If Fareed Could Interview One World Leader…

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

September 15, 2017

If Fareed Could Interview One World Leader…

Which world leader would Fareed most like to interview? "For me, the answer is obvious: Kim Jong Un," he writes in his latest Washington Post column.
"The general impression around the globe continues to be that the North Korean leader is crazy, provocative and unpredictable, but I think that he might well be strategic, smart and utterly rational. Because I am unlikely to get that interview, I have decided to imagine it instead."
Read what Fareed would like to ask Kim – and how he might respond. "[T]he missile defense systems stationed across Japan on mobile launchers are designed only to intercept missiles as they are descending, not in midflight as they are headed to the United States. Other defense systems on four naval destroyers can target missiles midflight, but they have to be in the right place at the right time," Rich writes.

"It is also unclear whether the pacifist Constitution allows Japan to shoot down a missile headed for the United States, much less initiate a pre-emptive attack on a missile on a launchpad in North Korea…" "[I]t is an undeniable truth that nuclear weapons can be deterred only by nuclear weapons," the paper says. "The reason why the South is currently under the U.S. nuclear umbrella is that countering nukes with nukes is inevitable to achieve a military balance.
"The least the South Korean president should do about nuclear deterrence is to maintain strategic ambiguity."

London Attacks: "Four Lions Factor" Strikes Again?

Friday's attack on London's underground bears the hallmark of what is proving to be one of the most effective defenses against terrorists – incompetence, writes Jason Burke for The Guardian.

"Counter-terrorist specialists in the West recognize that the 'Four Lions factor' – a reference to the 2010 black comedy by Chris Morris that shows the incompetent attempt by a group of Britons to launch a terrorist campaign – is one of the most important defenses against attack," Burke says.

"Putting pressure on safe havens overseas to limit the ability of terrorist groups to provide training, stopping militants from traveling to those that do still exist, increasing the pressure on local networks and limiting communication with expert handlers, while of course making it harder to obtain crucial ingredients for bombs, all help ensure potential attackers remain without the means to realize their destructive ambitions.

"So too does the elimination of key individuals with high levels of expertise. Western and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies have been trying for years to kill Ibrahim al-Asiri, an al Qaeda extremist in Yemen responsible for a series of ingenious devices that have repeatedly come close to causing appalling destruction. One device would have brought down a passenger plane over the US in 2009 if the bomber had been able to ignite it."

America's Image with a Neighbor Takes a Nosedive

America's image among Mexicans is the worst it has been in 15 years of polling, according to a new Pew Research survey.

"Mexico's perception of its northern neighbor has shifted dramatically in the past two years. Currently, roughly two-thirds (65%) of Mexicans view the U.S. unfavorably and 30% view the U.S favorably, an all-time low for the country since Pew Research Center began measuring U.S. favorability in 2002. This represents a complete reversal in Mexicans' views: In 2015, 66% were favorable toward the U.S. and 29% were unfavorable," Pew writes.

"The 36-percentage-point drop in favorability is the largest across 37 countries surveyed by the Center."

Putin Has a Voter Problem

Many expect Vladimir Putin to seek another term as Russian president. But growing voter fatigue poses a real danger to his prospects even if he wins, argues Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg View.

"Russia used to have an extremely active electorate. Even in the 2000s, when the results were already largely predetermined in pro-Kremlin candidates' favor, turnout numbers were closer to the high European levels than to the low U.S. ones," Bershidsky writes. "The country had laws setting a turnout threshold for election validity -- 20 percent for local elections, 25 percent for parliamentary ones, and 50 percent for presidential ones -- until 2006. Initially, that had little effect on voter activity. Now it's hitting a nadir.

"That's a problem for the regime. Throughout his rule, Putin claimed democratic legitimacy. Despite reports of widespread rigging, it was always clear that lots of Russians voted for him and his backers…Without a solid turnout, Putin's all-but-certain certain victory will mean a formal transition from a relatively popular dictatorship to one based on sheer suppression."

"What value does a war leader have, who can't stop irritations and inconveniences, things that are rather closer to the experiences of ordinary Russians? Such regimes end not so much with a bang, but a grumble."

Why Asia Is Also Worried About Trump and NAFTA

It's not just Canada and Mexico that are listening carefully to President Trump's rhetoric over NAFTA. So are America's Asian allies – and they are likely uncomfortable with what they are hearing, argues Eric Miller for The Hill.

"Countries near and far are wondering whether America's abandonment of leadership on trade will lead to a retrenchment in other areas, most notably security. Faced with a growing, assertive China, the countries of South and Southeast Asia are particularly concerned with this question," Miller writes.

"They fear that if the United States is willing to destroy its long-standing commercial framework with Canada and Mexico, its closest neighbors, it will not hesitate to walk away from commitments with more distant countries…An active, engaged America allows countries a much greater scope to resist Beijing's demands. A collapse of NAFTA would bolster the harsher interpretations of the Trump administration's 'America First' doctrine."

What Russia Wants in Libya

Russia has taken a keen interest in Libya's civil war, expressing "its desire for a solution involving the international community, and demonstrate[ing] its willingness to invest financial and military resources," write Lincoln Pigman and Kyle Orton in Foreign Policy. The reason? To "substantiate one of the central narratives that it has told the world and its own citizens in recent years: that what the United States breaks, Russia can fix."

"Russian officials regularly tout Libya's descent into chaos after NATO's 2011 intervention, heavily criticized by then-Prime Minister Putin, as the perfect example of the instability that U.S.-led interventions cause. If Putin's Libyan adventure pays off, Russia will have shown that it can shape lasting political outcomes abroad without costly ground invasions or destructive air campaigns. Such a psychological victory may be the most valuable reward of all."



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