By Fareed Zakaria
The United States has done very well in harnessing the talents of its top 1 percent and in attracting the top 1 percent from the rest of the world to live and work here. These are the engines of innovation, growth and dynamism. But the country’s vast middle class — and below — has seen its wages stagnate for three decades. And this is getting worse as technology and globalization depress job prospects for people in the middle.
The real story of these tests has been “the rise of the rest.” The United States has muddled along over the past few decades, showing little improvement or decline. Meanwhile, countries including South Korea and Singapore have skyrocketed to the top, and now China, Vietnam and Poland are doing astonishingly well. These countries have workers whose productivity levels have been rising in tandem with their educational achievements.
There are many reasons, but to put it simply, many of these countries are playing to win.
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.
The debate over America’s alleged decline was one of the subtexts of policy debates during last year’s U.S. presidential election, and it remains a recurring theme in the partisan punditry of foreign policy scholars today. But at a time when the Obama administration has been focusing on domestic challenges like the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that many foreign policy experts have turned bearish on the United States. And the American public appears to agree – U.S. global power and prestige are in decline.
Public support for U.S. global engagement was already near an historic low earlier this year, and it has declined further still. The public thinks that the United States does too much to try to solve the world’s problems, and increasing percentages want the U.S. to “mind its own business internationally” and pay more attention to problems at home.
Indeed, for the first time in surveys dating back 40 years, a majority of Americans say the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago, according to the latest Pew poll “America’s Place in the World,” a quadrennial survey of foreign policy attitudes conducted in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations. The share saying the U.S. is less powerful has increased 12 points since 2009 and has more than doubled – from just 20 percent – since 2004.
GPS speaks with International Crisis Group analyst Yanmei Xie about recent tensions in East Asia, China’s air defense identification zone, and what it means for U.S. ties with Beijing.
What exactly is the air defense identification zone that China has announced?
The air defense identification zone, announced last month, covers a set of islands – called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan – whose sovereignty is hotly disputed by the two countries. Beijing has demanded that from now on, aircraft entering the zone have to report their flight plans, maintain communication and show identification, or “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond.”
What’s behind the move?
Challenged at sea, Beijing could be hoping to assert greater control over the contested islands by unilaterally establishing administrative rights over the airspace above them. It has already been eroding Japan’s administration of the disputed waters by regularly dispatching patrol vessels to the area since the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from a private owner in September 2012.
The move may also have been driven by the People’s Liberation Army’s desire to expand its power projection. The PLA for years has been arguing that Japan’s air defense identification zone unfairly restricted Chinese military aircraft’s movement and advocated for the establishment of one of its own.
China’s sudden declaration, however, is puzzling in light of its foreign policy goals. Just a month ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping in a high-profile speech, stated that “safeguarding peace and stability in the neighboring region is a major goal” of the country’s diplomacy.
Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN
By Frederick P. Rivara, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Frederick P. Rivara is the Seattle Children’s Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatrics and adjunct professor in epidemiology at the University of Washington. The views expressed are his own.
With the anniversary of the Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost upon us, it is worth revisiting a troubling reality noted in a commentary I co-wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association just a week after the tragedy – the 17-year effort to suppress research into guns.
Between 1985 and 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded research examining the public health importance of gun-related injuries and the association between ownership of guns and risk of violent death – homicide and suicide – in the home and in the community. (In the interests of full disclosure, I participated in some of the research funded by the CDC.)
However, in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress essentially eliminated gun research funded by the CDC by inserting the following language into the appropriations for the Center: “[N]one of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
By Jeffrey W. Hornung, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey W. Hornung is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, and an adjunct fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are his alone.
China’s more assertive posture in regional territorial disputes took a new turn at the weekend with its decision to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone. At a time when tensions in the region are already high due to a lingering territorial dispute between China and Japan, China’s action has escalated tensions in the East China Sea. Now, with Beijing apparently demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of diplomacy with its neighbors, the region is forced to confront provocative and potentially destabilizing behavior.
On November 23, China’s defense ministry unilaterally announced the establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. According to the new rules for conduct in this ADIZ, any aircraft flying into China’s ADIZ is required to submit flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain two-way radio communication, and keep radar transponders turned on. Should a plane refuse to follow these instructions, China’s military will “adopt defensive measures.”
