American homes today are triple the size they were in the 1950s. And with more space has come more stuff. But a growing number of advocates say it is time to simplify. The lure of the minimalist lifestyle – and what it could mean for our health and happiness.
A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories: A German court ruled that bailouts to troubled eurozone countries are legal but required future rescue packages be approved by Parliament; convoys of Libyan loyalists fled to Niger while the whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi remained unknown; the U.S. announced it would keep 3,000-5,000 troops in Iraq into 2012; and a bomb exploded outside India’s High Court on Wednesday, killing eleven people.
- Edward McBride Washington correspondent, The Economist.
- Elise Labott senior State Department producer for CNN.
- David Ignatius columnist, The Washington Post; contributor to “Post Partisan” blog on washingtonpost.com. His latest book is titled "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. INTERPOL issued red notice arrest warrants for Gadhafi. He's wanted for alleged crimes against humanity. Iran's President Ahmadinejad called for an end to the Syrian crackdown. At the German court backed that country's plans to help bail out its European neighbors.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Elise Labott of CNN and we welcome Edward McBride of The Economist. Thanks for being here.
MR. EDWARD MCBRIDEThanks for having us.
REHMAnd good to see you all, good morning to you.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood morning.
MCBRIDEGood morning, Diane.
REHMI must say, even before mentioning our phone number, I'd like to hear your thoughts, David, on this threat that has been issued, which is said to have been, what, confirmed, but not verified or what's the language being used?
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSIt means it's in the intermediate stage where it's something that intelligence officials feel they to take seriously. That it comes from credible channels, but they don't yet know the substance of it. Just to give listeners a little bit of background, this threat is said to involve threats against Washington and New York -- and or New York timed to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and is said to involve car or truck bombs that would be used to carry explosives.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSThat's awfully thin material and I haven't gotten any indication that there's more substance yet, although people are looking. The intelligence agencies for the past month have been pulsing every channel around the world, contacting every intelligence liaison service with which the U.S. has contact, going to every channel. The FBI has been doing the same thing with its network of informants throughout the country, just asking about any anomalous detail, have you heard anything? Is there anything new?
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSSo that's generated an awful lot of information that they've been checking down. I don't know whether this latest threat comes out of that process of just trying to pulse, pulse, pulse, but even a week ago, the word that I was getting from intelligence contacts was that as of that time they had no evidence of a credible plot in motion toward the U.S. So something changed.
REHMAnd this morning on the "Today" program, Elise, Vice-President Biden said that a trusted source in Pakistan picked up the word that three people from that country plan to fly to the U.S., but the information included little about specifics.
LABOTTIt's very unclear whether it's just from a trusted source. There is some way that perhaps it could be some kind of intercepts or something like that. Clearly over the last several months, leading up to the bin Laden raid and Abbottabad and after that, the U.S. knew that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida was trying to plan some kind of attack along the lines, leading up to 9/11. So as David said, that they've been really getting ready for this, really prepared for listening to these kind of channels.
LABOTTWe're not really clear who this trusted source is. Even the Pakistani sources I spoke today are being very mum, saying for security concerns it's unclear whether the Pakistanis themselves led the U.S. to this information. Whether it's another source that the U.S. had, but we also know that in recent days and we'll talk about it later, the Pakistanis nabbed three al Qaeda senior operatives with help from the United States. Not so clear whether that information came from these arrests.
REHMThe other question, Edward, becomes what do we -- what do people make of that information? What behavior, what changes in behavior -- what is our thinking?
MCBRIDEWell, the official line is, we do absolutely nothing different from what we were doing before. I saw Mayor Bloomberg standing up at a press conference saying just that. That, you know, he assured New Yorkers that the authorities were doing things sort of seen and unseen to try and respond to this very vague threat. But that New Yorkers should go about their business as usual and, of course, you'd expect him and others to say that, but I think that's right.
MCBRIDEThe problem is that the information is so vague, at least what's been made public, that it's very hard to somehow frame an appropriate response. So as usual, we would have to trust that the authorities are on top of this and lead from...
REHMHope for the best.
REHMElise, going back to the arrest of the three al-Qaida operatives, had those men been planning attacks on the U.S. and other western targets?
