America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories: England was rocked by the worst riots in decades; fears of a French debt downgrade plagued world markets; Syrian president Assad vowed to press ahead with his crackdown on protestors despite new U.S. sanctions; and a NATO airstrike killed Taliban militants who downed a US helicopter last weekend.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Syrian military tanks opened fire on protestors following Friday prayers this morning. Human rights activists say at least 2,000 people have died since the uprisings began. Eight NATO troops were killed in roadside bombs in Afghanistan and the UK struggled to contain riots and looting across the country.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the international hour of our Friday News Roundup Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Centre, Yochi Dreazen of the National Journal, Courtney Kube of NBC. Please join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you. It's been quite a week. Yochi Dreazen, what's happening in Syria?
MR. YOCHI DREAZENIt -- horrors out of Hama just continue to build. I mean, we've talked on air before about the extraordinary bravery of the people of Hama, who not only know in a theoretical sense what the Assad family's willing to do to them, but many of them have lived through and seen firsthand what the Assad family is willing to do to them. Meaning the -- it was not long ago that the elder Assad basically leveled the city and gave rise to a phrase that you hear in Hebrew in Israel, you hear in Arabic outside of -- in other Arab countries in the Middle East, we hear in English about the Hama rulers or the Hama history.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENHe killed -- the low estimate is 10,000, the higher estimates are 20 or 30,000. Soon you have people going out into the streets day after day after day up against tanks, up against snipers, up against Assad forces who show no willingness whatsoever to hold back on shooting into those crowds with live ammunition. The bravery is extraordinary. On the flip side, the death toll is continuing to just spike higher and higher.
REHMAre there any signs of a divide in support for Assad, Nadia?
MS. NADIA BILBASSYWell, what we have seen recently is the resignation -- or the forced resignation of the defense minister, which is Ali Habib. He's an Alawite, he's very close to the regime. There's apparently rumor that he was very unhappy about how the security forces are dealing with the demonstrators. So they put him aside and they brought somebody else called Rajiha who's a Christian. And I think it's another message from the regime to say, we're not anti-sectarian. And therefore we're bringing everybody together. This is one development.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYThe other thing is how the Arab world is moving against Syria for the first time led by Saudi Arabia. They have played a crucial role. The king of Saudi Arabia who is not just the king, but also the spokesperson for the Muslim world. His official title -- he is the guardian of the two holy custodians.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYWhen the king come to speak, it means something when -- for many factors. Number one is because he leads the Sunni war. The majority of people in Hama in particular are Sunnis. And the atrocities against him with 200 tanks into the city in the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, was unbearable for places like -- countries like Saudi Arabia.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYSecond, in the eastern part of Syria there are many people who have actually Saudi citizenship. And the king being seen and they have very close alliance with the tribes. Third, I think which is very important, we have to put it in a bigger picture, which is Iran. I think this relationship between Syria and Saudi Arabia deteriorate in over a period with the assassination of Hariri, with Hezbollah, with March 14, etcetera. But now I think Saudi Arabia took that decision to break away completely with Damascus because they have seen it as this alliance between it's the laws, alliance between Syria and Iran.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYThe previous president managed to keep this alliance between Riyadh and Tehran on one hand. This president showed to be less nimble in dealing with regional power and this is very important. And it opened finally the door for other countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and others to withdraw their ambassadors and to speak publicly and say, enough for this regime. He has to do something to stop the violence and the bloodshed.
REHMAnd, Courtney Kube, even Turkey stepped in.
MS. COURTNEY KUBERight. And as Nadia was saying, Saudi Arabia -- the king of Saudi Arabia said this week that the killing machine must stop. It's a very strong statement to make. And there was even fresh violence this morning along the border with Lebanon, which is a Sunni area, will further inflame anger in Saudi Arabia, of course. The Saudi's recalled their ambassador as did Bahrain and Kuwait.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEBut the strongest signal this week was from Turkey. Foreign Minister Davutoglu went to Syria this week. He met with President Assad for six hours and he took a deadline. He said, you have two days to end this violence or else. Turkey, of course, is the biggest trading partner with Syria. It's one of its -- it's really its tie to the West, Turkey is. So for the Turkish people to come out and say that Syria needs to stop, it's a very strong statement. And now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is saying this week that she's hoping that other nations in the region will really start to respond as well, that the U.S. has imposed new sanctions against Syria.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEThe problem is U.S. sanctions don't have too much bite. We don't have a lot of trade with Syria so it's really going to take other European nations to impose a sanction.
REHMSo how much bite is Turkey's comment going to have on President Assad?
