The United Nations has recently come under attack for its handling of both the Ebola outbreak and the war in Syria. It has prompted some to question what the role of the U.N. should be on the international stage. We look at the relevance of the U.N., 70 years after its creation.
Greece’s parliament passed austerity measures meant to keep the country from defaulting next month. The vote cleared the way for another installment of aid. Protests over Europe’s strict austerity measures broke out in Greece and Britian. While Christine Lagarde prepared to become the first woman to head the IMF. An attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul left more than twenty people dead. It raised new concerns about the country’s security. And, Egypt saw the worst violence in its capital since Hosni Mubarak left in February. A panel of journalists joins Diane to talk about the top international news stories of the week.
- Susan Glasser editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Daniel Dombey U.S. diplomatic correspondent, Financial Times.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. The Greek parliament cleared the way for fresh international financial aid. Militants attacked a well known hotel in Kabul and hundreds rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Joining me for the international hour of our Friday News Roundup, Daniel Dombey of Financial Times, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy magazine and Abderrahim Foukara of -- Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Arabic.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd we'll welcome your calls, 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Send us your postings on Facebook or your tweets. Good morning to all of you.
MR. DANIEL DOMBEYGood morning.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERGood morning.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning.
REHMDaniel Dombey, I understand this is going to be your last time with us on the Friday News Roundup as you head for Turkey. We shall miss you.
DOMBEYThank you very much indeed.
REHMLet's talk about the austerity measures put in place in Greece, Daniel.
DOMBEYWell, this is a huge story. And let's just remind ourselves of what we're talking about. When Barack Obama appeared at the White House this week, he said, I've been doing a lot of things. I've been doing Afghanistan. I've been doing Osama bin Laden. I've been doing Greece. Why, you might ask yourself, is the President of the United States doing Greece? Why is it something that, apparently, is keeping him up at nights?
REHMThis is because this is something that could be worse than Lehman Brothers at a time when the world is not able to deal with -- has much less scope with dealing with a crisis than that, than it did in 2008. Here is a country that, according to the markets, has an 80 percent chance of defaulting. And there's a real worry of contagion. There's already political contagion. The governments in Portugal and Ireland have gone.
DOMBEYThe Spanish Prime Minister said he's not going to run again. There's economic and financial contagion. It's much more expensive for those countries to borrow. And there is the overwhelmingly likelihood that either this country goes bust or it's bailed out by richer and resentful countries in the north or we have a lot of banks take a big loss. As a result, there's a real fear that sooner rather than later, we're going to be facing another financial crisis.
DOMBEYBut this is a country that is going to default. And that, as a result, that is going to have implications in Germany, France, the U.K. and by extension, the U.S.
REHMSusan, are you equally pessimistic?
GLASSERI think that I am. If you look at Europe increasingly and I think surprisingly to many of us, it looks like a region in crisis. And it looks like one whose institutions were built for good times and not for bad times, number one. Number two, I'm just really struck by the extent to which the fixes that were put in place early on, not only have not worked, but we're now in potentially a graver situation than we were a couple years ago.
GLASSEREven arguably, this brave act by the socialist Prime Minister of Greece to impose very rigid measures, very outside of what had been the politically pale in Greece society. Not only being these measures that they just voted a great political consequence into effect, they very likely may not work and may succeed in depressing further and already reeling and depressed economy.
GLASSERAnd so, you know, I'm not economics expert, but I think these scenarios that Daniel had sketched out for us are very real.
FOUKARAAbsolutely. I mean, this is a -- obviously, a very big deal and obviously it's not just Greece. It's Greece, it's Spain, it's Portugal, all these Southern European countries are facing similar difficulties. And the timing of this is really interesting. Because these three nations that I mentioned, they're Southern European countries, they are countries that had military dictatorships.
FOUKARAUntil recently, everybody was talking about how good the transition to democracy has been. Well, politically it may have been, but economically, obviously as we seeing now, it has not been. In the case of Greece and Spain and Portugal, Northern Europeans have pumped a lot of money into those three economies. And a lot of Europeans are saying now, to no avail -- and it just raises the question beyond Southern Europe to the Middle East now that the Middle East is trying to work out some sort of political transition.
