By Fareed Zakaria
China’s much-discussed cyber activities reflect the country’s weakness, not its strength, suggests Thomas Barnett in TIME.
“China’s leadership can deal with these domestic challenges in the same innovative fashion America once did (having to invent Chinese democracy along the way, mind you), or it can cling to the mistake of single-party rule and the closed thought it represents. The more it succumbs to the latter, the more cyber- thievery we’ll see (along with the more desperate everything). Again, we can mistake this for ‘power’ and ‘confidence’ and ‘aggression,’ but it’s mostly about a nation running on fear.”
A lack of understanding of America’s history of complicity in illicit trade has contributed to it “grossly distorting” the effect, argues Peter Andreas in Foreign Affairs.
“To fight the perceived menace of illegal immigration, the U.S. government doubled the size of its border patrol in the 1990s and then doubled it again during the last decade…Last year, the Obama administration devoted more funds to immigration control – some $18 billion – than it did to all other federal law enforcement activities combined,” Andreas writes.
“There is no doubt that cross-border crime and illicit trade harm individuals and communities and pose challenges to governments, including the United States. But the panicked discourse and frenzied law enforcement policies that define Washington’s current approach are an alarmist overreaction.”
By Kathi Lynn Austin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kathi Lynn Austin is a former U.N. weapons inspector and executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project, an NGO that investigates and documents major arms traffickers. The views expressed are her own.
Viktor Bout, the poster boy for international arms trafficking, is back in the news.
Last week, Bout’s legal defense team submitted an appellate brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It claims Bout was wrongly convicted of five counts to commit conspiracy and terrorism. It asks for his 25-year prison sentence to be overturned, based on a list of complaints he has repeated before.
So what’s the news here?
Ironically, Bout’s appeal helps us better understand specific weaknesses in the U.S. approach for containing the world’s worst arms traffickers – those that intentionally enable terrorists, perpetrators of atrocity and U.N. sanctions-busting.
By Fareed Zakaria
The unrest the past few days in Egypt “felt darker, more anarchic, than the uprising of 2011,” The Economist notes.
“The peaceful protests that began on Friday in Cairo to mark the two-year anniversary of the revolution by Sunday had been overtaken by the armed street battles in Port Said. In the coastal city at the northern mouth of the Suez Canal, 33 civilians and two police officers were killed after relatives tried to storm a prison housing 22 local football fans sentenced to death on Saturday over a bloody stadium stampede last year.”
Such turmoil is frequently taken as “evidence of the inherent dysfunctionality of democracy itself, or of the immaturity or irrationality of a particular population, rather than as a sign of the previous dictatorship’s pathologies,” writes Columbia University Prof. Sheri Berman in Foreign Affairs.
In a nice history lesson that gives hope – in the long run – Berman says:
“Most countries that are stable liberal democracies today had a very difficult time getting there. Even the cases most often held up as exemplars of early or easy democratization, such as England and the United States, encountered far more problems than are remembered, with full-scale civil wars along the way. Just as those troubles did not mean democracy was wrong or impossible for North America or western Europe, so the troubles of today’s fledgling Arab democracies do not mean it is wrong or impossible for the Middle East.”
By Joseph Szyliowicz and Sigurd Neubauer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Joseph Szyliowicz is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. Sigurd Neubauer is a Washington, DC-based defense and foreign affairs specialist. The views expressed are their own.
Celebrating nearly a decade as Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed confidence in his 2011 election victory speech that newly emerging political actors across the Middle East would look to Ankara for leadership, revealing a clear ambition to establish his country as a preeminent power in the region. However, nearly fifteen months later, instead of achieving this goal, Turkey appears increasingly marginalized, lacking the ability to shape events even along its own southwestern border with Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Turkey’s “zero-problems” foreign policy has resulted in the aggravating of its relations with Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Moreover, as the Syrian crisis lingers into its second year, President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled Alawite regime struggles to contain a rapidly increasing Sunni insurgency, and a particularly serious toll has been taken on Turkey as policy stirs domestic violence and dissent. It has also had to accommodate approximately 200,000 refugees who have crossed the border for shelter against successive Syrian air strikes.
By Lydia Gall, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lydia Gall is the Eastern Europe and the Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.
A prominent columnist calls for a “final solution” for Hungary’s Roma population. A member of parliament calls for drawing up a list of Jewish people involved in Hungarian politics. Two-thirds of those asked in an opinion poll say they wouldn’t let their child be friends with a Romani child. Another poll suggests a similar number believe Jewish people have too much influence. One doesn’t have to be a student of history to be worried about the growing climate of intolerance in Hungary.
The hatred clutching Hungary has deepened since the present government took office in 2010 and made a gradual shift to the right. The ongoing campaign by Fidesz, the ruling party, to undermine the rule of law and its clampdown on human rights has contributed to the current state of chauvinistic attitudes in the public domain toward minorities and other vulnerable groups. Government silence has allowed right wing parties such as Jobbik to accelerate hate speech against minorities as well as people within its own ranks, while paramilitaries close to Jobbik carry out intimidating marches through Roma settlements.
For more What in the World, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
By Global Public Square staff
For 14 years, Hugo Chavez has been a troubling global presence. He has been an avowed critic of American capitalism…and yet he has generated billions selling oil to the United States. He’s a populist, whom some revere but others despise. One thing's for sure, Venezuela’s president is a fighter: last year it seemed he had even defeated cancer.
