By Fareed Zakaria
America has risen to global might, and yet it has not produced the kind of opposition that many would have predicted. In fact, today it is in the astonishing position of being the world's dominant power while many of the world's next most powerful nations–Britain, France, Germany, Japan–are all allied with it. This is the exception that needs to be explained.
The reason surely has something to do with the nature of American hegemony. We do not seek colonies or conquest. After World War II, we helped revive and rebuild our enemies and turned them into allies. For all the carping, people around the world do see the U. S. as different from other, older empires.
But it also has something to do with the way that the U.S. has exercised power: reluctantly.
Read the full column at TIME
The recent terrorist attack at a natural gas plant in Algeria–which, together with the counterstrike by Algiers, left 38 hostages and 29 militants dead–has aroused fears that we are watching the resurrection of al-Qaeda, no longer just in Southwest Asia but in virtually every corner of Africa as well. British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted to the events in a way that evoked the days after 9/11. "This is a global threat, and it will require a global response," he said. "It wants to destroy our way of life. It believes in killing as many people as it can."
Read the full essay at TIME magazine
When trying to understand a strange action by the U.S. government, I have found it's usually best explained by incompetence rather than conspiracy. Republicans have claimed that the Obama Administration deliberately deceived the American public about the terrorist attack in Benghazi by describing it as a spontaneous mob uprising rather than a planned operation. But if the Administration knew from the start that it was a terrorist attack, did it really think that it could conceal this from the world? That the Libyan government would make no investigation? That there would be no eyewitnesses in a public place where hundreds had gathered? A far more plausible explanation is that in the chaotic aftermath of the attack, the Administration–too hastily and without proper analysis–put out the reports it was receiving. That's clumsy, but it's not treason.
The larger issue that the attack raises, however, which is fair game for a campaign conversation, is what the events in Benghazi tell us about terrorist organizations, in particular al-Qaeda. After years of being in retreat, is al-Qaeda back?
There are only a few of them left — deserters and MIAs of the huge Soviet Red Army divisions sent in to control Afghanistan. But they still remember how it all ended — and worry that the American war will end the same way.
For the past 29 years, maybe around a hundred Soviet POW/MIAs have lived through some of the most violent history of one of the most violent countries on earth. After serving in the European-style Soviet army, they lived and sometimes fought as Afghans. Those of them still alive have an extraordinary window into Afghan society combined with unique insight into the historical parallels between the Soviet defeat and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces at the end of 2014.
Read more from TIME magazine's John Wendle as he explores what lessons the U.S. could learn from the Soviet veterans left in Afghanistan.
By Fareed Zakaria for TIME
What to do in Syria? Western military intervention looks fraught with difficulties, but the situation on the ground is a humanitarian nightmare and is producing greater instability by the week. A recent trip to Turkey and Russia has persuaded me that there might be a path forward. The pressures on Bashar Assad's regime are real and mounting; it is running out of cash and now faces real military pressures from Turkey. These pressures could be heightened and combined with smart diplomacy, and they could push Assad out of power. But that would mean trying to work with the Russian government rather than attacking it.
The U.S. has been bashing Russia for shielding Assad, coddling an ally at the cost of human lives and arming the Syrian military. Some of this is true, some false, and much is exaggeration. But all is unhelpful if the goal is to oust Assad. Unless the U.S. intends to ask Iran for help, Russia is the only country with any influence with the Syrian regime.
Read more of the column at TIME
A day after Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, the New York Times wrote, "The biggest political lesson from Wisconsin may be that the overwhelming dominance of money on the Republican side will continue to haunt Democrats." Democrats have drawn much the same conclusion. "You've got a handful of self-interested billionaires who are trying to leverage their money across the country," said David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign strategist. "Does that concern me? Of course that concerns me."
But then how to explain the landslide victories in San Jose and San Diego of ballot measures meant to cut public-sector retirees' benefits? What should concern Axelrod far more is that on the central issue of the recall–the costs of public-sector employees–the Democratic Party is wrong on the substance, clinging to its constituents rather than doing the right thing.
Warren Buffett calls the costs of public-sector retirees a "time bomb." They are the single biggest threat to the U.S.'s fiscal health. If the U.S. is going to face a Greek-style crisis, it will not be at the federal level but rather with state and local governments.
Read more about the staggering numbers and why this has happened in my TIME column
As the talk of who's arming whom in Syria continues, there's one area the U.S. is arming Syria: with technological know-how.
CNN talked with Jay Newton-Small, who recently reported for TIME magazine on some of the technology help the U.S. is giving the Syrian rebels. Here's an edited version of that conversation.
CNN: What did you find out in your reporting?
