how do we then change those trend lines because we've got to do that long term.
otherwise income and equality is going to get worse and worse over the next years. >> i think that's an important issue that we think about. >> all right, we got -- half a minute left. are we going to have a government shutdown? is there a compromise possible not just on the short-term issue over the next nine months? when are we going deal with the big four, medicaid, medicare, social security, and defense spending? >> you know, those are two different issues. it does feel like compromise is within reach. i think get something bipartisan compromise is important so that we don't in the midst of being fiscally responsible cut the very things that we need to get the economy growing and competitive. on the longer run stuff of entitlements, there we got to hold hands and do it all together if it's going to be done. >> all right. is that -- are you going to convene everybody to hold hands together and chew granola? >> reporter: a holding hands session. >> we'll watch you host that for everybody. austin ghoulsbee, thank you very much for joining us. congratulations on the encouraging news today.
an american student who was grabbed by officials as he watched demonstrations. tik is safe. he's been released to the u.s. ambassador in syria. now news of another man taken. the man's family hasn't known where he was since march 25 when he tweeted from a demonstration in damascus. his tweet said "syria just turned upside down." muhammad's brother, taraq, joins us from washington where he's a student at washington university. thanks for being with me. >> thanks for letting me be here. >> can you give me an update on your brother? where is he now? >> well, i'm happy to say that muhammad has been released as of this morning. right now he is with my father, and they're getting on a plane to cairo tomorrow. >> i know some of the details of muhammad's detention. i know he's still in syria, kind of sensitive. i don't know what you can tell us.
please tell us what you know about what muhammad was doing in syria and the details of his detention. >> absolutely. my brother was working for my father's company in damascus. he'd been there for a little over nine months. he's an engineer. he graduated from texas a&m university. and he's been working there simply, you know, doing -- being an office manager for that office. now he did go back to egypt during the tahrir square protests to take part in that. i mean, we're egyptian americans, and we felt very strongly about what was happening there. but in syria he was very careful to remain neutral so as not to jeopardize the company operations. and also he realizes that he's not a syrian, and this is a syrian struggle. something they have to figure out for themselves. >> do you know anything about the moment that he was taken or where he was taken and held over the past week? >> well, i do know that he was
taken outside of the mosque in damascus. there was a protest going on, as you mentioned before. the next day a televised confession, as they framed it on syrian state television, was broadcasted. and what we gathered from the syrian ambassador in egypt is that he was picked up with a number of those protesters. >> now i understand that this confession was the first you guys, your family had heard that muhammad had been taken. is that right? >> that's absolutely right. neither the american nor the egyptian authorities had been notified before that. >> tell me the details. i'm curious about the emotional aspect. was your family in the middle east flipping through the channels and saw your brother all of a sudden on the television set? was a video clip sent to you? how did you come across the television appearance? >> well, my cousins apparently had been monitoring the situation in syria. and they came across my brother's story, and then they flipped to syrian television
because they said, well, that's the same name. you know, could it be? and that's when they saw the confession. and i was actually on the phone with my mom when it was being played at her house. >> has your brother been able to tell you anything about the conditions that he's been held in over the past week? >> he said that he was treated well, but it's clear from his voice -- he's very shaken. he's -- it's been quite an ordeal. i mean, it's amazing. you know, his release was actually ordered by president assad himself. many thanks to the u.s. and egyptian embassies. and you know, i just want to say, you know, i had heard that some congressional representatives it criticized president obama for sending a u.s. representative to syria. you know, i just want to say that it's not some kind of reward to have a u.s. president in a country like syria.
i mean, my family's so grateful for the efforts of ambassador ford there. i mean, he did so much work behind the scenes with senior decision-makers. and, you know, we really couldn't have gotten him back so soon without him. >> how -- is that how muhammad eventually ended up getting released on the order of the president of syria, his own personal order? how did that come about? >> there was so much diplomatic work by the egyptians and by the u.s. embassy and the state department. i mean, it was a collective effort. also there was my cousins were organizing protesters in cairo, in london. i know that one was going to be organized in houston today. until we got the word that he was released. another was to be organized in lebanon. thankfully those are turning into parties. >> right. i know you said that your brother and several family members had been interested in going to egypt during the
demonstrations there and then your brother found himself in the demonstrations in syria, as well. was it out of interest of the democracy movements in the middle east? how did he find himself in two separate protests, in two separate countries in the middle east? >> well, i mean, the protest in egypt, he left syria to go take part in that protest. i mean, this was something that was very important to me and my family. the political awakening that egypt was seeing was very dear to our hearts. and we wanted to see it through. i mean, i wish i could have been there. the protests that were happening in syria was a complete coincidence. he just happened to be there. >> all right, thanks a lot for joining us. i hope you get to see your brother soon. we're glad to hear he's safe. >> thank you very much. >> not quite all's well that ends well. syria is still a tinderbox. a lot of crises ready to play out in the region. it's one thing to cheer on a revolution. doing some being it is a different story. i'll ask if we should join the arab spring or sit it out all summer long.
