By David Adesnik, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Adesnik is a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Securities Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
News anchors and correspondents casually refer to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as the leader of the isolationist wing of the Republican Party. Sen. John McCain warned in August that the time had come for “a debate about the future of the [Republican] party,” a debate about “isolationism versus internationalism.” Isolationism was supposed to remain dead and buried beneath the waves at Pearl Harbor, but as noted by Bruce Stokes on GPS this week, a comprehensive new study by the Pew Research Center reports that “support for US global engagement, already near a historic low, has fallen further” while, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans want the US “to mind its own business internationally.”
However, a closer look at the data reveals a more complex picture, of an American public that is deeply dissatisfied but persistently searching for a president who can enhance American strength and exert effective global leadership.
Fully 84 percent of respondents said the United States ought to exercise either shared or singular global leadership, a question that has consistently been asked, and notably, answered the same way for decades. Since 1993, more than 80 percent of Americans have wanted their country to be a global leader. This data is consistent with the findings of similar surveys conducted in 2010 and 2012 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which also found that upwards of 80 percent of Americans favored strong leadership abroad. Additionally, by a margin of 56 to 32 percent, the Pew survey found that Americans favor policies designed to ensure we remain the world’s only superpower. Even more interestingly, about half of respondents oppose further cuts to the defense budget; while almost a quarter want to increase it – up ten percentage points from just two years ago.
By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of the new book State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State. The views expressed are his own.
The nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran last month has been widely hailed as a successful interim measure to stave off an unwanted conflict over Tehran’s illicit nuclear program. But after initially celebrating a diplomatic success, Iran is now reportedly lashing out at the United States for releasing a modified version of the agreement to the American people that does not reflect its interpretation.
Just how far apart are Washington and Tehran on the deal they only so recently inked?
The Arak heavy water reactor may be the biggest sticking point. In the Geneva agreement, Iran commits itself to not making “any further advances of its activities” at a number of nuclear sites including “the Arak reactor.” The Joint of Plan of Action (JPA) states that a final agreement would “fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak,” with the goal of ensuring there is “no reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.”
Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN
By Julia Shaw, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Julia Shaw is a lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, U.K. The views expressed are her own.
Over-the-top violence in video games, with their glorification of killing and destruction, are a growing fact of life in our society. And they might also affect the way we view the world. But to what extent do these clearly fictional scenarios affect players beyond the games themselves – and are they resulting in growing violence, including gun-related deaths?
It’s a debate that has long generated much heat in public and academic circles alike. But the unfortunate problem for policymakers and a media that so often prefers clear cut answers is that complex behavior such as gun violence requires a complex explanation.
True, there is strong evidence to suggest a link between engagement with violent media and aggressive behavioral tendencies. Playing violent videogames has been shown repeatedly to be a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive thinking patterns, and aggressive emotions, coupled with a decrease in empathy. Together, these kinds of increased antisocial tendencies could certainly increase an individual’s risk for engaging in gun violence. But even this isn’t quite black and white, with some research finding no adverse effects from videogames on violence (or even pro-social effects), underscoring the complicated relationship on this issue.
By Fareed Zakaria
So what explains the fevered rhetoric and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal? I think the fear is less of this deal than of what it might bring in its wake. Many imagine that this is the start of a rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran, which would fundamentally change the geopolitical landscape. It could place the U.S. on the side of the Shi'ite powers, Iran and Iraq, in the growing sectarian divide in the region. It could alter the balance of power in the world of oil–Iran's reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's in the region.
Iran's foes should relax. This is an important agreement, but it is an interim deal on Iran's nuclear program. It is not even a final deal, which will be much harder to achieve. And it is not the dawn of a historic new alliance. Washington remains staunchly opposed to Iran on many issues, from Tehran's antagonism toward Israel to its support for Hizballah to its funding of Iraqi militias. The Islamic Republic, for its part, remains devoted to a certain level of anti-Americanism as a founding principle of its existence. The two countries are still fundamentally at odds.
By Fareed Zakaria
Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria is the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, which airs Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN. This is the fifth article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Watching the outpouring of interest and emotion surrounding the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago today, one has to wonder what is it about the man and the moment that so fascinates us.