DREAZENYou know, I think, frankly, despite all the rhetoric there's not much happening. I mean, the U.S. last week was -- earlier this week was ecstatic that the weakest of all possible condemnations made it through the U.S. security -- through the U.N. Security Council. And the press office of the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. was touting that it was such a great milestone that Russia and China didn't veto it. But this wasn't a resolution. This was a presidential letter which carries no sanctions, no enforcement, no threat, nothing.
DREAZENSo Saudi Arabia has hated Syria for a long time, as have the other Gulf States. I agree with Nadia that this gives them the ability to sort of pull back more fully than they had before. But right now you're not seeing anything concrete that has bite. There's no talk of military action. There's no talk of sanctions. There's no talk of trade embargos. So right now if you're Assad you feel like, yes, you have people yelling at you but fundamentally trade continues. The U.N. is not intervening. The U.S. is not talking, understandably, of intervening militarily. NATO is not talking about intervening militarily. The Saudis who sent forces into Bahrain, they're not talking about doing anything militarily. So if you're Assad the pressure is verbal and he's not going to respond to that.
BILBASSYTwo points to add to that. Number one is we're still waiting for President Obama to come and say President Assad has to go. This is the only thing they haven't done so far. They dance around the issue and they keep saying that Syria is better off without him. So I think they're buying some time for whatever reason.
BILBASSYAnd I think it's very interesting to read into the statement the White House released yesterday, which is the call between President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan. And if you read clearly what they were saying is basically it's not just we condemn what's happened and we want the violence to cease, but they're saying, we will monitor the situation and reassess the situation in a few days. That means they're still giving time for Assad. And I think this is really interesting what's happening now between Turkey and the United States.
BILBASSYBut talking about the sanction, I think the most important thing now Hillary Clinton said yesterday actually on CBS interview, that she wanted the Europeans to do something. And they have to target the oil section because it counts to almost a third or fourth -- a quarter of the revenues that comes to Syria. And this is very, very important. But with that (word?) the population like they did with Saddam Hussein because the important thing, they wanted the regime to fall, but you don't want the country to crumble so you don't need to deal with the disaster afterwards. And that's the tricky issue.
KUBEThe problem right now that the United States faces is the fact that there's no evidence right now that Assad's going anywhere. Right now, the middle class in Damascus and in the biggest cities and in Aleppo, they're not showing any signs of turning against Assad. So unless the military forces and the middle class turns against him, there -- he's not going anywhere at this point.
KUBESo for the U.S. to go out there and take a step that no other nation has taken yet and say, we're calling for President Assad to leave, that puts them out there in a place where there's a chance that it will just make the United States look weak because he won't go anywhere.
KUBEThe other problem right now that they're facing is that, you know, they can call on other nations to try and help out and try and step in and call...
REHMFor example, China.
KUBEExactly, but so far there's been no response. So the U.S. doesn't want to put themselves out on a limb and call for this when there may be no response.
DREAZENYeah, I think Courtney has it exactly right. I mean, not only will there -- may be no response, but where the U.S. itself has no ability to bring about a response. I mean, we saw with Libya. It took them a long time to get to the point of saying Gadhafi must go. That was five months ago. Gadhafi has not gone anywhere. And that's where the U.S. had the ability and the willingness to intervene militarily. In Syria, we have neither the interest nor the willingness nor the allies to do anything with force.
DREAZENSo if we say Assad has to go and then we don't -- we have no way of backing it up. And he knows it and we know it.
REHMAnd of course, considering what's happened to Mubarak in Egypt and seeing him in a cage would seem to be exactly the opposite incentive for Assad to go.
BILBASSYAbsolutely. I mean, this image in the Arab world of Mubarak in the cage on his bed being tried, it was unbelievable. So it was -- send the signal to Assad, this is going to be your end. And if it's not that you're going to be led to the International Court of Justice like Milosevic and others in The Hague and you'll be tried. So the problem with diplomacy, I think, is they never lift -- it's kind of a leeway of if you wanted these people to leave, you have to give them some kind of option. And it happened with Libya, as we just mentioned now, and it's going to happen with Syria. So he knows. He's fighting for his life basically.
BILBASSYAnd the Alawites who are surrounding him, especially in the army, are fighting for their life. But the middle class will only change once they realize that the win is going to the other direction and then we going to see people in the streets.
BILBASSYAnd I think one other things I would like to add, which is they might withdraw tanks from Hama, but we're going to see small killings everywhere. And I heard one of the Syrian analysts saying something very interesting. They're saying the regime is resorting to the quarter of killing. And that means that every day they're going to kill between 20 to 30 people just to frighten the rest not to go into mass demonstrations. We're not going to see tens of thousands or millions in the streets. So they keep the killing low, but we may not see things like Hama being seized, cutting off the electricity, cutting off communication, arresting people in mass...
REHMIt's just going to be a small number.
BILBASSY...killing people, very slow intensity, but they continue with this until one side will win.