FOUKARANot based yet -- we haven't heard a serious debate about the economies in that part of the world, in the Middle Eastern and North Africa. So it really focuses the mind on that. And if I may just say one more thing. I was in Spain a couple of weeks ago and not only is there a debate about how real the political transition was in the mid 1970s in terms of the torture and all the things that haven't been put -- completely put -- laid to rest yet.
FOUKARABut in terms of the Euro, a lot of Spanish people are hurting and they're saying, if what it takes to get us out of the hurt is to actually get out of the Euro and go back to the peseta, it just gives you an idea of how serious this problem is.
FOUKARAEurope, by the way, is the Euro. And if the Euro fizzles out, then the European economy fizzles out. And that would have tremendous implications for the United States and the rest of the world.
REHMWhat about the German and French banks, however offering to help Greece again, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think, at this point, clearly, they didn't have any choice. You know, the real question, as Daniel and Abderrahim pointed out is, are we looking at an outcome of this crisis where the fissures between North and South Europe are so significant that whatever the short term fixes that are put in place, that in the medium term, we either have a fracturing of the European Union, we have an exit ramp for the Euro for some countries.
GLASSERPerhaps we have a new smaller core -- we revert to this sort of core European community that it started out as. That's a scenario now. If you had told anyone around this table two years ago or three years ago that we were talking about that as a realistic scenario, you would've found most people laughing at that.
DOMBEYYeah, I'd just like to put that in context. We're talking about the biggest economic unit in the world. We're talking about a part of the world which is perhaps coming out the world's most successful foreign policy in recent decades, which is European Union enlargement, and bringing countries into a community of democracies, moving countries toward the 21st century.
DOMBEYThat process is now at an end. We're now seeing a much more Euro skeptic area. And let's be absolutely clear. We are the people who are talking about reality, there's still a little bit of unreality. Greece is a country whose recovery and plan is based -- predicated on lots of things that simply are not going to happen. They say they're going to get 50 billion Euros from privatization, that's part of a plan.
DOMBEYThey're not. They say they're going to return to the Bond markets next year, they can't. European Union Finance Ministers are talking or meeting this Sunday to talk about tens and tens of billions of dollars of more loans. They -- every single quarter they miss their growth and deficit targets, their debt and deficit targets. So this is a crisis that's coming in a tremendously important part of the world.
REHMAnd what role will the new IMF Chief, Christine LaGarde, play in all this, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think, clearly, this is going to be front and center in her new job. There's no question that Europe is the portfolio right now. And as a core part of it, I think, what we don't know yet is whether she will have the skills of her predecessor in playing that, sort of, high level, multi-national diplomacy.
GLASSERYou know, can she be the person in the room forcing people to overcome their national interest? Which I think was the role. And I know we're going to get to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, so I'm going to be the first to say his name. But, you know, he was widely hailed for having that ability. Does she have that ability? Can she transcend being viewed as a French politician who was the architect, of course, of France's financial policies in the crisis?
REHMAnd, of course, she was the former top executive at Baker and McKenzie, top Chicago Law firm. That's a pretty good credential.
FOUKARAIt's a pretty good credential coupled with, in the same vein, the fact that she knows the United States very well. She knows the United States political and economic and financial systems extremely well. The emphasis is not just on her being French, the emphasis on her being French from the right as opposed to Dominique Strauss-Kahn who is a socialist. So you can see these bridges being built in terms of her knowledge of the United States, her being from the right, understanding the system, both in France, in the United States. She has some very strong links to the Germans and we know the positions that the Germans are taking vis-à-vis crisis, such as the one in Greece.
REHMNow, stocks all over the world rose as a result of the Greek Parliament's vote and then its affirmation of that vote. Are we going to see ups and downs all through this summer, Daniel?
DOMBEYYes, I think. Now, people say that markets have fickle attention. They may switch to the looming debate about the U.S. debt ceiling, which is also an issue of concern. But I return to the point, Greece is on an unrealistic plan. And therefore, every time it's clear that it needs more money, we're going to get another crisis like this. Every time it then comes back to the Greek Parliament and we have another problem here. There is no national consensus in Greece.
DOMBEYThe opposition right wing party, which many people say got the country into the problems in the first place, threatened to expel any member who voted for this plan, despite personal entreaties by the European Union and Angela Merkel. At some point, this plan is so unpopular -- don't forget. This was voted on in a Parliament that was isolated from real people by tear gases, hail stones everywhere.
