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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. The deal announced Thursday to end the fighting in Ukraine will face the same obstacle the previous such agreement faced — how to ensure that Russia will abide by it.

Frustrated by Moscow’s continued support for Ukrainian separatists, Western statesmen have begun discussing military assistance for the Ukrainian government. But in trying to decide what would actually deter Moscow, it might be worth listening to what seems to scare Russians themselves. And it is not military aid to Kiev.

When asked recently about the possibility of so-called swift sanctions, which would bar Russia from participating in the international payment system centered on the dollar, Prime Minister Medvedev warned that Moscow’s response would be without limits.

It’s understandable why Putin’s closest associates are so rattled by the prospect of additional economic sanctions. The Russian economy is in free fall. In a report released this week, the International Energy Agency said that Russia is facing a perfect storm of collapsing prices, international sanctions and currency depreciation. The IMF projects Russia’s economy will contract by 3 percent in 2015.

And Putin needs strong oil revenues to maintain his power. From 2008 to 2009 when oil revenues did collapse during the global financial crisis, the Russian government increased its spending by a staggering 40 percent, all to preserve social stability. This according to the economists.

On the other hand, Russia could easily handle continuing its military skirmishing in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s defense budget in 2014 was roughly 20 times that of Kiev’s, according to figures published this week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The argument against sanctions is that while they may raise the cost for Russia, Putin has shown that he does not respond to higher costs in a rational calculating manner. But if that’s the case, then military aid for Ukraine won’t work either. No one believes that Kiev can actually prevail in a military contest with Moscow.

A recent think tank report urging military aid itself acknowledges that the aid package will merely raise the cost for the Kremlin in order to force it to then negotiate. In other words, the consensus is that the only possible strategy is to raise costs for Russia. The disagreement is really about what kinds of costs Vladimir Putin finds most onerous.

I think that military aid to Ukraine would stoke the fires of Russian nationalism, let Putin wrap himself in military colors and defend his, quote-unquote, “fellow Russians,” in an arena in which he will be able to ensure that Moscow prevails. For a regime that waged two bitter and costly wars in Chechnya, a region far less central to the Russian imagination than Ukraine, the loss of some men and money in a military operation is not likely to be much of a deterrent.

Why would the West want to move from its area of enormous strength, economic pressure, to an area where it will be outgunned in every sense?

If Russia breaks this fragile peace, then more sanctions should be considered. Senator Lindsey Graham recently offered the most honest reason why some in Washington are advocating military assistance. Even though it doesn’t seem likely to work, it’s a way of doing something in the face of Russian aggression.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don’t know how this ends if you give them defensive capability but I know this. I will feel better because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and stand by freedom, I stood by the freedom.

ZAKARIA: But the purpose of American foreign policy is not to make Lindsey Graham feel better. It is to actually achieve American objectives on the ground. That means picking your battles and weapons carefully.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1502/15/fzgps.01.html

Posted February 16, 2015 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Once again an ISIS murder leads to fears that it is winning and calls to do more. FOX News’ Bret Baier captured the mood like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Horrific and barbaric, as well as calculating and skilled at high-tech propaganda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: The general feeling is that ISIS is gaining ground with its diabolical methods. But is it really? The video of the pilot’s killing was slickly produced, but it might have been a fancy cover to mask an operation that had gone awry. Remember, it began as a moneymaking scheme to get a ransom for Japanese hostages, then turned into a hostage swap for a forgotten failed suicide bomber, and finally ended with the emulation of the Jordanian pilot.

Certainly ISIS could not have imagined the response its actions have triggered in the Middle East. With Jordanians united against it, clerics across the region loudly and unequivocally condemning the emulation and with Japan ready to provide more aid and support against it. Meanwhile news on the battlefield has not been good for ISIS. Brookings Institution scholar Kenneth Pollock describes this stunning reversal it has faced in Iraq.

“The Washington Post” has reported on the growing discontent within its territories. All this might help explain the brutality of the latest murder video. The group well understands that the primary purpose of terrorism is to induce fear and overreaction. When modern Middle Eastern terrorism first appeared on the scene in the 1960s and ’70s, the historian David Fromkin wrote an essay in “Foreign Affairs” that is perhaps the best guide to understanding this phenomenon.

Fromkin provided two examples of terror tactics that worked and have important lessons. He recounted a meeting in 1945 with the leader of the Irgun, a group of about 1,500 Jewish militants in Palestine, which was then part of the British empire. The Irgun knew that they could not defeat the mighty British Army so they decided to blow up buildings and create the appearance of chaos.

This, the Irgun leader told Fromkin, would lead the British to overreact by garrisoning the country, join forces from across the empire, and that would strain British coffers and eventually London would have to leave Palestine. Fromkin noted that the Irguns, seeing that it was too small to defeat Great Britain, decided as an alternative approach that Britain was big enough to defeat itself.

