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


April 2009 Archives



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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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 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.


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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.