By Nawaf Obaid, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nawaf Obaid is a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Recent discussion in the wake of Saudi Arabia's refusal to accept a nonpermanent seat on the U.N. Security Council has prompted bewilderment – and renewed questions about the Kingdom’s foreign policy. Yet accusations of irresponsibility are inaccurate and misleading. Indeed, despite the criticisms leveled by commentators including Fareed Zakaria on these very pages, the fundamentals of Saudi foreign policy have not changed in decades, and are based on consistent and clear foundations.
As the “senior player” in the Arab world, as the Kingdom was recently described by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia works to promote economic stability and political security via a moderating energy policy and careful strategic posture that is aimed at countering and neutralizing the upheaval that has been tearing the Muslim and Arab worlds apart.
This approach has been on display in recent Saudi actions.
Fareed speaks with Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, historian and author of Dallas, November 22, 1963, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
So you know there are people who look at where Johnson was, dead in the water. A Life magazine article was about to come out. You describe, you know, which was an investigative story, that would have further undermined him. People look at all that and say, boy, this assassination not only made Johnson president, but saved him from what might have been a complete collapse. I mean, is it possible that had the assassination not happened, Johnson would have been so humiliated, he would have had to resign?
Well, to answer that part of your question, Johnson himself felt that whether he had a second term or not, he was finished. That's the word he used, "I'm finished."
And you know how we know that he really felt that way? He told several of his key aides, who, if he had further ambitions, he would have wanted to keep with him. He said, "I'm done."
One of them was asking him, can I go to work for somebody else? He says go with him, I'm finished. So you say that Johnson really felt that his career might be over.
On the other hand, nothing that I ever found...I've been doing research on Lyndon Johnson for a lot of years. And I have to say that nothing that I found in writing or any interviews, led me to believe that whatever the story of the assassination really is, that Lyndon Johnson had anything to do with it. I never found anything that led me to believe that.
By Fareed Zakaria
Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria is the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, which airs Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN. This is the fifth article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Watching the outpouring of interest and emotion surrounding the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago today, one has to wonder what is it about the man and the moment that so fascinates us.
At one level, the interest is obvious, indeed epic. The story of a young hero, cut down in his prime, has been with us since the age of myths. And Kennedy was a heroic figure – young, handsome, energetic, idealistic. He had a beautiful wife and two lovely children. He has an easy air of charm and grace about him. And then, there he was on the backseat of a car in Dallas, with his head shot off.
Robert Caro, the great historian and biographer, points out that Kennedy’s death was also a unique, cathartic moment for America because of the advent of television. He notes that the Nielsen ratings show that in the four days following the assassination, Americans watched an average of over 8 hours of television a day – all watching the same pooled feed. It became a great national mourning, made all the more so by that elaborate and momentous funeral procession.
But beyond Kennedy and beyond television, I think there is another, deeper reason why this event so captures our attention and interest. It marks a great divide in modern day America, between the world before the assassination and the world after.
By Graham Allison, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Graham Allison is director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is author of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. The views expressed are his own.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it is instructive to consider what he might have done if faced with the Iranian nuclear challenge today.
In what historians agree was his “finest hour,” Kennedy successfully led the U.S. through the most dangerous confrontation in history, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The odds of war were, in Kennedy’s view, “between 1 in 3 and even.”
When the Soviet Union was found emplacing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, 90 miles off American shores, Kennedy declared that totally unacceptable — as President Obama has declared an Iranian nuclear bomb. The question was how to eliminate this danger without war.
Initially, Kennedy chose a naval quarantine to stop further Soviet shipments of missiles to Cuba. While this signaled American resolve and strength, it did not prevent the Soviets rushing to complete installation of missiles already on the island. As the clock ticked down to the moment warheads in Cuba would become ready to launch against Washington and New York, Kennedy’s options narrowed.
By Michael Shank and Madeline Rose, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Shank is director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Madeline Rose is legislative associate for foreign policy at FCNL. The views expressed are their own.
Despite dire warnings of anarchy, mass violence, and potential genocide, the White House has said nothing about the U.S. position on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). And while we appreciate the leadership of Representatives Ed Royce (CA-39), Chris Smith (NJ-4), and Karen Bass (CA-37) in raising awareness of the crisis within Congress. and welcome the November 20 statement by Secretary of State John Kerry, this level of engagement is insufficient.
The administration and Congress must engage quickly with the international community before more civilians are killed, and the country – and region – spiral further out of control.
The political-military crisis that the CAR has experienced since late 2012 has taken a dangerous turn. Since Seleka rebels seized the capital Bangui in March, CAR has slid further into violence and anarchy. On November 1, Adama Dieng, the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, asserted that violence in the CAR may already constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. On November 13, John Ging, Director of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned: “We are very, very concerned that the seeds of a genocide are being sown.”
This is serious, and Washington should take it seriously, lest we end up with another preventable mass atrocity on our hands, and only grief and political regret to show for it.
By Fareed Zakaria
For partly cultural and historical reasons. Americans have always been suspicious of government. Talented young people don’t dream of becoming great bureaucrats. The New Deal and World War II might have changed that for a while, but over the past 30 years, anti-government attitudes have risen substantially. Two national commissions on public service have detailed the dangers of having too few talented people go into government. The ever-increasing obstacles — disclosure forms, conflict-of-interest concerns, political vetting — dissuade and knock out good candidates.
