By Virginia M. Bouvier, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Virginia M. Bouvier is senior program officer for Latin America at the U.S. Institute of Peace and editor of Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War. The views expressed are the author’s own.
With violence exploding in Gaza, airstrikes in Iraq, armed groups terrorizing Nigeria, Syrian extremism spilling into Lebanon, and the return of war in Sudan, the cause of peace can seem daunting. Closer to home, however, there is cause for hope.
Prospects for peace in Colombia are looking better than they have in years. If successful, the current peace process would put an end to an internal armed conflict that has lasted half a century. The conflict has taken the lives of some 200,000 Colombians, forcibly displaced 6 million more (granting Colombia the dubious honor of world record holder for the highest number of displaced), and destroyed countless livelihoods. Peace in Colombia would open a new era for growth and prosperity and contribute to regional stability.
As President Juan Manuel Santos noted in his inaugural speech on August 7, “Colombia’s time has come.”
During his first term in office, Santos opened peace talks with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC-EP), and earlier this year launched exploratory conversations for peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second largest armed insurgent group. His campaign for re-election was widely portrayed as a referendum on the peace process, and his victory in June gives him a mandate to finish what he started.
CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about Iraqi President Fuad Masum's decision to nominate a new Prime Minister on Monday. This is an edited version of the interview.
Nuri al-Maliki, the current Iraqi prime minister, may not go quietly. He may try to use the forces loyal to him to effectively engage in some sort of coup. What's your analysis?
My own sense is that he won't do that. There are many, many forces within the Iraqi political system that would be very strongly opposed to them. Most importantly, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the chief Shiite cleric of Iraq, has always been clear that Iraq needs to be on a democratic path. You remember early on, when we were watching Iraqi politics begin, Sistani was very clear on the need for elections, for democracy. So I would suspect that he would come out strongly opposed to this. And in that case, al-Maliki's support would collapse.
Indeed, Al-Maliki's support has largely collapsed. What he’s now holding onto is the thin reed that says technically he was meant to be asked first because he's the leader of the largest bloc. That's an academic issue because his bloc, the support, has disintegrated. I would suspect he might mount some kind of legal challenge, but he won’t try to use his position as commander in chief to do what you rightly say would be effectively a military coup.
So let's see what he does in the next few days. Haider al-Abadi, the nominee to be prime minister, is a Shiite. Can he unite the country? There's a Kurdish new president. There's a Sunni speaker. Can this group effectively take Iraq to a position that all of us had hoped it would be at, but clearly has not reached.
That's the million dollar question because what we have focused a lot on is the fact that al-Maliki is the bad guy, he didn't reach out to the Sunnis and, you know, we need change. And that's true. Al-Maliki has been a very sectarian and also somewhat incompetent leader. But there’s a larger sectarian dynamic in Iraq, which is to say al-Abadi is himself a Shiite from the same party that al-Maliki is from. The party is a pretty tough, hard line party. These guys spent most of their time in Iran before, in exile. So they're often somewhat pro-Iranian. They're pretty tough in terms of viewing themselves as Shia first and Iraqi second.
The other positions in the government aren't very important – the speaker and the deputy speaker and all these positions. So what we've seen in the past is, you have a lot of personalities and you have the right ethnic mix, but it doesn't matter because the dynamic of the system is making the Shiite politicians act more sectarian. That makes the Sunnis act more sectarian. The Kurds essentially trying to retain their independence. So I'm not very hopeful.
I think that it might be better. But you have a sectarian dynamic at work in Iraq. If you just look at the people who are guarding these various groups, it's the Shiite soldiers who are essentially guarding the Shiites. The Sunnis are more in the Sunni areas. Even the army, in other words, has fragmented into kind of sectarian units.
So when all is said and done, what Joe Biden and others recommended years ago – some sort of partition if you will of Iraq into a Sunni area, a Shiite area, a Kurdish area – may be the best solution when all is said and done.
I think there's a lot of wisdom there. I think people do need to take a second look at what Joe Biden was suggesting, which was, by the way, to be fair to him, a loose federation. He always understood you couldn't really partition as cleanly because, as you know, the middle of the country, which would be the sort of Sunni land, is actually full of Shias. Baghdad has lots of Shias in it.
So how would you do it? Historically, the way these happen is you have a certain amount of ethnic cleansing. In other words, the Sunni leave the Shia areas. The Kurds are, in any case, pretty much sealed. Maybe there's going to be a great sorting out in the Middle East. It's very sad to see. But think about what's happening. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have already left Iraq, even before these latest strategies. You've seen Christians flee Syria. You're seeing Kurds flee Syria. You're seeing the Sunnis flee out of Shia areas.
In other words, what you're seeing is the end of any kind of polyglot, multicultural Middle East. And what you're seeing is a very stark division where people are moving into their ethnic and religious corners.
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, about the importance of space exploration – and whether Americans have fallen out of love with space.
What is the Orion spacecraft that NASA is talking about doing?