ISIS’ strategy is surely some version of this. The targeting of America and its allies. The videos, the barbarism are all designed to draw Washington into a ground battle in Syria, in the hope that this complicated, bloody and protracted war would sap the super power’s strength.

Fromkin offered another example, the National Liberation Front, the group of nationalists trying to break Algeria free from France in the 1950s and ’60s. The Paris government argued that Algeria was not a colony but part of France, with all of its citizens treated as French men and women. So the FLN began a campaign of terror in order to provoke an overreaction from the French government, getting them to regard all Muslim and Algerians as suspects.

Quote, “The French thought that when the FLN planted a bomb in a public bus, it was in order to blow up the bus,” Fromkin noted. But the FLN’s true aim was to lure authorities into reacting by arresting all the non-Europeans in the area as suspects.

The many recent acts of terror committed in Europe can’t be said to have a strategy but they could make European governments and people treat all Muslims in Europe as suspicious and dangerous, and then the terrorists will have achieved an important goal.

Now these things do not have to happen. Fromkin concluded his essay by noting that, though terrorism cannot always be prevented, it can always be defeated.

You can always refuse to do what they want you to do.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1502/08/fzgps.01.html

 

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FAREED ZAKARIA, (CNN) The midterm election results were just one more reflection of the pervasive discontent in the United States these days. Two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, and yet if one looks at the rest of the world, what’s striking is how well the United States is doing relative to other major economies.

President Obama says the United States has produced more jobs in its recovery than the rest of the industrialized world put together. Why is this? Many believe the American economy has some inherent advantages over its major competitors, a more flexible structure, stronger entrepreneurial traditions, a more demographically dynamic society.

Well, along comes a fascinating new book that says you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Peter Zeihan’s “The Accidental Super Power” begins with geography, pointing out that America is the world’s largest consumer market for a reason — rivers. Transporting goods by water, he points out, is 12 times cheaper than by land which is why civilizations have always flourished around rivers.

And America, Zeihan calculates, has more navigable waterways, 17,600 miles worth, than the rest of the world put together. By comparison, he notes, China and Germany have about 2,000 miles each, and all of the Arab world has just 120 miles of river.

But that’s just the beginning. The world’s greatest river network directly overlies the world’s largest piece of Arable land, the American Midwest, he writes. Add to this America’s many and unequal deep water ports which you need in order to get goods to and from the rest of the world. Chesapeake Bay alone boasts longer stretches of prime port property than the entire continental coast of Asia from Vladivostok to Lahore, writes Zeihan.

All of these factors combined have created the world’s largest consumer market, surplus savings and a dynamic unified economy. It’s also remarkably self-sufficient. Imports made up 17 percent of the American economy in 2012 according to the World Bank. Compare that to Germany’s 46 percent or China’s 25 percent. And this number in the U.S. will fall as America imports less and less foreign oil.

Zeihan emphasizes the degree to which America’s energy revolution has insulated it from the rest of the world. Thanks to efforts to extract shale, North America has much of the energy it needs at home. As the world gets messier, he argues, there are fewer and fewer compelling reasons for America to pay blood and treasure to stabilize it.

I’m not as sure as Zeihan that America’s advantages are simply structural. If one looks at the last five years, again in comparative terms, American public policy actually comes out looking impressive. To combat the global economic crisis of 2008, Washington acted speedily and creatively on three fronts, aggressive monetary policy, fiscal policy, and reform and recapitalization of the banking sector.

Every other rich country did less and has seen a more troubled return to normalcy.

Now since the response to the crisis, Washington has been paralyzed and polarized, but this is not the entirety of American politics. Beyond the beltway, mayors and governors are reaching across party lines partnering with the private sector and making reforms and investments for future growth.

When Tocqueville wrote about America in the 1830s he was struck by the bottom up vitality of its towns and villages. So as we approach Thanksgiving, let’s bear in mind that the genius of America is still alive, whatever most Americans might think.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1411/23/fzgps.01.html

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here is my take. As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Putin’s Russia presents America and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia’s overt military assault, but China’s patient and steady nonmilitary moves that might prove the greater challenge. Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global GDP. China’s is nearly 16 percent and rising. Now almost four times the size of Japan’s and five times that of Germany’s according to the World Bank.

Presidents Obama and Xi deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change and it seems to suggest that America and China are moving toward a new, productive relationship. Except that even while signing these accords, Xi Jinping’s government has been taking steps that suggests it is developing a very different approach to its foreign policy, one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own.

If it continues down this path, it would constitute the most significant and dangerous shift in international politics since the end of the Cold War. It’s been widely reported that Xi has presided over a rise in nationalist rhetoric in recent years, much of it anti- American. While nationalism has been circulating in China for a while, the quantity seems to have risen sharply.

