Fareed Zakaria at PostGlobal

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. He is a member of the roundtable of ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanapoulos" as well as an analyst for ABC News. And he is the host of a new weekly PBS show, "Foreign Exchange" which focuses on international affairs. His most recent book, "The Future of Freedom," was published in the spring of 2003 and was a New York Times bestseller and is being translated into eighteen languages. He is also the author of "From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role" (Princeton University Press), and co-editor of "The American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World" (Basic Books). Close.

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. more »

Main Page | Fareed Zakaria Archives | PostGlobal Archives

July 26, 2009 8:51 PM

Behind the Scenes, Iran's Opposition Builds Strength

What is happening in Iran? On the surface, the country has returned to normality. Demonstrations have become infrequent and have been quickly dispersed.

But underneath the calm, there is intense activity and the beginnings of a political opposition. In the past week, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the candidate who officially lost last month's presidential election, has announced his intention to create a "large-scale social movement" to oppose the government and press for a more open political system. Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former president, has called for a referendum on the government. Another powerful former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has criticized the regime's handling of the election and post-election "crisis." All three have demanded the release of politicians and journalists imprisoned over the past month and held without charges. (Those prisoners include Maziar Bahari, Newsweek's Tehran correspondent, who is a Canadian citizen and an internationally recognized documentary filmmaker.) These are not dissidents in the wilderness. Between them, the three men have been at the pinnacle of power for most of the Islamic Republic's existence.

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June 28, 2009 10:09 PM

No Velvet Revolution for Iran

When we see the kinds of images that have been coming out of Iran over the past two weeks, we tend to think back to 1989 and Eastern Europe. Then, when people took to the streets and challenged their governments, those seemingly stable regimes proved to be hollow and quickly collapsed. What emerged was liberal democracy. Could Iran yet undergo its own velvet revolution?

It's possible but unlikely. While the regime's legitimacy has cracked -- a fatal wound in the long run -- for now it will probably be able to use its guns and money to consolidate power. And it has plenty of both. Remember, the price of oil was less than $20 a barrel back in 1989. It is $69 now. More important, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has pointed out, 1989 was highly unusual. As a historical precedent, it has not proved a useful guide to other antidictatorial movements.

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June 21, 2009 3:11 PM

Newsweek's Iran Correspondent Disappears

On Sunday morning in Tehran, Newsweek's Maziar Bahari was detained
without charge by Iranian authorities and has not been heard from since.
Mr. Bahari is a Canadian citizen and a renowned journalist and
filmmaker, who has been living in and covering Iran for the past decade.
Newsweek strongly condemns this unwarranted detention, and calls upon
the Iranian government to release him immediately.

Mr. Bahari's coverage of Iran, for Newsweek and other outlets, has
always been fair and nuanced, and has given full weight to all sides of
the issues. He has always worked well with different administrations in
Tehran, including the current one. There are unconfirmed reports that
several journalists have been detained today; the seizure of innocent
journalists is a violation of the right to a free press in Iran.

Newsweek asks that world governments use whatever influence they have
with the government in Tehran to make clear that this detention is
unwarranted and unacceptable, and to demand Mr. Bahari's release.

May 31, 2009 10:37 PM

Boom Amid the Gloom

Increasingly, the story of the global economy is a tale of two worlds.
In one, there is only gloom and doom; in the other, there is light and
hope. In the traditional bastions of wealth and power -- America, Europe and
Japan -- it is difficult to find much good news. But there is a new world --
China, India, Indonesia, Brazil -- in which economic growth continues to
power ahead, governments are not buried under debt and citizens remain
remarkably optimistic about their future. This divergence between the once
rich and the once poor might mark a turn in history.

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May 17, 2009 8:31 PM

The Sky Isn't Falling

It certainly looks like another example of crying wolf. Three weeks ago the World Health Organization declared a health emergency, warning countries to "prepare for a pandemic," and said the only question was the extent of worldwide damage. Senior officials prophesied that millions could be infected by the disease. But as of last week, the WHO had confirmed only 4,800 cases of swine flu, with 61 fatalities. Obviously, these low numbers are a pleasant surprise, yet one has to wonder: What did we get wrong?

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April 26, 2009 5:23 PM

The Secret of Obama's Success

No American president in modern memory has faced a learning curve as steep as the one Barack Obama has encountered. When Obama began his quest for the Democratic nomination three years ago, the Dow Jones industrial average was 14,000 and the world was in the midst of a great economic boom. By the time he took office, America's financial industry was in chaos, credit markets were frozen, housing values were plummeting and the economy was undergoing its worst contraction since the Great Depression. Add to that Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and you get an extraordinary set of challenges.

Yet by most measures, President Obama's first 100 days have been successful. The economy remains weak, of course, but he has put forward a series of initiatives to stabilize the capital and housing markets, proposed longer-term programs to create sustained growth, adjusted America's military priorities in Afghanistan and Iraq, and begun a process of reaching out to the world and changing America's image.

Many commentators have focused on his calm leadership style, his deliberative methods and his tight teamwork. That's all true, but there is a larger explanation for the success so far. Obama has read the country and the political moment correctly. He understands where America is in 2009 and that, as polls show, it is a more liberal country than it was two decades ago.