LABOTTWell, the operating assumption is that they were. Again, we don't know specifically what the plans were but clearly these were senior al-Qaida operatives that were planning attacks against the homeland and I have to say, given the last several months even leading back to January, where the relationship with the Pakistanis were so bad and we really thought it was -- and we've talked about it many times on this show, that it's to the point of no return.
LABOTTThe U.S. and the Pakistanis are really hailing this as very sewn up intelligence cooperation...
REHMA sign of cooperation between the two countries.
LABOTTExactly. Exactly, that the United States gave the Pakistanis information that led to this arrest. There's always been these kind of complaints, that the Pakistanis would then take this information, tip off the informants. The thing is this was someone that the U.S. wanted arrested, these were some people that the Pakistanis wanted arrested. Sometimes those interests don't always converge. This time they did and they're really hailing that cooperation.
IGNATIUSElise is right in the atmospherics that surrounded these arrests. My only caution would be that things are never quite as bad as they seem in the period when supposedly relations between the CI and ISI ruptured and they're never as good as they seem when they want to claim joint success. This is still a very fraught relationship. The Pakistanis knowing that they were in the doghouse with the U.S. had been trying to come up with some counterterrorism achievement.
IGNATIUSI mean, I heard this weeks ago. That they were saying we're really out there. But CI brothers and sisters and we're going to try to do something important and so along comes this operation and I think they wanted to show that they were still reliable allies. But how deep it goes is another question.
REHMWhat about this double suicide bombing, David?
IGNATIUSWell, it took place Quetta, in the same place that the operation that took out the al-Qaida figures went down. Quetta is a very tough place for the ISI to operative. It's a big, densely populated city in southwest Pakistan, into which have flowed tens of thousands of Afghan refugees. So it's a perfect hiding place. The suicide bombers went after the local chief of the Frontier Corps. The Frontier Corps is the instrument that Pakistan and the U.S. would like to see re-establish order in the tribal area. So in a sense it was a very direct response to somebody who figures large in our plans for stability. But beyond that I don't -- it's hard to know what the M.O. was here.
REHMDavid Ignatius, he is a columnist for The Washington Post. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Edward, European stock markets fell to their lowest level in two years. What's going on?
MCBRIDEWell, it's all part of this -- actually two-year long sort of slow motion crisis that's been going on in Europe, stemming from the sovereign debt of countries originally, like Greece and then you added Portugal and Ireland and now maybe Italy and Spain. And this sense that European governments, the more prolific ones, are going bust, that the economy is slowing down in Europe and that's making it even harder for them to balance their books.
MCBRIDEThey're dragging their feet anyway over trying to make cutbacks and the countries that have been helping them out thus far in northern Europe, notably Germany, are getting very tired of doing that. And even though things seem to be patched up every now and again, every few months the EU. leaders come together and they announce a great deal, there's a sense -- and it's growing again, that the deals are never quite adequate, that the issues aren't really resolved and that Europe doesn't really know how to fix this problem.
REHMWhat about these recent jury decisions, court decisions, saying that Germany could go forward -- should go forward with the bailout?
MCBRIDEWell, that sort of encapsulates the problem. On the one hand, if you think the bailouts are a good thing then the court decision was a good one, right. It said that what Germany had been doing so far was fine. It did say that the German government should be getting parliamentary approval for the money it's offering to its friends in southern Europe.
MCBRIDEBut it basically gave the German government the go-ahead. The problem is that the court order also implied that some of the long-term solutions that people have been discussing for this problem, for example, for all the countries in Europe to collectively issue bonds, which would be guaranteed by all of them, which in effect means, guaranteed by the strongest financially, i.e. Germany.
MCBRIDEThat was something that probably wouldn't be legal and would require changes in German law and that just highlights how short-term, sure, European governments can come up with a bit of money and try and patch things over but in the long run they don't have any solution for the problem of countries over spending and the problems that brings.
REHMSo it was a confusing decision, David?
IGNATIUSWell, it wasn't a decisive resolution of the problem. The markets responded very favorably because it seemed to open the door to the kind of rescue that they'd like to see. I think as Ed said, what we're watching is a slow motion car wreck that has been going on now for more than a year. This is a week in which you saw the bare essentials, I think, begin to come into play. The Dutch prime minister said to the Greeks, either you submit to our fiscal demands or you leave the euro. And that's what it's coming down too.