One count done by the “Christian Science Monitor, found that the number of anti-western polemics in the official “People’s Daily” in 2014 so far has tripled compared with the same period last year.

Perhaps more important, however, is that China has begun a low-key but persistent campaign to propose alternatives to the existing structure of international arrangements in Asia and beyond. It’s moved from being anti-American to post-American.

This summer Beijing spearheaded an agreement with the other BRICS countries to create a financial fund that would challenge the IMF. In October Beijing launched a $50 billion Asian infrastructure bank explicitly as an alternative to the World Bank. And last year President Xi declared that China would spend $40 billion to revive the old silk road to promote trade and development in that region.

For China to fit into an international system rubs against its deepest historical traditions. In his recent book Henry Kissinger notes that China has never been comfortable with the idea of a global system of equal states. Historically China considered itself in a sense the sole sovereign government of the whole world.

Diplomacy was a series of carefully contrived ceremonies in which foreign societies were given the opportunity to affirm their assigned place in the global hierarchy. One in which China sat on top. These are worrying signs not because Beijing’s efforts will surely succeed. They may not. Many of its efforts have run into opposition, but if China continues down this path using its growing clout to ask countries to choose between the existing set of arrangements or new ones, it might create conditions for a new kind of cold war in Asia.

It will certainly help to undermine and perhaps eventually destroy the current international order, one that was created by the United States after 1945 and which has been a platform on which peace and prosperity have flourished in Asia for seven decades.

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here is my take. Despite this week’s elections, President Obama has the opportunity to do big things over the next two years, but they will have to be in the world beyond Washington. Next week’s trip to Asia would be a good place to start. In fact, it’s odd that Obama has not already devoted more time, energy, and attention to foreign policy.

It’s been clear for a while now that there is no prospect of working with the Republican Party on any major domestic policy, but if Obama seeks some kind of foreign policy legacy, he will first have to maintain the discipline with which he began his presidency.

If he ends up with incremental, escalating interventionism in Syria it will absorb fully the White House’s mind share, the public’s interests and the country’s resources. It will also not succeed if by success we mean the triumph of pro-democratic forces in the Syrian civilian war.

Obama’s biggest foreign policy initiative is powerful and intelligent — the pivot to Asia. The greater threat to global peace and prosperity over the next decades comes not from a band of assassins in Syria but from the rise of China and the manner in which that will reshape the geopolitics of Asia and the world.

If Washington can provide balance and reassurance in Asia, it will help ensure that the continent does not become the flash point for a new Cold War.

But the Asia pivot remains for rhetoric than reality. Having promised a larger U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Singapore and Australia, there is little evidence of any of this on the ground. The most ambitious element of the Asia pivot is the Transpacific Partnership. The idea is simple. To lower trade barriers and other impediments to commerce among 12 large Pacific economies comprising 40 percent of the global GDP.

This will provide a boost to global growth but, more importantly, shore up the principles and practice of open markets and encourage open economies at a time when state capitalism like the Chinese model and new nationalist barriers are creeping up everywhere. The good news is that the Republican victory this week actually might make this more likely. Trade is one of the few issues on which the GOP agrees with the president.

Obama has one other major foreign policy initiative — nuclear negotiations with Iran. Again, here the basic strategy has been smart, sanctions plus talk, but it has not received presidential attention and focus.

It remains unclear whether Iran is ready to make peace with America and the West, but if it is, Obama should present Washington and the world with the deal, even though it will surely be denounced as treason by Republicans and attacked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I know the world looks messy and the administration is now on the defensive, but recall what the world looked like when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were conducting foreign policy. America was losing a war in Asia in which it had deployed half a million troops. The Soviet Union was on the march. Domestic opposition and troubles were mounting.

Nixon and Kissinger had to initiate a major retreat, but as Robert Zoellick has pointed out, they combined this with the seize of bold, positive, assertive moves, arms control deals was the Soviet Union, the opening in China, shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. The result was that by 1973 people were dazzled by the energy and ingenuity of American foreign policy.

The historian John Gaddis has described this as one of the most successful reversals of fortune for American foreign policy in modern history.

To achieve a similar kind of legacy, it’s now time for a foreign policy presidency.

Posted November 10, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Can Arab countries be real democracies? Well, one of them, Tunisia, just did well on a big test. More than 20 years ago the scholar Samuel Huntington established his famous two- turnover test for fledgling democracies. He argued that a country can only be said to be a consolidated democracy when there have been two peaceful transitions of power.

Tunisia passed Huntington’s test after last weekend’s election when for the second time a ruling establishment agreed to hand over power. Tunisia’s relative success is in marked contrast to the abysmal failure of Egypt. The Arab world’s largest and once most influential country.

