December 10th, 2014
04:39 PM ET

What I'm reading: Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war

By Fareed Zakaria

“Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner,” writes Andrew J. Bacevich in the Boston Globe. “The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. If doubts existed on that score, the response to 9/11, resulting in the declaration of an ambiguous and open-ended global war on terrorism, ought to have settled them.”

“One consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.” FULL POST

December 5th, 2014
07:45 PM ET

What I'm reading: How Ruble crash could strengthen Putin

By Fareed Zakaria

“The rush to hyperbolic commentary about the dire effects of a crashing ruble is just that. It is Ukraine that is in danger of defaulting on its debts, not Russia,” writes Zachary Karabell for Politico. “Venezuela is truly a society on the verge of societal breakdown (if not de facto there already). Russia seems very far from a danger zone, let alone a political and social upheaval brought on by low oil prices. In fact, you could name a dozen other countries in greater peril from this shifting landscape, ranging from Iran to Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Nigeria.”

“Russia is an economy tethered to oil and commodity exports, yes, but it is a society that has withstood much worse in the past century plus. Unlike the United States, it is also a society that on the whole has lower expectations for material affluence, and in times such as these, that constitutes a strength.”


“Over the last decade (during which visa policies have been relatively constant), the number of tourists visiting India has grown at a steady clip, adding 200,000 to 500,000 visitors each year, leaving out the post-recession years of 2008 and 2009. That’s an average annual growth rate of about 5 percent, on par with the world average,” writes Chandrahas Choudhury for Bloomberg View.

“But shouldn’t a vast country with such a grand past and such a remarkable diversity of landscapes, religions and cultures be seeking to make more of its unique appeal? Could these figures have been much higher if it was easier to get a tourist visa to India? And could the new policy be a catalyst for a higher growth rate?” FULL POST

December 3rd, 2014
06:02 PM ET

What I'm reading: Why did Putin turn?

By Fareed Zakaria

“Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy toward his country’s ‘near abroad’ and the West has been badly misunderstood,” writes Harold James for Project Syndicate. “Instead of focusing on broader geopolitical patterns – in particular, the effect of the 2007-2008 financial crisis on global politics – commentators have been turning Kremlin policy into a psychodrama that can be understood only through a deep exploration of the Russian soul. The result has been rampant misconceptions about what drove Putin’s shift from what seemed to be a modernizing, conciliatory, and even pro-Western stance to aggressive revisionism.”


“Yes, it costs Saudi Arabia only about $2 a barrel to get crude out of the ground,” writes Tim Mullaney for Marketwatch. “But analysts insist the Saudis’ real pain point is more than $100 a barrel — more than $30 higher than its price now — because of what they do with the money once they have it.” FULL POST

November 20th, 2014
08:40 AM ET

What I'm reading: It may take a generation to bring Russia back

By Fareed Zakaria

“Western policy [on Russia] is driven by a combination of economic self-interest and increasing timidity. The EU mishandled much of the early strategy on Ukraine, sending mixed messages to Kiev and Moscow,” writes John Kampfner for The Guardian. “Since the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, the approach has become more consistent. Putin had assumed that the west, and particularly Germany and France (disproportionately dependent on trade with Russia) would buckle. And with the eurozone economies in an increasingly parlous state, Putin still assumes that Angela Merkel and François Hollande will resist, and ultimately remove, the sanctions that are causing growing damage.”
“To anyone who appreciates the beauty of Russia, the power of its creativity and the potential it has to offer, the events of the past year, indeed past several years, have been dispiriting. In the 1990s Russia had the opportunity to open up, to become integrated into the international community. The goodwill on both sides was intoxicating.”


“[A]nalysts agree one of the video’s key functions for ISIS is to illustrate how far the group’s seductive reach is extending globally,” writes Tracy McNicoll for the Daily Beast. “As France took in the shock news that one of its own sons may be a throat-slitting, decapitating terrorist, the Islamist specialist Romain Caillet told Le Monde, “In putting forward soldiers from the four corners of the world, Da’esh [as the French call the group, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS] is looking to create a ‘United Colors of Jihad’ effect. The message is simple: there are hundreds of Jihadi Johns.” FULL POST

November 17th, 2014
06:48 PM ET

What I'm reading: The nuclear gun is back on the table

By Fareed Zakaria

“My parents’ generation got grimly used to living in the shadow of the bomb. But for my generation, the very idea of nuclear warfare seems like something from science-fiction or even dark comedy, such as Dr Strangelove,” writes Gideon Rachman for the Financial Times. “But the world’s nuclear arsenals were not abolished after the cold war. Sadly, we may now be returning to an era in which the threat of nuclear warfare can no longer be treated as the stuff of science fiction.”


“The odds against a Chinese dialect ever gaining traction as an international language are formidable, for linguistic, economic, cultural, and political reasons,” writes Andres Martinez for TIME. “For starters, the language is just too hard for outsiders to attain fluency. Then there is the inconvenient fact that Mandarin doesn’t hold sway throughout all of China.”