REHMDavid Ignatius of The Washington Post. Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd the question picking up on this European financial system is Europe headed for another recession, David?
IGNATIUSWell, Diane, the fundamental problems in Europe are so severe that I think there's much worse ahead. Countries like Greece are going to be driven into a recession by the austerity measures that are being required. I mean, Chancellor Angela Merkel said something really interesting this week. She was speaking frankly voicing what most Germans feel when she said, Greeks shouldn't get pensions before Germans do. In other words, the people we're bailing out with our hard earned money and all of our industrious labor shouldn't get an easy free ride. And that sentiment is spreading in Germany and Northern Europe.
IGNATIUSAnd so I think the question really is either submit to the dictates of some kind of central European fiscal authority and accept their demands for budget austerity or leave the euro. You can't have it both ways.
REHMAnd what about the Swiss Central Bank putting a ceiling on the franc’s appreciation against the euro, Elise?
LABOTTWell, basically all these banks wanted to kind of -- you know, there was a real fear that they were going to abandon the euro in favor of the Swiss franc, which has always been a very stable currency not quite at the euro but very close. And so a lot of -- there was a lot of fear that, you know, bond prices would rise. And so what they did was they set a limit at the Swiss Franc.
LABOTTAnd as, you know, David was just saying, now the Swiss are paying the price for this. The value of the currency depreciated about 9 percent. And so this is the problem when these -- all of these countries try -- the bigger countries are trying to bail out the other ones. It's not just about, you know, the pensioners. It's going to make it more expensive for Germany and other countries to borrow money to help Greece and these other countries to pay off their debts.
REHMAnd what about Italy, Edward?
MCBRIDEWell, Italy just -- let's see, two days ago, it was the Italian senate passed the latest austerity package. Italy, like all these other countries with budgetary problems is promising furiously to fix them and cut back. That package is due very shortly to go before the lower house of the Italian Parliament. I think things will be a little closer there but the assumption seems to be that it'll pass.
MCBRIDEBut the problem for all these countries is that these austerity measures, as David suggested, actually make their economies worse of course. If you have huge cutbacks in government spending there's less money in the economy. If the economy further sours than of course the governments have worse problems with their budgets. And, you know, so you get into this downward spiral. And that seems to be the risk in Italy and Spain that's already happened in Greece. The economy there is contracting by I think it's 7 percent, you know.
MCBRIDESo there's -- that's the fear that by pursuing the measures that are supposedly going to help with their budgets, they'll actually send themselves into a recession.
LABOTTAnd then there's the political problem that these leaders are facing. I mean, as if Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi didn't have enough problems, he's kind of getting himself into some more trouble with things that he's saying about Italy. But also these austerity measures while, you know, seen as on one hand he's being criticized for not doing enough to mitigate the problem.
LABOTTAt the same time there are strikes, tens of thousands of people in the streets that are not favoring these austerity measures. And we've seen that all throughout Europe. We saw it several months ago in Britain. We've seen it in many other countries. While not being accused of doing enough when they do too much they face political problems.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Libya and the question everyone is asking, where is Muammar Gadhafi, David?
IGNATIUSWell, the answer from WAMU headquarters is we don't know.
REHMWe don't know.
IGNATIUSAnd there's an awful lot of effort obviously going into looking for him. The assumption is that he's in the tribal areas in central South Libya where his tribal base has been. But nobody really knows that either.
REHMWhat about those convoys to Niger?
IGNATIUSWhat we do know is that Libyan convoys -- and there're different reports about how many vehicles crossed the border into Niger -- the most worrying report that I've heard doesn't involve Gadhafi but involves heat-seeking missiles. A New York Times reporter this week in the chaos of Libya stumbled across ten empty crates of sand missiles that had been shipped to Libya from Moscow. It is believed that a total of over 4,000 missiles were shipped by the Russians. The reporter happened to stumble across the empty crates.
IGNATIUSAnd the reports that I've heard are that some of these missiles may be transiting out of Libya in the hands of extremists -- Islamic extremists who could use them for real malice. And that's got people scared.
