tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg August 15, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: scott anderson is here, he is a novelist and war correspondent covering the middle east. he has a five part issue coming up in new york magazine. it is called "fractured land, how the arab land came apart." he tracks the current crisis in the middle east. he does it by looking at the lives of six people. it is a fascinating look into the region's history, the forces of tribalism and the global implications of the arab world in revolt. i am pleased to have him at this table. welcome.
congratulations on a mammoth undertaking. knowing your background, it has been the focus of your life, why this now? scott: i have been reporting from the middle east for 25 years, and i feel have reached a crisis throughout the region now. the arab spring revolutions have transformed into something else. this is a pivotal moment to look at something that is happening throughout the region. scott: so throughout the middle east, going back to, in some ways, to world war i, this is a colonial wars drawn after world war i, you had an entire region that really existed in a kind of political stagnation, a real stasis. and one thing after another, long-term dictators had been in power.
what actually triggered the arab spring, certainly a huge influence was the american invasion of iraq in 2003. that represented a scrambling of the chessboard. so for the first time, in good ways as bad, i think the american invasion of iraq, it brought what was possible to the region. totalitarian regimes collapsed, and what would take their place? charlie: we still don't know the answer to that question, do we? scott: we are starting to know, but it is not good. charlie: let's take libya. we have a lot of tribes there a government is trying to support, but it is not sure. what can they do for stability? we are engaged with the battle against isis in libya.
scott: libya is a great example of what happened. libya is one of the so-called artificial states. it was created along with iraq and syria. charlie: when we say who created them, clearly it was the brits. and the french. scott: in libya's case, the italians. so you join together with these lands that under the ottomans had largely very little to do with one another. they joined together these artificial states, and for a long time, at the end of world war ii, things kind of went along. they had these western allied monarchs. and then in the late 1940's, early 1950's, you start seeing these totalitarian regimes come into power, dictators. syria, iraq, gaddafi in libya.
so really what those strong individuals, along with looking out for their own power, was they were trying to create a national identity in places that did not have a strong want to begin with. is saddam hussein the way he is because iraq is the way it is, or is iraq the way it is because of the way saddam hussein is? scott: so there was the first invasion in 2003, what takes their place? you have rubberstamped parliaments in places. what filled the void was a reversion to tribal allegiance, clan allegiance, sectarian allegiance. and when the americans went into
iraq, they had no clue what they were walking into. that there would be this withering out along these lines. charlie: did they even raise the question? scott: that is a good question. people that knew something about iraq at the time, i think they raised the issue, and they were brush to the side. they were considered unpatriotic for suggesting this to be anything other than a cakewalk. we would be greeted as liberators.
let's just go through all of them. tunisia, there was the spark that created the arab spring. scott: that is right, it was a young fruit seller was being harassed by the local government. he set himself on fire in the process and died rum it. that set off -- right at the beginning of 2011, all these protests that led to the overthrow of the president of tunisia who had been in power for 23 years. and then it spread to egypt, libya, to syria. it spread, it spread throughout the region. yemen it spread very quickly. today, i would say the one bright spot in the entire region is you look at the happy ending is tunisia. a fragile coalition government, but they seem to have consolidated.
charlie: what is the impact, what is the possibility of secularism? what is the possibility of shia-sunni split? can you have an islamic democracy? are there answers, or is it simply too early? scott: the tunisians have been very smart about this. you also have to start looking country by country. the nature of the dictatorships that were going on for decades prior. but i think in other places, it is hard to sort of say a catchall thing of where it is heading. certainly egypt, to my mind, i was initially very optimistic about the arab spring.
i thought that for the first time, people are channeling their rage against the dictators that, where it should always have been directed. and for me, where i saw the arab spring go south collectively was two years after the overthrow of you had the first democratically elected president of mohamed morsi in the muslim brotherhood. he made some mistakes, but he had been democratically elected. two years on, good people taken into the street, some of the same that overthrew the other guy, now people take to the street. they want to overthrow mohamed morsi. so what had they learned in two years? you are again asking the military to overthrow the government, this is not government -- democratic.