KUBEThere's one other major problem that exists here and there's no organized opposition in Syria right now. Secretary Clinton touched on that in her interview yesterday as well. Right now, there's no end game. If in fact President Assad were to fall today, what would happen? The reality is it would probably lead to insecurity in Israel, some sort of instability in Lebanon and potentially a power vacuum that Iran would end up filling.
REHMCourtney Kube. She's national security producer for NBC News. Short break. When we come back, we'll talk about Afghanistan.
REHMWelcome back to the international hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Yochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine, Courtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News and Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Centre. Let's turn now to Afghanistan. NATO says it has killed those responsible for the helicopter crash that took the lives of some 22 SEALs plus eight others. What do you make of this, Yochi?
DREAZENWell, in some ways this came out of a briefing that General John Allen, the new commander in Afghanistan gave where he, in many ways, buried the lead, as we say in journalism, where it wasn't until the very end of the briefing that he admitted that the target of the raid, the reason the rangers were sent in first and the SEALs sent in second had escaped. So the person they were actually after, the person that all of these special operations forces were put at risk to get we have not gotten. He has not been killed, he's not been captured.
DREAZENIt's an interesting example of the way the military public relation mission works because that spin worked. The stories that ran particularly -- 'cause the wire services have to write so quickly -- where U.S. killed guy who shot down helicopter, not U.S. target escapes, which is actually a more important takeaway. But even if you ignore for a second the fact that the target got away there is no way of knowing. And afterwards he was asked during the press conference, and refused to go into it, the other military press people in the room wouldn't go into it, their explanation was, it's operational detail so we can't tell you.
DREAZENIf you read between the lines of the military press release is what they imply happened is that they had drones overhead so they were able to track the people as they were leaving, that they were listening into cell phone calls and they were able to piece together based on cell phone traffic and other things they observed through the drones who the shooter was. How you could possibly know with absolute certainty which of the 20 men with beards and guns in civilian clothing who were all shooting happened to be the one who fired the RPG as opposed to the AK47 when there was more than one RPG fired. I mean, to say that I'm skeptical of it understates considerably.
REHMAnd there are new questions being raised about the mission that actually resulted in that helicopter going down, Yochi.
DREAZENPart of it is fueled by the military itself. When the -- in the initial aftermath what was being said by the military both in its formal statements but also in a lot of the background stuff in it that we were all hearing from people in Afghanistan was this was a rescue mission effectively. That you had rangers who were looking for this target, this man who escaped, they were pinned down and in need of assistance. The SEALs were sent in to assist these rangers who were at risk of being overrun, killed, captured.
DREAZENGeneral Allen gave an entirely different explanation. His explanation was, the rangers were searching for this man who got away. While they were there they saw other people running away from the scene. And the SEALs were sent in to try to prevent those people from escaping, which is a very different kind of mission. And frankly, that's the kind of mission that you don't need SEALs to do. That's the kind of mission that conventional forces train to do, can do, do often.
DREAZENSo you have the military's explanation for the mission itself changing, the target escaping. And every person I've talked to from within that community has sort of -- on the one hand just heartbroken beyond words that SEAL Team 6, which has 300 members roughly, now lost a huge swath of its membership to this one crash. But they're also flummoxed that you would send in members of SEAL Team 6. Again, these are the guys who...
REHMAnd why so many?
DREAZEN...shot the Somali...
DREAZENWhy so many and why these? I mean, SEAL Team 6 were the guys who shot the Somali pirates, one of the most difficult shots military snipers have ever seen. These are the guys who went after Bin Laden. These are the best of the best of the best. They should not have been sent to do what conventional forces can do.
REHMSo why were they?
DREAZENThat remains a mystery. General Allen yesterday said that they were part of the -- that the planning for this mission, they were part of the planning, that in the -- but that, again, conflicts with earlier accounts which were that they were on the base nearby, able to go quickly but not part of the original planning. So the military itself can't get its story straight. And the story that emerges is one where you look at it and listen to and think, this was a mistake from the start.
REHMYou know, we talked in the last hour about the loss of public faith in government. And that certainly includes the hierarchy of the military when you cannot get straight answers, Nadia.
BILBASSYAbsolutely. And I think this is, as General Allen said as well, I think there is an investigation. We might know the details later on but not now because initially it might be a cover-up. I'm not just saying that but, you know, we will know later. But I think the fact that they don't want to admit mistakes sometimes, as you said. I mean, 10 percent of the Navy SEALs wiped out in one attack, it just doesn't make logic to anybody.
BILBASSYI mean, we know, for example, that the president and the vice-president or the current prince and the king cannot travel in the same plane for the sake of there might be a crash and therefore you lose top echelon of power in any country. So let alone the military when they fight in a war like in Afghanistan, what on earth has gone into their thinking to put all these people in one plane.