But the cancer is back, and Chavez has been said to be seriously ill. So when he couldn’t attend his own swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, it sparked a natural set of questions in Venezuela and around the world: what's next?
Whoever inherits the presidency, Chavez will cast a long shadow.
By Michael Spindelegger, Karl Erjavec, Eamon Gilmore and Villy Søvndal, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Spindelegger, Karl Erjavec, Eamon Gilmore and Villy Søvndal are the foreign ministers of Austria, Slovenia, Ireland and Denmark, respectively. The views expressed are their own.
Over the months, we have been following the events in Syria with growing concern. We support the aspirations of the Syrian people to freely choose a government that represents all the enriching diversity of this multi-confessional nation, one that respects the rule of law, human rights and democracy. It is deplorable that the current regime in Damascus has not heeded the repeated calls for a peaceful transition of power. As do our colleagues from the Arab League, we strongly condemn the violence by the al-Assad regime against the Syrian people. We call on all sides to end the violence and to genuinely support the U.N.-led efforts to achieve a political solution.
But recent developments have given reason for even more serious concern. U.N. peacekeepers were seriously injured when a convoy of the UNDOF peacekeeping operation on the Golan Heights was attacked. Reports about possible preparations for the use of chemical weapons circulate. The al-Assad regime is preparing Damascus for confrontation with the rebels and we know that these situations of last stand urban fighting often result in the most terrible atrocities being committed in armed conflict, with particular dangers for civilians. Concerned that the crisis in Syria may soon reach a new level of violence, we publicly appeal to all parties to the conflict to abide by international law, especially international humanitarian law and human rights law, and to recall that all those that commit or order war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable. This principle cannot and will not be negotiated.
By Fareed Zakaria
As the United States continues its slow but steady recovery from the depths of the financial crisis, nobody actually wants a massive austerity package to shock the economy back into recession, and so the odds have always been high that the game of budgetary chicken will stop short of disaster. Looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge – the retooling of the country's economy, society, and government necessary for the United States to perform effectively in the 21st century. The focus in Washington now is on taxing and cutting; it should be on reforming and investing. The United States needs serious change in its fiscal, entitlement, infrastructure, immigration, and education policies, among others. And yet a polarized and often paralyzed Washington has pushed dealing with these problems off into the future, which will only make them more difficult and expensive to solve.
By Linda Jakobson, Special to CNN
Linda Jakobson is East Asia Program Director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. The views expressed are her own.
A Chinese colleague remarked to me some years ago that he felt sorry for Yang Jiechi because, during state visits, China’s foreign minister is relegated to fifth or sixth in the hierarchy. In other countries, in contrast, the foreign minister is typically seen as the second or third most important person in a delegation, following the head of state and possibly the finance minister. In China, though, rank is determined according to one’s position in the Communist Party of China (CPC). All of the Politburo’s 28 members outrank Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi – he is merely one of 205 Central Committee members.
Governments around the world have looked to China in hope that it would take a more active role in managing or resolving a host of global problems. Yet for China’s top leaders, foreign policy still does not look destined to become a key issue.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Editor’s note: Ravi Agrawal is a senior producer on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN
At the start of the year, GPS billed 2012 as “the year of elections.” It was to be a rare alignment of the electoral stars: the year China, Russia, France, and the U.S. would elect new leaders. Together, these four countries represent 80 percent of the U.N. Security Council and account for 40 percent of global GDP. There were also elections scheduled in Venezuela, Mexico, and Egypt. Unlike 2011 – which unleashed the sudden churn of the Arab Spring – 2012 was meant to bring a different kind of people power: planned change.
Democracy at its core is about the rule of the people; it is about free and fair elections. Yet democratic countries fall under a fairly broad spectrum – some proudly enshrine a range of freedoms, others impose restrictions. One would think the world is moving inexorably towards the freer end of this spectrum, but the data shows the opposite. Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World survey scores countries on the political rights and civil liberties they offer. In each of the last six years, more countries have seen declines in their ratings than gains. On average, for every two countries that see an improvement, three fall back. Why is this happening? In part, it is because of the disproportionate importance we ascribe to elections. Fareed Zakaria predicted this trend in a 1997 Foreign Affairs essay, when he described illiberal democracy as a growth industry. “In the end,” he wrote, “elections trump everything. If a country holds elections, Washington and the world will tolerate a great deal from the resulting government … Elections are an important virtue of governance, but they are not the only virtue.”
By Fareed Zakaria
Mitt Romney’s speech on foreign affairs this week was surprisingly moderate. Rhetorically it was full of sound and furybut, on closer examination, it signified no major change of policy. Romney affirmed the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan; he did not propose sending troops back into Iraq and did not advocate military strikes on Iran. He pledged to work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East. He even left out the belligerence toward China that had been a staple of his speeches in recent months.
Romney proposed one policy shift, toward Syria. But even there — in a carefully worded, passive construction — he did not announce that as president, he would arm the Syrian opposition, merely that he would “ensure they obtain the arms they need.” The “they” is “those members of the opposition who share our values.” So, Romney’s sole divergence from current policy is that we should try harder to find non-Islamists among the Syrian rebels and encourage Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give them more arms.
Romney’s moderation is partly a continuation of his pivot to the center. But it also reflects the lack of consensus among conservatives on what to do about the turmoil in the Middle East.