October 17th, 2014
04:43 PM ET

What we're reading: Teaching 5-year-olds how to code

By Fareed Zakaria

“The U.S. has managed to cultivate a tech mecca in Silicon Valley in spite of its public-school system,” writes Sam Chambers for Bloomberg. “Because the country invented many of the technologies that are the foundation for today's hottest industry, it's a magnet for the world's sharpest and most ambitious. But the popularity of computing at U.S. high schools has been on the slide in recent years. In 2009, only 19 percent of students graduated with credits in computer science, down from 25 percent in 1990, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education.”

“The challenges facing the nations of Mediterranean Europe are hard-wired into the structure of the European Union, but Germany has made them incomparably worse,” writes Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post. “Just as the euro has enabled Germany to boost its exports by making them cheaper than they’d be if the country had a currency that reflected the strength of its economy, it has also overpriced exports from the nations of Southern Europe, which cannot devalue their currencies to reflect their economic weakness. Having forfeited the ability to adjust their monetary policy to boost their economies, the Mediterranean nations have also been blocked from stimulating their economies fiscally by the European Union’s prohibition of budget deficits that exceed 3 percent of nations’ gross domestic products. Historically, those budget limits have been amended or waived during downturns, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has continually insisted that the union impose austerity on nations whose economies required the very opposite: public works projects to boost employment and consumption, not to mention political stability.”

October 16th, 2014
07:20 PM ET

Obama needs to dial back his Syria strategy

By Fareed Zakaria

A U.S. strategy of escalating airstrikes in Syria — even if coupled with ground forces — would wish that the weakest and most disorganized forces in the country somehow become the strongest, first defeating the Islamic State, then the Assad regime, all while fighting off Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan. The chance that all this will happen is remote. Far more likely, heavy bombings in Syria will produce chaos and instability on the ground, further destroying Syria and promoting the free-for-all in which jihadi groups thrive.

Critics are sure this policy would have been easy three years ago, when the opposition to Assad was more secular and democratic. This is a fantasy. It’s true that the demonstrations against the Assad regime in the initial months seemed to be carried out by more secular and liberal people. This was also true in Libya and Egypt. But over time, more organized, passionate and religious forces triumphed. This is a familiar pattern in revolutions — including the French, Russian and Iranian. They are begun by liberals and taken over by radicals.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
Pakistan is sliding toward extremism
October 16th, 2014
06:27 PM ET

Pakistan is sliding toward extremism

By Farahnaz Ispahani and Nina Shea, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Farahnaz Ispahani is a former member of the Pakistani parliament and Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center 2013-2014. Her forthcoming book is 'Waiting to Die: Pakistan's religious minorities'. Nina Shea is a senior fellow, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co- author of 'Silenced; How apostasy and blasphemy codes are choking freedom worldwide'. The views expressed are their own.

The decision to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize last week was a good one. After all, the 17 year-old, who was named a joint winner with along with Kailash Satyarthi, personifies the struggle for modernity, women’s equality and individual rights to religious freedom against the threat of Islamic extremism. But while Malala’s award is a triumph for her determination, it is far from clear that the cause she champions will meet as much success.

The reality is that Pakistan is facing a serious problem, with the mushrooming of Islamist appeal within Pakistani society reminding us that we risk seeing the Talibanization not simply of a small minority of ordinary citizens, but large swathes of the populace of the world’s second largest – and only nuclear-armed – Muslim country.

Pakistan abounds with violent sectarian and Islamist groups headquartered in semiautonomous tribal areas. Foreign jihadists, including Westerners like American David Headley, flock to areas such as North Waziristan. Yet although Islamabad devotes a full third of its armed forces to the northwest of the country, it is also pursuing policies that encourage a mainstream slide toward extremism. FULL POST

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Topics: Islam • Pakistan
October 16th, 2014
10:55 AM ET

What I'm reading: The age of vulnerability

By Fareed Zakaria

“In the U.S., upward mobility is more myth than reality, whereas downward mobility and vulnerability is a widely shared experience,” writes Joseph Stiglitz for Project Syndicate. “This is partly because of America’s health-care system, which still leaves poor Americans in a precarious position, despite President Barack Obama’s reforms.”

“Those at the bottom are only a short step away from bankruptcy with all that that entails. Illness, divorce, or the loss of a job often is enough to push them over the brink…The recent economic downturn eviscerated the wealth of many. In the US, even after the stock-market recovery, median wealth fell more than 40% from 2007 to 2013.”

