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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first, here’s my take. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to the harsh realities of the world because it believes, as a Wall Street Journal editorial opined, “in a fantasy world of international rules.”

John McCain declared this is the most naive president in history. The Washington Post editorial board worries that Obama misunderstands the nature of the century we’re living in. Almost all of these critics ridicule John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th Century behavior in the 21st Century.

Well, here are the facts. The scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force. Something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, it has been on a sharp decline, and in recent decades that decline has accelerated.

Before 1950, wars between nations would result in border changes, that is, annexations, 81 percent of the time. After 1950 that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946 there are only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force, and all of them begun before 1976. So Putin’s behavior does in fact belong to the 19th Century.

The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker, who will be on the show later, points out in a recent essay that after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945, nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.

Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries, not just major powers, not just in Europe, have also dropped dramatically by more than 50 percent over the last three decades.

Scholars at the University of Maryland have been tabulating the number of new conflicts that have arisen across the world. They find that the past decade has seen the lowest number since World War II.

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine national interest-based foreign policy that would be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression, to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008.

That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery. Hundreds were killed. Nearly 200,000 people were displaced. Yet the response from the West was essentially nothing.

This time the response has been much more serious. Some of this difference is the nature of the stakes. But it also might have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

This is what leadership looks like in the 21st Century. There is in fact an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule it.

Yes, there are some places that stand in opposition to this trend: North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they’re charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/30/fzgps.01.html

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Posted March 31, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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