that was an object if you see this part of the world through western eyes, you are headed for disappointment. charlie: how do you see it through arab eyes? scott: it is impossible if you are a westerner. charlie: but you can't see it through their eyes, but you can ask them what their eyes see. scott: in this article, my main subject, the egyptian subject is a woman who has been living with this going back to the 1970's. and she saw when the one man was overthrown, she saw the paralysis against the legitimate political parties, that they were not stepping forward to seize power and consolidate the democracy. they were just kind of waiting, waiting for big brother to tell them what to do. big brother in egypt has always been the military. so even after the man was overthrown -- charlie: military stepped in. they were appointed behind the president. scott: behind morsi.
charlie: undemocratic. scott: it is so authoritarian. far more political presence. economically, the country is in the shambles. and you were talking about laila sways, her view is that maybe an internal palace coup, they will bring in another general who is more user-friendly. but barring that and some steps -- she sees things much more violent than tucker square of 2011. who are your arab eyes in libya? scott: an amazing young man from a coastal city, about 100 miles from tripoli. he has this amazing story. he was an air force cadet in the gaddafi air force when the revolution started in libya. he and his fellow cadets, 18 and 19-year-old students were kept in quarantined for 18 months. while the country was being torn apart, the west was doing airstrikes, he had no idea what was happening in his country. all he had been hearing was from the regime that is western, western paid mercenaries and criminals who are doing this.
so after three months, gaddafi's military people came to him and said, we need to do a special patriotic mission. go back to this stronghold of the rebellion and find out who the rebel leaders are and identify the force so we can kill them. so he did this. he crossed no man's land, went back to his hometown only to discover that everybody was the rebels. everything he had been told for three months was a lie, even his own family was with the rebellion. so he did this kind of amazing sting against the regime he was supposed to work with and then join the let rebels. and today, he is just trying to pick up the pieces of his life. libya is headed for, as bad as the situation is right now politically or militarily right now, economically it is about to hit a wall. it will run out of money in about a year or two. their whole, all of their hard currency reserves are being, they are running through them.
by 2017, they will run out of money. that has been the band-aid that has kept -- everyone is on the government payroll, even the militias in libya. as long as this is getting doled out, this is money from the government, it has kept a little in place. that will end very soon. charlie: what are the chances of them coming together with a strong, central government? scott: i think, no. i think that once, i think once a place like libya tears apart, it is very hard -- libya is, ok, it does have a sectarian issue. sunni, shia. but what you do have is centuries of these different cities most existing as city states, going back to greek and roman times.
so libya is this interesting case in it is always a bit fractious, even in gaddafi's time. he would meet people from benghazi. that has all kind of ended. charlie: the notion that the people who fuel, who were there on the land -- i was in that square, the people who were there on the street, who were leading the rebellion were not, for example, tunisian, muslim brotherhood, they grafted onto it. same thing true in other parts. scott: that is right. also replace you look, syria is a good example. the urban elite, the educated urban -- charlie: part of the original rebel core. they took to social media to enhance their ranks and their strength.
there, those young people who, because of media, realize they were living in a place which was a dictatorship or a place which was not offering educative opportunities. they are young, and this was simply not a good place in comparison to the rest of the world. scott: when you say what caused the arab spring, that was a huge factor of the explosion of social media and the dictators, maybe with the exception of north korea, you can't bottle up your people anymore. charlie: they can talk to each other. scott: they can. it is interesting, i had a countryman from syria, a college student, very westernized. knew a lot of things about the outside world, and get he has never had a political discussion.