DOMBEYAt some point, the political system will not be able to support this immensely unpopular plan, which one of my colleagues described as the impossible attempting to delay the inevitable.
REHMYou know, it's interesting that Greek Ambassador was here yesterday and, obviously, rightly so, he expressed optimism about going forward here, feeling as though, finally, the lesson has gotten through and that the Greek people themselves will begin to understand the reality that they've got to pay taxes, that they've got to stop dodging and pretending that things are all right.
GLASSERWell, that certainly could be one painful lesson learned. But, you know, can you change culture overnight? Can you? You know, this is something that's deep seeded in not only the culture, but in the politics of the country.
REHMSusan Glasser, editor and chief of Foreign Policy. We'll take a short break here. And when we come back, we'll talk about Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
REHMAnd welcome back. Three journalists are here with me for the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup. Abderrahim Foukara is Washington bureau chief of Al-Jazeera Arabic, Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Magazine, Daniel Dombey., he's U.S. diplomatic correspondent for now of the Financial Times, headed for Turkey almost as we speak, not quite.
REHMNow, let's talk about the holes that have begun to appear in the prosecutors' case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn and what that could mean for French politics, Susan.
GLASSERWell, it's amazing how quickly it is. This news is just a few hours old that the prosecutors have acknowledged serious misgivings and they're claiming they've been lied to by the chief prosecution witness. What are we doing already within hours? We're speculating about whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn can return to French politics, whether he'll be able to run for president as was widely expected that he was planning to do. And he would have, in fact, been a front runner in some ways against the incumbent leader Nicholas Sarkozy.
GLASSERObviously, it's early to tell. We're just a few hours into these revelations. I think certainly this would play into a preexisting narrative in French politics about the flaws of the American system. You can imagine if he's fully cleared -- and that's still an if for now. But if that were to be the case that he could emerge very strong politically in France.
REHMAnd the AP is reporting that the Manhattan District Attorney's office will agree to the release of Dominique Strauss-Kahn without bail at a hearing Friday after it uncovered these serious questions about the credibility of the woman. His attorney, William Taylor, would only say that the hearing, which is scheduled for this morning, is only to decide whether, in fact, to review the bail planning. Manhattan District Attorney's office has declined to comment, but a third person who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP that prosecutors have raised these issues about the accuser. What do you make of all this, Daniel Dombey?
DOMBEYCertainly sells newspapers and keeps people listening to the radio. It's a fascinating story. I would say, first of all, these events are moving so quickly. What you talk about right now, I think, of the conditions of a house arrest. That he's really being released from conditions of house arrest because the fundamental -- the most serious charges that were being considered that were against him are looking deeply, deeply flawed because of these problems with the lead witness, whether these alleged -- alleged to have had contacts with drug dealers, alleged to have lied to the prosecutors, alleged to have problems in her asylum status and so on.
DOMBEYI would say that throughout this whole process, the problem has been to jump to conclusions. This is a man who has had a side of his character, a not particularly savory side of his character, really exposed and poured over by the world in the last few months. And it's something that actually, in a very worrying way, measures up to a lazy stereotype of French behavior. So I'm not sure France would necessarily want the character like this as a president, even if that was possible. There's already been a very mixed response to that.
DOMBEYOn the other hand, the one thing that you're told as a journalist never to write is time will tell or you never know. But you really do never know with a case like this.
FOUKARANo. I totally agree and I echo what both Susan and Daniel have said in terms of us having to be relative in our perspective on this. This is a case obviously that's had ups and downs and it will likely continue to have ups and downs. But I think there is a strain in French society which, throughout the decades, whether France has been ruled by the left or the right, that is anti-American. And it seems to me that if, at some point, he needs to wiggle back into the electoral scene in France, one of the cards that could be played either directly by him or by his socialist supporters in France, is the anti-American card. Look how he was paraded from day one. He wasn't given the benefit of the doubt and so on and so forth.
FOUKARALet me just say this. I think for us as journalists, I think, it -- we must always be skeptical. And I'm not trying to be conspiratorial, but I find it really interesting that this stuff about the credibility of the lead witness has come up, has come out after Christine Lagarde has been chosen as the new IMF...
REHMReplacing Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
FOUKARA...replacing him as the head of the IMF. I find it a little interesting that right from day one he was forced to accept the resignation as the IMF top dog, no pun intended, if you will. And so these are questions that will come up.
