How to view a changing Cuba
July 30th, 2014
06:12 PM ET

How to view a changing Cuba

By Kevin O’Donnell

GPS intern Kevin O’Donnell speaks with Jorge Dominguez, professor of Mexico studies at Harvard University, faculty associate of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and the author of numerous books on Cuba, about relations with the United States. The views expressed here are his own.

It seems discussion about Cuba in the United States rests on some outdated assumptions. What assumptions do you believe Americans need to challenge when we talk about Cuba?

I think the main point to bear in mind is that it’s changing. When Fidel Castro was president, there were moments when things seemed to be changing in two important ways, and both times he reversed them. In the late 1970s and early 80s, the Cuban government opened up the possibility of allowing farmers to sell their goods at market prices. But he cancelled that and prohibited those sales in 1985.

In the early 1990s, he authorized self-employment for the first time. I could become a plumber in private practice, I could become an ice cream vender, I could have a restaurant in my living room. But then, in the early years of the last decade, regulations became more onerous and taxes became very high, and the number of people who could afford this kind of work actually declined.

This time, under Raul Castro, it looks as if these same changes will stay, so now farmers can sell their products at market price. Now about half a million people have self-employment licenses in a population of just over 11 million people.

It’s a significant fraction of the work force working in the private sector. But also, Raul Castro talks the talk – these are changes he values. So the alignment between the policy changes and what the top leader thinks for the first time in over a half century now clicks. That is a significant change. FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Cuba • Foreign Policy • United States
July 11th, 2014
11:28 AM ET

U.S., Europe must not forget about Bosnia

By Sofía Sebastián, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sofía Sebastián is a TAPIR Fellow at the Stimson Center and the author of Post-war Statebuilding and Constitutional Reform: Beyond Dayton in Bosnia. The views expressed are her own.

The ongoing instability in the Middle East is understandably drawing much of the United States’ and Europe’s attention. But almost 20 years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian War, political divisions between the three major ethnic groups continue to threaten the viability of the state. And for Bosnia, just as for the Middle East, the near-term stakes could not be higher.

So what has gone wrong?

As many analysts have noted, Dayton represented the best possible settlement to end the war. But it also burdened Bosnia with highly complicated and dysfunctional institutions. Lacking political and institutional incentives for inter-ethnic cooperation, the system instead rewards ethnic-based nationalist platforms and intra-ethnic infighting, making cross-group cooperation almost impossible. (Milorad Dodik, the president of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, has turned to nationalist rhetoric to gain and consolidate power since 2006).

Historically, international actors in Bosnia have countered nationalist dynamics in trying to strengthen the Bosnian state. But the state-building process started to unravel in 2006 amidst increasing inter- and intra-ethnic divisions and a failure of political leaders to agree on critical reforms.

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Europe • Foreign Policy
Fareed taking readers' questions on global issues
July 9th, 2014
04:20 PM ET

Fareed taking readers' questions on global issues

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

From Syria to Iraq to the fast deteriorating situation in Gaza, the prospects for stability in the Middle East are looking increasingly bleak. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has also had to contend with a newly assertive Russia, a rising China and a persistent threat from militant groups such as al Qaeda.

To help make sense of these challenges, understand what to look out for next, and to assess where U.S. foreign policy has gotten it right – and wrong – GPS host Fareed Zakaria will be answering readers’ questions on recent developments across the globe.

Please leave your questions for Fareed in the comments section below.

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy • GPS Show • United States
Americans deeply divided on U.S. role in world
July 9th, 2014
10:55 AM ET

Americans deeply divided on U.S. role in world

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
 
If you thought that Americans were deeply divided on the proper U.S. role in the world, think again. It is even worse than you think. But it is also more complicated.

Americans are more inward looking today on foreign policy issues than they have been at any time in the last half century. And new survey data from the Pew Research Center highlights the fissures that separate one American from another on international affairs – divisions that are far more nuanced than a simple left-right disagreement. They pit Americans who are socially conservative against pro-business conservatives and old-line liberals against younger liberals.

Charting a course on the world stage for Americans has never been easy. But in today’s deeply partisan political environment it’s a particularly challenging task. FULL POST

Iraq: It’s not about us
July 2nd, 2014
12:17 PM ET

Iraq: It’s not about us

By Will Marshall, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The views expressed are his own.