he said, i don't know, we never talked about it. the fear of the secret police was so pervasive, he said, maybe, the most you would ever criticize the government, and this was at a dinner table, inside the family, you might talk about traffic. that was as far as you go. you would never criticize the regime. of course, this also played into with these places exploded. egypt was never as much as iraq or syria, and when all of a sudden this strongman is in trouble or gets overthrown, kids who have been talking to each other, there is no consensus to do next. charlie: dictators would say, we take care of the government, and you let us handle the government part, we will take care of the power, but we will make sure you
are ok. scott: right. and that compact really started to fall apart. and as you say, with social media, anybody i talked to -- egyptians were aware of what happened in tunisia. libyans were aware of what happened in egypt, syrians were aware of what happened in libya. it had this cascading effect in 2011, because you can't keep this information off-limits anymore. charlie: what do you think will happen in syria? scott: nothing good, nothing good. i, i sometimes think of syria the way i thought about lebanon for a long time. it is so balkanized internally, but you also have all of these in upside players -- outside players, how do you ever decouple all of the forces that have a vested interest in the status quo or in keeping the country in chaos.
i just don't see, i have a really hard time seeing syria a exist at the end of this, but i don't see the fighting ending in probably a decade. i just think this goes on and on. charlie: a kind of deadlock. assad depending on the russians and hezbollah. and the iranians depending on the united states, saudi arabia. scott: you have a coalition against isis. for the first time, you do have its peers. you do have a coalition that is really working. at the same time, if you just look at one player in that whole coalition, turkey, turkey so much of the power isis enjoys today is because of it turkey.
so it is a deliberately porous border to allow isis people to come and go because they have other geopolitical concerns, the kurds. then you look at the americans, the americans need the turks in other ways. so what do we do about them, the border policy? you have all these hidden agendas, and what looks to be overt and obvious charlie: coalition against isis. and what you see today in today's paper is russians now coming back, coming back, or to one is all of the -- erdogan is putting down a two. one of his new friends is now putin. scott: who would have guessed?
charlie: it is amazing when you see in iraq, you see people in some cases, the iranians and the americans are on the same side. they want to defeat isis. here on the same side there. and the shia government is on the same side. but the tribal groups because they are sunni have been in the past supporting isis because they had been so badly treated by a shia government, backed by iran. scott: it is just, to go on with what you were saying about iraq, one of my subjects is on iraqi kurd, and his ultimate goal is he wants a kurdistan free of arabs. he wants an all kurdish nation.
so this guy, sunni iraqi, i interviewed him in a secret prison being held by kurds, and just to get to the complexities to say i asked the captors, they say, why haven't you handed him back to iraq, they say we don't trust iraqis. if we send isis guys back to iraq, either they kill him or don't get information, or they are high enough up in isis they can bribe. so you think of two people who should be absolutely -- charlie: people who are supportive of isis will pay money to get them back. scott: they don't even trust a shia government with sunni isis gunmen, because the corruption and all of the secret dealing -- you see this in syria also, alliances between different cities, between alawites, loyalists in isis or some other islamic fundamentalist group. any possible, you know, arrangement.
charlie: will iraq end up in some kind of apartheid situation? scott: i think so. i think so. what the kurds have enjoyed since 1972 with the kurdistan regional government in the operation of desert storm where they created this enclave, since 1972, the kurds have been part of iraq. they are not considered a part of iraq. americans will let them declare independence, but in their minds, they are independent. that is all you can do in iraq, that you can create for the sunnis, which are also a minority. you create a sunnistan regional government like you have for the kurds now.
and you could share oil receipts, you could continue to refer to it as a nation in name, but i have a hard time seeing how the sunnis will ever go back into an arrangement with shia and vice versa. there has been so much sectarian focus, and the suspicions at this point are just not, can't be bridged. charlie: what do they think of the united states? scott: it is a great question. the classic thing that they look to the west, look to the united states as a kind of global arbiter, but i think that throughout the region, there is a consensus that the americans are unreliable, that they are -- charlie: can't depend on them.