LABOTTActually it was a group of reporters including CNN. And we basically were taken to the sites by some -- by Human Rights Watch and other groups who saw -- basically Libya had wanted -- for a country that doesn't produce missiles itself, it has one of the largest stockpiles of surface-to-air missiles. And these are the kind of shoulder-fired missiles that are so -- that are feared by the International Community 'cause they can be used at aircraft. And 20,000 is a lot for a country that's not producing them.
LABOTTThere is no real accounting of where they are. The U.S., other NATO countries have been trying to get with the Libyan NTC for some time to try and secure these. But with chaos in the country there is a fear that they've been -- certainly they've been looted. Don't know if the rebels have them, don't know where they are. They could -- a lot are believed to have gone across the border. And there is a genuine fear that in this chaos Al-Qaida in the Magrab could get their hands on them.
REHMAnd of course Libya also has a stockpile of chemical weapons, Edward.
MCBRIDEThat's right. And Libya used chemical weapons once, you know, which is obviously not a very pleasant precedent, in the civil war in Chad when its forces were involved there. Those chemical weapon stockpiles, which were very big, had been drawn down -- well, not drawn down but eliminated over the years, partially thanks to Gadhafi's agreement with the U.S. and other countries to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction.
MCBRIDEBut they hadn't been completely eradicated and their stock's still missing. And of course that's one of the first things that the U.S. and others would like to see secured. And something the NTC says it's doing but reports are so confused that it's hard to know what's going on.
REHMWe're talking about 11 tons of mustard gas.
LABOTTActually that's right but at the same time I think there's less of a concern really about chemical weapons. There is some evidence that perhaps Gadhafi was considering using them in the early days. There are some reports that they've seen kind of gas masks and things like that. But he did destroy all of his ability to weaponize these, such as the warheads that he could use for these chemical weapons. They're believed to be stored in a very secure location in vats that the International Community has been monitoring.
LABOTTSo I think there's less a concern about mustard gas getting out than there is about these missiles that we've been talking about.
IGNATIUSI agree with Elise. I think that the focus of extreme concern right now are these shoulder-fired missiles, some of which are -- could take down a commercial airliner.
MCBRIDEThere is a mitigating circumstance there, isn't there though, which is that although Libya had all the missiles, it didn't actually have any of the launchers you need to shoot them from your shoulder. Now, of course, those could be obtained somewhere else in the world...
MCBRIDE...and those missiles could still be a problem. But it's not as if the complete kit...
MCBRIDE...would've fallen into...
REHMI see. All right. Let's talk about Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemning the violence in Syria. How unexpected is that, Edward?
MCBRIDEWell, perhaps not unexpected but horribly hypocritical. Obviously Ahmadinejad presided over brutal repression of protestors in his own country. You do have to worry for Bashar al-Assad if even the president of Iran is telling him he's too mean to his own citizens. I mean, I think it betrays a sense from one of Syria's closest allies a fear that things are getting a little bit out of control and that the outcome of these protests is not clear. And Iran's sort of hedging its bets a little bit. But obviously you don't look for humanitarian advice to Ahmadinejad.
LABOTTI think that there's been a growing disillusionment with Iran's support for this crackdown. Iran's -- as much influence as it's believed to have in the region, I think that there's been an eroding support for Iran. And I think that it says two things. I think A, as Ed said, it shows that Iran is very worried about what's happening. It doesn't -- I think that Iran has an interest now in making sure that this situation calms down so it can continue to provide arms through Syria to Lebanon. It doesn't want to lose those proxies, very important.
LABOTTAlso Iran is very nervous that that Arab Spring is going to come knocking on its door.
REHMAnd of course their much delayed Russian-built nuclear power plant went online Saturday, David.
IGNATIUSThey began producing electricity at Bushehr, the plant that you refer to, Diane. There were other reports that a new generation of centrifuges, which in theory could enrich uranium much more quickly and get their uranium stockpiles up to the level of enrichment that would be needed for nuclear weapons, are being rushed into production.
IGNATIUSFurther reports that at least some of those centrifuges may be taken to a hardened site near Qom where they would be very difficult to bomb. This new generation presumably has different wiring than the earlier generation that was damaged substantially by the Stuxnet virus cyber attack several years ago that speeded up the centrifuges to the point that many of them cracked. This is a different generation, as I say, probably -- well, certainly with different electronics. We'll see how they work.
