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?

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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

Why U.S. needs to rethink whistleblower rules
June 5th, 2014
03:37 PM ET

Why U.S. needs to rethink whistleblower rules

By Dinah PoKempner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Dinah PoKempner is general counsel at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Edward Snowden’s revelations, first published a year ago today, sparked a global firestorm of debate and outrage about U.S. surveillance practices, not to mention considerable wing-flapping on Capitol Hill over some exceedingly modest legislative reform. But there’s one subject that many surveillance reformers won’t touch with a 10-foot pole: whistleblower protection for people working for the government in the intelligence and national security sectors.

No legislative proposal to protect a contractor like Snowden has gotten traction on the Hill so far. And intelligence and national security workers lack the enforceable rights that other federal employees have against retaliation for calling out wrongdoing.

Worse, no one in the United States has a clear legislative defense against punishment for revealing government secrets to the public – not even if those secrets concern violations of the Constitution, international law, or outright crimes. Indeed, the heavy blunderbuss of the Espionage Act, a law aimed at punishing leaks to the enemy, doesn’t exempt those who try to alert the public to grave misconduct.

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Topics: Technology • United States • WikiLeaks
How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties
June 5th, 2014
02:55 PM ET

How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties

By Vikram J. Singh and Joshua T. White, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Vikram J. Singh is vice president for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. Joshua T. White is Deputy Director for South Asia at the Stimson Center. The views expressed are their own.

Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in last month’s Indian general election has raised hopes that the country will break through the policy stagnation of the last decade and advance reforms that can jump-start India’s economy and bolster its standing on the world stage.

Modi’s declared priorities focus heavily on the economy, and the U.S. government should make economic statecraft a central pillar of engagement with India. But Washington should not lose sight of the most successful area of U.S.-India cooperation to date: the thriving defense relationship. Actions taken in New Delhi and Washington now will determine if the two nations can break through a successful but largely transactional relationship toward strategic partnership that delivers for both nations on shared security interests.

On the U.S. side, four priority areas matter most to reinvigorate U.S.-India defense ties:

First, the Obama administration should continue to put forward innovative defense trade proposals, regardless of how responsive Modi’s government appears to be in the near-term. Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he would take “an active and very personal role” in what has come to be known as the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), and designated the Department’s Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall, as the initiative’s American lead.

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Topics: India • Military • United States
What's behind China's territorial spats?
May 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

What's behind China's territorial spats?

CNN’s Beijing bureau chief and correspondent, Jaime A. FlorCruz, responds to readers’ questions about recent tensions in the South China Sea, China’s relations with its neighbors and what may be behind recent disputes.

What is the dispute between China and Vietnam over the Paracel Islands about? Is it just about resource claims?

It is about resources. Much of the disputed area is believed to be potentially rich in oil and other natural resources. But it’s more than just a fight over resources – it’s the latest episode of a long-running saga of conflicting territorial claims of the South China Sea. China this time is acting aggressively to assert its claim to most of the oil-rich sea while its neighbors with conflicting territorial claims are angrily pushing back.

It’s also about China’s perception that Asian claimants like Vietnam are nibbling away at islands that China claims is its “indisputable sovereign territories”, as Chinese officials say. China insists it is simply defending its territory, sovereignty and security. It denies that it will impede freedom of navigation, an overriding concern of the U.S. and other third party stakeholders.

It’s a proxy fight, and extension of U.S.-China rivalry, taking place while the United States “rebalances” its defense and foreign policy toward Asia. China thinks some of these claimants, like Vietnam and the Philippines, are colluding with the United States, and are ganging up against China.

The U.S. and China find themselves on the opposite side of the existing political world order. The United States is the established power, the sole superpower, although its ability to enforce its will has been eroded lately. China on the other hand is a rising power – it’s gaining confidence as its economy and military might grow.

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Topics: Asia • China • Reader Q&A • United States
May 20th, 2014
04:55 PM ET

America's linguistic melting pot

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Here at GPS, we love deep data dives. We also revel in the fact that America continues to be the melting pot that it has always been. So we were interested to see a piece on Slate.com last week analyzing the most common languages spoken in each state using U.S. census data.

This first map is predictable – other than English, Spanish is the most spoken language in almost all U.S. states. But watch what happens when you remove Spanish from the equation. Now there is the melting pot.

In Michigan, Arabic clocks in as the third most commonly spoken language.

In Minnesota, it's Hmong.

In Oregon, it's Russian.

It's Vietnamese in four states – Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Washington.

It's a Filipino language called Tagalog in Hawaii, California, and Nevada.