FOUKARAIn terms of policy, let me just say this. And again, I'm not trying to be conspiratorial, but from what I heard from him when he was still IMF Chief with regard to what's going on in the Middle East, for example, what I heard from him is that the issue of loans -- and the issue of loans to Egypt, for example, has been a very strong bone of contention recently. The issue of loans to these countries emerging from dictatorship in North Africa and the Middle East should not be imposed on these countries.
FOUKARANow Egypt recently has said, we're not going to take those loans. The new administration under Christine Lagarde has been making a lot of noise about that saying that Egypt should consider having to get these loans from the IMF. So there are all sorts of questions that we should keep in mind as this case in New York goes up and down.
REHMAnd one more postscript to what's happening in France. French Senators voted to outlaw hydraulic fracturing or fracking, making France the very first country to pass a law banning the technique for extracting natural gas and oil. Fracking is something that has become quite controversial in this country so it's interesting to see that France has taken a step in that direction, Susan.
GLASSERWell, it's so interesting this summer of interesting energy developments, right. And next door in Germany, they've made the move against nuclear power where France is remaining not only a leader in that, but think, fine, we'll go ahead and sell our nuclear power to Germany. So I think, you know, everybody is sort of picking winners and losers, if you will, on this great energy debate. But obviously for Europe, that's going to be even more pressing as the economic crisis continues.
REHMLet's talk about Afghanistan and the message that the Taliban was sending with its attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Susan.
GLASSERWell, you know, the Intercontinental is a very significant, it's a symbolic, it's a resonant place in Kabul. It's high on a hilltop in the center of Kabul. It's a symbol, if you will, of Kabul's brief, short-lived, you know, sort of cosmopolitan side in the 1960s and '70s. Benazir Bhutto recalls when her father was ruling Pakistan, next door, she would actually -- and her friends would go to Kabul to the Intercontinental to party. It's a very sort of mod kind of, you know, late '60s kind of a place. It sat as if in a time machine through these three decades of war. It's been restored in the last few years. So it's a very resonant place.
GLASSERI was struck reading these accounts, you know, the attackers came in and what did they do? They headed to the pool first, you know, where you had, you know, kids frolicking in that sort of an atmosphere. It's almost an oasis of a sort of Western cosmopolitanism, you know, that is still a very small part of Afghan society.
REHMAnd we should say that 21 people died in this attack.
GLASSERWell, it must have been just a horrific scene. Already, you know, the U.S. and coalition forces are saying that they attacked and were able to hit part of the Haqqani network who they blamed for the attack. Clearly, it's connected with not only the aftereffects of President Obama's decision about the drawdown of U.S. troops, but the continuing follow-up from the Bin Laden raid as well, I think, is probably part of it.
DOMBEYYeah, I simply would say this is a symbolic attack. People will say in the U.S. military, oh, they didn't achieve any goal. We killed them all. It was dealt with. But that's not the point. That wasn't the point with this. That wasn't the point with a similar spectacular attack that they carried out in Kandahar not too long ago. That wasn't the point with the Tet offensive, which, to many people, thought failed in orthodox military terms but showed the American public that Vietnam was a messy and probably unwinnable war.
DOMBEYWhat this attack, I think, is intended to show is that despite the U.S. claims to the contrary, momentum has not shifted against the Taliban. Last month, I think, was the bloodiest so far of any war -- any month in the war in terms of Afghan civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The U.S. is making progress in holding territory, but these attacks continue. The prospect of establishing Afghan rule and Afghan police remains far off.
DOMBEYAnd there are two possible responses. One is that shows that we need to do more, we need to stay the cause. It's a wrong time to turn back. The other is that the U.S. ten years on is just treading water at the cost of $10 to 12 billion a month.
FOUKARAI mean, I agree. This is part of the classic fricka-fracking between the Obama Administration -- between U.S. administrations and the Taliban, I mean, it's interesting that in a global village not -- the U.S. is obviously watching very closely what goes on in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But also, people in Afghanistan and Pakistan watch what goes on in the United States. And when President Obama gets out there and he talks about the drawdown, they know that he's positioning himself for the election.