“If China can impose its will in the South China Sea, at least five rival claimants – all much smaller, weaker Asian states – will be limited to a narrow band of the sea along their coastlines,” writes Howard French in The Atlantic. “China would gain greater security for its crucial supply lines of oil and other commodities; exclusive access to rich fishing areas and potentially vast undersea oil deposits; a much larger buffer against what it regards as U.S. naval intrusions; and, not least, the prestige and standing it has long sought, becoming in effect the Pacific’s hegemon, and positioning itself to press its decades-old demand that Taiwan come under its control. Arguably, it would achieve the greatest territorial expansion by any power since imperial Japan’s annexation of large swaths of Asia in the first half of the 20th century.”

October 15th, 2014
04:39 PM ET

The Taliban's Twitter misstep?

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

Terrorists and jihadis have embraced social media using the Wild West of the Internet to exhibit bravado and spread their messages of hate. The bad guys have learned how to turn Twitter into a tool of terror. And Twitter is fighting back.

One analyst who monitors such accounts, J.M. Berger, tweeted last month that Twitter suspended 400 accounts linked to ISIS in just seven hours. But social media can also sometimes be a counterterrorism weapon.

Just recently, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, might have made the CIA's job a little easier. Mujahid's Twitter profile says he is in Kabul, but he posted tweets that showed his location, and as many media outlets reported, those tweets showed him to be in neighboring Pakistan, where many believe leaders of his group are in hiding.

He quickly claimed to be the victim of an "enemy forgery," turned off the location feature and showed that it is possible to spoof your location by sending a tweet that made it look like he was in Brian, Ohio, population 8,000.

While it is possible he was hacked, we think the book "Twitter for Dummies" might better explain what happened.

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Topics: GPS Show • Last Look
October 15th, 2014
03:10 PM ET

Why are Americans still gloomy about the economy?

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

By Global Public Square staff

The American economy is back. Last week, the IMF projected that the United States will be one of the very fastest growing advanced economies in the world in 2015. In fact, the American economy is just about the great exception in a world that is showing signs of economic stagnation.

Good news keeps piling on. The Congressional Budget Office just announced that the U.S. deficit fell by nearly a third during the fiscal year, which marks a 6-year low. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both surged to record highs over the last month. And the most recent economic snapshot from the Labor Department says that private sector employment grew in September for a 55th month in a row, a record, and that the unemployment rate is now at 5.9 percent, the lowest level it's been since July 2008.

But, and here is the paradox, despite a relatively robust recovery now, Americans aren't feeling more prosperous. In fact, 56 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center in August that they are "'falling behind' financially." That's pretty much the same percentage as in October 2008, during the heat of the Wall Street financial crisis. FULL POST

October 14th, 2014
11:55 PM ET

What I'm reading: How Germany managed to abolish university tuition fees

By Fareed Zakaria

“Despite the fact that competition for funding and accountability has increased in German higher education, there is still a general consensus that it is a public system and should be state-funded,” writes Barbara Kehm in the New Statesman. “The abolition of tuition fees, even by conservative state governments, reflects this consensus too. In fact, the new Federal Minister for Education and Research, a member of the Conservative Party, recently announced a major increase in the levels of needs-based state financial assistance to students that will start in the 2016-17 academic year.”

“There’s plenty of evidence that we are pushing up against and exceeding several critical boundaries of global sustainability: by which I don’t mean some tree hugging idea of sustainability, I mean we are taking actions that cannot be supported by the earth’s systems in the long term,” writes Warwick Smith in The Guardian. “We’re already exceeding the earth’s adaptive capacity with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and the nitrogen cycle and we’re approaching critical limits in both the phosphorous cycle and ocean acidification. Our use of fresh water is also approaching or exceeding sustainable limits in many parts of the world and we’re systematically destroying our arable land. These are critical life sustaining global processes that cannot be ignored without severe consequences.”

Zakaria: Iraq's army has collapsed
October 13th, 2014
10:31 PM ET

Zakaria: Iraq's army has collapsed

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about reports over new advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is an edited version of the transcript.

There is reportedly one base remaining in Anbar Province under Iraqi control. Talking to a general, he said it isn't so significant. You disagree.