“Indeed, resistance to any claim the Chinese language may have for global status may be strongest in the country’s own neighborhood, where nations are nervous about China’s intentions.” FULL POST

November 12th, 2014
01:54 PM ET

What I'm reading: Crimea’s rapid Russification

By Fareed Zakaria

“The hotels in Simferopol are packed. It is late autumn and the administrative capital of Crimea has been overrun, not by holidaymakers – the season and political climate are hardly suitable – but by Russian officials. ‘Even in summer we’re not this busy,’ says the manager of a small guesthouse. The functionaries are here to bring all the key administrative sectors – health, education, security, taxation, banking – in line with Moscow standards. A census has started. Eight months after the peninsula was annexed, Russification is in full swing,” writes Isabelle Mandraud in The Guardian.


“In 1970 fewer than a third of 16- to 18-year-olds [in China] were deemed to be short-sighted (meaning that distant objects are blurred). Now nearly four-fifths are, and even more in some urban areas,” The Economist says. “A fifth of these have ‘high’ myopia, that is, anything beyond 16 centimeters (just over six inches) is unclear. The fastest increase is among primary school children, over 40 percent of whom are short-sighted, double the rate in 2000. That compares with less than 10 percent of this age group in America or Germany.”

“The incidence of myopia is high across East Asia, afflicting 80-90 percent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The problem is social rather than genetic.” FULL POST

November 7th, 2014
05:32 PM ET

What I'm reading: A growth pact for America

By Fareed Zakaria

“The list of potential policy actions that could benefit the United States – trade liberalization, comprehensive regulatory reform, and immigration and education reform, among others – is long,” writes Glenn Hubbard for Project Syndicate. “But only two policies are particularly promising for such a ‘Pact for America’: federal infrastructure spending and corporate-tax reform. Enactment of these reforms would generate a win for each side – and for both.”

“But such a bipartisan consensus requires removing both the left and the right’s ideological blinders, at least temporarily. On the left, a preoccupation with Keynesian stimulus reflects a misunderstanding of both the availability of measures (shovel-ready projects) and their desirability (whether they will meaningfully change the expectations of households and businesses). Indeed, to counteract the mindset forged in the recent financial crisis, spending measures will need to be longer-lasting if they are to raise expectations of future growth and thus stimulate current investment and hiring.

“The right, for its part, must rethink its obsession with temporary tax cuts for households or businesses.”


“For airlines, Asia's skies aren't terribly friendly. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, six of the 10 initial public offerings by airlines in Asia during the past five years are trading below their sale prices. Legendary investor Warren Buffett, who swore a decade ago never to invest again in the airline business following his losing $358 million bet on US Airways, is surely feeling vindicated,” writes Dhiraj Nayyar for Bloomberg View.

“India should stand out amid this grim landscape. Passenger traffic has grown rapidly over the last decade. At its peak between 2003 and 2009, traffic grew somewhere between 20 and 40 percent per year. Growth hardly slackened even after the economy stalled in 2013: Traffic that year was up 5 percent over 2012. Packed airplanes, however, have not led to profitable airlines.” FULL POST

November 3rd, 2014
05:11 PM ET

What I'm reading: The single-engine global economy

By Fareed Zakaria

“The global economy is like a jetliner that needs all of its engines operational to take off and steer clear of clouds and storms. Unfortunately, only one of its four engines is functioning properly: the Anglosphere (the United States and its close cousin, the United Kingdom),” writes Nouriel Roubini for Project Syndicate.

“The second engine – the eurozone – has now stalled after an anemic post-2008 restart. Indeed, Europe is one shock away from outright deflation and another bout of recession. Likewise, the third engine, Japan, is running out of fuel after a year of fiscal and monetary stimulus. And emerging markets (the fourth engine) are slowing sharply as decade-long global tailwinds – rapid Chinese growth, zero policy rates and quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve, and a commodity super-cycle – become headwinds.

“So the question is whether and for how long the global economy can remain aloft on a single engine.”


“We will never be free of epidemics. We will always be at risk from newly discovered and emergent diseases such as Nipah and Hendra, as well as those dating back into antiquity, such as cholera, malaria, and influenza. It’s been estimated that there are on the order of 320,000 undiscovered mammalian viruses lurking out there. Some, certainly, will cause disease in humans,” writes Tara Smith for Slate.