BILBASSYBut General Allen said as well, this is part of ongoing efforts to fight the enemy wherever they are. And then we went to Wardak to this orchard to track them down. And immediately the Taliban -- to add insult to injury, the Taliban spokesman came out and he said, no, this mujad, as they call them, one of the Taliban, is not one of the people who shot the plane. How on earth would they know that? So I think I agree with (word?). It is just laughable.
KUBEI think I had a slightly different experience with the reporting on this story. We were told -- I was told Sunday morning that this was not a rescue mission. I was told Sunday morning -- in fact, I specifically was speaking to someone and I said, yeah, we heard that they went in to rescue these rangers, and the person said, no, that's not right. They were support. They were reinforcement. They were in, what the military calls, an IRF, an Immediate Reaction Force. So they were -- as Yochi said, they were planned to be -- to go in and to be the support on -- the backup on these rangers.
KUBEAnd one of...
REHMBut why so many SEALs?
KUBEThat's one question. The SEALs were part of the training. The one question that no one can answer so far is why so many. It was actually 17. Fifteen were members of the SEAL Team 6, two were West Coast and the others were assigned to the SEAL unit but they were actually support. There was a dog handler and EOD guy, some IT specialists. So that's one question that is going to have to be answered here is why they sent in 17 SEALs on this mission.
KUBEThere were Afghans involved as well. It's a nighttime raid. They're very standard in that area. They're standard -- frankly it's standard to send in a big Immediate Reaction Force. Just the question is why so many were Special Forces...
KUBE...of this caliber. I think another question that really needs to be answered out of this raid is, was not just dedicating the SEALs. Also dedicating those rangers and those troops on the ground for someone who in the end it's seeming more and more was a midlevel local Taliban guy in Wardak. So far all the accounts are that he was not some high level Haqqani Network figure who -- 'cause they exist in that area of that -- in that part of Wardak. He was just a local Taliban leader who had about 12 guys, maybe some suicide bombers who worked for him but that was it. So...
REHM...this is, again, questions about the intelligence we're getting?
DREAZENI think, in some ways, a lesser question about the intelligence and more a question about military resourcing and military planning. And there is a big strategic question here. And the big strategic question is if you talk to people in that community -- and they talk about this publicly -- they will say, this raid was nothing unusual, that there are 10, 12, 15 of these run per night involving various configurations of special operations troops. And they have very impressive statistics that the number of raids last year in Afghanistan alone was 4,000, they've killed 600 Taliban or Haqqani leaders, 2,000 fighters.
DREAZENBut by every measure -- every single measure that exists the number of attacks in Afghanistan is higher than ever before. The -- in June the number of IEDs set an all time record for the war at 1600. The casualty rate for this year is on pace to break last year, which in turn it broke in 2009, which in turn it broke in 2008. So you have the military openly admit that this part of sort of targeted counter terror missions -- forgetting for a second who the targets are -- but just that this tactic of sending in guys by helicopter at night to kill or capture wanted militants is a key part of the strategy. But then that raises the bigger question of but the strategy by every measure is not working.
KUBEI think there's one other thing that's also going to come out of this investigation. A couple weeks ago -- it wasn't well reported on -- there was this raid that started out in a kind of similar way. They went in after some local Taliban guys, they got to their compound. It was a 48-hour fire fight where the military kept sending in more and more Special Forces.
KUBEI can't say for certain, but I think that one thing that may come out of this investigation is perhaps that because of what they learned out of that -- a Delta Force guy was killed in that raid -- is they -- maybe they overreacted to this and they didn't want to have another long protracted fire fight that let -- you know, spent hours and hours. And they just wanted to go in, send the SEALs in, you know, knock it out and get them out of there. And unfortunately it backfired in this case.
REHMSo we have the killing continuing there. And in Libya what about the rebels there? Has any progress been made, Nadia?
BILBASSYWell, militarily I think we have seen the taking of the strategic town of Bir al-Ghanam. I think it made some kind of a turnover probably in the otherwise very stale military battle between Gadhafi forces and the rebels. That might change something. But I think the bigger picture here is what happened within the TNC. And we have seen in the last few days that they have took a decision to dissolve the -- what they call the cabinet which is basically 14-member executive member of this community led by Jalil.
BILBASSYAnd it came in the light of the killing of Younis -- Abdel Fattah Younis -- General Abdel Fattah Younis. Now, some say they don't expect a huge change. It's going to be just a little bit of arrangement here and there that he will generally keep people close to him like (word?) and others. But some will say basically that it's a good time for them to regroup and to reorganize and to have better thinking including the State Department.
