NANCY ROMAN: Hello. Good evening, welcome everyone. I think we are going to go ahead and get started, just a little bit late. I am Nancy Roman, vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Washington program here. And first and foremost, I would just like to thank HBO and [HBO Executive Vice President] Richard Plepler and I think everyone should give a round of applause for that incredible movie. [Applause]
It has been an awful lot of fun teaming up with HBO twice. This is the second time we have done it and many of you in this room were here when we aired Dirty War, or screened Dirty War here at the French embassy in February. And I would just say that, you know, sometimes you don't know what happens after, but that movie really has been inspirational to a lot of the work that we are doing here in Washington, and we have had meetings with [the Department of] Homeland Security and [the Department of] Defense and, in fact, I have one tomorrow morning that grew out of that because we have been talking about how we might help prepare for coping with a dirty bomb, which was the subject of that film. And that movie was then shared with PBS— some of you may not know— and of course, Richard shared with you this one will be shared with CNN.
And I guess I would just say that the movie was inspirational; it was fun to watch. Sometimes you do wonder, can you really make a difference? But I guess I would just like to say that I hope the Council can be part of making a difference. I hope that ideas that you have that were generated by the movie— that you would feel free to reach out to me. I am extremely excited by Richard and his approach to HBO because the work they are doing, I think, is pretty phenomenal, so thank you very much. [Applause]
JEFF GREENFIELD: Nancy, thank you very much. Those of you, who came late to table, feel free to eat, but as your mother would say, chew with your mouth closed so we can hear this. [Laughter] After the years I have spent on Nightline, being on TV at 11:30, God knows what was going on in front of the camera when I was, so it's fine.
OK, first the modern, secular invocation: Turn off your cell phones, pagers, BlackBerries, digital recorders, and anything else. Second, you just need to know this conversation is on the record, so if during the question period you identify yourself as a high administration official, that will not be sufficient. We need to know who you are, and who you— not who you represent, but where you are from. Here is the format: Fareed and I will have a conversation for about 20 or 25 minutes. I will pose intractably difficult questions; Fareed will resolve them. And then we will turn to you for the last 15 to 20 minutes of questions. Does everybody understand that word, questions? Not, "I have brief comment after the continental shift." I will be ruthless about this, and I don't care where you are from.
OK, let me briefly introduce Fareed Zakaria. I have done this several times and I am getting progressively more annoyed at this because every time I introduce him, he has done something else. As of now, he is the editor of Newsweek International. He is the former editor of Foreign Affairs. He is a regular contributor on ABC's This Week. He is the host of his own PBS show on foreign policy called Foreign Exchange. He is a best-selling author. Each Wednesday he performs microsurgery at George Washington University. [Laughter] And he is, of course, the starting shortstop for the Washington Nationals.
OK, let's get to it. This is not Ebert and Roper and we are not film critics, unless you have gotten some other job I don't know about in the last half hour. But just for brief a moment, the idea of folding a notion about something like extreme poverty in the G-8 [Group of Eight] summit into a romantic comedy, does it work for you? Was it a good idea?
FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, I am sure nobody has come here to hear my views on the movie as a movie, but I thought it worked. I thought it was charming. Look, I think that there are works of art that try to convey ideas— it's always a challenging format. You know, there are— if you think about plays like Tom Stoppard's plays or [Michael Frayn's] Copenhagen or things like that, they are tough and there is often in those kinds of plays— one character at some point stands and gives you a little lecturer on physics. And in dramatic terms, it doesn't work that well. I thought given those kinds of constraints, this one worked very well.
Now, this was a different kind of set of ideas, in that this was not trying to— Tom Stoppard's plays are trying to, in some ways, be very clever and remind you or convince you that you're very clever— that you could get— you could understand the play. This is different. This was not trying to tease the brain; it was trying to stir the soul, and I think it did that. Was it a little schmaltzy as a result in some parts— the last speech? Yeah, but I think at the end of the day, it worked.