The debate over how to keep Iraq from falling apart reveals a peculiarly American kind of self-centeredness. When things blow up abroad, we often spend more time arguing about the U.S. reaction to the crisis than what triggered it in the first place.

So it is with the stunning rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which styles itself as a resurrected “caliphate” to which all Muslims owe allegiance. Instead of focusing on how to protect Americans and our regional partners from a new jihadist malignancy, much of Washington’s political class is consumed by recriminations over who is to blame for resurgent Sunni terrorism in the Middle East.

Is it George W. Bush’s fault for invading Iraq in 2003 and cluelessly stirring up a sectarian hornet’s nest? Or did Barack Obama squander America’s costly success in stabilizing Iraq in his haste to “end” an unpopular war?

Both indictments contain a large grain of truth. But is this really the time to be pointing fingers and rehearsing bitter debates about the wisdom of the invasion, the “surge” or the U.S. exit? U.S. leaders should leave such questions to historians and concentrate instead on mustering a coherent response to the present predicament. This isn’t a naïve plea to take the “politics” out of national security – which is both impossible and potentially dangerous – or to ignore the lessons of past mistakes. But we shouldn’t let the interminable argument over whose “lessons of Iraq” should prevail get in the way of a clear assessment of the new threat.

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy • Iraq • Middle East
Should the American Gulliver be tied down?
June 6th, 2014
09:10 AM ET

Should the American Gulliver be tied down?

By Will Marshall, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The views expressed are his own.

Having recently warned of the high costs and limited utility of U.S. military force, President Barack Obama is in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of one of its grandest achievements: the D-Day invasion.

No contradiction there – that America helped win the “good war” obviously doesn’t mean military intervention will always succeed. But Friday’s ceremony is a timely reminder of a paradoxical truth: The long peace the world has enjoyed since World War II is no historical accident. It rests upon the bedrock of America’s willingness to use force not only in the defense of its core national interests, but also to uphold the liberal world order.

Over the past seven decades, there have been no great power wars, the Soviet Union and communism have expired, the community of democracies has grown larger, and unprecedented global prosperity has lifted billions of people out of grinding poverty. Despite terrorism and spasms of ethnic and religious violence, analysts say the number of people dying in conflicts has dropped dramatically since 1945.

On the debit side are the admittedly heavy costs of being a superpower: The hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers killed and maimed in overseas fighting; the diversion of national resources to the military; the Vietnam debacle, intelligence excesses and the torture scandal; Washington’s opportunistic backing of friendly dictators despised by their subjects; and, the spread of anti-American conspiracy mongering.

By any fair accounting, the strategic and moral balance sheet is strongly positive. But what happens to Pax Americana if Americans step back from global leadership? And are U.S. progressives ready to forsake the defense of liberal ideals for a myopic realism that aims only at minimizing risks and avoiding mistakes?

FULL POST

June 5th, 2014
09:27 PM ET

The perils of leaning forward

By Fareed Zakaria

In the late 1940s, the United States was stronger than any country in modern history, with total economic supremacy, hundreds of thousands of troops still in Europe and Asia and credibility earned by waging two world wars. Yet, in a sense, it was unable to deter the Soviet Union or China or even North Korea. This is not to say that the Truman administration’s foreign policy is to be blamed — I admire Harry Truman greatly. Rather, I mean that in a complicated world, even if you have tremendous strength and act forcefully, stuff happens.

Today’s task is far more complicated. In World War II and the Cold War, the United States was trying to defeat entirely the great powers it was arrayed against. In the Cold War, the object of containment — as George Kennan argued from the start — was to constrain the Soviet Union such that communism would collapse under its own contradictions.

The goal today is to deter China from expanding while also attempting to integrate it into the global order.

Read the Washington Post column

June 2nd, 2014
10:50 AM ET

U.S. needs engagement, not another war

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard trope in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington and the president can easily be blamed for them. But to determine what America – and President Barack Obama – should be doing, let's first try to understand the nature of the world and the dangers within in it.

From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military, and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuade countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount.

But the world today looks very different, far more peaceful and stable than at any point in several centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. America's military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington…

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy
An interview with David Ignatius
May 30th, 2014
07:02 PM ET

An interview with David Ignatius

GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and author of the new novel The Director, about U.S. foreign policy and the future of surveillance. Watch Ignatius on “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

President Obama delivered a big foreign policy address at West Point on Wednesday. Was there anything in it that surprised you?