BILBASSYThey commented on that and they said, yes, this is a good thing to see them having a clearer thinking of strategy. And maybe they form the coherent strategy to fight Gadhafi. But also that shows there is so much things that we don't know about what happened to Abdel Fattah Younis, who killed him in the end. Was it internal or not? Was he a double agent? There's just so many rumors, Diane, that we cannot really know for a fact what happened inside the cabinet itself, except that, you know, all the Western countries has really recognized them.
BILBASSYAnd invited him to open offices elsewhere. And we see this division and the killing and justice for the killing. But asking the general to come to a place interrogating him, killing him in the most horrendous way and burning his body and throw him on the side of the road. And then they find out what happened to him. So it all raises question about this TNC.
REHMAnd of course, this week, we also saw Gadhafi's son on television.
REHMWhat does that tell us?
KUBEWell, you know, no one -- the situation in Libya just seems to get more and more confusing every single day, you know. There was reports of an air raid this week that may have killed dozens of Libyan local civilians. The NATO says that it was a legitimate target but the Libyans are saying that it was not. At this point it's so confusing over where the leadership is that right now, you know, as Nadia was saying, when the General was killed they had to dissolve the executive committee to reduce these tensions. The problem is who's the leadership of the rebels now?
KUBEYou know, it was -- they already had a fractured rebel leadership. They had these areas in the east, the mountainous areas in the west that really don't feel any loyalty to this TNC, this rebel leadership. So what's going to happen if in fact Gadhafi were to fall. You know, it's like Syria. If he were to fall today, what comes next?
DREAZENWhat's interesting to me is that the TNC is trying hard to make -- to learn all the mistakes the U.S. made in Iraq and not make them, which I find fascinating. So they have plans -- open plans that if Gadhafi were to fall they would rehire his police and his military funded by the West so that there's no chaos. They have plans for a government, for a constitution ready committee, sort of a very detailed roadmap in a way that we, frankly as a country, did not have when we invaded Iraq, which is on one hand wonderful.
DREAZENOn the other, right now all it is is a plan. It's not clear who implemented it. It's not clear who the power players would be. So how you get from planning stage to reality, that's the complication.
REHMYochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, we've had a week of riots in the UK. What do you expect the political fallout to be?
BILBASSYWell, the prime minister came back from his holiday. He was in Tuscany. He thought that maybe it's going to be over in two days. And as we have seen, even tonight, it still tends in the streets of London and other cities. He called all the MPs in an emergency session, both the opposition Ed Milban, as well as the prime minister. They were talking together about how we have to end this cultural violence. That we're not going to have the culture of fear in the streets.
BILBASSYSo already Cameron is taking so much heat and many of his cabinets for the statesmen, that they had said that the police were dealing with it as a law-and-order issue. But actually, now what we have seen is street gangs. There are crimes all over, especially in Tottenham, which witnessed riots in 1985.
REHMThis -- another controversial issue that came this morning which is about hiring an American to head the Scotland Yard because he has an experience with riots in the United States. So they were talking about Bill Bratton, that he could be leading. And of course there's opposition to that.
REHMWhere had he been?
REHMWhere had this fellow been?
BILBASSYHe was in Los Angeles before. And they wanted to bring him because he has an experience of how you deal with inter cities, et cetera.
BILBASSYAnd Cameron was talking about even using water canyon, plastic bullets, all kind of measures to end it. And it is fascinating to see it in so many ways because, yes, Britain is a class oriented society. You have the haves and the have-nots. And there is disparity between the rich and the poor. But I think this one in particular was taken by the street gangs and vandalism. And this cultural people, that it's very fascinating, 'cause I talked to a few Brits the other night.
BILBASSYAnd they were saying that this young generation feel they're entitled to so many things, like piracy in music. Everything is free. They can take it from the internet. And therefore when they wanted something, they don't have to work hard for it. They can go and vandalize and it's horrible. We have seen houses being burnt to the ground, businesses -- it's not -- we're not talking about multimillion companies. We're not talking about big business. We're talking about small business, a barber shop and a businessman, it's burnt to the ground. It's...
KUBEYeah, I think Nadia's right. There is a tremendous sense of economic divide that exists right now in London. And it's fueled by these austerity cuts, economic cuts right now. One in five youth in London is unemployed or underemployed at this point. So, you know, this all started last Saturday when this man named Mark Duggan was shot by the police. It's still under investigation. The people came to protest his killing and it all sorta grew.
KUBEIt started as they were protesting his killing. Then it became about police brutality. Then it became about the larger, you know, antigovernment message and the socioeconomic class and racism. And the sad part is these protests grew out of this small localized issue and it -- a herd mentality took over.
REHMBut I think we have to make note of the fact that youth unemployment in this country is at 20 percent. In the UK it's at 40 percent, Yochi.
