Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
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 Superpower 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.
Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column
By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an adjunct assistant professor in Georgetown University’s security studies program. He is the author or volume editor of fifteen books and monographs, most recently China’s Post-2014 Role in Afghanistan.
The decision by freshly minted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to make his first overseas trip to China is symbolic. Ghani arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, in a visit that underscores both the extent to which Beijing has the resources to be one of Afghanistan’s critical post-2014 players, and also China’s desire to bring stability to its neighbor. But it’s a relationship that the United States should keep a close eye on moving forward.
Afghanistan’s geopolitical landscape is, of course, being shaped by the U.S. drawdown of combat troops, a move that will place a heavy burden on Afghanistan’s already stretched national security forces. After all, these forces have already faced numerous operational difficulties, and the withdrawal of most U.S. troops is widely seen as opening a door to a resurgent Taliban.
Pakistan, whose meddling has done more to damage Afghanistan than any other single factor, is well positioned to remain the most influential player in Afghanistan. But with China likely to end up as Afghanistan’s second most consequential neighbor, it is worth pausing to think about what is shaping Beijing’s calculations. FULL POST
CNN’s New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is an edited version of the transcript. For analysis of the latest developments, watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
If Iraq falls, what happens?
If Iraq falls, you have a catastrophe because you would have this very, very extreme jihadi group that would be in control of vast not just territory, but one of the five or six largest oil-producing countries in the world with access to revenues in the tens of billions of dollars.
But let's focus on the part that's most threatened right now, which is Kurdistan. The United States, since 1991, in collaboration with Britain and France established a no-fly zone to protect the Kurds. Since then, it has been a bipartisan foreign policy supported by a large part of the international community that the Kurds should be protected. So I think there’s a humanitarian issue here, but there's also a strategic issue.
The Kurds are an extraordinarily vibrant, independent-minded, quite democratic force in the region. They're extremely pro-American, pro- Western. I think there’s a strategic interest making sure that the Kurds do not fall to ISIS. FULL POST
By Robert M. Hathaway, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robert M. Hathaway is director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program, in Washington, DC. The views expressed are his own.
After a rough patch in bilateral relations, India and the United States have reengaged in a big way. The U.S. secretaries of state and commerce, John Kerry and Penny Pritzker, were in India last week, while U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in New Delhi on Friday. In September, India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, visits Washington.
Yet for all the diplomatic flurry, the two countries have yet to embrace a common agenda that would lay the groundwork for what President Barack Obama has called “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”
Responsibility for this failure lies with both sides. Until Modi’s sweeping electoral triumph a few months ago, New Delhi had been paralyzed with indecisiveness for several years. In Washington, the Obama administration has never convincingly explained where and how India fits into America’s broader geopolitical vision. Doing so should therefore be Hagel’s top priority during his upcoming trip to India.
One of the hallmarks of Obama’s foreign policy has been the rebalance or “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. To create the basis for a long-term Indo-American partnership, but also for reasons having nothing to do with bilateral U.S.-India ties, the administration needs to flesh out how the world’s second most populous country fits into the rebalance. After all, it is difficult to imagine a coherent U.S. approach to Asia that does not give Asia’s largest democracy a central role.
Is India even on Washington’s Asia-Pacific map? FULL POST
By Kevin O’Donnell
GPS intern Kevin O’Donnell speaks with Justin Gest, assistant professor of public policy at the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs at George Mason University and the author of ‘Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West’ and the forthcoming ‘Crossroads of Migration: A Global Approach to National Policy Differences’. The views expressed are his own.
When we talk about migration, we often talk about push factors and pull factors – things that drive people from a country, that pull them to another. We’ve seen over the past five years a rapid increase in migration by children. Is this driven more by factors in their home countries, or by a new understanding of opportunities in the United States?
Well I think it’s important off the bat to clarify that the young people who are coming to the United States border right now aren’t coming for economic opportunities, they’re not coming – initially at least – to unify with their families, they’re not coming because of the United States' university system or educational opportunities. They’re coming because they’re desperate. They’re coming because they’re trying to escape dire circumstances in their countries of origin.