ADIZs are, by themselves, not controversial, acting as early-warning perimeters for self-defense. But while there are no international rules concerning their size or establishment, China’s action is provocative for two reasons. First, it may be attempting to set new rules for aircraft flying above waters considered a state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Second, it chose to establish an ADIZ that overlaps considerably with those of both Japan and Taiwan as well as a sliver of South Korea’s. Provocatively, included in China’s ADIZ are territorial disputes it maintains with Japan over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) and with South Korea over Ieodo (Suyan Rock in Chinese).
Fareed speaks with Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, historian and author of Dallas, November 22, 1963, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
So you know there are people who look at where Johnson was, dead in the water. A Life magazine article was about to come out. You describe, you know, which was an investigative story, that would have further undermined him. People look at all that and say, boy, this assassination not only made Johnson president, but saved him from what might have been a complete collapse. I mean, is it possible that had the assassination not happened, Johnson would have been so humiliated, he would have had to resign?
Well, to answer that part of your question, Johnson himself felt that whether he had a second term or not, he was finished. That's the word he used, "I'm finished."
And you know how we know that he really felt that way? He told several of his key aides, who, if he had further ambitions, he would have wanted to keep with him. He said, "I'm done."
One of them was asking him, can I go to work for somebody else? He says go with him, I'm finished. So you say that Johnson really felt that his career might be over.
On the other hand, nothing that I ever found...I've been doing research on Lyndon Johnson for a lot of years. And I have to say that nothing that I found in writing or any interviews, led me to believe that whatever the story of the assassination really is, that Lyndon Johnson had anything to do with it. I never found anything that led me to believe that.
By Graham Allison, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Graham Allison is director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is author of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. The views expressed are his own.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it is instructive to consider what he might have done if faced with the Iranian nuclear challenge today.
In what historians agree was his “finest hour,” Kennedy successfully led the U.S. through the most dangerous confrontation in history, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The odds of war were, in Kennedy’s view, “between 1 in 3 and even.”
When the Soviet Union was found emplacing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, 90 miles off American shores, Kennedy declared that totally unacceptable — as President Obama has declared an Iranian nuclear bomb. The question was how to eliminate this danger without war.
Initially, Kennedy chose a naval quarantine to stop further Soviet shipments of missiles to Cuba. While this signaled American resolve and strength, it did not prevent the Soviets rushing to complete installation of missiles already on the island. As the clock ticked down to the moment warheads in Cuba would become ready to launch against Washington and New York, Kennedy’s options narrowed.
By James Holmes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Holmes is professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. The views voiced here are his alone. This is the fourth article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
As we remember the passing of John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago on Friday, it’s fitting that we leaven a solemn occasion by also remembering the optimism he brought to the Oval Office. President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address remains a bracing bit of rhetoric even today, half a century on. But rhetoric demands substance as well as verbal flourishes. Three takeaways from the address are worth revisiting as America again mulls its place in the world and strategies for achieving its goals:
Unlimited commitment. Kennedy vowed that America would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” This is more than a statement of steadfastness in the Cold War. In strategic terms, it's a statement that the United States affixed such importance to its goals that it was prepared to spend as many national resources – lives, treasure, military assets – for an indefinite time if that's what it took to outlast the Soviet Union.
Strategist Carl von Clausewitz would instantly grasp the import of Kennedy's words. Clausewitz maintains that the value of a nation's political goals determines how many resources it expends attaining those goals, and for how long. The corollary for Clausewitz is that if an endeavor starts costing more than it's worth, statesmen should cut the best deal they can and get out. This simple cost/benefit logic is central to rational foreign policy and military strategy.
By Jesse Walker, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine and the author of The United States of Paranoia. The views expressed are his own. This is the third article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
For 50 years, every poll on the subject has shown at least a plurality, and usually a majority, of Americans believing John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. A 2008 survey sponsored by CNN and Essence suggested that 58 percent of the country believes a conspiracy killed Martin Luther King; for black Americans, the figure was 88 percent. A 1996 Gallup poll had 71 percent of the U.S. agreeing that the government is hiding something about UFOs – not necessarily alien bodies, you understand, but something.