There were two things that struck me. The first was a troubling question – whether the president has learned the lessons of his presidency. He announced the day before, and underlined at West Point, that he plans to take our combat troops in Afghanistan down to zero by the end of 2016. And I found myself thinking: here we are, contemplating having to go back into Iraq to deal with a resurgent al Qaeda that is back in Fallujah, the town from which it was expelled by U.S. troops. Here we are, dealing with an al Qaeda that has created a dangerous safe haven in Syria after the president two years ago rejected the idea from his advisers for  a robust training assistance program. Has he really gotten the lesson of those two, which is that you only create longer term trouble for yourself by avoiding making commitments when the problem is fairly new?

And I found myself wondering whether any of the graduating cadets, below the president when he spoke, were thinking, as he talked so proudly about bringing everyone home – “We’ll be on a plane flying into Afghanistan in 2017, 2018 – sometime when things have gotten ragged again, and we’re needed to put out the fire.”

To me, he seemed to be making the same mistakes as when he announced his surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan in December 2009. He announced they would be leaving 18 months hence regardless. In other words, he didn’t make the start of withdrawal conditions-based, he made it time-based. And he’s done that same thing again with the 2016 decision. I don’t get that.

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy • Spying
May 29th, 2014
09:14 PM ET

Obama’s leadership is right for today

By Fareed Zakaria

The Obama administration has fought al Qaeda and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, and understandably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about. After all, just six years ago, the United States’ closest allies were distancing themselves from Washington because it was seen as aggressive, expansionist and militaristic. Iran was popular in the Middle East in 2006 because it was seen as standing up to an imperialist America that had invaded and occupied an Arab country. And nothing damaged U.S. credibility in the Cold War more than Vietnam.

Read the Washington Post column

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy
Obama the 'very careful' foreign policy president
May 29th, 2014
09:21 AM ET

Obama the 'very careful' foreign policy president

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama’s policy address at West Point on Wednesday, and how history might judge the Obama administration.

Critics of the Obama administration say military reluctance has left the United States weakened and openly defied by the likes of Russia and Syria. Is America weak?

No. Gosh, America is stronger than perhaps at most points in its history. You think about when we faced the Soviet Union, when we faced a communist China that was funding revolutionary movements all over the world against us – even when we faced a pretty powerful jihadi terrorist movement only 10 years ago. The United States is basically very strong, very secure. This debate is not really about American strength or weakness. It's about American engagement – how should America engage with the world?

Some might argue it's easier to appear strong when you're fighting one known enemy, like Japan during World War II, or Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan after 9/11. But now the United States is dealing with Russia, Syria, China, Boko Haram, al Qaeda affiliated groups all over the world. Should the president focus on one or two, or all of them? What should his foreign policy be?

That's a very, very good point. I think that it's not just that there are lots of different challenges as opposed to the central challenge during the Cold War. You know, you had the Soviet Union and that was a kind of moral and political and strategic challenge, but the world of many different challenges is also much more complicated. For example, China is our second largest trading partner, yet at the same time in some sense it is a strategic rival in Asia. We have good commercial ties with Russia, and yet Russia is a strategic adversary on many issues. FULL POST

What Reagan can teach us about Ukraine
May 14th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

What Reagan can teach us about Ukraine

By Rudy deLeon and Aarthi Gunasekaran, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Rudy deLeon served as deputy secretary of defense from 2000-2001 and is senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Aarthi Gunasekaran is a research assistant at the Center for American Progress. The views expressed are their own.

At the peak of the Cold War, a Soviet military fighter shot down a civilian airliner and all 269 passengers on board were killed, including a U.S. congressman and 61 other Americans. The world waited for a response from the United States.

But President Ronald Reagan didn't offer much beyond strong rhetoric and careful words, only condemnation without a serious call for action. He urged the international community to deal with the Soviets in a calm manner; labeled the Soviets as "savagery," "murderous," "monstrous," and united the European allies against a Soviet system nearing its end.

"We didn't elect a dictionary. We elected a president and it's time for him to act," is said to have sounded conservative columnist George Will. Reagan was the commander-in-chief at the time, and a conservative stalwart who today's hardliners believe would have never allowed such aggression go without response.

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Foreign Policy • History • Ukraine • United States
« older posts