REHMBut what about Iran's offer to allow inspectors or supervision -- inspectors' supervision of their nuclear program, Edward?
MCBRIDEWell, to me it's hauntingly reminiscent of North Korea, right. You make offers, you step forward, you step back, you say, well, maybe, you know, when you feel under pressure. But, you know, the devil is obviously in the details. You know, what kind of supervision?
MCBRIDEWell, and what does full supervision mean? Where would the inspectors be allowed to go? Would they be allowed, one of their complaints in the past, to interview the Iranian personnel involved in the nuclear program? You know, what kind of accounting of all the past questions that are outstanding would Iran give?
MCBRIDEYou know, I think there's very little faith that Iran is somehow going to come clean about its nuclear program. After all, it still maintains quite implausibly at this stage that it has no interest in nuclear weapons and is only looking for atomic power. So the idea that somehow they've turned a corner, this is a new page seems quite improbable to me.
LABOTTAnd the -- that's what the International Community is saying. It's saying, listen, you already agreed to submit to these inspections. You're giving us 20 percent of what we're asking you to do and you're already committed to doing it anyway. Basically the Russians have been kind of giving Iran a little bit of pressure in recent months to come up with some kind of diplomatic initiative because it's losing all this trade and commercial relationship. But at the same time that, you know, this is the first initiative in a long time doesn't seem to be enough.
REHMElise Labott. She's senior State Department producer for CNN and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Tell me about this brand new plan to keep 3 to 4,000 troops in Iraq, David, after the deadline for final withdrawal which is December 31. That kind of came as...
REHM...something of a surprise to people.
IGNATIUS...I think it's less new than it seemed from the way that it's been disclosed this week. For a long time the U.S. has been saying -- really urging the Iraqis to think about some small residual presence of U.S. forces that would help with training. The Iraqis have said they'd like to buy F16s I think it is for air defense, so you'd need American personnel there to do that. It's a small number of troops. The feeling I think on the U.S. side is that it would have a steadying affect in an Iraq that's awfully nervous. In terms of U.S. exposure it's fairly limited.
LABOTTThis isn't an administration that has as a top priority getting U.S. combat forces out of Iraq and that's happened. So I wouldn't -- I think a small residual training force and a big combat force are not the same thing.
REHMBut how much, oh, tension might there be between the White House and the Department of Defense over this issue?
LABOTTI think this reflects a little bit of tension, Diane.
LABOTTI think that the military -- look, the commander of Iraq -- U.S. forces in Iraq, General Lloyd Austin, had asked for, you know, tens of thousands of troops, maybe between 15 to 18,000. President Obama...
LABOTT...to stay. President Obama has said, I want to get all troops out. So this is believed to be some members of the military trying to make sure that at least the United States is going to keep some troops in there. The U.S. is -- the military is eyeing a long term presence. They don't want to leave Iraq because there is an interest in some kind of long term strategic presence in Iraq.
LABOTTBut at the same time there's still talks going on with the Iraqis about what they need. They've said that they want trainers. What kind of trainers? How much are they going to need? How much does the U.S. think that they need? And at the same time there're also concerns about this area in the north, Kirkuk, some of these areas still in dispute that they believe there might need to still be some patrols there.
LABOTTSo I think that the number is out there as some kind of marker in terms of we know we need to keep some kind of forces there. There's still going to be a lot of discussions inside the U.S. government and between the U.S. and the Iraqis about that final number. It's not set at all.
REHMAnd exactly what constitutes...
REHM...that force. Edward, let's talk a little about India. Do we know who was responsible for Wednesday's bombing at the High Court?
MCBRIDEWell, there has been a claim of responsibility from the Kashmiri militant group. There was an e-mail sent making that claim from a web café in Kashmir. The Indian authorities have arrested three people in Kashmir. It seems like they basically arrested the owner of the web café and they're trying to figure out who sent the e-mail. So it doesn't sound like they're really on top of the investigation, or at least not publicly so. But it also seems like a pretty good bet that an Islamic militant group from Kashmir was behind things.