It's very significant. It’s not significant militarily, because Baghdad will hold for reasons we can talk about. What's significant here is that it tells you that the Iraqi army has collapsed, that there’s no real Iraqi army. Because those bases where people are giving up, surrendering, these are all Sunnis who don't want to fight ISIS, Sunnis who don't want to fight fellow Sunnis.

What you're seeing is that if you scratch the surface of the Iraqi army, it's a bunch of sectarian militias, and the Sunnis will not fight against ISIS because they don't like the Baghdad government.

They don't have that regard for a nation. It's like a sect nation.

They think at this point the Iraqi government is being run by Shia. And so they in a sense don't like ISIS, but they like the Shia government in Baghdad less. So what we have to come to grips with is, this army that doesn't really exist. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • ISIS • Turkey
October 11th, 2014
11:38 PM ET

What role can the Peshmerga play in fighting ISIS?

Fareed speaks with Barham Salih, former prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and former deputy prime minister of Iraq, about the role the Peshmerga could play in fighting ISIS. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

What about the Peshmerga? Will the Kurdish Army – this is the force that protects the Kurdish part of Iraq. Is it going to be willing to go into battle in Iraq – potentially even into Syria – to fight ISIS, since you do need an effective fighting force on the ground?

My own sense is I can say this defensively. Kurdistan has emerged as the most reliable partner to the international coalition in the fight against ISIS. There may be a number of reasons for that.

One of the issues that I'm proud of, Kurdistan represents a tolerant society, tolerant values, and we do have a real interest in taking on ISIS.

So the Kurdish Peshmergas are taking on ISIS. They are fighting ISIS across nearly 1,000 kilometers of line. But I have to say, also, the mantra is that Kurdish Peshmergas should not be relied upon to go to Mosul or should not be relied upon to go to the heartland of the Sunni areas or to Baghdad.

We can be there to support. But at the same time, the communities there need to be empowered. The same thing about Syria...

Because you would be seen as an almost foreign army if you were to go into...

I think one has to also acknowledge this reality. This is payback time. Over the last 10 years, there were lots of communities, particularly in the Sunni areas, who felt marginalized. ISIS and these extremists have taken advantage of those grievances, and this has become an incubating ground for them.

The fundamental answer is to empower these communities to take on these extremists.

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Topics: GPS Show
October 11th, 2014
10:46 PM ET

Let's be honest: Islam has a problem today

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that "the Muslim world...has too much in common with ISIS," and the author, Sam Harris (a guest on his show) concurs, arguing that "Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas," I understand why people get upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations.

And yet, they were also talking about something real. I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It is a vast world of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't fit these caricatures. That's why Maher and Harris are guilty of simplification and exaggeration.

But let's be honest: Islam has a problem today...There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance, and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes towards women and minorities. And while some moderates confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against ISIS in the Arab world today?

But now the caveat, Islam today, is important.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column.

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
October 11th, 2014
08:12 PM ET

Former prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan on ISIS

Fareed speaks with Barham Salih, former prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and former deputy prime minister of Iraq, about the strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

First, give us your assessment of whether the U.S. airstrikes and this military campaign is having an effect. Is ISIS weaker, because on the ground so far, it doesn't appear that way?

I think it's fair to say that these airstrikes have slowed down ISIS advances, but they are nowhere enough to defeat ISIS.

And what we see, also, in Kobani, in neighboring Syria, is also a testament to the fact that these airstrikes, while welcome, while important, but nowhere enough to defeat ISIS.

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Topics: GPS Show
October 10th, 2014
06:49 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Are Kurds ready for ISIS fight? And, GPS panel talks Ebola and Panetta

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this Sunday: The United States is at war against ISIS. But while President Barack Obama has promised no boots on the ground, there is one hardened force in the field doing battle well. It’s not the U.S. military – or the Iraqi military. It’s the Kurds. Fareed will ask a top Kurdish politician if his people are ready for the long fight.

Also, Fareed convenes a panel of top commentators to grade the Obama administration on how it did with this week's major challenges: ISIS, Ebola and an insider attack – from Leon Panetta. Francis Fukuyama, the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose, and Walter Russell Mead, a professor of international affairs at Bard College, will be offering their takes on these issues.

Then, why it is that the American economy is looking up, but most American's are very down about it? GPS will explain what has been happening.

Also, if you think you know who invented the light bulb, think again. Author Steven Johnson will explain how innovation really happens – and why Thomas Edison shouldn't get all the credit.

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Topics: GPS Show
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