GREENFIELD: Yeah, OK. And maybe we could take this as a metaphor, as a fairy tale, which is what movies like Dave, for my money, the best political movie ever done— it's a fairy tale. It's not the idea that one woman is going to change everybody's mind, but maybe the collective. But you could almost believe that [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair and [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Gordon Brown got a sneak peek at this, because in this movie, the woman persuades the chancellor and the prime minister to act, and over the last few weeks, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown seem to have done this, possibly without seeing the movie. So on the first step, the debt cancellation— $40 [billion] to $50 billion in debt cancelled for 18 foreign countries, four of them Africans— how big a deal is that, Fareed?
ZAKARIA: Well, on your first point, part of what's going on here, I think, is that some of the communities that have been trying to persuade people can't take yes for an answer. There is a sense in which there is a consensus forming here, where there is a great deal of sympathy for the idea of doing something for poor countries in Africa. And for many people, understandably, who have labored in the vineyards for a long time, they can't quite believe that people want to do it, so there is a sense in which people are pushing very hard against an open door or at last a partially open door.
I was in London last week, and there was an interview with [musician and humanitarian activist] Bob Geldof, in which he said he had to explain to the activists he was dealing with that [President] Bush has actually tripled aid to Africa and you can't keep describing him in quite the satanic terms you are using, because he is— he has actually done— so at some level, there is a— there is a shift here. The debt cancellation is not as big a deal as people are making it out to be in monetary terms. It probably amounts to 3 percent of all aid. I mean, one of the reasons it was easier to agree on is that people realize— it's going to cost the United States— Jane probably knows these figures better than I do— I think a $160 million over the next four or five years. You know, on a $10 trillion GDP [gross domestic product], that's not huge money, and that's why it was actually relatively easy to get that part of it done.
GREENFIELD: OK. You mentioned Bob Geldof's point about the Bush administration. The United States was portrayed in this movie— there is a shock for the entertainment industry— in not entirely flattering terms, but as you mentioned, the numbers suggest that they have actually moved, certainly compared to the Clinton administration, at least in absolute numbers. Your assessment in general— I mean somebody called— I think it's a $700 million increase in money— barely a drop in the ocean. Where are they on this? Are they, as portrayed in this movie, kind of more ideological, insisting on economic growth at home and [saying], "Well, we really don't know what works," or have they moved beyond that?
ZAKARIA: The Bush administration has a very strange and mixed record on this issue, I think. Basically, their head is in the right place, even if their heart is not; which is to say, what they have been trying to spend a lot of time focusing on is how to make this money work, so on AIDS, they have actually made an enormous increase in funding and for the most part, it's been wisely done. There are parts of it that you can agree with or disagree with.
On the Millennium Challenge Account, which is the crucial issue, they are absolutely right: The American sort of character, the bad guy in that movie, is actually more right than wrong. You know, people who talk about the need for a Marshall Plan for Africa should remember Africa has received the equivalent of five Marshall Plans in the last 40 years. The question is not entirely one of resources; the question is, how do you disperse them, how do you spend them, how do you make it effective?
The problem the Bush administration has is having come up with a very smart program, the Challenge Account, they simply have not funded it at all. They have promised $5 billion of aid annually to the Millennium Challenge Account. They have dispersed to date, $110 million to— for bizarre reasons— Madagascar. I'm not entirely sure why, but this is the problem. There isn't a real follow-through, and it's simply not true that there aren't enough good projects to fund. Maybe you couldn't get to $5 billion, but you could get to several billion dollars. If you look at what's going on in Tanzania, in Ghana, in South Africa, in Botswana, there are lots of projects you could fund.
Why is this happening? AIDS has a constituency domestically, for a variety of reasons. The Christian right wants to get in on it for abstinence reasons. There are other people who want to get in. Nobody has a generic interest in funding African— you know, in alleviating African poverty, and that means congressionally, it doesn't have a very strong base and the Bush administration— the president hasn't pushed further at all.
GREENFIELD: There is a broader point here. It infuriates some Americans, and I think it's not partisan to say particularly on the right, when people say, the United States as a nation is stingy. And the phrase that many Americans [say], "We are the most generous nation in the world," is an article of faith. Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University professor, the adviser to the UN on [the] Millennium Development [Goals], who has made this his life's work, says flatly this is just not true. Measured by either the public money or private charitable money as a per capita item, we lag way behind Europe. So I guess the question is, if you were trying to change policy in United States, would you do it out of guilt or would you find a different way to say to Americans, "Do better?"