scott: can't depend on them. charlie: that has sometimes been described to the saudi's as well, because of the red line and of the price. and toughening up on the iranians. scott: and the american attention span is very short. you came in iraq, you took the place apart, it did not quite work out the way you thought, and then you leave. i remember people were making the vietnam analogy with iraq before the iraq war had even started. and it has kind of played that way. and how that plays to america's enemies is again, just like -- this notion that you can lead americans out. play a waiting game, eventually the americans will get tired and leave. i think that has always been, and that part of the region -- charlie: lose interest.
and afghanistan, but is what happens in afghanistan. then we let it, when it became, a state controlled by the taliban. scott: that is right. charlie: so what should be the role of the united states than? scott: at this point, it is funny when people talk about the administration's policy. i don't think there is a policy. i think that the administration is reactive to events, to the next sort of explosion that comes along. that said, i am not sure what a forward-looking proactive policy would look like at this point. i can absolutely see that libya is going to get worse again. what i worry about with libya is that, that has some american attention right now because they are trying to cinch off isis in the center of the country. that may be successful. it looks like it is going to be. what happens then?
i fear that the west, and particularly in the united states say, ok, our job here is done, and then libya the cascade -- right. charlie: pivot to asia, maybe even latin america. in places where we can have more impact. make a real difference. then we can in the middle east. scott: it is very hard to see. we were talking about egypt. the sec regime despises the obama administration. they see him as weak. a huge part of what overthrew was he was seen as the americans lapdog.
he was on the american payroll for 27 years. i have never met an egyptian get who has not seen him as america's most reliable ally in the arab world. or whoever saw the $2 billion as anything other than a national shame. our president is being bought. he knows the worst thing that can happen to him is to be seen being patted on the head by the americans. the sad thing about the way this is playing out in egypt now, two of her children are in prison for protesting against the government.
they are trying to appeal through amnesty international. what they realized, and this is true for tens of thousands of political prisoners, that route of going through the west, which usually worked for mubarak. now it is counterproductive. if the americans want this, all the more reason to not budge. you never want to be seen as the americans' lapdog. charlie: in terms of influence, where do you put the iranians? scott: it usually depends on what happens in syria. i think you are absolutely right, there has been this calculation made in the obama administration that we need the
iranians and we need an unofficial alliance. they have a role to play. a huge role in iraq. a major role in the coalition against isis. with the administration's realization that if assad goes and things get worse, that increases the iranian influence. charlie: i can tell you this, from the people i have talked to, it is clear they have to be part of the solution in syria. absolutely. russians, iranians. a huge influence in iraq.
and there is no counterbalance to their behavior. it drives saudi arabia crazy. they want to counterbalance the iranians because they view it as a mortal enemy and a struggle for diplomacy. scott: i have always suspected that part of the nuclear deal, there was a sub agreement of recognizing how much the americans needed the iranians in the region. much better to have some sort of rapprochement them to let them go on with what ever they wanted to do and to be caught unaware by it. charlie: congratulations on the article.
we have on this program talked about virtual reality. tell us what it is and why it is important. jeremy: it is a medium that puts you inside of a medium. you are moving your body, the sights and the sounds and the touch change as a function of how you move. in the physical world, every time you move, there is a perceptual reaction that is appropriate. it feels like you are actually doing something. for the first time in human history, people are going to be able to hit a button and have any experience you can fathom. go to the top of kilimanjaro, experience something wonderful, experience something horrible at the touch of a button.