Conservative commentators have made much of a recent Pew survey showing that public reaction to Obama has been more polarized than to any other president in the past four decades: Democrats really like him, and Republicans really dislike him. But the poll's most striking statistic was how few Americans self-identify as Republicans. For the past year that rate has hovered around 24 percent, the lowest in three decades. It's not so much that the Republican base has shrunk, as Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz points out in a recent essay: the Democratic base has expanded. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the Democratic base was 30 percent of the electorate; swing voters made up 43 percent and Republicans 27 percent. Last year, Democrats made up 41 percent, swing voters dropped to 32 percent and Republicans 27 percent.

Because party loyalties tend not to shift quickly, an 11-point rise for the Democrats is astonishing. Abramowitz argues that since these changes are largely rooted in demography--particularly the growing nonwhite population--they are likely to persist for a while.
Obama has also figured out how to utilize the moment. Rahm Emmanuel's aphorism -- never let a crisis go to waste -- has proved a brilliant political strategy. By combining short-term stimulus spending with long-term progressive projects, Obama has confounded the opposition. Senator Judd Gregg was on CNBC last week trying to explain that while he fully supported government spending for 2009 and 2010 to jump-start the economy, his concerns were about 2011 and 2012. That's a complicated case to make to the electorate.

Just as important, though, is that Obama has not overinterpreted the moment. He has steered a careful middle course on the bank bailouts. The most spirited critiques of his policies have come not from the right but from the left--in the clamor for nationalization. He may or may not have the policy right, but he certainly has the politics right. The country remains generally suspicious of big government and comfortable with free markets and private enterprise. The old Democratic hostility to big business doesn't resonate so strongly anymore, since the new Democratic coalition includes fewer working-class whites and more college graduates. Obama has handled the public's anger well, giving voice to outrage but not enacting populist policies. He quietly announced last week that he will not reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to impose new labor and environmental standards.

On the torture memos, Obama has made clear (after some hesitation) that he does not want to criminalize a policy disagreement. On Iraq, he has hewed to a centrist course, but still one that draws down America's military presence. On Cuba, Iran and Syria, his overtures have been modest and preliminary. In almost every arena, he has pushed the envelope to change policy, not worrying about the inevitable opposition from the right, yet always in a sober and calculating manner.

Globalization, immigration, more working women and college graduates--all these have changed America over the past two decades. In a detailed study for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin point out that 67 percent of Americans now view the term "progressive" favorably, a 25-point increase in five years. This doesn't make us a European country -- 67 percent also think favorably of the term "conservative" -- but it does suggest that things are changing. Obama's success derives from his understanding of this shift -- and his readiness to act on it.

April 12, 2009 7:41 PM

A Military for the Real World

"When a true genius appears," the English satirist Jonathan Swift
wrote, "you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in
confederacy against him." Genius might be a bit much as a description of
the secretary of defense, but Robert Gates's budget proposal has certainly
gathered all the right opponents. There are the defense contractors,
worried that decades of fraudulent accounting are coming to a halt; the
Beltway consultants for whom the "war on terror" has been a bonanza; the
armed services, which have gotten used to having every fantasy funded; and
the members of Congress who protect all this institutionalized corruption
to keep jobs in their states.

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April 5, 2009 10:15 PM

On Energy, Free at Last

Energy independence sounds like such a great idea. if only we could be free ... of what, exactly? The single biggest energy exporter to the U.S. is Canada. And even the petrostates we don't like have to sell us oil at whatever price the market sets. We buy lots from Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. He denounces us, we denounce him, but we happily do business together. After all, what else is he going to do with his oil, drink it?

One could make a broader argument: the United States should wean itself off oil in order to diminish its crucial importance in the world of energy. That would make states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and Venezuela less powerful--and less able to fund militias and terrorist groups. This is a worthwhile goal, but let's be realistic. Given the demands for energy over the next few decades, oil is going to be a key part of the mix, which means that these countries will have plenty of cash. After all, Saudi Arabia was funding extremist Islamic groups in the 1990s, when oil was $20 a barrel. The Saudis were budgeting for oil at $35 until a few years ago--and still swimming in money. I would love to see a world in which radical Islam runs out of money, but I think that we will probably have to struggle against these forces for a long time. There is no quick energy fix.

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March 15, 2009 10:40 PM

Ending Our Imperial Foreign Policy

As George W. Bush's term ended, he had few defenders left in the
world of foreign policy. Mainstream commentators almost unanimously agreed
the Bush years had been marked by arrogance and incompetence. "Mr. Bush's
characteristic failing was to apply a black-and-white mind-set to too many
gray areas of national security and foreign affairs," The Post
editorialized. Even Richard Perle, the neoconservative guru, acknowledged
recently that "Bush mostly failed to implement an effective foreign and
defense policy." There was hope that President Obama would abandon some of
his predecessor's rigid ideological stances.

In its first 50 days, the Obama administration has naturally been
consumed by the economic crisis, but it has nevertheless made some striking
shifts in foreign policy. Obama announced the closure of Guantanamo and the
end of any official sanction for torture. He gave his first interview as
president to an Arab network and spoke of the importance of respect when
dealing with the Muslim world -- a gesture that won him rave reviews from
normally hostile Arab journalists and politicians.

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March 1, 2009 9:11 PM

The Veil Vs. The Suicide Belt

Pakistan's Swat Valley is quiet once again. Often compared to
Switzerland for its stunning landscape of mountains and meadows, Swat
became a war zone over the past two years as Taliban fighters waged fierce
battles against the Pakistani army. The fighting ceased because the
Pakistani government has agreed to some of the militants' key demands,
chiefly that Islamic courts be established in the region. Fears abound that
this means girls schools will be destroyed, movies will be banned and
public beheadings will become a regular occurrence.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.