DREAZENI mean, I think it's very easy because so often as we are now, we're talking about specific events that historical moments happen and you don't realize they've happened until you look back. But I think we can safely say that we are now in a historical moment. Not just because of the riots, not just because of the economic collapse here and the near self-inflicted headshot wound we did over the debt default and whether to raise the debt ceiling. But there's a sense that you can see signs across the globe that the system that was in place for the last nearly 60 years, the kind of post World War II economic, cultural, educational, that's all fracturing.
DREAZENIt's not just the riots in England. It's not just the riots in Greece where, if you remember, there was a pregnant bank teller who burnt to death when anarchists threw fire bombs into a bank in protest -- the first of many protests in Greece against austerity measures. But there's just a feeling of something fundamental has broken.
REHMYochi Dreazen of National Journal. When we come back, we'll talk about the economy in Europe, what that false rumor was about France and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd here's our first e-mail from Nina in Hickory, N.C. who says, "Why is it that on Wednesday, August 10th, I read in the Guardian that debt crisis, share prices slump in response to France deficit. Rumors that France could be stripped of AAA credit rating prompts drop of around 400 points on Wall Street. And the next day, I read in the same Guardian that European stock markets rally as fears of France downgrade abate. Why do I not hear anything about France in any discussion of Wall Street's wild swing in our media? What was going on with Wall Street and France?" Nadia?
BILBASSYWell, I think it's basically everything happens after the S&P in the United States. And once it happened in the United States, everybody starts looking elsewhere, including the Euro-zone, which has already been in debt crisis for months and months. And we talked about this before. And they looked at France and they said, if we can downgrade the United States, look at France. And they have an equivalent society sacre bleu, which is equivalent to S&P there.
BILBASSYAnd they basically looked at the French economy and they said the Central, one of the major banks there, maybe is not good on its credit so therefore the rumor came that maybe the French will -- won't be fulfilling their obligations. And therefore, the rumor came specifically targeting France because of the bank's system there and because France is also linked to the Euro-zone unlike Britain.
BILBASSYYou know, both of these countries were supposed to do the cuts, but because Britain has been secured somehow because of their sterlings while France is connected to the rest of Europe. And they did also a big bailout of other weaker economies that we talked about, which is Greece and Portugal.
REHMAll right. Let's...
BILBASSYBut it seems they are doing okay today, but we cannot predict the market. We could make much more money if we did, but...
REHMLet's see. The market's up right now, 141 points. In Europe, it's up 157. Let's go to Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Rachel.
RACHELOh, sweet, um, sorry about that. Sorry. My sister is (word?) hold on.
REHMRachel? Have you got a comment?
RACHELI'm sorry. I get nervous sometimes, but yeah. My call actually has to do with the riots in London. It just brings me back to once upon a time, long, long, a decade ago and here in Cincinnati, Ohio our city made national news after one Timothy Thomas got shot by cops and sparked massive riots, especially in over the Rhine and East Walnut Hills and areas in that part of town. And we had, you know, the whole police brutality, race relations and that was the main topic of discussion up until the Towers got hit, unfortunately.
REHMOkay. So Rachel, your point is you're comparing what happened back then to what's happening in the UK?
REHMOkay, go ahead, Courtney.
KUBEWell, you know, she's right there. The police right now in the UK are also in a tough state. They're just coming off of this phone hacking scandal where they lost their leadership and their credibility is low. They're also facing austerity measures. They're probably going to lose some police officers, although that now seems to be maybe in jeopardy whether they're going to lose any police officers.
KUBEThere was one thing that came out of these London riots that Prime Minister Cameron spoke about yesterday that I was surprised didn't get more attention and that was that one of the things he considered doing was curbing social media, people getting together via social media. And I thought -- I gasped when I heard that because this is after the Arab Spring where so many Western nations, they encouraged people to get together via social media in Tunisia and Egypt and all these other nations.
KUBEAnd then he comes out and because it's working against him, he actually said that sometimes the free flow of information can work against you. And I literally -- it was like nails on chalkboard to me to hear him say that. I was amazed that didn't get more attention.
BILBASSYYeah but what's interesting, I wanted to add it wasn't Twitter and Facebook, just like they were enablers in the Arab Spring. But it was the Blackberry and because these youths apparently were using BBM, which is Blackberry Messenger, which many of us don't know. Actually, my son introduced me to it and apparently Blackberry is the most popular smart phone among British teenagers because it is private, it is cheap and it's very quick. You can spread messages. Nobody can see them but the group that they want. And apparently, the street gangs were sending messages where to loot, where to convene, where to gather and this is what he was talking about.
BILBASSYBut I agree with you entirely. In a country that promotes democracy and freedom of expression, that the Prime Minister is talking about cutting off these ways of communication between people, it's just interesting.