At one level, the interest is obvious, indeed epic. The story of a young hero, cut down in his prime, has been with us since the age of myths. And Kennedy was a heroic figure – young, handsome, energetic, idealistic. He had a beautiful wife and two lovely children. He has an easy air of charm and grace about him. And then, there he was on the backseat of a car in Dallas, with his head shot off.
Robert Caro, the great historian and biographer, points out that Kennedy’s death was also a unique, cathartic moment for America because of the advent of television. He notes that the Nielsen ratings show that in the four days following the assassination, Americans watched an average of over 8 hours of television a day – all watching the same pooled feed. It became a great national mourning, made all the more so by that elaborate and momentous funeral procession.
But beyond Kennedy and beyond television, I think there is another, deeper reason why this event so captures our attention and interest. It marks a great divide in modern day America, between the world before the assassination and the world after.
By Fareed Zakaria
For partly cultural and historical reasons. Americans have always been suspicious of government. Talented young people don’t dream of becoming great bureaucrats. The New Deal and World War II might have changed that for a while, but over the past 30 years, anti-government attitudes have risen substantially. Two national commissions on public service have detailed the dangers of having too few talented people go into government. The ever-increasing obstacles — disclosure forms, conflict-of-interest concerns, political vetting — dissuade and knock out good candidates.
The problem is bipartisan. On the right, too many people believe that their role in Washington is simply to attack, denigrate and defund the government. This relentless onslaught erodes public trust and robs federal agencies of any sense of mission and ambition. Continual budget cutbacks have limited the government’s ability to take on new challenges. There is no attempt at ambitious thinking and planning, whether in space or in infrastructure. Seemingly every agency is in cost-cutting and damage-control modes. The persistent politicized attacks — whether blocking the confirmation of hundreds of officials or investigating them at every turn — have helped create an atmosphere of caution and risk-aversion.
By Geoffrey West
Editor’s note: Geoffrey West is a Distinguished Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Complex Systems. This essay is adapted from WEF’s new report, Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are his own.
From global warming to homelessness, from debt crises to energy shortages, from insufficient water to outbreaks of disease, name any problem that concerns humanity and the city is the crucible where you will find it bubbling away.
But cities – and megacities in particular – whose emergence was recognized this week by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils as one of the most significant trends for 2014, also represent our best hope for finding solutions to these enormous challenges since they are the cauldrons of innovation, ideas and wealth creation. Thus, an urgent challenge of the 21st century is to understand cities, and by extension megacities – those urban areas with populations exceeding 15 million.
Looking back over 150 years to megacities of the past, such as London or New York, it is clear they suffered from much the same negative image often associated with megacities of today. Think of the Dickensian image of London: a city pervaded by crime, pollution, disease and destitution. Still, these cities were highly mobile, highly evolving diverse societies, offering huge opportunities ultimately resulting in their modern manifestation as drivers of the world’s economy. Much the same could be speculated about megacities emerging today in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.
By Fahad Nazer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Fahad Nazer is a political analyst at JTG Inc. He was previously a political analyst at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC. The views expressed are his own.
While many observers continue to be perplexed by President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East, one thing at least is clear: the Obama administration is committed to diplomacy. Not only is it trying to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track, but it is engaged in negotiations with Iran about its nuclear energy program despite some serious misgivings about the negotiations in Congress.
While all this has been going on, Secretary of State John Kerry tried last week to mend fences with Saudi Arabia, which has itself expressed its dismay – both privately and publically – about the slow pace of the peace process, the quick pace of the talks with Iran, and what it views as U.S. backtracking on Syria. But an already busy Kerry should add one more item to his to-do list – prodding Saudi Arabia and Iraq into turning the page on their most intense bilateral tensions in years.
Saudi-Iraqi relations have been complicated. A series of military coups in Iraq led to the consolidation of power by the Baathist party in 1968, and although this “secular” military regime was not a natural ally for the conservative Saudi kingdom, the Saudis sided with Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war against the Iranian theocracy of Ayatollah Khomeini.
CNN speaks with Fareed about claims the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone calls, whether such an approach is justified and how the Obama administration has handled the controversy. This is an edited version of the transcript.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the U.S. relationship with European nations has been severely shaken. Do you think these reports that continue to come out over U.S. eavesdropping on leaders are really hurting or threatening a relationship with some of our most basic and key allies?