ZAKARIA: Well, Jeff is basically right, in that we are pretty generous when you look at aggregate numbers. We are not very generous when you look at it as a percentage of GDP, even if you include private giving. Private giving actually is not as vast as you would imagine. I can't quote by name the person who told me this, but a very prominent philanthropist said to me once, "Let's be honest, 95 percent of the charitable giving that the United States— that Americans do, is the richest people in the world funding their churches, museums, operas, and art galleries, and they call that charity." You know, meaning, if you are really saying to yourself, is there a very considerable amount of private money going to try and deal with this problem of extreme poverty, no.
I mean, if you look at the figures by the way, there is a very clever attempt to take— to try and demonstrate that Americans actually pay out much more than people claim and that, if you add it all up, it adds up to more than the Europeans. So I looked in one of these figures and it turns out they are including remittances that Mexican workers send home. You know, how that counts as U.S. charitable giving, I don't understand.
So basically, I think that we are— we are not doing as much as we can, particularly because we have now begun to realize, post-9/11, the broader consequences of this. How would you do it? I would try to appeal to people's sense of self-interest. I think that, at the end of the day, if you were to try to make a purely altruistic argument about funding in Africa, it would be very episodic and cyclical. You know, you would get a little money every time there was something like a tsunami. But let me just say, the tsunami happens and we have this huge outpouring of money. A tsunami happens in Congo every three months. Every three months 200,000 people die in the Congo.
GREENFIELD: Now, which leads to— actually, I just want to footnote this: Someone mentioned, and I don't remember who, that the way you appeal to Americans is not out of charity and maybe not even out of self-interest, but of their sense of greatness. You could do this, and you are the most powerful country in the world. You could do this. Not "you have to," because that doesn't always work.
But when you raise the question of these deaths, it raises one of the principal arguments that people make against a kind of Marshall Plan and that is, look, in Congo, how many people have died because of the war? Two and a half million? Four million? I don't even know the number. Every paper in America now is looking— is running stories out of Zimbabwe where [President Robert] Mugabe seems to have borrowed from [Cambodian dictator] Pol Pot in moving people out of urban areas, demolishing their homes if they voted against him in a recent election, putting them back in the rural communities or the equivalent of concentration camps. And the argument is, if that's why people are suffering and dying, if the people in Sudan are dying not because they don't have bed nets or medicine, but because the government is actively funding the massacres— that's what the resistance is built into. How fair is it for people to say we should not be pouring billions of dollars into this continent when so many of its leaders are killing their own people?
ZAKARIA: I mean, I think it's entirely fair in countries where that is happening. That is to say, giving Robert Mugabe money will not modernize the Zimbabwean economy. It will not do anything for Zimbabwean society. But I think that we have actually here— this is one of the things that I think some of these critiques don't take into account— you know, all foreign aid is wasted et cetera, et cetera. We have actually learned a lot about development in the last 20 or 30 years, partly through trial and error, partly through things that haven't worked, and if you look at the way in which the World Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other agencies, the UNDP [United Nations Development Program], are handling some of these issues, there is a much greater degree of sophistication, a much greater degree of realism about what you can do, what you can't do, about the degree to which stuff will just get— go down the black hole if you don't in some way have certain kinds of safeguards.
And I think the fundamental point that you should only put money— serious money in terms of basic development— into governments that are competent, capable, and reasonably honest is basically true. Now, there is a very sad moral dilemma that this raises: What do you do about the people who are living under governments that are not competent and honest? They did nothing to will that fate upon themselves. Most of these governments were not elected by them, so they are getting doubly punished. Not only do they have bad regimes, and then we are looking at them and saying, "Because you have bad regimes, we can't trust you with any money." I say, it's a tough choice, but it's still worth doing it that way, because the money isn't going to get to them anyway.
You know, if you were to give money in the hope of alleviating poverty in those places, [you] wouldn't have— one exception is healthcare. It has seemed to be possible to target the expenditure of money on disease prevention, vaccinations, things like that, even in some countries which are pretty weak, dysfunctional, and poor, and it's had effects. And if you look at the [Bill and Melinda] Gates Foundation, which has been able to do truly miraculous work in many places which have been written off by development agencies, one of the reasons they were able to do it is it's very focused, it's very measurable. Even nasty regimes— maybe not Mugabe's, but just your garden variety, dysfunctional, third-world country has an incentive in trying to fix some of this stuff and they have managed to do it. So, you know, there has been some learning.