DREAZENIt's worth remembering that Britain is functionally, in many ways, a police state. Britain has more closed cameras, video-cameras than any other country on the planet. Britain has laws banning people from assembling at night. They have what are called anti -- just basically you can go to court if you have a neighbor who is too loud, get an injunction against your neighbor to make him quieter.
DREAZENBritain has more laws restricting free speech, free assembly. It has the harshest libel laws on the planet, in terms of journalism, where the burden of proof is on the journalist accused of libel not on the person making the case. So yes, on the one hand this is a country that helped develop democracy. On the other, this is a country that is no stranger to these kinds of measures.
REHMAll right, to Sugarland, Texas. Good morning, Eric.
ERICI'm really enjoying your show. I think the simple backdrop to my comments are regarding the riots and who's doing and why in the UK is based on my having lived in the UK for 20 years as a teacher in North London, Northwest London. I'm very familiar with British society. I became a British citizen. I retained my U.S. citizenship. And operating in education, education has gone radically downhill in both American and, of course, British society, radically, primary and secondary education, elementary, middle school from high school level.
ERICAnd aside from that, the people rioting, I suspect, and from my communicating with my friends there, a lot are people's kids whose parents, single-family households or not, are on state support, on the dole.
REHMQuite a statement.
KUBEOh yeah, Eric is right. There was just a heartbreaking image this week of a father whose son was killed in the rioting and he came out and he tearfully said please if you love your kids keep them home. Don't let them out on the streets. So Eric makes a good point and you know as we said earlier it's one in five youths in London are unemployed right now. So there's this, you have this tremendous population that is, as we mentioned earlier are connecting via social media. They feel disenchanted. They're disenfranchised and they're angry. And once they all get together, this herd mentality takes over and unfortunately, they rage and they loot for the sake of raging and looting.
REHMAll right, to Hampton Roads, Va. Good morning, Benjamin.
BENJAMINHey, good morning, Diane.
BENJAMINI just wanted to say I take a little exception to the coverage of the Navy SEALs that were killed tragically this past week. You know, in situations like this, the first response to situations which is similar to what this is, details are hard to come by. It's hectic. The commanders on the ground are active in rescue situations, rescue operations and just the actual combat so I took a little exception to the implication that it was either incompetence or deliberate that it was hard to get the correct story. It's a long ways away and, you know, it's difficult to get that, not necessarily incompetence or, like you said, deliberate.
BENJAMINAnd also, you know, as citizens, we do have a responsibility to question our leader's policy-making, but I think that we need to be careful about correcting tactics. There was the question, you said, Diane, a couple of times, why did they use so many SEALs? And that's a tactical decision made by on scene commanders. And as somebody who hasn't been in combat, it's difficult for us to go in Monday morning quarterback suits to -- decisions that, like you said, are tactical versus dollar policy decisions that we should be questioning.
REHMBenjamin, I appreciate your call. Yochi?
DREAZENThere's a lot in there that I think we would all agree with. I mean, certainly, it's difficult when you're thousands of miles away. You're not in a -- as he's pointing out, some of us have been embedded. We've been in situations watching this unfold and...
DREAZEN...information is hitting these guys in real time. No question these decisions are hard to make and shouldn't be just second-guessed for the sake of second guessing. But there are two things I would take issue with in what he said. First, and even in his comment was implicit, that this was a rescue mission and that the reason for sending all these SEALs and the reason why we shouldn't second guess it was there were lives at stake. It was a rescue mission, et cetera.
DREAZENThe military itself says that is not the case. So the military, the on-scene commander would know if was a rescue mission or if it was not a rescue mission and the military says it was not.
DREAZENThe other thing is that it is a fair question and it is a legitimate question to question the tactics of war, particularly since the case of many of the three of us, particularly Courtney and I, who are at the Pentagon a lot. This is not being questioned just by people outside the military. This past week, I interviewed three special operations people in Afghanistan. One person who had been a former commander of SEAL Team Six. All of them, all of them to a person questioned why so many SEALs. Why were they being used for this? Did this target justify that expenditure? So it's not Monday morning quarterback by idiot journalists, it's people from that very elite community have these same questions.
REHMAnd from Raphael in Dallas who says, "How many more lives do we have to lose before we decide to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq? Why not learn from Vietnam?" It's a question lots of people are posing. Courtney?
KUBEIt's a question a lot of people are asking and I don't know anyone whoever, I've heard has a good answer to it, unfortunately. You know, the military is saying if they get through the next fighting season and a half, which is sort of their way of saying the most difficult time of the year in Afghanistan, they'll be able to make enough progress. The Afghans will take over the fight and that in the end, they're going to cut down on the number of Americans who are there, the lives that are being lost, the casualties.