REHMWhy does India continue to be so vulnerable to these kinds of attacks, David?
IGNATIUSWell, it has a very large Muslim population. We forget that. And the Kashmir issue remains, in the eyes of many Kashmiri Muslims, unresolved. And so there's this kind of dry tinder. I think given the instability of Pakistan next door you have to give the Indians pretty high marks for maintaining the amount of internal security that they do. These attacks were notable in part because they're unusual. Attacks of this size don't...
REHMAnd the problem is in part, too, lack of metal detectors outside the courthouse, shortage of police, a whole bunch of problems. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, it's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd we're back, time to open the phones now. First, to Hickory, N.C. good morning, Fred.
FREDGood morning. My question is in light of the terror threat. Is this the right time to use the profiling for citizens and security personnel to identify the potential threats? And I find it interesting that when someone uses the term democrat, Diane becomes extremely outraged. But when liberals tell conservatives son of a bitches go straight to...
REHMHey thanks, I don't equate the two. Let's go to Big Rock, Ill. Good morning, Mike, you're on the air.
MIKEHi, yeah, one of your panelists made the point about how Pakistan has provided arrests of three people, or some new arrests and I just get the feeling every time I hear this that it's -- they're playing us like a fiddle, both diplomatically, militarily, strategically at every level to keep the flow of the aid to $11 billion, I think, somewhere in there, of aid that comes in. They'll just give us one every three months for 20 years. We're being played like a fiddle by Karzai in Afghanistan.
REHMWhat do you think, Elise?
LABOTTWell, I think that there is some truth to the idea that the Pakistanis are being selective about the kind of cooperation they want to give to the United States. And as David said, relations have been poor for the last several months and they knew that they had to help the United States to show that they're still on the same team. The truth of the matter is that as we said there are some terrorists that hurt Pakistan and they see an interest in going against them and there are some that the U.S. wants the Pakistanis to go against.
LABOTTThey're not always going to be the same, but the United States knows that this relationship is complicated. It's fraught with a lot of difficulty, but they know that they need the Pakistanis to continue to go after these terrorists and as limited and as difficult as the cooperation is they're going to stick with it. They have no choice.
MCBRIDEThat's exactly right. I think, you know, maybe saying playing us like a fiddle is looking at it the wrong way. What if Pakistan, in spite of a lot of domestic opposition to its intelligence cooperation with the U.S., in spite of the unrest and terrorism and so on that it's faced with -- internally, what if it went ahead and cooperated with the U.S. and didn't get anything for it? Wouldn't Pakistanis be sitting there saying, well, America is playing us like a fiddle? You know, I mean, of course, the relationship is like this.
MCBRIDEBoth countries are looking out for their interests and sometimes, you know, one country or the other will feel like it's been messed around, but that's natural in international affairs.
IGNATIUSDiane, I just wrote a novel on the subject of this fiddle-playing called "Bloodmoney" and I think one theme that comes through my reporting is that this is what intelligence agencies do. I mean, we do have to remember that intelligence agencies, if you could do it in a straightforward way, a non-deceitful way, you'd get some other agency of government to do it. So it's not surprising to me in the end that the ISI continues to operate on behalf of what it sees as its own interests, doesn't tell us everything. We're exactly the same with them. That's how intelligence agencies work.
REHMHere's a posting on Facebook by Maryanne who says, "the Germans are not bailing out the Greeks, they're bailing out their own bankers. The banksters are doing to the Europeans what they successfully did to the Americans." What do you think of that Edward?
MCBRIDEWell, I think that's true. I think one of the striking things about the constant upheaval in the European financial sector is big banks across Europe, especially big German and French banks, countries that otherwise don't seem to be in as much trouble as some of the other countries in Europe, have huge exposure to the debt, the government debt of Greece, of Italy, of Spain. And so if Europe decided, all right, we'll just cut Greece off, we'll let them deal with their own problems, that wouldn't work because that creates huge problems then for the German banks and the French banks that lose an awful lot of money on those Greek bonds that they own.
MCBRIDESo the choice before Germany is really do we bail out Greece via our own banks or do we bail out Greece directly? But they can't ignore the problem altogether and think that they'll be no repercussions for their own economies.