FOUKARASo here's the message. If you think you can tell the American people that we're drawing down because we're making some -- we've made some serious gains in Afghanistan, our answer to this as Taliban is that we are still here and we can still be a source of grave concern for the United States. And don't think that drawing down is going to go down in the eyes of the American public easily. Here is our answer to it.
GLASSERWell, I think the flipside is you could argue that that actually makes Americans all the eager to wash their hands of it, you know. It's a far away zone of endless conflict is the way that most Americans now view this situation. They say, listen, you know, we've given it our best shot. Look at all the money we've poured into it. Look at, you know, we've had goodwill towards the Afghan society, we've tried all these things.
GLASSERAnd if anything, it can reinforce President Obama's political position on this. And I think there's really -- you know, in some ways, there's a broad spectrum of Americans who look at an attack like this and they say, you know, we're really sorry for these folks, but we're out of there.
DOMBEYI completely agree with Susan. Look at the difference in the reactions to President Obama's statement in December, 2009 when he initially announced the July, 2011 date along with the surge itself, and the reaction to his announcement a week or two ago. There was really no significant pushback on the Obama announcement. Polls have shown, if anything, that Americans want large number of troops home. As one cynical administration official told me, as long as the number of U.S. troops being killed -- not Afghans, but U.S. troops being killed doesn't extend very high levels, let's say 30 or 40 a month, this is not going to be a big political issue. Obama wants out.
REHMDaniel Dombey of Financial Times and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Brian, going back to the Greek and Europe question, "Do you believe that China will be the entity that ultimately bails out Euros own problems?" Susan.
GLASSERYou know, that's a good question. In fact, China and its commitment to the Euro have been in the news this week and I think, you know, the Chinese are bigger investors in Europe than most realize it in many ways. I think...
REHMAnd a high-speed rail system?
GLASSERAbsolutely. You know, they -- Europe has continued to look and see itself as part of the Atlantic community with the U.S. In many ways, right, this is the year that Europeans discovered China and what role they may play in the economy. So I think it's an excellent question.
DOMBEYYeah, I would say fundamentally, though, the problem is -- it's either going to be European governments that bail out Greece or European banks. The Chinese may well want to take advantage of the system, but someone is going to take a hit. It's going to be a very unpopular hit. It's going to be tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars.
DOMBEYAnd therefore, either European taxpayers in rich European countries do that or European banks do that. I don't think the Chinese want to throw money away, but I do think they'll see a part of the world -- let -- there's one point here -- a part of the world which was united in the past which will be less united in the future because of these crises. And that will affect its relationship with big powers like China.
REHMAbderrahim, I want to go back to Egypt, which you raised earlier. Why are these clashes in Cairo going on now?
FOUKARAWell, a lot of young people -- especially the leaders of the so-called revolution a few months ago in Tahrir Square, feel that it hasn't been business finished and completed by a long shot. They feel that there's a lot of -- there's still a lot of ambiguity in the behavior of the military -- the supreme military council in Egypt. People who were involved in killing protestors during those few weeks of protests in Cairo, there's been -- the cases haven't been conclusively dealt with. There's still the trial of the former President Mubarak, the former Interior Minister Adly, in terms of what they did about the security of -- about the torture and so on, in terms of corruption.
FOUKARABut I think the greater concern now is that -- is the split in Egypt between people who feel that the election and constitutional calendar as it has been set, and does not really serve the long time of democracy in Egypt that they give a strong hand to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in Egypt feel that the calendar for the election, the government should stick to it even if it's seen as giving them the advantage.
FOUKARAAnd it's interesting that we're reading today in the Washington Post that the U.S. administration is actually conducting talks with the Muslim Brotherhood as a reaffirmation of their belief that they will be playing a very big role in Egypt's political future.
GLASSERWell, I think that, you know, it's interesting, yesterday, Secretary Clinton spoke about this and then there was a very immediate effort, right, to say, no, this is not a huge change in policy. It's not -- I actually do think it's a significant moment because I think in a lot of ways clearly two things. One, the U.S. administration here has been very torn over this very question. How engaged do we need to be with political Islamist across the new Middle East? What is our position? How weakened is it by these changes, by the ouster of longtime allies such as Mubarak. So number one, it does reflect movement after an administration that's been debating this internally for some months.