NEWTON-SMALL: It's fascinating, because for months you've seen this proliferation of videos from behind Syrian lines. And you wonder, because Syria has got such control over their Internet, how are these videos getting out? Have the dissidents suddenly become expert hackers or have they hired expert hackers? And it turns out, actually, no. FULL POST
A prime-time special: "Global Lessons: The GPS Roadmap for Making Immigration Work" debuts on CNN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 10.
As the American economy sags, the race for the presidency gets tighter - except in one dimension. Hispanic Americans continue to support Barack Obama by an astonishing 61%-to-27% margin. Were Obama to win, it might well be because of his attitudes on one issue: immigration. But it is an issue on which he will be unable to enact any of his preferences, let alone those policies that many Latinos support. The Republican Party has taken a tough stand on the topic. Democrats have their own bright lines. That means America's immigration system is likely to stay as it is right now - utterly broken.
We think of ourselves as the world's great immigrant society, and of course, for most of the country's history, that has been true. But something fascinating has happened over the past two decades. Other countries have been transforming themselves into immigrant societies, adopting many of America's best ideas and even improving on them. The result: the U.S. is not as exceptional as it once was, and its immigration advantage is lessening.
Read more at TIME.com about lessons the U.S. can learn from other countries
– Read all Fareed Zakaria's TIME columns
About 30 km outside the North Korean capital, the Hermit Kingdom's only golf course cuts through heavily forested slopes running down to the waters of Lake Taicheng. The late Kim Jong Il is rumored to have once frolicked there on a luxury yacht. He is also famously credited with shooting a world-record 18-hole score of 38 under par — including five holes in one — on the day he opened the course. The story was reported by the rogue state's lone news service, the Korean Central News Agency, which said 17 bodyguards witnessed the round. Strangely, nobody at the course seems to recall his presumably spectacular performance.
More recently, the secluded course played host to a different type of visitor: tourists. Last month, 15 foreigners and one North Korean competed over three rounds in the second Democratic People's Republic of Korea Amateur Golf Open. The tournament, organized by Dylan Harris of the U.K.-based Lupine Travel company, brought together golfers from six countries for eight days of golf and sightseeing. The experience offered a rare glimpse into one of the world's most reclusive countries — and an even rarer chance for everyday hackers to win a national championship.
Read more at TIME.com about the journey to the course and trying to ask locals what life in the Hermit Kingdom is really like.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
In Syria, the brutal regime of Bashar Assad is testing the proposition that repression works. The massacre of civilians in Houla is only the latest example of what appears to be a strategy of making no concessions and using maximum force. To the Assad regime's way of thinking, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi erred by hesitating, emboldening the opposition and sowing doubts among their supporters. So far, Assad's strategy has worked. Kofi Annan's mission, which appears to be based on the idea that Assad will negotiate his own departure, seems utterly doomed. The U.S., the Western world, indeed the civilized world, should attempt instead to dislodge the Assad regime. Is there a smart way to do it?
Watch more in the video above, read more from Fareed Zakaria at TIME and check out past TIME columns
The storm over the blind activist Chen Guangcheng has understandably captured the world's attention in the past week. But an event of much greater significance remains the ouster of Bo Xilai, the powerful party boss of Chongqing. The rise and fall of Bo is part of a much larger and potentially disruptive trend in China–the return of politics to the Chinese Communist Party.
We don't much think of the party as a political organization these days. It is dominated by technocrats obsessed with economic and engineering challenges. These men–and they are almost all men–are comfortable talking about detailed economic and technical data, but they are not skilled politicians, adept at handling large crowds or palace intrigue. This apolitical system is a recent phenomenon and the outcome of a conscious decision by the founder of modern China, Deng Xiaoping.
Read my full column over at TIME.
Europe has been rescued. No, I’m not talking about the deal over Greek debt that was much in the news recently. The real rescue of Europe is being managed quietly, away from the headlines, by a low-key Italian, Mario Draghi, the new head of the European Central Bank (ECB). Over the past two months, Draghi has put the ECB to work, and the results show the power of central banks and the importance of using it effectively.
Don’t start cheering yet. I’m not suggesting that Europe has solved its problems. Despite the recent deal, Greece will not be able to pay back its loans and will face another restructuring, which is a fancy word for default. Portugal might face a similar fate. But now such defaults will not trigger a systemwide panic. There will be no Lehman Brothers–type financial collapse in Europe.
Why? There is a famous scene in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life: after the Crash of 1929, people run to the bank to pull their money out, and the Bailey Building & Loan just doesn’t have enough cash. Thanks to Draghi, Europe’s banks will have access to plenty of cash. FULL POST
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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