LABOTTAnd Diane, I think that one of the things that is overlooked in this is one of the growing pains that the Europeans really didn't take into too much consideration when they created the European Union. I mean everybody wanted this big, political and trade entity that was going to be very powerful in the world but it's like other international organizations where everybody has a burden, some have to pick up some areas. Germany certainly enjoys the political clout that it carries from being such a big power in the European Union. It also as one of the largest economies in the world has to share the burden of the debt crisis.
REHMAnd here's a listener tweet. "Wasn't Libya supposed to get rid of all those chemical weapons when Bush normalized relations with them?" David?
IGNATIUSPart of the deal that brought Gadhafi back into the group of acceptable, civilized nations was supposed to be the end of his WMD programs including chemical weapons. As was noted earlier they were quarantined. Some I believe were destroyed but the question is what about the remaining ones? The fear was, up until about a week ago, that Gadhafi would use them on the rebels.
IGNATIUSI think now the fear is that Gadhafi is on the run, are the rebels going to control these? The larger question that we are having to face up to is who are the rebels? When we say they're going to be in control of all these Libyan weapons. Who are they? Do we trust them? Do we have confidence that they'll use these in a responsible way?
REHMAll right, to Charlotte, N.C., good morning, Joe.
JOEHello, how are you?
JOEIf the Israelis get the bomb, the Iranians are going to want to get the bomb. Well, Israel has the bomb so, of course, the Iranians are going to want to get the bomb. Is it viable for the United States to say Israel is our friend so they're nice people and wink at their bomb and try to get Iran not to go the same way? Thank you.
REHMWe've heard this question many times. Elise?
LABOTTWe've been doing that for years. We've been winking at the Israeli nuclear capability so has the rest of the international community and continued to go after states like Iran. The argument is that Israel is a democracy. Israel shares our kind of values. Israel is in a dangerous neighborhood and they know how to be responsible. I mean, nobody has ever acknowledged Israel's nuclear program. There is always this creative ambiguity, but there has -- I think President Obama has made an effort to talk about, you know, the nuclear capability of all countries.
LABOTTYou know, there's been talk about a nuclear-free Middle East zone and even as unpopular as it is, the United States is saying listen, let's get the Middle East cleaned up. Let's have some kind of peace agreement then we can try and convince Israel to sign up to this idea of a nuclear-free Middle East. Obviously so much is going on the region right now, that's kind of been put on the back burner.
IGNATIUSWell, I think the issue, in terms of proliferation, is I wish it was as simple as just Iran and Israel. The problem is that as Iran moves toward having nuclear weapons capability it is now a certainty. It's been stated in public that Saudi Arabia will move quickly to join Iran to be able to combat and deter Iran. Egypt is likely to follow soon.
REHMAnd you've already got India and Pakistan?
IGNATIUSYou have India and Pakistan as nuclear weapons powers that nearly came to war, we forget, within the last, what, seven years. So we're heading toward a world in this crescent of crises, an area of enormous instability where in addition to everything else that is happening you're going to have nuclear weapons proliferating and that scares people and I honestly don't hear from this administration a coherent strategy for dealing with this core problem.
REHMAll right, to Tom who is in Hyattsville, Md. Good morning to you.
TOMYeah, good morning. I'm just following up a caller who raised a question about the weapons of mass destruction in Libya and one of your guests, he responded by saying Libya was supposed to destroy them to join the civilized nations. So does it mean these nations with these weapons are civilized? I mean, we have the weapons. Are we civilized?
REHMIt's a question, I think, many around the world are asking. That is that the whole world is becoming weaponized in ways that could eventually destroy the planet, Edward.
MCBRIDEAbsolutely. I mean, I think we could all agree that the world would be a more civilized place, surely, if there were no weapons of mass destruction. I mean, and yes, you know, I think if America ever found itself in a situation where it could with confidence abandon its weapons of mass destruction, that would obviously make the world a better place. But to somehow imagine that in a world that's as uncertain as ours with these problems of proliferation that David has just been talking about, America should sort of take the first step and do away with its weapons, it just seems to me to be a terrible mistake.
REHMDavid, how would you say the world has changed since 9/11?