KUBEI mean, candidly, you know, I was just there last week. We were in these areas Tarin Kowt where they've turned over security to the Afghans. You know I just, I didn't see it. I didn't see evidence that the Afghans are capable of controlling the security in their areas. At this point, it continues to be a war of whack-a-mole, as the NATO forces come through. They clear out areas and the insurgents, the bad guys, they just move around...
KUBE...to different parts. And it's -- I mean, it's literally like an oil spill that as they continue to squeeze it, the oil just spreads throughout the country and so I wish I had an answer for his question. It's a good one that we all should be asking ourselves.
REHMAll right, to North Port, Fla. Good morning, Jeff.
JEFFDiane, I really think that we're over-analyzing the situation that's going on in London and also what we're having going on in Newark and Philadelphia with these kids with the flash mobs that are going in, you know, and robbing these stores, basically overwhelming the stores. I think it really boils down to what Danny said, which is just a breakdown in the culture of our youth and I don't need to get into the semantics of it. I think it really boils down to, you know, a lack of work ethic.
JEFFI mean, sure, we could talk about a lack of opportunities, but I'm 28, Diane, and I can tell you right now down here in Southwest Florida and in my experiences around our country, our youth does not have a work ethic. They're not concerned about employment. I mean, I'm not labeling all of them in that group, but if you listen to, you know, rap, if you listen to -- if you're into popular culture here that our youths are into, the message you know, from a lot of the rap artists that are talking to these inner-city kids especially, is that having a job is for saps, that it's a joke, that, you know, that these kids want the stuff that they're seeing on these rappers. They want the sneakers. They want the bracelets.
JEFFSo when they see an opportunity, you know, when that glass is broken on that store, no one has put the -- no one has instilled in them the values to know that it's not acceptable to go into that store and take these things.
REHMAll right, Jeff, thanks for calling. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Nadia?
BILBASSYYes. I mean, this is generally what I said, basically, is this culture of entitlement. But it does not -- it's only one factor. I think there are so many things that have been happening, the budget cuts, I mean, the cut down in the police force, you know, the austerity measures that have been taken, this gap between the inner-cities. And you see it very much and I also lived in London for a while.
BILBASSYAnd you can see it clearly, this difference between the glamorous royal family that everybody looks up to and then you go to the inner-city, which is half an hour drive from Buckingham Palace, and you would be shocked as if you're going to a third-world country. So these things are there, but I agree with the caller as well. There is this culture of the young people, as I said, that if you don't have it then, you can have it somewhere else.
BILBASSYAnd actually, there was a very interesting interview on NPR by the MP from Tottenham himself and he said, I'm a black person. I grow up on this, like if you want something, you work for it. But these youths, regardless of where they come from, you know, different ethnic backgrounds, they believe that if they can break into a shop and they can take that iPod or that TV or whatever, then it's okay because the state is against you and therefore it's justified.
BILBASSYSomething is very wrong.
REHMTo Foley, Alabama, good morning, Mark.
MARKGood morning. I have to call in as the caller said to learn from the lessons from Vietnam, how many more people do we have to lose in Afghanistan before we pull out. Well, one of the lessons from Vietnam was that we left the job unfinished, as we did when I was in Lebanon under Reagan, we left the job unfinished. And then, with Blackhawk Down, Clinton left the job unfinished in Somalia and then we ended up with bin Laden who saw the Mujahedeen defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then saw us run away in those three conflicts and said, I can take on the United States of America because we're the stronger horse and America is the weaker horse.
DREAZENI agree with the second half of that in the sense that that is the internal kind of jihadist view of history. I mean, their narrative is we've beaten the West and they count Russia and the West in the purpose of Afghanistan repeatedly.
DREAZENBut there's a sort of dangerous logic to that, I think, if you take it and you could just continue it endlessly, which is to say then the war will never end because Afghanistan will never become what we would consider a stable society, a wealthy society, a literate society. So if our argument is we have to stay or the jihadists, who are fundamentally irrational in some ways and rational in others, until we've convinced them that we're there to stay, we never leave. And we cannot afford it.
REHMAnd final question, we do have new aid going to Somalia. Is it going to get there, Courtney?
KUBEWell, that's one of the questions that -- we're hoping it will get there. The U.S. has now committed more than $100 million in aid to Somalia. It's just devastating, heartbreaking images coming out of Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya where there's tens of thousands of people have streamed in from the drought in Somalia, women and children, and they're malnourished. And the saddest part is all they need is a tiny, little bit of aid, of help, too, and they can survive.
KUBEBut there's al-Shabab and the tensions in Somalia. They're keeping this aid from getting to the people and the situation continues to be just devastating.
REHMCourtney Kube of NBC News, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal and Nadia Bilbassy of the Middle East Broadcast Centre, have a great weekend, everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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