The problem is bipartisan. On the right, too many people believe that their role in Washington is simply to attack, denigrate and defund the government. This relentless onslaught erodes public trust and robs federal agencies of any sense of mission and ambition. Continual budget cutbacks have limited the government’s ability to take on new challenges. There is no attempt at ambitious thinking and planning, whether in space or in infrastructure. Seemingly every agency is in cost-cutting and damage-control modes. The persistent politicized attacks — whether blocking the confirmation of hundreds of officials or investigating them at every turn — have helped create an atmosphere of caution and risk-aversion.
How many U.S. Federal Reserve chairmen have there been? In what year did China’s one-child policy start?
Take our weekly quiz to find out.
By Bruce Campbell, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Campbell is the director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, based in Copenhagen. The views expressed are the writers’ own.
Few people expected much concrete progress ahead of the ongoing international climate change talks taking place in Warsaw. Sadly, it seems the doubters were right to be skeptical as negotiators have failed to tackle one of the biggest climate challenges: changing agriculture technologies, practices and policies to make sure the world can feed itself.
When Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded – slammed into the Philippines, the world was given a brutal reminder about the need for urgent action, an urgency given a tearful face when the head of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) made an impassioned plea for action.
Haiyan devastated central Philippines, a mostly agricultural region. But while images of the damage focused on flattened urban areas, the storm also crushed farms and plantations that produce rice, sugar, coconuts, and other key crops. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimated that the typhoon, which struck at the beginning of the rice-planting season, destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of the country’s most important staple.
By James Holmes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Holmes is professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. The views voiced here are his alone. This is the fourth article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
As we remember the passing of John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago on Friday, it’s fitting that we leaven a solemn occasion by also remembering the optimism he brought to the Oval Office. President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address remains a bracing bit of rhetoric even today, half a century on. But rhetoric demands substance as well as verbal flourishes. Three takeaways from the address are worth revisiting as America again mulls its place in the world and strategies for achieving its goals:
Unlimited commitment. Kennedy vowed that America would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” This is more than a statement of steadfastness in the Cold War. In strategic terms, it's a statement that the United States affixed such importance to its goals that it was prepared to spend as many national resources – lives, treasure, military assets – for an indefinite time if that's what it took to outlast the Soviet Union.
Strategist Carl von Clausewitz would instantly grasp the import of Kennedy's words. Clausewitz maintains that the value of a nation's political goals determines how many resources it expends attaining those goals, and for how long. The corollary for Clausewitz is that if an endeavor starts costing more than it's worth, statesmen should cut the best deal they can and get out. This simple cost/benefit logic is central to rational foreign policy and military strategy.
By Barry M. Blechman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Barry M. Blechman is a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan international security think tank. The views expressed are his own.
The world will be a safer place if the surprising agreement that led to the promised destruction of Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemical weapons can pave the way for the banning of such weapons from the entire Middle East and eventually the world.
The next move is up to Israel and Egypt.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surprised the world in September when he agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention barring the use of such weapons and to permit the supervised destruction of all his chemical weapon stocks. The move was designed to halt an expected U.S. bombing campaign against his country after al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people in the Syrian civil war.
By Jesse Walker, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine and the author of The United States of Paranoia. The views expressed are his own. This is the third article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
For 50 years, every poll on the subject has shown at least a plurality, and usually a majority, of Americans believing John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. A 2008 survey sponsored by CNN and Essence suggested that 58 percent of the country believes a conspiracy killed Martin Luther King; for black Americans, the figure was 88 percent. A 1996 Gallup poll had 71 percent of the U.S. agreeing that the government is hiding something about UFOs – not necessarily alien bodies, you understand, but something.
Yet for all this, America is not unusually suspicious. Conspiracy stories flourish all over the world, some of them far less plausible than the notion that more than one man was involved in the King or Kennedy killing. As I write, Europe is undergoing one of its periodic panics about international child-stealing gypsy conspiracies. Over the summer, the prime minister of Turkey blamed a global plot for the protests against his government. Last year, the host of Nigerian Idol lashed out at the local press for reporting that he was a high-ranking member of the Illuminati. In Iran, it is apparently considered savvy to claim that the Holocaust was a hoax. The fear of conspiracy isn’t the property of any one nation – it’s more like a universal human trait.
But if Americans are not unique in being suspicious, it’s true that we can be suspicious in distinctive ways. Every country’s conspiracy stories reflect that country’s culture, and that’s as true of the United States as any place else. There is an American style of paranoid politics.
By Tom Frieden, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dr. Tom Frieden is the director for the Center for Disease Control. The views expressed are his own.
Today’s interconnected world means we’re all linked by the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat – and the antibiotics we use.
Global travel speeds the rate at which infectious disease threats can be delivered to our doorstep. We’ve seen antibiotic resistance travel the globe. Take Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. This really is a nightmare bacteria, resistant to most, and in some cases all, antibiotics. These microbes are especially deadly, and they can pass their resistance to other microbes through “jumping genes” or plasmids. One type of CRE was first seen in one U.S. state. Now it’s spread to 44. It’s also a recognized problem in other countries.
Right now, CRE are found primarily in hospitals. But if these microbes become more common in the community, then urinary tract infections, wounds and other common infections will be extremely difficult or even impossible to treat. It’s a terrible scenario – one that puts all of us at risk.