GREENFIELD: The subsidy issue: We heard in the movie the chancellor recite them on to trade— debt, trade, and aid. Of the three of them, it strikes me as a monumentally uninformed person in this area, that trade may be the trickiest because according to one number, the developed world spends three times as much in agricultural subsidies as the total amount of aid and the political pressures on these different countries to keep these subsidies is enormous.
Is there any reason to think that any of these [G-8] governments [meeting] in Gleneagles next— I guess it is the end of this month or next month— is going to make any significant step to say to its own agricultural base, "We are going to have to cut back these subsidiaries and let these folks compete in our markets so that they don't starve." Is that at all politically feasible?
ZAKARIA: No, I mean it's not— it is politically feasible. I don't think anyone will do it. Look, you are absolutely right about trade, the single overriding issue here if you want to try and help Africa get its act together, has got to be trade because at the end of the day, one aspect of the movie that inevitably romanticizes the entire issue is what is going to change Africa is not a set of heroic decisions made at Gleneagles by G-8 ministers. What is going to transform Africa is Africans. If Africans change the way they are governed, the way they run their economies, that's what's going to change things.
You are beginning to see real change there. If you look— most people don't realize Africa will grow 5 percent this year. There are 16 countries in Africa that are going to grow over 4 percent this year and have grown over 4 percent for the last five years. There are countries like Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, even Nigeria that are getting their houses in order, but you can't do it if you are locked out of the most important markets in the world in the only economic products you are really competitive at a global scale in. But if you aren't— you know, so if you don't change that; that is, if we don't change the agricultural subsidies— and here it is an unholy alliance between the United States and France. I shouldn't say this in this room, but the [laughter]--the French position on this is appalling, and if you look at what [French President Jacques] Chirac has been saying to Tony Blair's very rational attempts to reform this process, it's just absurd. I mean, he is— you know, it reverts into this— his most recent argument was the United States should not alone be allowed to defend— to subsidize agriculture in the world, so now we are engaged in a kind of competitive subsidization process.
GREENFIELD: But, Fareed, did— OK. If nothing will fundamentally change unless these markets open, and you just told us you don't think these markets are going to open at all, at least not next year— you know, I did take a logic course. It does sound to me that the most fundamental thing that needs to be done has no chance of being done, and therefore the outlook for at least the foreseeable future is basically not very good.
ZAKARIA: So maybe the movie has a point. Maybe— you know, in other words, maybe the call to action is reasonable and the most important part of that supportive action should be movement on trade, movement on the end of— the way to put it, I think, is that you have to let the poorest people in the world participate in the free-market economy.
GREENFIELD: But who is making— my point is, I understand people making an argument based on self-interest, based on humanitarianism. I think this is one area where the so-called religious right may have a paradigm shift in what it cares about over the next five years and make a big difference in terms of aggregate aid, but on the issue of trade, it just seems to me that— I don't know who is going to make that argument in the face of the pressures not in here and in France and in every other developed country to say, "Are you kidding? You know, we vote, we organize, we are a powerful base."
ZAKARIA: Yeah, this is the classic problem with free trade; that is, that the benefits are spread thinly across the entire population, but the costs are felt deeply in very specific places. But look, we make this argument all the time. We like to think we are the sophisticated, modern, globalized economy and we keep telling ourselves that Wal-Mart outsourcing to China is great. It has actually benefited America. It has made it more competitive. The costs of goods are lower for American consumers. This is good for the economy, it spurs competition. All that is true in agriculture just as much. I mean— and that's basic goods. If you lower the price of food for American families, that should be considered a net plus, but it is the same problem of, you're lowering it slightly for everyone but you are affecting very deeply, you know, 25,000 people in the cotton business.
GREENFIELD: It struck me after 9/11 that if you really wanted to put Pakistan in a situation where it was better off, you would open the markets to their textiles, but that's another one of those—
ZAKARIA: But that is happening. You know, again, I feel— I think one shouldn't just pocket every good thing that happens in the United States and Europe. There is movement here. I mean, the arrow is not moving so far in the wrong direction. It's moving very, very slowly, but in the right direction.
