November 3rd, 2014
04:52 PM ET

Can Arab countries be real democracies?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Can Arab countries be real democracies? Well, one of them, Tunisia just did well on a big test.

More than twenty 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.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 30th, 2014
07:05 PM ET

Why democracy took root in Tunisia and not Egypt

By Fareed Zakaria

Of course, it may be too soon to celebrate Tunisia’s success. It faces a youth unemployment rate of about 30 percent. The government is also 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 the Islamic State. (This may be because Tunisia is relatively open and its jihadis find that their appeal is limited at home.)

But Tunisia’s success — so far — does suggest that there is nothing in Islam or Arab society that makes it impossible for democracy to take root. As would be true anywhere, you need some favorable conditions, good leadership and perhaps a bit of luck.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 26th, 2014
03:33 PM ET

There's a problem within Islam

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

If all Muslims were radicals, we would have more than three to worry about last week. And yet, there is a problem within Islam.

It is not enough for Muslims to point out that these people do not represent the religion. They don't. But Muslims need to take more active measures to protest these heinous acts. They also need to make sure that Muslim countries and societies do not in any way condone extremism, anti-modern attitudes and intolerance towards other faiths.

Muslims are right to complain that there is anti-Muslim bigotry out there. But they would have a more persuasive case if they took on some of the bigotry within the world of Islam as well.

Read the full Take on CNN Opinion

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 23rd, 2014
07:04 PM ET

Why Edward Snowden should agree to stand trial in the U.S.

By Fareed Zakaria

The most striking aspect of Snowden’s substantive revelations on foreign intelligence is their limited consequences. That’s because they mostly showed the U.S. government doing secretly what it has said it is doing publicly — fighting the Taliban, spying in countries such as Pakistan and searching for al-Qaeda cells around the globe. The disclosures also revealed routine foreign intelligence operations. Some of these are justified, such as hacking into Chinese computer systems — something that Beijing does to other countries on a much larger scale. Others were unwise, such as tapping the phones of the leaders of Brazil and Germany. But none of these are morally scandalous. Bernard Kouchner, the former French foreign minister, said at the time of the revelations: “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop, too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

The Obama administration should make clear that Snowden would get an open, civilian trial in the United States. And Snowden should come home and make his case.

Read the Washington Post column

 

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 18th, 2014
11:29 PM ET

The problem with the U.S. strategy in Syria

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

For any strategy to work in Syria, it needs a military component and a political one. The military one – a credible ground army – is weak. The political one is non-existent.

The crucial underlying reason for the violence in Iraq and Syria is a Sunni revolt against governments in Baghdad and Damascus that the Sunnis view as hostile, apostate regimes.

The political solution, presumably, is some kind of power-sharing arrangement in these two capitals. But this is not something that the United States can engineer, certainly not in Syria. It tried it in Iraq and, despite 176,000 troops on the ground, tens of billions of dollars, and David Petraeus' skillful leadership, the deals he brokered started unraveling within months of his departure, well before American troops had all left.

The only strategy against ISIS that has any chance of working is containment – bolstering the neighbors who are willing to fight militarily and politically, neighbors who are threatened far more than the United States is. They include, most importantly, Iraq then Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf States. The greatest challenge is to get the Iraqi government to make serious concessions to Sunnis so they are recruited into the fight, something that has not happened so far.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria
October 16th, 2014
07:20 PM ET

Obama needs to dial back his Syria strategy

By Fareed Zakaria

A U.S. strategy of escalating airstrikes in Syria — even if coupled with ground forces — would wish that the weakest and most disorganized forces in the country somehow become the strongest, first defeating the Islamic State, then the Assad regime, all while fighting off Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan. The chance that all this will happen is remote. Far more likely, heavy bombings in Syria will produce chaos and instability on the ground, further destroying Syria and promoting the free-for-all in which jihadi groups thrive.

Critics are sure this policy would have been easy three years ago, when the opposition to Assad was more secular and democratic. This is a fantasy. It’s true that the demonstrations against the Assad regime in the initial months seemed to be carried out by more secular and liberal people. This was also true in Libya and Egypt. But over time, more organized, passionate and religious forces triumphed. This is a familiar pattern in revolutions — including the French, Russian and Iranian. They are begun by liberals and taken over by radicals.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 11th, 2014
10:46 PM ET

Let's be honest: Islam has a problem today

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that "the Muslim world...has too much in common with ISIS," and the author, Sam Harris (a guest on his show) concurs, arguing that "Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas," I understand why people get upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations.

And yet, they were also talking about something real. I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It is a vast world of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't fit these caricatures. That's why Maher and Harris are guilty of simplification and exaggeration.

But let's be honest: Islam has a problem today...There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance, and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes towards women and minorities. And while some moderates confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against ISIS in the Arab world today?