GLASSERNumber two, and just as significantly, clearly it represents an effort on the part of the Obama Administration to avoid being boxed in by the Egyptian election results, whatever they may be and whatever schedule ultimately results. Remember the disaster of Gaza where we supported elections and then it happened amass when we said, oh, actually never mind. These are not legitimate elections. We can't afford to do that in Egypt. It's very clear that whatever the outcome, the U.S. wants to be in a position to say, yes, we recognize a democracy is happening.
REHMSusan Glasser. She's editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Magazine. When we come back, it's time to open the phones. I'll look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones for your questions. First to Springfield, Ill., good morning, Ed.
EDHi, thank you for taking my call.
EDI had a couple of questions. What options does Greece have besides austerity? Being that they're locked in the Euro-zone I think it's a real concern and a real fear that they would opt out of the Euro-zone because they've taken away one of the fundamental tools to devalue their currency. But they're locked in with the Euro-zone. They can't do that so austerity seems to be the only thing. The other comment I would like to make on that is that Germany weathered this economic crisis fairly well and there was a substantial amount of direct government spending that Germany instituted, yet now, they're trying to strong-arm Greece as well as other nations in the Euro-zone.
DOMBEYWell, you raised some very, very valid questions indeed there, Ed. What other options does Greece have, other than austerity? None, really. Whatever happens, there are going to have to be cuts and tax increases and asset sales. It's whether the level of that is fantastical or not. If you go asking for something that's simply not going to happen, you have a real problem.
DOMBEYBasically, there are three options realistically. Either Greece, or the Greece debt is taken over by European governments so European taxpayers pay for it or there is some kind of agreement with European banks so that they take a huge loss, much more significant than what we talk about with these French and German plans. Or there is chaos and a disorderly default that would be very bad.
DOMBEYThe problem with the drachma and returning to that, as you said, is very bad indeed because if Greece did return to the drachma and announced it, there would be an immediate run on the Greek banks. No money would come into the country and they would still have to cut enormous amounts anyway. So it wouldn't make the situation better. The problem is it's not something that we can exclude. It's not even something that we can necessarily say is unlikely.
REHMAll right. To Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, hi there, Kevin.
KEVINYeah. I would like to make a quick comment and see what your panel thinks. I was wondering if the French media -- you know, Le Figaro or Le Monde are going to be responding more to the IMF head's case based on the 24-hour news cycle in the United States, convicting before all the facts come out and to see if that's actually going to hurt the American system more just because of how our news cycle covers it and that's how the French media is going to taking it.
GLASSERWell, you know, the French media are, in many ways, like the American media now and I don't think they're immune from the 24-hour news cycle. So that's why, going back to our previous conversation, we haven't seen the end of the story yet. So where it ends up and whether Strauss-Kahn is free with no bail -- but there's still some charges. We don't know the answer to that and that will ultimately shape the coverage. But as it was, the coverage was very different at least in the initial days in French media than it was in the U.S. media.
GLASSERThere were a lot of conspiracy theories that were aired very publicly in France. There is this strain of anti-Americanism in French public life, not just in French politics, but also in the French media, that's very likely to resurface as they look at the treatment that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been accorded by the American judicial system.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from Diane in Intervale, N. H. She says, "according to an Obama administration spokesman, John Brennan, the president's new counter-terrorism strategy will rely more heavily on an increase in unmanned aerial drone attacks. Given the tremendous unpopularity of such weaponry, why would the administration announce this? And of course, Pakistan has told the U.S. apparently that it can no longer use an airbase in the southwest to launch those drone attacks against al-Qaida." Daniel?
DOMBEYWhy has the Obama administration said this? This is really part of the Obama administration's view of how to deal with terrorism. They think that rather than deal with big land wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, the way to deal with terrorism is sending quick, precise strikes that don't end up with you occupying a country and fighting insurgency. That's the theory. However, the reality is a very difficult one.
DOMBEYFirst of all, these strikes are probably illegal. Secondly, they're enormously unpopular. Thirdly, they often miss. And you can see all of this in the controversy. Now, the Pakistani defense minister said earlier this week that a base which was being used by the CIA for drones would be closed. I'm not sure that's the case. U.S. officials say they're not aware of that, that base still seems to be operating. And today, the Pakistani information minister said it was still going. So I'm not sure the Pakistani defense minister, who is not a very powerful figure, may have been talking rather more than he has authority to.