GREENFIELD: We are going to go to questions in just a second. I believe— are there microphones cleverly in the hall? Yeah. So what you can do is raise you hand. But, Fareed, there is one more question I wanted to ask you and that's, the end of this movie is very skillful to me, because after the passionate speech of Jeannie, it turns the chancellor and the prime minister around and they make this commitment. They make this appeal to the other G-7 [Group of Seven] nations and there is silence. Unlike some bad Hollywood movies where one speech— because they are all written by writers who think the word matters— changes everybody's mind, in this movie, there is dead silence and then the Brits come out at the very end to say they have got something to tell us, but we don't know what it is. We have no idea whether or not the Brits have turned everybody else around or whether they are going to be in splendid isolation and the French and the Germans and the Americans have told them to take a hike.
So next month at Gleneagles, assuming that this woman does not show up and change everybody's mind [laughter], are we are going to— at the end of Gleneagles, are people who care about this issue going to think that they have heard good stuff or just another year of carefully crafted compromise?
ZAKARIA: Well, you know, one of the areas where there is poetic license is the idea that there is actually something that— substantive that happens at these summits. [Laughter] This is all an entire— a carefully prepared set of programs. We already know what is going to happen. At that point, what you will have is a very triumphant description of the debt-relief program that we already know of, there will be commitments on aid which will be honored by none of the countries involved, and there will be no movement on trade. That would be my prediction on what will happen.
GREENFIELD: I am sorry, I lied. There is one thing I want to mention because I have heard Jeffery Sachs speak about this and it really made quite an impression, where he talks about the sheer— the sheer minimal amount of money that can save lives. I mean, he is not talking about billions; he is talking about in one town where a water pump we will wipe out waterborne diseases, where bed nets treated with insecticides, which cost a couple of dollars are going to— it will save the life of every kid, at least from that disease, who is now afflicted by malaria.
It just struck me that if there was a way to link specific towns and villages in Africa on the web and if you said to somebody, you know, "$50 will buy this town a water pump and it's going to make a difference," that that could conceivably make a bigger difference than the speeches we are going to hear in the next couple of weeks. Is that at all feasible or is the scope of what we're facing simply too great to nail down that kind of specificity?
ZAKARIA: Well, at— in terms of the transfer of money, what you describe is actually very feasible in the sense that there is— you know, we are exploding with wealth in the advanced industrial world. I mean, there is just so much money, especially over the last 50 years of peace and prosperity— no wars, no great social revolutions. It has produced a monumental amount of money and if you look at, as you say, what it would cost in terms of the bank for the buck to try and deal with some of these problems, it will be easy. The problem is— let's say you do what you were describing; there is that small thing called the government of the country involved, which would not allow this, because it would be considered an infringement on its sovereignty. The city— the region involved, so there are these layers of government bureaucracy, corruption, mismanagement that would make it impossible to say, "Let's just do that." At the level of the money, you are absolutely right: You could do it tomorrow.
GREENFIELD: All right, let's go to the audience for their concise, sharp, carefully constructed questions. And who has got the mikes? OK, let's take a look; we will start over here and then do somebody back here, just wait for the microphone.
QUESTIONER: [Off mike]
GREENFIELD: Yes, we are going to go— as [Nightline news anchor] Ted Koppel used to say, "We're going to go a little bit over because we started later," but if some of you have made travel arrangements that require you to be out of here at 9:30— what? Airlifts or stuff?--that's OK. [Laughter] I don't know what we do about it if it wasn't OK, but it's OK anyway, please. Your name, just tell us who you are and what your— your question.
QUESTIONER: Layli Miller-Muro, with the Tahirih Justice Center. The initial reaction of Gina to an explanation of what the summit was about, which was narcoleptic in nature, is I think the vast majority of Americans' responses to hearing about the issues of the G-8 summit and it is in part, I think, because of the way the media sometimes portrays these issues as complicated. From a media perspective, will this G-8 summit be portrayed differently? Arguably, there are more catchy issues being discussed now, and what do you see as the trends in media coverage next month?
