By Mohamed Ali, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mohamed Ali is the founder of the Iftiin Foundation, an organization that incubates social entrepreneurs and young leaders to encourage innovation in Somalia. He is also a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. The views expressed are his own.
As new footage emerges of gunmen chatting on cell phones and praying during their attack on an upscale Nairobi mall last month, many are still wondering how the group was able to lay siege to the building for four days, claiming almost 70 lives in the process.
But while understanding how the attack was orchestrated is important, the more pressing question should surely be why, despite international efforts to quell its power, Al-Shabaab is still able to recruit so many to its cause – including, reports suggest, foreign Somalis who grew up in the West? And why are many of those who participate in Al-Shabaab attacks young men? The answers to these questions could hold the key to undermining Al-Shabaab’s influence in the region.
Al-Shabaab, which means “youth” in Arabic, is aptly named – not because it is a youth movement (the group is led by older religious clerics) but because young people remain its greatest resource in a bloody campaign to impose radical Islam in the region. After all, it was a Mogadishu girl who walked into the home of her uncle, a Somali government minister, and detonated a suicide vest in 2011. I have also been repeatedly advised by Somali officials that attacks such as the one on a U.N. compound in June, regularly involve youths. And now, several young attackers who broke into the Westgate mall with guns and grenades have murdered dozens of men, women and children.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
The current Republican fear derives from Obamacare, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair. In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation, “The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!”
But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.
For some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement. Over the past six decades, conservatism’s language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who believe fervently in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into imminent oblivion. They aren’t going to give up just yet.
The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century — a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?
By James Pach, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Pach is the Tokyo-based editor of The Diplomat, an online magazine focusing on the Asia-Pacific. The views expressed are his own.
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” That Churchillian quote is a useful one to trot out as Washington fumbles in its uniquely Washingtonian way towards what those of us in the rest of the free world (yes...we’re still here) would consider common sense.
It’s also quite patronizing. With his stature and his American mother, Churchill could probably get away with it. For everyone else though, it presupposes that political dysfunction only happens in America. And for all the Schadenfreude-tinged harrumphing in foreign capitals, that’s clearly not true.
Take Japan, with seven prime ministers in seven years, public debt climbing past 230 percent of GDP, and a sizeable chunk of one prefecture uninhabitable for the foreseeable future. Too easy? Then try China, where despite runaway, credit-fueled growth, an estimated 500 mass protests take place each day as the population grapples with rampant corruption, choking pollution, food safety scandals and a diabetes epidemic. Or look at Australia, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s star performer. After six years of Labor government, Canberra has earned a reputation as the world’s coup capital. America’s post-racial moment may not have made it out of Grant Park, but Australia’s post-misogyny moment never happened at all. Europe? Euro.
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 the writer’s own.
As American, European, Russian, Chinese and Iranian negotiators jockey in Geneva over ending the West’s economic sanctions on Tehran in return for a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, European and U.S. publics are sending negotiators on both sides a clear message: they oppose Iran having nuclear armaments. They agree on the current imposition of economic sanctions. And they generally support the use of military force if sanctions fail. The Chinese and Russian publics, though, dissent.
At a time when people on both sides of the Atlantic have turned critical of the Afghan War and have recoiled from involvement in Syria’s civil war, there is relative cohesion on Iran in both Europe and the United States. Indeed, there are some signs such solidarity may be strengthening. Yet although Iranian negotiators in Geneva will find little daylight between the American and European publics that they can exploit, differences between transatlantic views and those held by the Chinese and Russian publics may yet prove critical in the talks.
By Jim Manley, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jim Manley is senior director at QGA Public Affairs in Washington, DC. He was previously a senior staff member in the offices of Senators Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy. The views expressed are his own.
It was shortly after midnight last night, as I was checking the Blackberry one last time before going off to sleep, that I saw a remarkable story pop up courtesy of my friends at Roll Call. It said that – with just a couple of days to go before we reach the October 17 deadline to extend the debt limit – Senator Ted Cruz was spotted at a place on the Hill called Tortilla Coast. According to Roll Call, he was with, among others, Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Steve King. In other words, three quarters of what I call the Four Horseman of the House Apocalypse.
A couple of things struck me.
First of all, no self-respecting Texan (even one born in Canada, as the junior senator was) should be caught eating the Tex-Mex at this place. But, more importantly, the very idea that these guys (and perhaps 15 or so house members) would be “stratgerizering” at this late stage in the game should give everyone reason to pause.
CNN speaks with Fareed about the ongoing stalemate in Washington, the impact on America’s standing abroad and why investors are worried about the United States.
Is there something wrong with our system that this is happening again, three years of this budget stalemating?
It's a good question, because, let's be honest – the American system is designed to allow for easy gridlock. The Founding Fathers created a system fearing English tyranny, fearing an English king, so there are lots of different ways to veto stuff. There are lots of checks and balances. So, I think that's part of the issue. But really, what's at work here is something much more dangerous, which is here we're getting into an anti-democratic process, which is not the way the system was meant to work.
Look, if you want to repeal Obamacare and you're the Republican Party, you're the Tea Party, great. Go for it. If you want to get rid of entitlements, you want to cut government spending, that's great. There is a procedure. You pass a bill in the House, it passes in the Senate and the president signs it.