REHMWhat about this drone strike on a Somali group as well, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, I think after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it was always expected that the problem would get worse before it gets better in terms of al-Qaida being active in other parts of the world, such as Somalia and Yemen. In Yemen, it's obviously much more serious given the volatility of the situation there.
FOUKARAI mean, I do agree with Daniel that it's -- the use, the reliance on the use of the drones is probably much closer to President Obama's vision. We know that he wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the surge in Afghanistan and those particular numbers, although in the end a compromise had to be found. But it has to be said it's also election season coming near here in the United States and the prospect of having more U.S. soldiers on the ground being killed in Somalia or in Yemen or Afghanistan or Pakistan is not necessarily going to serve the purposes of President Obama.
REHMAnd to Baltimore, Md., good morning, Alex.
ALEXOh, good morning, thank you very much for having me on the show.
ALEXI was calling on a similar theme, which was the Afghanistan surge -- excuse me. I'm actually driving. Let me pull over and make sure that I can concentrate, talk to you.
REHMGood. Thank you, thank you.
ALEXI'm pulled over, okay. So the question is why would he complete or plan to complete the pullout of the surge troops in the spring and summer of 2012, rather than in the fall, winter? We know that the fighting season goes through the summer and if there's good that the troops are doing in the country, you would think that you'd want to leave them in for the full fighting season and then start to pull out.
GLASSERWell, I think there is a fairly straightforward explanation and it is called the U.S. political calendar as opposed to the Afghan fighting calendar. And there's no question, but that American politics have shaped this decision. In fact, that's what military leaders themselves have said when they've spoken publicly about why this plan is different than the plan that they privately advanced to President Obama.
GLASSERBut just a quick word on the drones because I think everything that's been said has been right on the mark, but they're not unpopular with one very important group and that's policymakers. They're like crack to policymakers because they offer the possibility of a simpler, more straightforward and far, far less politically complicated solution to intractable problems. This is the modern day equivalent, of course, of President Clinton launching airstrikes and missile attacks against al-Qaida training camps in the late 1990s.
GLASSERThis is going to remain incredibly appealing, by the way, not just to American policymakers. Right now, we have a technological advantage in drones. Imagine, project forward a decade from now when this technology is in the hands of every military in the world. It's impossible that you're not going to put that genie back in the bottle.
DOMBEYI'd just like to say every military in the world wants these, so welcome to the future.
GLASSERYeah, of course, yeah.
REHMAll right, to Irving, Texas and to Greg. Oh dear, let's see. Greg, are you there?
GREGI am, yes, thank you very much. Your guests spoke at the beginning of the show about the short-term effects of the problems with Greece and the Euro. If one were to be a bit more skeptical looking out, say, two to five years, is it not a possibility that the United States would be the beneficiary of this because the collapse or the breakup, or the stress of the Euro community in the Euro financial structure also would simply reinsure the strength of the American dollar and keep it as the reserve currency that it has been ever since Bretton Woods and post-World War II?
FOUKARAI think there's definitely a case to be made for that, but on the other hand, the future of the U.S. economy is in a large measure dependent on the success of the European economy and the other way around as well. It's interesting, a few days ago, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister was here in D.C. at an event and he was asked if he was concerned about the relationship between Europe and the United States, given the bigger role that China is playing and the even bigger role that the Chinese are likely to play over the next two to three decades.
FOUKARAAnd what he said was interesting. He said the Chinese role in the world economy is a fact of life now, but rather than pushing the Americans or the Europeans unilaterally towards China, that should be the incentive for the Europeans and the Americans to get closer because that's the right way, in his eyes, to deal with an ever-increasing Chinese role in the world economy.
GLASSERWell, also, let's remember that Europe right now is not only the U.S.'s biggest trading partner, but they're our closest allies. They are our partners in almost every international forum that exists today. They are our indispensable connection in the world and the world system would be significantly disrupted, in fact, if the implosion of Europe were to take place. Because arguably, the key thing that enables U.S. power in the world is, in fact, having the support of relationships with the largest economic community in the world.
REHMAnd let me ask you all about arming rebels in Libya. France has acknowledged that it is doing so. It said this on Wednesday and on Thursday. Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain is providing limited assistance to the Libyan rebels. Are they doing anything wrong?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, in the eyes of the Libyan rebels, this has always, right from the start, been an issue of semantics and politics. Because the Security Council resolution allowing NATO to conduct its operations in Libya in the eyes of the Libyans and now obviously the French, is that civilians should be protected by any means necessary. And the French are obviously now interpreting that as by any means necessary, means including supplying weapons to the rebels.