All of these efforts are trying to get us back into space, with the goal of possibly sending humans to the Mars system, Mars and the moons and the like. And if you have that capacity, then you'll have the capacity to go many other places. You could visit comets. You could go to the Moon easily once you've configured that.
So these are the things that have been discussed. But I don't see it happening in a real tangible way. In the 1960s, we were going to the Moon and every couple of months you saw the next spacecraft ready on the launch pad.
You led off with the ending of the shuttle program. For many people, that was sad. And it shouldn’t have been sad because had the cards been played right, on the next launch pad would have been the next vehicle to continue this adventure in space. And you say, OK, it served us well. Mothball it, but here's what's next. No one was sad at the end of the Mercury program, because the Gemini rockets were ready right there on the launch pad. And no one was sad when Gemini ended because the mighty Saturn 5 was ready to go. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
“It is striking how the public discussion of inequality has been careful not to differentiate between citizens except by wealth or occasionally by the skill needed for their work,” writes Adam Posen in the Financial Times. “In most of the serious recent discussions on inequality, the idea that someone’s economic fortunes might depend upon race, gender or ethnicity is nodded to in passing, at best. Another blind spot is persistent regional backwardness – as besets West Virginia and Alabama, southern Italy and Portugal.”
“Instead of confronting these continuing harms of exclusion directly, commentators have fixated on the ways in which the rich become richer, and the fact that some have lost the opportunity to become rich. Popular resistance to high estate taxes may be puzzling to many. Yet, inequality due to inherited wealth is far less grave an injustice than an inequality that emerges because of inherited skin color, ethnic identity or place of birth.”
“I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop,” writes Justin Levitt in the Washington Post. “In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up. To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.”
“So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country.” FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
“Hizbollah has committed several thousand men to the fighting in Syria. After Iran’s reversals in Iraq, it needs to defeat Syrian rebels in Qalamoun, in that way consolidating the territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad between Damascus and the Syrian coast, the regime’s heartland,” writes Michael Young in The National.
“The Lebanese army, by design or default, may become a part of this project. That’s worrying, because it could heighten sectarian tensions that undermine the army’s unity, since a substantial portion of soldiers in the army are Sunnis.
“Hizbollah must also beware. If Lebanon collapses into a new civil war, Hizbollah would have to abandon Syria to fight at home. In other words, it would effectively have to give up on the Al Assad regime at a time when the latter’s capacities to remain in power are already doubtful. This may not only mean that Iran, Hizbollah’s sponsor, could lose Syria; it would mean that Hizbollah suddenly finds itself trapped in a civil war that it simply cannot win.”
“From start to finish, the latest Gaza conflict has largely been a man’s war,” writes Elana Maryles Sztokman in The Atlantic. “The Israeli negotiating team in Egypt does not include a single woman–not even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose condition for joining the current governing coalition was that she head Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instead appointed his own (male) representative, Yitzchak Molcho, to represent him in the delegation. Livni sits on Israel’s security cabinet, the small committee that has made most of the major decisions about this war, but, tellingly, she is the only woman at the table. The story is the same on Israeli television and in the country’s newspapers. According to a study by The Marker, fewer than 10 percent of all experts interviewed on news programs during the war have been women.”
“The sexism underlying women’s exclusion from security and military leadership has found expression in some particularly troubling statements by senior officials and commentators.”
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
Wherever you look these days, the world seems like it’s on fire.
New hot spots like Russia and Ukraine are competing with the old ones like Gaza and festering conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq – especially Iraq – are getting much worse. Even Afghanistan, which seemed in better shape than the other places, had a setback this past week.
So, is there any good news out there? In fact, there is. Some of the most important countries in the world are making remarkable progress, affecting at least 1.5 billion people. FULL POST
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: First, the latest on Iraq and the advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as well as the U.S. military’s response. Also, Fareed offers his take on what the United States should be doing and why bolstering the Kurds is the key to success.
Then, Fareed will speak with counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen before hearing from Ambassador Peter Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End, and the London School of Economics’ Fawaz Gerges about what we might be able to expect next.
Next, Fareed will be joined by The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens about U.S. policy over Iraq and Gaza.
Also, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, discusses the state of the U.S. space program.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
The situation in Iraq today is perilous, but also chaotic and confusing. Should the United States do more to help the communities under threat of destruction? If it does intervene for humanitarian reasons here, then why not in a place like Syria, which has seem many terrible atrocities and massacres as well? How should we think through the issue?
I have been cautious about urging the United States to get back into Iraq, but I believe that in the current circumstances, the Obama administration should intervene more forcefully and ambitiously, use air power, offer training support and weaponry if needed.
The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq is terrible enough. But sometimes, as in Syria, it is unclear whether U.S. military intervention could really help matters, whether there’s a clear plan that would work. In Iraq now there is such a path, one that also offers the strategic rationale for U.S. action. FULL POST
Fareed speaks with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, about the Big Bang Theory – and how grappling with science’s big questions matters to our daily lives. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
The Big Bang Theory seems to have been – I'm talking about the actual event, not the not the TV show – seems to have been proven even more right, and there’s now this talk about the Inflation Hypothesis. What is it and why is it important?
