Fareed: Don’t Be Distracted by the Presidential Psychodrama

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

September 7, 2018

Fareed: Don't Be Distracted by the Presidential Psychodrama

This week's controversies surrounding Bob Woodward's new book and an anonymous New York Times op-ed are a reminder of how easy it is to get distracted by the presidential psychodrama, Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column. But Americans shouldn't lose sight of some troubling underlying trends that could also disrupt the country's future.

Beneath the surface, the forces that have created the largely benign global outlook "all seem to be increasingly under pressure. The United States, the world's leading architect of the international order and stability, seems determined to disrupt it," Fareed writes.

"Trump is at heart an isolationist who constantly questions the value of the alliance structure that has kept the world peaceful and stable since 1945. He seems to want the United States to either withdraw from the world or turn its international role into a profitable, quasi-colonial enterprise, such as by extracting payments from Europe, Japan and the Gulf States and confiscating the oil resources of Iraq."

Meanwhile, the "next wave of massive investment in science and technology is indeed taking place—but in China."

The Big Birthday Bash America Should Watch Closely this Weekend

How serious is North Korea about negotiations with the United States? Watch this weekend's military parade marking 70 years since the country was founded, suggests Jonathan Cheng for The Wall Street Journal.
"North Korea has long used military parades to flaunt its hardware and extol the ruling Kim dynasty. In February, the regime showed off its Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which it first tested last year," Cheng writes.
"The presence of one of its intercontinental ballistic missiles on Sunday—which the North has said is capable of delivering a nuclear-tipped warhead to the US—risks being interpreted in Washington as a provocation."
"On the other hand, not rolling out an ICBM would be seen as an olive branch by Washington, said Evan Medeiros, a former senior Obama administration official who is now a professor at Georgetown University in Washington." 

What Team Trump Gets Right About the Taliban…

Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Afghanistan on Friday for a surprise visit. Douglas Lute and Denis McDonough suggest in The New York Times that there's plenty to like about the Trump administration's recent moves on Afghanistan—including an apparent willingness to talk directly with the Taliban.
"Some critics, including Afghan officials, worry that direct Taliban-American talks would legitimize the insurgents and undercut Afghanistan's elected government. To the contrary, direct talks with America could test whether the Taliban want a future in Afghanistan's civil politics, rather than continuing their insurgency with links to Pakistan's intelligence service. By revealing the Taliban's real intentions in this way, such two-party talks might open the door to talks among Afghan parties," they write.
"Direct American-Taliban talks are not a panacea on their own. They can only set the stage for Afghan government talks with the insurgents, in which Afghanistan's future can be decided among Afghans…But direct American-Taliban talks are a fine place to start."

…And Wrong About Syria

A Russian-Iranian-Turkish summit Friday to discuss a possible offensive in Syria's Idlib—and America's lack of representation at the meeting—is a reminder of fading US influence in the region, writes Simon Tisdall for The Guardian. It didn't start with President Trump, but his administration has only made things worse.

"Attention in Washington is focused on Russian subversion of the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion. The furor has obscured Russia's many malign activities elsewhere, notably in Syria," Tisdall writes.

"Could Trump suddenly switch tack and jump in, prompted by atrocities in Idlib? It's possible…But that looks unlikely. At present the Pentagon seems more concerned about a Russian threat to attack an area of eastern Syria, bordering Iraq and Jordan, where a handful of US troops is based. How the mighty have fallen. While the Russians run riot across a region that Washington once dominated, the US is reduced to observer status, watching as defenseless civilians die."

A Good Day for India, a Bad Day for Its Politicians

"India's Supreme Court has struck down a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual gay sex," CNN reports. Barkha Dutt writes for The Washington Post that the decision is about far more than gay rights.

"The significance of the years-long marathon battle by India's LGBTQ community and its heterosexual allies is not confined to the celebration of gay rights. In an age coarsened by polarization in politics and name-calling on prime-time television shows, this is a thoughtful warning against majoritarianism and mobocracy. It is a reminder that the country's core is still fenced in by its constitution. And it is a sad illustration of how the true protectors of that constitution and the Indian republic are no longer India's elected lawmakers but its courts," Dutt argues.
  • Bravo, India! Fareed tweets: "Irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary." With those heroic words, India's Supreme Court moves the country from a dark past into the glorious sunlight of equal rights for all. Bravo!!!

The West Underestimated the Dragon-Bear Bromance

Russia is billing planned military exercises with China next week "as the most massive in almost four decades," NPR reports. They'll underscore just how much the West has "underestimated the renewed strength of the Moscow-Beijing relationship," writes James Brown in the Nikkei Asian Review.

The "China-Russia strategic partnership must now be accepted as an established feature of international politics. It will not become a full military alliance, not least because Beijing does not wish to become entangled in Russia's regional difficulties or its volatile relations with the US," Brown writes. 
"Nonetheless, this quasi-alliance can play a decisive role in the future of Asia, with Russia providing China with the natural resources, diplomatic support, and military technology that it needs to achieve its goal of regional predominance."



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