I think it is. Look, some of this is what people are calling the Claude Rains routine – I'm shocked to discover there's gambling going on. And spying is the second oldest profession in the world. But two things have changed. One is just the explosion of technology, big data, the ability to find all this stuff and the United States’ incredible cutting edge on that. And the second was 9/11, which in a sense freed all the constraints that we have typically felt about collecting this kind of information, particularly from spies, because we felt like we need to know everything about everything. Those two forces have, frankly, made us sloppy about this.
We should not be, in my opinion, spying on our closest allies’ heads of government. It's one thing to try to find al Qaeda sleeper cells in Hamburg, but you don't need to tap Angela Merkel's cell phone to figure that out.
By Richard Wike, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Richard Wike is Director of Global Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter @RichardWike. The views expressed are his own.
After a remarkable run of economic expansion that has lifted tens of millions out of poverty, the Chinese public is waking up to the side effects of progress. True, much of the growing middle class is pleased to have achieved some degree of material comfort. But that same middle class is increasingly asking tough questions about the costs of economic growth and the fairness of the system that produced it. And the record setting levels of pollution this week in the northeastern city of Harbin, where schools and the airport have been shut, will only intensify scrutiny of President Xi Jinping’s government in the run up to next month’s meeting of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee.
Harbin, a city of 11 million people, was essentially closed Monday and Tuesday as thick smog raised concentrations of PM2.5, the most dangerous airborne particles for health, to more than 30 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization. Air pollution tends to be worse in the winter, and many now fear a repeat of last January’s “airpocalypse,” which brought impenetrable smog and record breaking toxicity levels to Beijing and other major cities.
And air pollution wasn’t the only thing on Chinese minds this year – water pollution generated some grisly headlines throughout the country – and around the world – as thousands of pig carcasses floated down the Huangpu River, through the center of Shanghai, threatening the city’s water supply. Factor in the fact that China has had more than its share of highly publicized food safety issues, including Chinese food producers implicated in scandals involving poisonous infant formula, toxic rice and rat meat disguised as mutton, and it is easy to see why public concern is growing.
By Fareed Zakaria
What’s happening today is quite unlike the “Contract With America” movement of the 1990s. The tea party is a grass-roots movement of people deeply dissatisfied with the United States’ social, cultural and economic evolution over several decades. It’s crucial to understand that they blame both parties for this degeneration. In a recent Gallup survey, an astounding 43 percent of tea party activists had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party; only 55 percent had a favorable view. They see themselves as insurgents within the GOP, not loyal members. The breakdown of party discipline coupled with the rise of an extreme ideology are the twin forces propelling the current crisis.
This explains why the Republican Party has seemed so unresponsive to its traditional power bases, such as big business. Part of the problem is that businesses have been slow to recognize just how extreme the tea party is. (They remain stuck in an older narrative, in which their great fear is Democrats with ties to unions.) But even if big business got its act together, it’s not clear that the radicals in the House of Representatives would care. Their sources of support, funding and media exposure owe little to the Chamber of Commerce.
By Gabrielle Chefitz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Former GPS intern Gabrielle Chefitz speaks with Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for DAWN Pakistan and author of the upcoming ‘The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan’, about the challenges facing Pakistani women, and what life is like in the country. Rafia is not related to Fareed Zakaria.
What is the role of the journalist today? How do you paint a realistic picture of life in Pakistan?
It’s not an easy task, but I think we must be devoted to exploring the ambiguities that exist in all of these societies, and very intentionally looking at stories that question this clash of civilizations idea, these dualisms of Pakistan as backwards and barbaric and the United States as progressive. Rationally, we all know they are generalizations. But at the same time, these generalizations appear again and again in the writing on both sides. So that’s what I see as the role of the author in today’s media environment. Someone that has the responsibility to explore ambiguities.
Some of this is being aware of where, as a journalist, we speak from. Whether we like it or not, the context we speak from informs what we write about. For American authors and journalists I think it’s very difficult to imagine being in a small country in south Asia as opposed to being in New York city, or DC. And I think part of that is to balance in journalistic writing with an aspect of empathy and emotional understanding of the consequences of policy decisions. All the consequences of war, the consequences of intervention – they affect millions of private lives. And that’s a narrative that has to be present.