the brain will treat it like a real experience. we have not yet evolved to understand the difference between a compelling virtual reality experience and a real one. charlie: how is it you can do that? jeremy: we have releasing the tipping point in the last year or two years. we have had very large industry bring in billions of dollars with hundreds and hundreds of engineers. tracking your body movements or having light visual displays, there is real energy behind it. charlie: how will it be used in the future? jeremy: all of the tech companies are competing to get the best hardware, the best software. you were telling me earlier that you have tried it. you really did not know, what
are you going to do with this? when the tech moguls come to me and to my lab, figuring out what works in terms of the brain and what applications are good cases for it. charlie: the capacity of the human brain will ignite the whole experience. jeremy: let's take at the given we can produce something that works perfectly for the brain. what media experiences do you want to feel real? in a keynote address to the tribeca film festival, don't ruin movies with virtual reality. not everything that is good on film will translate into an experience that feels real. charlie: suppose you would put us inside of fire. you cannot feel the heat. jeremy: there have been psychology experiences where people show great physiological reactions.
when a scene reacts to your movements, mechanisms of the brain do not know how to respond to it. charlie: the brain is obviously conditioned by what it has seen and done before. jeremy: that is right. charlie: that is a reference point for the brain. jeremy: given a fire that looks real, feels real, the smart response is to treat it like real. charlie: if it is not -- the obvious thing is storytelling. jeremy: i do not think that is the obvious thing. charlie: one adaptable place is storytelling. you probably want to deal with human challenges and problems
more than altering storytelling. jeremy: there is this thing called the director and she is a brilliant person who tells you where to look by moving the camera. in vr, that happens with you. i am looking over here because there is cool lighting over here. you get to do whatever you want. charlie: give me an example of something in the next five years that will benefit humankind. jeremy: training athletes. the first time i built a quarterback training simulation, i showed that to the stanford coach. he looked around -- typically, somebody says, i can see how
that will be cool in the future. the coach said, can we have this tomorrow? practice is expensive. you have to have all these people on the field. they know how to throw a ball. what they need is extra repetitions. training someone to make decisions under a rousing situation. you have military training because practice, you should be able to make mistakes in practice. charlie: so you will not make them in reality. jeremy: that is why they have flight simulators because lives are expensive and so are planes. take carson palmer, he has a system in his home. he looks around, reads his defense. he does it again and again and
he does not need his teammates on the field. charlie: can you use it in golf and tennis? jeremy: let's talk about free throw shooting. we teach them to visualize success. imagine you were much better and your shot going in perfectly. when you are in a slump, that is hard to do. you visualize failure. they put the helmets on and they watch themselves from the third person succeeding. charlie: how do you see it? let's assume this is virtual reality and you are me and i am seeing this as i take free throws? jeremy: you see yourself from the third person. you get to look around or walk around and see yourself being perfect. it is not just visualizing, it
is taking all of the guesswork out of it and letting you see yourself. charlie: how would it be applicable to medicine? jeremy: we just published a paper about pain medicine. chronic regional pain is a horrible disorder. the way to make it better is to move the limb. the same way you do physical therapy, you move the bad limb. the first thing we do is give them a distraction. the second thing we do, we inspire self-efficacy, the belief you can do something. you look down and you see your avatar in the first person.
when you move your arms, your avatar's arms move. when you move 10 degrees, you see it move 20 degrees. you see your virtual arm move more than your actual arm. charlie: i think it might have been mark zuckerberg saying this is the next great platform. do you see it as the next great platform? i am not sure it was mark. but i think it was. jeremy: it is great for experience on-demand. having any experience that makes you feel special. that differs from the big tech companies and their vision is being a platform because they want you to use their media all day long.
charlie: how does facebook think it will use it? jeremy: mark zuckerberg came to my lab and we spent some time together before he purchased oculus. one thing we really resonated on was this idea of empathy. you become someone else and you get to walk a mile in their shoes. mark zuckerberg cares a lot about issues of inequality and poverty. charlie: this is called a diversity mirror and it shows how walking in someone else's shoes creates authentic empathy and the user. jeremy: this is somebody seeing themselves in a virtual mirror. the subject is physically moving in the room and avatars are moving with him. he gets to see himself moving. we are inducing body transfer.