So recently, there was a result, an observation, that appeared to confirm predictions made in the inflationary universe. So in the...
Yes, this idea, which was an appendage to the Big Bang, was put forth back in the 1970s, when that word had much higher currency than it does today. So it stuck and it's been with us ever since.
And it refers to an early period of the universe, really early, like fractions of a second after the original explosion, where the universe has a rapid expansion – faster than the speed of light rapid expansion. It is scientifically valid, that prediction and that idea. And it had a whole sweep of expectations that you should look for if it were true.
So people started exploring the universe, checking that box, yes, that's true, too. Yes. Hey, got that one right, as well. FULL POST
By Jamie Metzl, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jamie Metzl is a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society. He served in the National Security Council and State Department during the Clinton administration. You can follow him @jamiemetzl or visit his website. The views expressed are his own.
There are many signs that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unprecedented anti-corruption drive is serious. In recent weeks, an investigation was launched into former security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, while former top General Xu Caihou was expelled from the Communist Party. Nearly 200,000 party members of all levels have reportedly been disciplined for corruption over the last two years. But if this top down approach is not matched by a bottom-up empowerment of the people being most harmed by China’s corruption pandemic it will have little chance of success.
China’s leadership faces a crisis of confidence among the Chinese people. Endemic corruption has become the rule rather than the exception, highlighted in the social media the government is straining to contain. Downstream effects of corruption – environmental degradation, food and consumer safety lapses, massive inequality, and thwarted innovation to name a few – are suppressing the natural talents of the Chinese people and causing many of China's most capable to emigrate.
Xi has promised that the anti-corruption campaign will snare “tigers” as well as “flies,” senior leaders as well as smaller fry, and he has been true to his word. Those charged include officials from all levels and associated with virtually all major factions.
But because corruption is so pervasive, it’s difficult not to see political and public relations motives. When Chinese media reports critically on the vast wealth accrued by the families of former Chongqing leader Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and others, it’s easy to remember the Bloomberg and New York Times reports on the millions of dollars held by Xi’s and former Premier Wen Jiabao’s families. And no one believes that China’s government leaders, among the wealthiest in the world, are getting rich from their salaries alone.
This corruption passes from the top down. Officials in senior positions receive bribes from businessmen they then use to secure their own promotions and strengthen their essential patronage networks according to qian gui ze, the “hidden rules” of the road. It doesn’t end there. Parents in schools across China are expected pay teachers to ensure fair treatment for their children, journalists require envelopes of cash for attending press conferences, doctors in public hospitals demand payment for providing care. Nearly everyone with something to offer can expect additional payments under the table.
For Xi, cracking down on the likes of Zhou in the name of anti-corruption removes his most powerful rivals, demonstrates power consolidation, and is good public relations. But ultimately, corruption in China is not a cancer on the system, it is the essence of it.
Xi and his team are no doubt betting that a top down approach can clean up the system enough, or at least make it look like they doing enough, to prevent the party and government from being delegitimized, while at the same time maintaining the party’s dominant role. But while it might be conceptually possible for China to address its corruption problem with a Singapore-like good governance approach if its leaders were willing to take vows of chastity and poverty, the far likelier bet is that it can’t because the party itself is the problem. As long as the party remains above the law with zero transparency or public accountability, leaders like Zhou are expelled while others have amassed far greater spoils are exempt, and Chinese citizens are sent to jail for protesting official corruption or advocating that China live up to its own constitution, that problem will remain.
If, on the other hand, Xi is serious about addressing corruption, he will need to push the kinds of political reforms required to facilitate bottom-up pressure for accountability and good governance – rule of law, sunshine and disclosure legislation, a free press, conflict of interest rules, supporting non-governmental watchdog groups, empowering the public, etc. Ultimately, but not necessarily immediately, the Chinese Communist Party will need a mandate by the people conferred through meaningful elections.
Although the Chinese government has delivered spectacular results in many areas over past decades, China is now at a crossroads where nearly every major problem stems ultimately from the distortions of its political system. For the country to realize its potential, these distortions must be addressed.
Since taking over two years ago, Xi has moved steadily to consolidate power and isolate his rivals. Up to this point, the anti-corruption campaign can only be seen as part of this process. The big question, however, is consolidating power for what? If Xi proves to be moving strategically towards implementing the political reforms China needs to address its corruption and unlock the great potential of its people in a more open, distributed, and creative system, then the anti-corruption drive will have meaning. The announcement that the party plenum scheduled for October will address legal reform issues is a positive potential step in the right direction.
But if Xi does not push for political reforms, the campaign will simply look like a risky political and public relations maneuver to get rid of rivals, an approach that won’t get China out of its morass.
I hope it’s the former, but the jury is still out.
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