ZAKARIA: I think it will be portrayed somewhat more substantively, because there is this issue and there has been a campaign around it, but I am not sure I would agree with the characterization that this is sort of the media's fault. G-8 summits are mind-numbingly boring. Nothing happens at them, by and large. They are meant to be a mechanism by which the advanced industrial world coordinates its economic policies, except that they don't. So they get together, meet, have a discussion, and then go back. So what is the media supposed to do, claim that there was actually substance when there wasn't? You know, I mean, there is an inherent problem if you want to make— you know, when a summit is really interesting and important, it will be covered as such. Remember, the media has one enormous bias which is towards sensationalism, and therefore, if you could claim credibly that something actually happened, I mean, we— you know, we claim that when there is a day of bad weather and we call it "the storm of the century." If something happened at a summit, we would call it "the summit of the millennium," for God sakes.
GREENFIELD: On the [one] hand, if you don't think we can spend days covering events where nothing happens, you haven't seen convention cover in last 20 years. Sir, wait for the mike.
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible] from Business Week. Would micro-lending— lending to small businesses— solve the dilemma of not getting money to people governed by a kleptocracy, No. 1? No. 2, the experience that we have seen with the poverty-eradication programs in China and India, namely economic growth, seem to make it look like a zero-sum game. There is global growth, but there seems to be a leveling of living standards as we lose jobs here. Is that really where we are going if poverty is eradicated? Is that inevitable?
ZAKARIA: I will take the first one. Micro-lending is a great idea. Micro-lending is basically very small loans given to village entrepreneurs who would not be able to get them, because they do not have a kind of profile that would allow a bank to give the loan, and basically it's the part of the ongoing democratization of finance that has taken place in the— that first took place in the Western world. I mean, one of the great reasons the American economy has boomed and has actually outperformed the rest of the advanced industrial world is in part the democratization of finance; that Americans can get— every American idea can get financed. Now, maybe we finance too many crazy ideas, but the point is you can get financed, whereas in Europe, for example, you still need to go to a big bank and they will ask you, you know, "What was the last big company you ran?," and things like that. So it's fundamentally a very good idea.
On your second question, I don't know, is the honest answer. So far, one would have to say that the fear is that the rise of India and China will produce a leveling of wages in the advanced industrial world, which has not happened. American wages are not going down. You know, it is very important to point out when everybody talks about this great problem of Chinese and Indian workers taking away American jobs, you would assume American unemployment is, you know, rising rapidly and up to 15 percent. America has the lowest unemployment rate that it has been in decades. The reason Europe has high unemployment has nothing to do with India and China; as most of us know, it has to do with the fact that they won't structurally adjust their economies, as is evident from the fact that the ones that have don't have high unemployment, such as Britain, Spain, Poland.
So, you know, there— maybe at some point, what you are describing will happen. I think it is difficult to imagine 700 [million] or 800 million new workers coming online in the world of global capitalism and therefore convergence of wages taking place, and the convergence only takes place with their wages rising, which they surely will. There will probably be some pressure on the wages in the advanced industrial world. My guess is, and I am not saying anything profound here, but my guess is that they will happen more at the unskilled or semiskilled level. People who make complicated things or talk about them— so you are all in good shape— will be all right, I think.
GREENFIELD: We have a question over here. Can we get a microphone over here? Who has got a microphone? You have.
QUESTIONER: Thanks very much. I am [inaudible] at the Center for Global Development. We are thrilled that HBO has made this movie. We work on this stuff everyday. I have a question for both Fareed and Jeff: How important is it to get this kind of discussion out beyond the Beltway, and how effective is a movie like this in doing that? Or for those who care about those issues, is it enough to focus our efforts on promoting good ideas with those who are in a position to act on them within the Beltway and in other rich capitals?
GREENFIELD: I think it is important and, in fact, in seeing the movie a second time, it actually— it impressed me as a very skillful way of doing that. I mean, we know something about how a once invisible issue gets propelled into the public. The best example of it that I know is what happened when a BBC crew 20 years ago stumbled on a feeding station in Ethiopia where children were being forcibly turned away; that footage winged its way via satellite to the United States, it went on the network news, and the head of [U.S.] AID [U.S. Agency for International Development] told me a few years after this that the consequent outpouring of interest and [the aid initiative] Live Aid and all that probably saved 100 million lives.