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Topics: GPS Show • Immigration • Last Look • United States
May 15th, 2014
08:45 PM ET

Geithner: Strategy wasn’t about picking Wall Street over Main Street

Fareed speaks with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about the Obama administration’s response to the financial crisis. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

So the strategy that you adopted has often been criticized. It was criticized at the time and is criticized in retrospect as bailing out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. What do you say?

It’s a common perception, and it's a completely understandable perception because what you had to do to protect the economy of the country – the average person running a business or just trying to keep their job – what you had to do to protect them in a classic financial panic feels deeply unfair.

It's completely counterintuitive. And that's because the central imperative then is to make sure you prevent the collapse of the system. You keep the lights on. You know, think of the banking system. We don't like to think of this way, but think of it as the power grid. It's like a vital, essential thing. And what you saw in the Great Depression and you saw in countries since then is that if you let panic escalate and that fire burn too, too strong, it's devastating.

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Topics: Economy • GPS Show • United States
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.

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Topics: Foreign Policy • History • Ukraine • United States
May 12th, 2014
05:45 PM ET

Is China really about to overtake the U.S.?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

This month, headlines declared that China could eclipse the United States as the world's biggest economy by as early as this year. But before you start lamenting the end of American dominance – the U.S's 125-year run as the world's economic leader – listen to us. America is still number one. It will be for a while. And, as it turns out, China is OK with that.

Let us explain.

A new report from the World Bank's International Comparison Program says that China is catching up to the U.S. faster than anticipated. In 2005, the ICP estimated China's economy was 43 percent the size of America's. But their latest report, which uses 2011 data, puts China's GDP at $13.5 trillion. That accounts for 87 percent of the U.S. economy, which is $15.5 trillion.

Now, given that China's economy is growing 3 times as fast, it is fair to project that China will surpass the U.S. by year end. So, are we bracing ourselves for a big power shift from West to East, for a new Pacific era?

Well, not exactly. The International Comparison Program based their rankings on a measure called purchasing power parity. PPP, as it's called, estimates the real cost of living – in other words, what money can actually buy you in each country, not how much money you have.

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Topics: China • Economy • United States • What in the World?
America's middle class losing ground
May 7th, 2014
03:28 PM ET

America's middle class losing ground

America's middle class has been the envy of the world for decades. But a comprehensive new study suggests that America has lost yet another number one ranking – its middle class is no longer the richest in the world.

Fareed spoke with the New York Times’ David Leonhardt. Watch the full interview here.

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Topics: Economy • GPS Show • United States
May 1st, 2014
10:25 PM ET

America’s educational failings

By Fareed Zakaria

The United States has high levels of education and a large percentage of its workers in adult learning and training programs, and it spends lots of money on all these activities. And yet, it does worse than many countries with few advantages and resources. (And no, it isn’t just because of immigrants. About half of the OECD countries now have a larger percentage of foreign-born adults than does the United States)

What we learn from this study is really just an extension of what we have discovered in the PISA results. The biggest force behind falling American rankings is not that the United States is doing things much worse but that other countries have caught up and are doing better. The U.S. system of education and training is inadequate in the new global environment.

And things show no signs of improving. The bipartisan backlash against the Common Core — a set of national standards agreed to by governors — is a tragic example. Parents raised on a culture of low standards and high self-esteem are outraged that the tests show that many American schools are not teaching their children enough. (The tests must be at fault because they know that their kids are brilliant!) Some liberals and teacher groups are upset with the emphasis on testing (though Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, has endorsed the Common Core). And Republicans now oppose it — despite having championed it only a few years ago — largely because the Obama administration also backs the project.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Education • United States
April 25th, 2014
03:00 PM ET

What world can teach U.S. about entitlements

By Richard Jackson, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Richard Jackson is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate. The views expressed are his own.

America’s long-term budget challenge may have dropped off Washington’s radar, but it has not dropped off the public’s.

According to the Fiscal Confidence Index released last month by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, 59 percent of the public said that the nation is on the “wrong track in addressing the national debt,” while 67 percent said that their level of concern has increased over the past few years.  The public is right to be concerned.

But what many too often fail to appreciate is that confronting the challenge will require a far-reaching reform of entitlement programs, which make up well over half of federal spending today and account for all of the projected growth in noninterest outlays as a share of GDP over the next three decades. The most recent Congressional Budget Office projections may show that the near-term budget outlook has improved, but the long-term outlook, driven by rising entitlement costs, remains as daunting as ever.

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Topics: Economy • United States
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