So while the pull factors in the United States are important, they’re not a determinant here. One way of actually noticing this is by looking at the net migration from Mexico and Central America over the last five to seven years since the economic decline of the United States. It has declined, at one point to zero. So this is taking place at a time when we haven’t seen a lot of draw by the American economy, which further substantiates the idea that this is truly push-factor oriented. FULL POST
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
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.
It is conventional wisdom among many pundits and opinion leaders that recent revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency have deeply scarred America’s reputation abroad. The problem with such a narrative is that recent public opinion data paint a far more nuanced picture. True, foreigners don’t like that Washington spies on them and their leaders, and such NSA activities have eroded America’s soft power standing as a preeminent defender of personal freedoms. But there’s no evidence that the NSA’s recent behavior has sparked a general rise in anti-Americanism around the world.
Make no mistake about it. Publics around the world aren’t happy about NSA spying. In 37 of 43 nations outside the United States that were surveyed recently by the Pew Research Center, majorities say American surveillance of ordinary citizens in the respondent’s country is unacceptable. This includes 97 percent in Greece, 94 percent in Brazil and 91 percent in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. But it also includes opposition by important U.S. allies: 87 percent of Germans, 85 percent of Japanese and 70 percent of the British.
There’s similar public opposition to U.S. spying on the respondent’s national leaders. Majorities in 34 countries find such action by Washington to be offensive. This sentiment is particularly strong in Germany, where the American government allegedly listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone conversations. But there are similarly overwhelming objections in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Venezuela, Greece and Brazil. FULL POST
Beleaguered at home, U.S. President Barack Obama remains beloved in many nations abroad. And he is far more popular than his predecessor George W. Bush. But the bloom is definitely off the Obama rose.
Obama’s election in 2008 was widely approved of around the world, and there were high expectations for the incoming American leader, whose election seemed to promise an end to the anti-Americanism that had plagued Washington’s relations with the rest of the world for the past several years.
And, despite revelations such as National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and the growing sense in the United States that President Obama is already a lame duck domestically, his continued (if somewhat diminished) favorability abroad suggests he remains a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. But will the president follow the well-trodden path of his predecessors in spending more time on foreign policy in their last years in office as their domestic influence has waned?
His popularity abroad suggests he might.
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.
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
By Ted Galen Carpenter, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is the author of nine books on international affairs, including The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America. The views expressed are his own.
Officials in the United States might be tempted to view the disturbing surge in young refugees as simply a border security issue. But the problem is far more complex than that – the drug cartels are now major players in Central American countries, driving vulnerable populations northward to the United States to enhance their own profits.
And America’s hardline prohibitionist drug war is only making things worse.
Although the growing power of the cartels is not the only factor accounting for this crisis, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson suggested in congressional testimony that the “push factor” of violence is important.
Drug gangs have gained control of major chunks of Central America, making honest economic activity perilous. Teenagers especially have few options if they are not willing to work for the drug lords. As Caitlin Dickson noted in the Daily Beast, for example, “by making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for its poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, thereby providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business.”
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
You know countries don't always play by the rules of international trade, especially countries where the government and large companies are really all part of the same team.
Take, for example, China – the most notorious player who hasn't read the rule sheet. The government of China lavishes subsidies on its companies to make their products more competitive in the global marketplace.
And it's not just subsidies that help Chinese companies. Last year, China's government gave its domestic companies $111 billion in guarantees, loans and insurance to help them sell their various products overseas.
And China is just one example – Japan's companies got $33 billion worth of such treatment, South Korea $24 billion. And by contrast, the U.S. total was just $15 billion. Keep in mind that South Korea's economy is less than 1/10th the size of America's!
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
Every week we bring you in-depth interviews with world leaders, newsmakers and analysts who break down the world's toughest problems.
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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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