it has been shown, if you move around physically and see your mirror image move, after about four or five minutes, the brain incorporates this mirror image into your body scheme of meaning. lots of research and great publications showing this. we have been leveraging this body transfer to empathy. you feel like this is you in the mirror. please start this again. he bends down, he comes up, and he is a woman of color. we repeat the body transfer. charlie: you are in the shoes of a person of color. jeremy: you experience first verbal abuse and physical abuse while walking a mile in someone else's shoes.
the brain is treating it like it is you. you experience prejudice and some physical violence to resonate what it means to be harassed. charlie: this shows how inhabiting a superhero experience can engender empathy and every day circumstances. jeremy: there is literature on media modeling. we want to teach helping as a skill. we created an intense and a rousing experience. you swerve your body around buildings, very engaging. astronauts say it is the closest they have been to space. it is a really intense experience.
it is an amazing part of vr. in this study, we had people fly like a hero and eventually, they save a child's life. they have to deliver medicine to a child who has been abandoned in the city. we have an actor fake an accident. we are testing to see if this virtually learned behavior transfers to what they believed to be a real accident. people become more helpful when they have had a virtual altruism experience.
it causes them to be more responsive and the physical world. charlie: was facebook's purchase of oculus a confirming credential for virtual reality? jeremy: somebody said -- somebody visible, public -- vr is worth billions. that was a big moment. when zuckerberg decides vr is worth $2.3 billion, it sends a signal to a lot of the other companies. efforts get accelerated. charlie: 2012, you cowrote a book, and it was called "infinite reality." jeremy: when i arrived at stanford in 2003, getting tenure at stanford requires you to focus in on an idea and i wanted to study how the technology
affects people. mental processes and social interaction. the virtual human interaction lab because it was not about the tech. i'm a psychologist by training. on the book title, you'll have to ask harpercollins. they politely listened to me. the initial title was going to be "more human than human." in virtual reality, you can do things like becoming a hero or change your race. charlie: i like "more human than human" myself. when you look at the cutting edge and in terms of what these
companies -- every company has to look at this because as you said, it can accelerate the development of human experience. jeremy: we have the privilege of working in silicon valley. we have a revolving door of ceo's of these big tech companies that come to learn, not about the hardware, but what do we do with this? the answer is not always clear. we host visits from apple, samsung, sony, google. they are all trying to figure out the best applications to use the technology. charlie: what kind of company would you create? jeremy: i have created a company about sports training.
a lot of my work is about the environment and how you can use vr to viscerally teach people about climate change. citizens do not have a direct experience with things like floods and droughts and things caused by climate change. one of my lines of research is about using vr to show them how humans are changing the climate. the best thing we can do as citizens is to use less energy and fossil fuels. if i were to form a company, i would try to do whatever i could to reduce travel and the best way to do that is to perfect this notion of, at some point, we perfect -- in my new book, there is a chapter called "the virtual handshake." maybe you commute to work one day a week.
if i can create a virtual reality experience that makes it feel, the eye contact, the handshake, that is something special. charlie: how will it be used in education? jeremy: i am the director of the stanford digital learning forum. i have been trying to shift that to a field trip. i do not think vr should replace the classroom. we have done one i am very proud of. this is to teach people about what happens with the ocean. we are going to bring a whole
system to the senate floor and get to show a number of senators and other people in washington this five-minute field trip that teaches the science behind acidification. once that is done and we are finished with the perfect product, we will give it to the world. charlie: thank you for coming. thank you for joining us, see you next time. ♪
>> let's begin with a check of your first word news. republican presidential nominee donald trump today delivered a national security address in youngstown, ohio. trump said a new mindset is needed to take on what he called "the ideology of radical islam." he said hillary clinton is not up to the job. >> incident after incident proves that hillary clinton lacks the judgment as said by bernie sanders, stability to my and temperament and the moral character to lead our nation. mark: mrs. clinton and vice president biden campaigned in scranton, pennsylvania.