As in Tunisia Egyptians also overthrew a dictator three years ago, but after Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy in which the Muslim Brotherhood was elected and then abused its authority, today the country is ruled by a repressive dictatorship. I recently asked a secular liberal Egyptian from Cairo who was involved in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak whether the current regime feels like a return of the old order. Oh, no, he said. This one is far more brutal, repressive, and cynical than Mubarak’s.

Why did Tunisia succeed where Egypt failed? Analysts of the two countries have offered lots of answers, but the most common one is that Tunisia’s Islamists were just better than Egypt’s. In both countries Islamist parties won the first election, but as many have pointed out, Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, which is a rough equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, sought to share power while their Egyptian brethren did not.

Now Tarek Masoud, the author of a fascinating new book on Islamists and elections entitled “Counting Islam,” suggests that Tunisia’s success and Egypt’s failure had less to do with the quality of its Islamists than with deep differences in those countries’ political environments. Tunisia is more developed, more urban, more literate, and more globalized than Egypt.

It has a more diverse civil society than Egypt, stronger labor unions, civic associations, professional groups, and so there was relative parity between Islamists and their opponents. Tunisia’s Islamic party shared power, in other words, not because it was nicer than the Muslim Brotherhood, but because it had to. Tunisia had more of the preconditions that have historically helped strengthen democracy than did Egypt.

Of course, Tunisia faces many economic challenges. Its youth unemployment rate is around 30 percent. The government is battling Islamist militants at home and recent reports have suggested that the Arab world’s only democracy is also its biggest exporter of fighters to join ISIS. Though this may be because Tunisia is relatively open and not a closed police state like Egypt.

But Tunisia’s relative success does suggest there is nothing inherent in Islam or Arab society that makes it impossible for democracy to take root there. You need favorable economic and political conditions for sure in the Arab world as elsewhere. You need good leadership, and you probably need some luck.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1411/02/fzgps.01.html

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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first here’s my take. Watching the gruesome ISIS execution videos I felt some of the same emotions I did after 9/11. Barbarism after all is designed to provoke anger, and it’s succeeded. But in September 2001 it also made me ask a question, why do they hate us?

I tried to answer it in an almost 7,000-word essay for “Newsweek” that struck a chord with the readers. I reread the essay this week to see how it might need updating in the 13 years since I wrote it. I began the piece by noting that Islamic terror is not the isolated behavior of a handful of nihilists. There is a broader culture that has been complicit in it or at least unwilling to combat it.

Now things have changed on this front but not nearly enough. I also pointed out that we face not an Islam problem but an Arab problem. For example, in 2001 and 2002 Indonesia was on the top of people’s worries because of a series of terror attacks there soon after 9/11, but over the last decade jihad and even Islamic fundamentalism has not done well in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world, larger than Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya and all the Gulf states put together.

Well, look at India which is right next door to Ayman Zawahiri’s headquarters and yet very few of India’s more than 150 million Muslims are known members of al Qaeda. Zawahiri has announced a bold effort to recruit Indian Muslims, but I suspect it will not do too well. The central point of the essay was that the reason the Arab world produces fanaticism and jihad is that it is a place of complete political stagnation. By 2001 when I was writing almost every part of the world had seen significant political progress. Eastern Europe was freed, Asia, Latin America and even Africa had held many free and fair elections but the Arab world remained a desert. In 2001 most Arabs had fewer freedoms, political, economic, social than they did in 1951.

The one aspect of life that Arab dictators could not ban, however, was religion. So Islam had become the language of political opposition to these secular regimes. The Arab world was then left with secular dictatorships on the one hand and deeply illiberal religious groups on the other. Hosni Mubarak and al Qaeda. The more extreme the regime the more violent was the opposition.

This cancer was deeper and more destructive than I realized. Despite the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and despite the Arab spring, the dynamic between dictators and jihadists has not broken. Look at Syria where until recently Bashar al-Assad was actually helping ISIS. How? By buying oil and gas from it and by shelling its opponents, the Free Syrian Army, when the two were in battle against each other.

You see, Assad was playing the old Arab dictator’s game, giving his people a stark choice. It’s either me or ISIS, he was saying, and many Syrians, the Christian minority, for example, have chosen him.

The greatest setback has been in Egypt where a nonviolent Islamist movement took power and then squandered its chance by overreaching. But not content to let the Muslim Brotherhood fare the polls, the military then displaced it by force, has moved back into power and Egypt is now a more brutal police state than it was under Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned, its members killed and jailed, the rest driven underground.

Let’s just hope that 10 years from now we do not find ourselves discussing the causes of the rise of an ISIS in Egypt.

 

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1409/07/fzgps.01.html