IGNATIUSWow, that's such a big question. We're all brooding about it in this week. My own quick answer is that September 11th forced the United States to understand in a new way that it couldn't be isolated from trends in the world, that there was a degree of anger and hostility in the world that we have not reckoned with. In reacting to that reality, I think we'd all agree we made mistakes. We overreacted. We got ourselves in deeper problems than we needed to. I would just note on the positive side, one thing that I've seen traveling to a lot of these war zones in the post 9/11 world over the last ten years is how much our military has learned. And I don't mean in terms of learning how to kill people, I mean, in terms of learning how to exist in other cultures, how to solve problems.
IGNATIUSYou know, I wish other institutions of American society had learned as much about the world as the U.S. Army, which is much less ready today. If you ask top generals who are running our forces, they'll tell you we have got to stop making enemies everywhere. We don't have enough bullets to kill all the enemies we're in danger of making and I hope our politicians listen to what our military commanders. They don't want to fight more of these wars. They want to figure out ways not to.
LABOTTWell, I think that's largely true, to some extent. I think that in terms of the Muslim world and how we found out after 9/11 that they hate us, there's been this intention to try and change hearts and minds while not really addressing the kind of problems in this world that create the kind of extremism that we see, the anger towards the United States. And it's not just directed towards the United States anymore. It's directed towards all Western nations, even Muslim nations that don't espouse these ideologies.
LABOTTAnd so I think that we've really not done a good job in terms of combating extremism, so to speak, but we've also seen around the world, 9/11 might have changed the world, but there are other things that have changed the world just as much. If you look at what's happening in the Arab world with the Arab Spring right now, this kind of extremist ideology is not what people are looking for. They're looking for the kind of democratic freedom type of values that America espouses. So even as I think people don't hate Americans, they hate American policies and we still haven't been able to address that one area.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show". Edward what's your view?
MCBRIDEWell, I'm struck by how much these days -- obviously we're talking about 9/11 a huge amount because of the anniversary, and obviously we're still embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan and we're still taking off our shoes at airports. You know, we're conscious very much of the ways in which 9/11 has changed our lives. But I would say that nowadays the average American is feeling much more the impact of the financial crisis and the collapse in the housing market and the recession and the huge level of unemployment and so on which can't be laid at the feet of 9/11.
MCBRIDEI think we've got a fresh crisis now that in a strange way has superseded 9/11 and that seems to me the most urgent task at hand and one that which to be fair we're all concentrating on now.
REHMAnd I keep wondering whether anyone sees any connection between 9/11 and the financial crisis we currently face, David?
IGNATIUSThis will sound awfully abstract, but I think one thing we've learned in the last ten years is that our systems are not automatically self-correcting. That our political system gets a shock like 9/11 and rather than coming back to the center and sort of balance, it becomes more unstable and the same has been true of our economic system. Free market economies are supposed to be self-correcting, you know bubbles develop, prices and interest rates are supposed to equilibrate to bring the bubble, that hasn't happened.
IGNATIUSAnd so I think, you know, we live in a world where problems just get worse and worse. They're not (word?) and I think one thing for wise political leaders to think about is in each of these spheres, how do we get better control, sensible, rational controls to keep the economy from being so dangerous, to keep our commitments overseas from being so ruinous as they've been in this case.
LABOTTI think, Diane, one thing we saw after 9/11 and we've been talking about it this week, which has really kind of reminded me of the spirit after 9/11, not just in the country, but around the world, there was this kind of goodwill and everybody was willing to work together in terms of solving the immediate problems at hand.
LABOTTAnd isn't it interesting how as those years fade, as David said we have a crisis we try to solve it and then we kind of forget. And there's not that kind of spirit in terms of working together to solve these problems of the international community and most particularly we're seeing these domestic political battles at home. We're having a real crisis in this country and you don't seem to kind of have this spirit of let's work together, let's help solve the problems for America and the world.
REHMAnd the question is, is 9/11 in some way connected to that lack of -- I mean, around the world, I realize, we have lost a certain respect. We've lost a certain sense of superiority. But in some way is all of this connected? And it's a question for which I'm sure there are millions of answers, but I want to thank you all for being here this morning, David Ignatius, Elise Labott and Edward McBride, thank you all for listening, stay safe, I'm Diane Rehm.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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