But now the caveat, Islam today, is important.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column.

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
October 9th, 2014
09:45 PM ET

Let’s be honest, Islam has a problem right now

By Fareed Zakaria

There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrates violence and intolerance and harbors deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities. While some confront these extremists, not enough do so, and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the Arab world today?

The caveat, “Islam today,” is important. The central problem with Maher’s and Harris’s analyses are that they take a reality — extremism in Islam — and describe it in ways that suggest it is inherent in Islam. Bill Maher says Islam is “the only religion that acts like the Mafia, that will [expletive] kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” He’s right about the viciousness but wrong to link it to “Islam” — instead of “some Muslims.”

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
October 3rd, 2014
12:05 AM ET

China’s trapped transition

By Fareed Zakaria

The historical case as to why China should be moving toward greater democracy is clear. Scholars have argued that there is a “zone of transition” for authoritarian countries when this happens — between $5,000 to $10,000 per capita GDP (in purchasing power terms). China is at the top of the range, around $10,000. Given China’s level of economic, social and educational development, it is highly unusual that China, among Asian nations, has seen almost no movement toward political reform.

Minxin Pei argues that perhaps what explains the Chinese anomaly is that the ruling elites have been united, confident and ferocious in their determination to maintain a one-party system. In Taiwan, after Chiang Ching-kuo’s death, the elites split, as they did in South Korea, Indonesia and, of course, the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. That split, between a reformist wing and a hard-line wing, has not happened in China.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
September 26th, 2014
12:06 AM ET

The fight against ISIS must include Iran

By Fareed Zakaria

The United States has some influence with the Iraqi government, but Iran has far more. The Shiite religious parties that today run the country have been funded by Iran for decades. Their leaders lived in Tehran and Damascus during their long exiles from Saddam Hussein’s regime. When Washington sought to remove the previous prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, Iran provided the push that made it happen. If the goal is to get the Iraqi government to share more power with the Sunnis, Iran’s help would be invaluable, perhaps vital.

In Syria, Washington’s strategy is incoherent. It seeks to destroy the Islamic State there and attack Jabhat al-Nusra and the Khorasan group but somehow not strengthen these groups’ principal rival, the Bashar al-Assad regime. This is impossible. As these terrorist groups lose ground, the army that will most easily take advantage will be that of the Syrian regime, not the disorganized and weak Free Syrian Army. If there is some way to make this strategy less contradictory, it would be to work toward some power-sharing deal in Syria that includes elements of the Assad government — such as generals and intelligence heads. But Washington has no contact or credibility with anyone in the Assad regime. The government that does is in Tehran.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
September 19th, 2014
02:37 AM ET

India's bold new leader

By Fareed Zakaria

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also handled the international stage deftly. He wooed Japan and softly criticized China, then backed away and embraced Beijing — getting large investments from both countries. He is straightforwardly pro-American and seems to harbor little ill will toward Washington for having refused to give him a visa for almost a decade. And yet, he has not abandoned Russia, India’s ally, choosing to be silent on its actions in Ukraine.

Where Modi has underperformed, surprisingly, has been in his core competence — economics. He has been slow to announce major reforms. His first budget was disappointing, and many of his Cabinet appointments have been lackluster. Those expecting major changes in subsidies, trade policy or labor market restrictions have been disappointed.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
September 13th, 2014
07:01 PM ET

How to defeat ISIS

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

President Obama's speech Wednesday night outlined a tough, measured strategy to confront ISIS. But let's make sure in the execution of this strategy that the U.S. learns something from the 13 years since September 11, 2001 and the war against al Qaeda.

Here are a few lessons to think about:

One – Don't always take the bait. The United States has to act against this terror group. But it should do so at a time and manner of its choosing rather than jumping when ISIS wants it to jump.

Lesson two: Don't overestimate the enemy. ISIS is a formidable foe, but the counterforces to it have only just begun...While ISIS is much more sophisticated than al Qaeda in its operations and technology, it has one major, inherent weakness. Al Qaeda was an organization that was pan-Islamic, trying to appeal to all Muslims. This group is a distinctly sectarian organization. ISIS is anti-Shiite as well as deeply hostile to Kurds, Christians and many other inhabitants in the Middle East. This means that it has large numbers of foes in the region who will fight against it, not because the United States wants them to but in their own interests.

Lesson number three: Remember politics. The Obama administration has mapped out a smart strategy in Iraq, pressing the Baghdad government to include more Sunnis. But that is yet to happen – the Shiite parties have dragged their feet over any major concessions to the Sunnis. This is a crucial issue because if the United States is seen as defending two non-Sunni regimes – Iraq and Syria – against a Sunni uprising, it will not win.

Watch the video for the full Take, or read the WaPo column

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take
« older posts
newer posts »
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,795 other followers