This one is more structural and the other thing about this is— I mean, Fareed used a phrase that a lot of people are using, you know, there is a tsunami every few weeks in many of these countries. I can't explain it. If there is a shrink in the audience maybe she or he can, but when people suffer because of natural disaster, the impulse to get involved is far greater than when they suffer because of human evil or a kind of slower bit of nature's work, but particularly human evil like massacres, because we can all— we can all imagine ourselves the victims of that and yet when it comes to a government that oppresses, most Americans for understandable and thankful reasons, can't.
ZAKARIA: No, I agree with all of that. I would just add that you have to operate at two levels. I think at one level, you are just trying to get the very simple idea across that we can do something and I think that the movie does it well and should be commended and there should be more of this kind of thing. I do think at the level at which you guys operate, it is also very important to have smart ideas about how to spend it, because you can so easily dissipate public support if there is a sense that one more Marshall Plan to Europe— to Africa has been wasted and that is why the— some of the ideas that you folks have had about how to spend the money is, I think, very useful.
One of them that you focused on in the healthcare sector I liked very much, which is to spend a lot of money developing medicines, vaccines, treatments, and preventions that will actually be targeted toward African diseases, but the money will be spent in the Western world by and large, which means it will be spent reasonably efficiently with accountability and transparency, and you can do something with large sums of money.
Part of the problem here that we are now talking about is nobody would know honestly what to do with $30 billion, $40 billion, $50 billion if you were to give it to, you know— if were to say, "Here, spend this in Africa tomorrow." You wouldn't know what to do with it, but you could spend $5 billion or $6 billion in the laboratories of the advanced industrial world developing vaccines and treatments for African diseases.
GREENFIELD: Yes, over here. Whosever got the mike is going to get a very good workout here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. I am [inaudible]. I am also at the Center for Global Development. I didn't see Lawrence standing up earlier. Fareed, I want you to take off from what you just said: If the G-8 summit does end up the way that you do, and if things don't turn out quite as well as we would like for the Millennium Development Goals, which is very likely, what are the— firstly, who is going to get blamed and, secondly, what are the consequences for the future of development aid? Is the development constituency going to be eroded?
My second question is, there was a consensus that we would not want to give money to Robert Mugabe, but when the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria gives money to Zimbabwe, it gives it to a civil society organization, which it has— and I think that there may be a future for innovative aid mechanisms that actually bypass the government. Do you think— and this is to both of you— do you think that this kind of a possibility exists, and is it likely to be more effective to bypass the government or to go through it? Thanks.
GREENFIELD: I will take the first; you take the second, because the first question is going to be people who will be blamed— it will depend completely on the political philosophy of the people arguing. The Wall Street Journal editorial page will blame— well, they will blame Clinton [laughter], but that is easy and— but they will blame corrupt African governments and they say that the G-8 summit had a refreshing burst of realism, they didn't throw money away at governments like Mugabe's and, you know, money down a rat hole and other people will blame Bush for not caring enough and other people will blame white racism, and it will just fall into that line. That is what I think. You want to take the more substantive question? [Laughter]
ZAKARIA: I think your example is an excellent one. It was an illustration of what I was saying; that there are certain areas where we have learned how to spend money even when the governments are weak or dysfunctional or evil. Outside of healthcare, to be honest with you, I have never seen a good example. When you get to the problem of general development, you run into the issue of government and the quality of governance, but on healthcare it does appear that you can find ways to bypass the government, do an end run around it, fund civil society, fund local hospitals. And I think we should do it because, look, as I said, these people are in some ways doubly cursed: They have a bad government and then we don't want to give money because they have a bad government.
GREENFIELD: We actually are going to get folks out here pretty close to time. We have got time for couple more questions, over here. Fareed, maybe you want to— yeah, OK. Yes, Paula?
QUESTIONER: Paula Stern, the Stern Group. I was struck by your pessimism regarding the ability to tackle agricultural subsidies and I'm perhaps very naive, but I would think that with the combination of the environmental groups, who are concerned about what agricultural subsidies do in terms of degrading the environment, combined with those who are concerned about inequity among nations and within nations that are perpetuated by agricultural subsidies, combined with the trade-distorting effects which you made reference to, that there could be— if enough political [inaudible] providing, you know, with enough resources that gave that "oomph," that you could tackle that at some point. And my comment is documentaries: Every time every one of these groups, whether it is the Center for Global Development or any of these other organizations put out their studies, I really believe, as Jeanie said in the movie, the picture makes a huge difference, and I think with technology, we ought to be doing a lot more of that.