Yet for all this, America is not unusually suspicious. Conspiracy stories flourish all over the world, some of them far less plausible than the notion that more than one man was involved in the King or Kennedy killing. As I write, Europe is undergoing one of its periodic panics about international child-stealing gypsy conspiracies. Over the summer, the prime minister of Turkey blamed a global plot for the protests against his government. Last year, the host of Nigerian Idol lashed out at the local press for reporting that he was a high-ranking member of the Illuminati. In Iran, it is apparently considered savvy to claim that the Holocaust was a hoax. The fear of conspiracy isn’t the property of any one nation – it’s more like a universal human trait.
But if Americans are not unique in being suspicious, it’s true that we can be suspicious in distinctive ways. Every country’s conspiracy stories reflect that country’s culture, and that’s as true of the United States as any place else. There is an American style of paranoid politics.
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. This is the second article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The world may have breathed a sigh of relief after President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union managed to avoid nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But America’s rise in the 50 years since President Kennedy was killed has been far from trouble-free – and America’s international standing since the fall of its great Cold War rival has reflected the ups, downs and uncertainties of the past five decades.
When the Cold War ended, U.S. strategic hegemony, and more broadly the American brand, appeared poised for prolonged preeminence. With the Soviet Union in shambles, followed soon thereafter with the implosion of Japan’s economic bubble, America’s standing in the world seemed unchallenged and unchallengeable. But in the ensuing quarter century, the U.S. image has been on a roller coaster ride. And China has emerged as a new rival in the eyes of the world.
There is little consistent, publicly available opinion data on global views of the United States prior to the first decade of the 21st century. In the early 1980s, a Newsweek poll found that most people surveyed believed America’s global influence was expanding. But that was not necessarily a positive sentiment. With a possible U.S.-Russian nuclear confrontation still very much on people’s minds, majorities in many countries said America’s strong military actually increased the chances for war. And just a quarter of the French approved of U.S. policies. The situation was only slightly better in Japan and Germany.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace. The views expressed are his own. This is the first article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
We celebrate John F. Kennedy a half-century after his death for the confidence he gave us in meeting great challenges. “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man,” he told us. And we believed him. At a moment when the U.S. government seems unable even to launch a website, we recall Kennedy’s boldest commitment: to launch a man to the moon and bring him back safely to Earth within the decade. That remarkable moment in American history, one that virtually defined my own childhood years, still inspires us to shake off our dour pessimism today.
While it’s all too easy to believe in government failure today – what with the failed Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, NSA spying, the Obamacare rollout, shutdowns, sequesters, and more – the public perception was nearly the opposite a half-century ago. The federal government was friend, not foe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government had organized the New Deal, steered democracy through the Great Depression, and then triumphed over fascism in World War II. The federal government had invented the nuclear age in the Manhattan Project, hardly the work of a technological slouch. Most importantly for most Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. government was the bulwark against the aggressive designs of Stalin and the Soviet Union.
By Kristin Lord and Paul J. Saunders, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kristin Lord is executive vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Paul J. Saunders is executive director of the Center for the National Interest and served as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. The views expressed are their own.
So far, the twenty-first century has been a frustrating one for Americans. The United States has extraordinary military might and technological prowess, which it uses to protect itself, its allies and its partners. Yet, for many here and around the world, the ways in which America exercises this power – revealed in part by Edward Snowden's one-man crusade against the National Security Agency – have contributed to searching questions about the United States’ future and its international role. Such questions have begun to undermine America's moral authority – and U.S. leaders ignore them at their peril.
The United States is not just a great power, but an idea. Americans like it that way and we are justifiably proud of an exceptional if complex history. Particularly during the twentieth century, moral authority became one of our nation's most important strategic advantages, a source of strength that pulled allies closer and proved difficult for adversaries to challenge. The value of this strategic advantage endures today. Losing it could do more to harm American power than any realistic military or economic threat on the horizon-and regaining it could take decades.
U.S. moral authority has suffered real damage over the last two decades. There are many reasons for this, ranging from well-intended military interventions that have produced mixed results, to perceptions that the United States has applied human rights standards inconsistently, allegations of torture and other abuses like those at Abu Ghraib, a major financial crisis, and apparent political dysfunction within our own borders.