“In many ways, we're about as limited in our options as our ancestors were when they had to deal with yellow fever, smallpox, or bubonic plague. Despite our success with medications, vaccination, and sanitation, the current Ebola outbreak shows that we are woefully unprepared for new infectious diseases. When they hit us at our most vulnerable, we resort to centuries-old practices to contain them: isolation, quarantine, and methods that rely on the most difficult challenge of all, modifying human behavior.” FULL POST

October 29th, 2014
05:50 PM ET

What I'm reading: Why shrinking prisons is good crime-fighting and good government

By Fareed Zakaria

“The United States today has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world: 743 adults per 100,000 population, or nearly 2.3 million adults, nearly one-quarter of the world’s total prison population,” writes Eric Schnurer in The Atlantic. “More than twice that number are on probation or parole, with more than 70,000 juveniles in detention, as well – roughly one in every 30 Americans is under supervision of some sort, a seven-fold increase since 1980.”


“The singularity of Reagan and his lonely place in the conservative pantheon is put in stark relief by photographs of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, in Atlantic City, where massive portraits of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson framed the stage,” writes Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker. “It is impossible to imagine a similar setup at the Republican Convention in 2016. Other than Reagan’s, whose image – among the past century’s Republican Presidents—would be put on display? Coolidge has a cult following (which included Reagan himself); Eisenhower has supporters, but also serious detractors in the Party’s right wing (today as in the nineteen-fifties); George H. W. Bush has garnered enough goodwill and retrospective credit in the years since his Presidency that he might merit inclusion; but none of these men really stir the blood. “Nixon’s the One,” proclaimed bumper stickers and buttons in 1968, but this was only wishful thinking. Reagan was already the one, even if America didn’t know it yet.” FULL POST

October 28th, 2014
10:46 AM ET

What I'm reading: Cutting off ISIS' cash flow

By Fareed Zakaria

“Disrupting ISIS’ oil income is more of a challenge than might meet the eye,” writes Charles Lister for Brookings. “Thus far, a great deal of focus has been placed on an erroneous assessment that ISIS is deeply reliant on selling its oil to foreign customers (in Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and elsewhere). Instead, while this market focus does exist, it is decreasing. Since the summer, ISIS has been increasingly focused on establishing a durable internal market for its oil produce, thereby ensuring a reliable source of fuel for its own fleets of vehicles but crucially creating a source of dependence between civilians and its capacity to provide them cheap oil. In this respect, the fact that recent coalition strikes have targeted oil at its source — rather than its means of transport or sale, for example — may prove deeply damaging to the international community’s efforts to counter ISIS.”


“If you're reading this, it's possible you'll live for a few hundred years. Maybe even thousands. Even better: you could live those years at your peak physical state,” writes Nicholas Warino for The Week. “At first glance, that's an absurd statement, going against the experience of all human history. However, Oxford University's Aubrey de Grey, a leading theoretician of aging, believes there is a 50 percent chance that someone alive today will live for 1,000 years.” FULL POST

October 23rd, 2014
06:51 PM ET

What I'm reading: Learning from Canada after Ottawa attack

By Fareed Zakaria

“Some evidence points to the shooter being influenced by the Islamic State militant group to try and kill top leaders in Canada. The attack came two weeks after Canada decided to join the American-led attacks on IS,” writes the Christian Science Monitor. “His motive may seem like revenge. But IS leaders must know they cannot bring Canada or any country opposed to terrorism to its knees. Like al Qaeda, IS wants the West to retaliate against Islam, bringing attacks on Muslims in order to rally them to its side.”

“For IS, exploiting hate is a more powerful weapon than violence itself. It has advanced in size and territory quickly by taking advantage of the hatred among Sunnis in both Iraq and Syria toward their respective regimes, both of which are backed by Shiite Iran.”


“The latest panic on global stock markets has reminded the world of the vulnerability of the euro, and this week pundits in the British press have been busy speculating about France’s possible collapse,” argues Nicholas Farrell in the Spectator. “Hardly anyone bothers to fret about Italy any more, even though last week its exchanges took the second biggest hit after Greece. Italy’s irreversible demise is a foregone conclusion. The country is just too much of a basket case even to think about.” FULL POST

October 21st, 2014
04:16 PM ET

What I'm reading: Is Libya better off without Gadhafi?

By Fareed Zakaria

“Gadhafi's death was a landmark, but three years later, it cannot be convincingly called a good one…is as much of a mess as ever,” writes Adam Taylor in the Washington Post. “In a confusing, chaotic situation, fighting is split among Arab nationalists, Islamists, regional militias and more. Recently, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have intervened militarily, while the country's largely impotent government-in-exile was forced to hold its meetings onboard a car ferry.”

“Given such a situation, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what might have happened if Gadhafi hadn't died.”


“Erdoğan continues to insist that there is no difference in his mind between the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the PKK: To the Turkish President, they’re all terrorists. Evidently, however, the American position is shifting,” writes Michael Rubin in Commentary. “Obama has insisted that he approve every military operation in Syria. This is why the recent airdrop of supplies to Kobane is so important: That airdrop directly assists the PYD, YPG, and the PKK. In effect, Obama is now aiding a group that his State Department still designates a terrorist group.”

“In reality, that designation is probably long overdue for a review if not elimination.” FULL POST

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