What's happening here is because the Tea Party does not have that ability, does not have a majority in the House or the Senate, and certainly the president wouldn't sign it. So what it's trying to do is really extortion, which is to say, we will block everything if you don't give us this, which we know we couldn't get passed through the democratic process, normally. That seems to me something quite new.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: Why is Washington so polarized? And what can be done about it? Fareed speaks with three experts: American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Vanessa Williamson, co-author of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
Also, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein discusses the economy, globalization, and inequality in America.
And in our What in the World segment: Advantage China, as U.S. President Obama misses two big summits in Asia as the stalemate in Washington continued. Could China teach the U.S. a thing or two about dealing with problems responsibly?
By Daniel Gaynor, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Daniel Gaynor is a writer based in Washington, D.C., and a partner at Sweat to Solutions, a non-profit consultancy. The views expressed are his own.
As the government shutdown has entered its second week, there are few signs that the gridlock will be resolved anytime soon. But while finger pointing continues and federal employees stay furloughed, the larger crisis remains unresolved: gerrymandering.
However you vote on election day, you would probably like to know that your vote at least counts. But for more Americans than ever, that’s less and less likely to be the case. Since the last shutdown, in 1995, states from North Carolina to Arizona have been carved up into biased voting districts, in a process called “gerrymandering.”
So what is it? Let’s jump back to 1812. The governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed into law a “redistricting” plan, one that carved his political opponents into voting districts where they would have less ability to win. And on a map, the new districts looked like a salamander. A local newspaper combined the words Gerry and salamander, and today we have “gerrymander.”
By Jason Miks
As the U.S. government shutdown enters its second week, it is not just Americans wondering when the stalemate will be over – around the world, politicians and commentators have been weighing in with their take on how the U.S. got here, what happens next, and whether their own countries should be worried. GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks selects some of the highlights.
U.S. has been living far beyond its tax base
“For a generation or so, the American government has been living far beyond its tax base, with deficits since 1970 in all but four years. In 2010, it spent $1,900 billion more than it collected in tax – borrowing more than the entire GDP of Canada or India just to pay the bills. If the federal deficit has come down since then, total public debt is now well over 100 per cent of GDP, compared to less than 60 percent in the early noughties,” writes British Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell in The Telegraph.
“…Is it manageable? Perhaps. Maybe. Just about. Now imagine that interest rates return even half way towards their post-war historic average? Wipe out. The barely manageable will become completely unmanageable. Something is going to give. And I don’t mean in a philanthropic sort of way.”
China: We’re concerned
“China, the U.S. government's largest creditor, is ‘naturally concerned about developments in the U.S. fiscal cliff,” Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said in the Chinese government's first public response to the October 17 deadline in the United States for raising the debt ceiling,” Reuters reports.
“‘The United States is totally clear about China's concerns about the fiscal cliff,’ Zhu told reporters in Beijing, adding that Washington and Beijing had been in touch over the issue. ‘We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way before October 17 the political (issues) around the debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. debt default to ensure safety of Chinese investments in the United States and the global economic recovery…This is the United States’ responsibility.’
For more What in the World, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
Amid all of Washington's discussions on Syria and Iran, one other issue seems to have gotten ignored. The U.S. signed an actual international treaty this month, one with vast implications for terrorism and war around the world. The problem is…the treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate – and that's just not going to happen.
Let us explain.
It's the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty – an agreement that aims to control the $70 billion global trade of weapons. Almost every major commodity is subject to some form of international regulation – gold, oil, currencies. But there have been few controls on the flow of weaponry. Countries have wanted to have an unregulated free-for-all in the weapons market. And we are not just talking about guns.
The U.N. treaty covers battle tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships. These are all weapons that are playing a part in ongoing wars in Syria and large parts of Africa. As Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan put it last week, these are the true "weapons of mass destruction" as much as the chemical weapons that were used in Syria last month. And yet everyone – including rogue states, militias, and terrorist groups – seem to have unfettered access to them.
Fareed speaks with Bono about U.S. involvement in the fight against AIDS. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
The AIDS stuff – the United States is so far out in front. You know, you deal with Syria. You deal with Iraq. You deal with all these quagmires.
Well, guess what? The United States has…your taxpayers here in this country have paid for 9.7 million – 10 million people owe their lives to the U.S., left and right. George Bush started it. President Obama is finishing it.
This tiny little virus that's wreaked so much havoc in so many people's lives – the greatest health crisis in 600 years is on the run because of American leadership. That's important.
By Allison Stanger, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Allison Stanger is the Leng Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College and author of the forthcoming ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Leaks: The Story of Whistleblowing in America.’ The views expressed are her own.
The chorus of voices condemning the undemocratic tactics of the Republican minority who forced a government shutdown are right on target. The Affordable Care Act was voted on, the Supreme Court upheld it, and efforts to repeal it failed. As Fareed Zakaria noted today, refusing to allow the government to function until you get your way is not how a democracy is supposed to work.
But the current embarrassing spectacle is no new development – the Republican Party in the Obama years has previously taken a win-at-whatever costs approach in seeking to overturn laws they don’t like by refusing to implement them.
Exhibit A for this approach is the Republican response to Dodd-Frank. President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law on July 21, 2010. Its full title captures its intent: “An Act to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail,’ to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.”