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what should we do or maybe not do about the revolts in libya and syria? it's easy to applaud revolutionary spirit, but actually getting involved, well, that's been more than a bit complicated. i spoke earlier with rashid khalidi, professor of modern arab studies at columbia university. we started with the undermanned libyan rebels. let's begin with the military situation which seems in no other way to state it the opposition forces seem to be routed at this point. the spokesman said or military
spokesman said they would consider western troops. is that a line that should not be crossed or should be crossed? >> i am no fan of external intervention in this conflict. and i think it would be a grievous mistake to commit non-arab ground forces. if arab countries were to come to the aid of the revolutionaries and help them overcome gadhafi that would be the least of possible evil -- or regional forces. turkey's not going to do it, turkey. i would say western forces in libya will set up a dynamic we will all rue in the long run. i think that would be a big mistake. >> set up a hierarchy, united states forces would be the worst -- french, any different? >> any european. libya suffered from european colonials in more than any other arab country. it would be handing gadhafi cards to make -- let him pose as a nationalist fighting foreign forces. >> we've tried air bombardment, stray military -- >> maybe part of the problem is we. it's not entirely up to the united states.
in the last analysis, if these revolutions are going to succeed, their people have to figure out a way to do it. if they don't, if we -- whoever we, is the united states, the west, are going to inherit the situation in the end. >> let's switch not terribly far geographically to syria. in a way as important as egypt in terms of the larger dynamic in the middle east and has a ruler who is perhaps not quite gadhafi but is -- has some dark sides to him. how does this play out in the next -- short term? >> what seems to be happening in syria is that this wave of arab revolutions has finally reached one of the most repressive countries in the arab world. what seems to be happening in syria is that the old line that the regime was able to use -- it has to be said, won over a certain number of people. that syria has taken a stand against foreign pressure, stood up to the united states, stood up to israel, no longer is carrying any weight. assad's speech the other day was a reiteration of all of these
old lines. doesn't seem to have had a positive -- >> not resonating? >> it's not resonating at all. people understand that this is about democracy. this is about freedom. this is been an end to secret police rule. this is not about israel or the united states -- >> syria has been living with emergency rule since 1962, that is repressive beyond belief. people can be picked up, held without any rights. and assad has promised he will lift that law. if he does so, what will happen? will that feed a revolution that will overthrow him? >> well, obviously the people who run the security services, notably his brother-in-law and brother who run two of the key security services, seem to have convinced him that he cannot really do this. all of the spokespeople have been trotted out the past week or so saying he's going to lift the emergency regulations. not only has he not done that, the line that he espoused in the speech was good old hardline stuff. >> the speech -- >> far from a change. >> the speech was wild, crazy, conspiracy theory, outsiders -- silliness.
and that's why if he lifts it, he has turmoil. but if he doesn't, does he have continued revolution? >> as somebody said, even paranoids have enemies. there were conspiracies against syria the last four years. that's what this -- not what this is, and this was an attempt to mobilize that old sense of solidarity with the government on a nationalist basis. this has to do with the nature of these revolutions. these are not revolutions about foreign control anymore. >> there have been revolutions in the past, but this one is different. explain why. >> well, in the past, most revolutions in the arab world have been directed against foreign control, foreign occupation. napoleon's occupation of egypt in 1798. the british occupation in -- of egypt starting in 1882. right up to the middle of -- even after the middle of the 20th century. most revolutions in the arab world were nationalist in the sense of trying to end foreign control. what these are about is essentially internal issues. they're not about foreign control.
people understand that there are issues involving the united states or israel, but that's not central. what's central is people want to be free, they want to have democracy, they want to have the rule of law. they want to have social equality. >> and the revolutions up until the 1950s, '60s that led to the foreign control, based on autocrats are -- >> the regimes originally prestige because they could say we ended foreign rule. that wore out over 20, 30 years. by the time you get to mubarak, please. >> now the trouble is revolutions as we know have many chapters. chapter one is freedom. chapter two is -- as you point out, the jobs and food are hard to produce. where this goes -- >> there's always the question of order. always the question of stability. there's the fact that to improve conditions for people you have to have economic growth. >> right. >> that is not possible in the situation of chaos. so the egyptian revolution, tunisian revolution which have