ZAKARIA: Well, as I said, I think the arrow is moving in the right direction, it is just very slow. I wish I shared your sense that this argument was easy to make. I think that if the Center for Global Development made the documentary, all the people who watch it are already convinced of the subject anyway. I think documentaries do not convince people because the people who watch it— you know, the people who go to the film forum in Manhattan do not need to be convinced about this issue, that is why the— this movie is important, because it is going to be watched by people who don't go to art houses and watch documentary movies.
But I think that, look, the fundamental problem is we have a political structure in which concentrated minorities have an enormous power to block the ending of subsidies. That is simply a reality. Look, we are still subsidizing mohair, sort of. I mean the mohair subsidy was put in place, because we needed mohair to make army uniforms in World War II. It became obsolete, literally, in 1945. We still subsidize the production of mohair. Why? Because there is this mohair subsidy association, and this is— I mean, this is a broader and very profound issue for the United States, which is, how do you get policy made for the future when there are no interest groups for the future, when there are only interest groups for the past, and there are only ways to block programs; very rarely to start them.
You know, FDR [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] talked about bold and persistent experimentation in government as being the essence of government. Well, you can't do any bold or persistent experimentation these days, because you can never shut anything down. The minute you start something, there is now a lobbying group for it and it becomes— every program is, therefore, eternal.
GREENFIELD: So since we are at 9:30, I am going to leave you with one last question. It goes back to a point that I made: If you are talking about transforming the political landscape, if you are talking about combating entrenched opposition, we have seen it happen when a new group comes in, whether it's the civil rights movement or whether it's the religious right or whether it's the women's movement or the taxpayers. So pick up on something that I suggested: It seems to me that the one group that is willing to make an argument that transcends economic interest and to stuff much bigger is the evangelical movement, which is a pretty powerful group right now and which has been showing some signs that abortion and gay marriage is not the sum total of their concerns. And it's a group that this administration seems to listen to. Do you think this is just a pipe dream that they might take this issue up on— you know, talk about, "What would Jesus do?," saving the lives of children is not a bad place to start. You think that's just another fantasy for another movie or is there something practical about that?
ZAKARIA: Look, I think you are right that one of the big shifts that have taken place is the rise of the evangelicals on these kinds of issues and they have been the force for— a positive force on the issue of Darfur, on AIDS, on all kinds— on many of these issues. I think it's a fantastic shift and I do think that, as you say, I mean, we spend a lot of time talking about the role of moral values in our politics and what could be more about morality than this issue? I mean, at the end of the day, these— you know, they are all God's children and people are dying these extraordinary deaths, extraordinary both in the pain that they suffer, but also in the ease with which it could be prevented. And if you could mobilize people, it would be fantastic.
Now, the problem here, is it's— it involves pain for Americans and I don't know whether— you know, on this issue, I don't know where the evangelicals come out. It's in some ways— you know, given the size of the federal budget, it's easy to put a little more money into AIDS. It's easy to send a little money to Darfur. What's more difficult to do is to stand up to very determined lobbies that are going to lobby because their life depends upon it.
See, these are all preferences for us. At the end of the day, we will go back tomorrow and we will go about our daily lives and this will not register very strongly, but for the 250,000 Americans whose lives depend upon agricultural subsidies, this is— they will write 25 letters to [Representative] Jane Harman [D-Cal.], right? And that means that, at the end of the day, most congressmen and women are going to be more moved by that than the occasional cocktail party chatter of us. And so, if we want to change it, we have to recognize that's how American politics works, and you have to organize with some degree of determination. You will not match the person whose job is at stake, but you have to recognize that those— that's where political power in America lies, with concentrated minorities, and if you don't do something to match that, even the power of the evangelicals won't change that unless they have higher forces working for them.
GREENFIELD: All right. We have come to end of our discussion. I would like to announce that in the last hour, the president has nominated Fareed to be chief justice of the United States. Congratulations. You don't have to be American born for that. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for watching the movie. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope this conversation helped. Thanks a lot. [Applause]
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