FOUKARAIt's always going to be that question of, well, is trying to kill Gaddafi part of that resolution to protect civilians by any means necessary? And the Libyan rebels are saying, yes, because left intact, he would continue to pose a significant threat to civilians. But obviously, that's not what the Russians, for example, think.
REHMBut I think we also ought to mention that the French have said the aid was delivered along with food and medicines and did not include heavy weapons appropriate for civilians to use in self defense, Daniel?
DOMBEYWell, I think one of the things here is that many people are haunted by the experience of Afghanistan where they gave insurgents all sorts of weapons, that then the U.S. tried to buy up or that they were used by the Taliban or whatever. Nevertheless, there is a gradual recognition that if Gaddafi is going, it's because someone could beat him. And so over the months of this conflict, we've seen an initial standoff approach, a very incoherent approach, but thought that if there was a no-fly zone, Gaddafi would magically disappear and that you didn't need to act in concert with the rebels.
DOMBEYIt has now been replaced with this recognition that this is a long slog and that Gaddafi may have to be forced out of power at the edge of bayonet.
REHMAll right. To Indianapolis, good morning Dick, you're on the air. Dick, are you there? I think I hear you. I'm sorry we've got to move on. Ray in East Hartford, Connecticut, good morning to you.
RAYGood morning to you. I have a comment and a question.
RAYMy world view about elected governments is that there are many forms of democracy, if you will. This country right now seems to be in and has been a capitalist democracy where the finances of the wealthy or the markets or corporations have a significant, if not the major, hand in it. And in Egypt, I think of that as a military dictatorship where the leaders, for the last few decades, have been chosen from the ranks of the military bolstered and supported from that. And I'm wondering if they expect or can project whether or not the dissident movement in Egypt will redirect that to something more of a public democracy, as opposed to, you know, a factionalized military dictatorship.
FOUKARAI mean, obviously, the military in Egypt, they've said time and again that they want to get out of politics as quickly as possible and hand over power to a civilian government. Do we trust that? Do we take that on trust? Of course not. They will continue to be a major player in Egyptian politics. They will continue to run their own parallel economy in Egypt. And by the virtue solely of that, they will continue to have a major say in Egypt's economy and politics obviously.
REHMAnd we have a last email from Catherine in Highland Village, Texas. "I'd like to hear a comment," she says, "about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez' cancer. This could have a big impact on the leftist revolution in Latin America." Susan?
GLASSERWell, certainly it could have a big impact on Venezuela, which is one of the major players in the region. I think there was a collective gasp of surprise really at realizing that whatever the revolution that Hugo Chavez has created in Venezuela, it is highly dependent on him personally. This is his first major absence from public view in a dozen years, in effect, and there's been very little communicated about how serious is his condition. And what it's shown is that the revolution, at the moment at least, does not have any successors. Can it be institutionalized? Is this a form of government that really is a modern iteration of the strongman tradition of Latin American politics?
REHMHow old is he, Susan?
GLASSERYou know, that's a good question. I mean, he's not that old, right? He's nothing like the aged sort of gerontocracy of Cuba, for example, where he's taken refuge. So potentially he could recover from this. We don't know exactly what kind of cancer. He didn't interestingly -- and I think significantly, they did not give the details about what kind of cancer exactly he had.
REHMAnd you have a comment that he may be 57. Daniel, you wanted to come in quickly?
DOMBEYI just wanted to say, but Hugo Chavez is already a shadow of his former self. Two or three years ago, it looked like he was mobilizing a block throughout Latin America. He had a lot of oil money, had a lot of people to his side. He now doesn't have that same control and he is an old fashioned (word?). He's an old fashioned strongman. What he's done is blow ten years of Venezuela's oil money.
REHMDaniel Dombey, he is with the Financial Times on his way to Turkey. Thank you for being part of our Friday News Roundup.
DOMBEYThank you very much.
REHMAnd Susan Glasser, she's editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine and Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al-Jazeera Arabic. Monday is the 4th of July. We'll have a rebroadcast for you. Please stay safe. Enjoy your holiday. Thanks for listening, I'm Diane Rehm.
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