Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Gadhafi called on Libyans to “march in the millions to Tripoli” and “drive away rats.” Last night, rebels took control of a key neighborhood in the capital. While NATO has set its sights on Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte. In Syria, masked gunmen severely beat the country’s best known cartoonist. He had been critical of President Assad. Iran sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison. They were charged with illegally entering the country and spying. And Vice President Biden traveled to China and Mongolia. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Susan Glasser Editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy.
- Mark Landler White House correspondent, The New York Times.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Gadhafi era appears to be over in Libya. International pressure against Syria intensifies to little effect. On a trip to China, Vice President Biden touts U.S. economic resilience and Iran sentences two American hikers. Here in the studio to talk about the week's international stories on the "Friday News Roundup," Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera. Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy magazine, Mark Landler of the New York Times. Please join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter.
MS. DIANE REHMI am so glad this week is almost over. After earthquakes, after forecasts of hurricanes, it's just a mess. But where, Abderrahim, is Gadhafi?
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAYou know, I'm sure a lot of Libyans are saying about him what you've just said about it being a Friday that the week is almost over. A lot of them are wishing -- are saying, we're glad that it's almost over. It's almost over, it's not over yet. We don't exactly -- nobody seems to know exactly where he is. Yesterday, there were reports that the rebels were surrounding him and his sons somewhere in Tripoli. That report, obviously, in true fashion as we've seen over many different occasions in Libya, turned out to be not true.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARABut I think regardless of what happens to him, whether he is caught or whether is he killed or whether he stays at large for days, weeks, months or perhaps even longer, I think Libyans are bracing for a tough time, given all the challenges that they will have by definition to face in all three different scenarios.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAWhether he's caught and put on trial, whether he's killed, given the revenge that may continue to unleash from his supporters or in the third scenario, which is probably the worst, that he survives for several months after this and given the amount -- the stocks of cash that he seems to have. Given that he still has some political and military following and given that he has a lot of -- and his sons, particularly Islam, safely Islam, the political cunning that they seem to have, Libyans could still be in for a very tough ride.
REHMWhat is NATO's role in going after Gadhafi, Susan Glasser?
MS. SUSAN GLASSERWell, I think it's pretty clear that without NATO's role in providing air strikes over the last several months, the rebels would not be in the capital and, you know, seeming to take a moment of opportunity to topple the government. I think that's pretty clear. What's the ongoing role for NATO is very, very unclear actually.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERAnd while there's been a note of triumphal-ism that's crept into the voices, particularly, I think, of the French and British partners this week as sort of like, see we told you so. Okay, maybe it took a little bit longer than we thought, but, you know, this proves that this model of limited intervention can work. You know, it's a bit early as denoted for this triumphal-ism. It could be very, very bloody. It could go on for some time.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERThere's been an enormous amount of bloodshed already in the capital this week of, you know, harrowing scenes in the New York Times today from hospitals in Tripoli where literally dozens and dozens of people being executed on both sides of the fighting.
REHMHow close are the rebels to controlling Tripoli, Mark Landler?
MR. MARK LANDLERWell, they control the bulk of the city and they really only don't control small pockets, but these pockets are usually the places where the loyalists of Gadhafi are to wage their last stands. So even if you're only talking about blocks of apartment buildings, which is what it really is at this point, these are places where the rebels are having to go door-to-door, where there's sniper fire.
MR. MARK LANDLERWith respect to the Gadhafi family and Moammar Gadhafi, there's also a lot of speculation, and some of it is probably uninformed, that there's a network of tunnels that connected his leadership compound with other apartment buildings in the neighborhood, which may explain the ability of people like Saif Gadhafi to pop up unexpectedly in places like the parking lot of the hotel where a lot of the foreign journalists were bunkered over the past few weeks.
REHMAfter it was said he was captured.
LANDLERThat's right, that's right. And then take off just as mysteriously in a land cruiser for parts unknown. So there seems to be an ability, at least on the part of Saif Gadhafi, to move around and that suggest that perhaps the Gadhafi family has this network of tunnels or ways to move around the capital.
LANDLERThere's also been some very fascinating things found in the past 24 and 48 hours as people have ransacked the leadership compound, as people have come across things like a luxury RV that seems to have been equipped as a mobile place for Gadhafi to hide out perhaps. This came from his farm, which is, you know, somewhat south of the capital. So it's a very mysterious moment and, of course, the analogies to the end game in Iraq when Saddam disappeared and then remained at large for a long time are obviously on the minds of many people.
REHMAnd the finding of that vehicle certainly must have had an impact on those Libyans who've been living without shelter, without water, without electricity?
LANDLERIndeed, and also some of the revelations of what's inside the leadership compound and it goes to very small things that are telling. Pamphlets that talk about yachts or high-end luxury in real estate outside of Libya, things that suggest that Gadhafi's obviously had a lifestyle that had nothing in common with those of their people.
REHMAnd what do you make of all these photographs of Condoleezza Rice's?
GLASSERYou know, I was wondering if you were going to ask about that. You know, even when he was in power raid, Gadhafi has this well-known and bizarre fascination, call it obsession, with then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. You know, he was calling her, I believe, his African queen or, you know, some such thing. So this was actually well chronicled even at the time, but I was astonished that that had continued and they found a book, I believe, a photo album of Secretary Rice, you know, in the compound as it was being raided. I mean, it's just -- it's crazy stuff, right?
FOUKARAI mean, Gadhafi obviously discovered rather late his African identity so anyone who is descended from Africa or Africans became very important to him. Condoleezza Rice, he calls President Obama our African son. But I think there's something -- there's a bigger significance to -- or at least lesson, if I may say, to the issue of Condoleezza Rice and her relationship, at that time, with Gadhafi.
FOUKARARemember, this is a man who was accused of being behind the downing of the Pan-Am flight in Scotland and then Libya was -- sanctions were slapped on Libya for many years. And then, the Bush Administration, Condoleezza Rice representing it, helped rehabilitate their regime of Gadhafi and bring him back into the fold of the international community.
FOUKARAObviously, she wasn't the only one. Prime Minister Tony Blair helped with that even, as we said in the past, Nelson Mandela of South Africa. But the fact that this regime that keeps talking about cleansing Libya house-to-house, this regime that actually stood only 19 miles away from Benghazi and threatening to commit a slaughter, thus bring in NATO and the United States, was actually rehabilitated under -- gradually under the Bush Administration.
FOUKARAAnd I think the lesson there, not just for the United States, but, you know, for France, for the United Kingdom as well, as they go about this, is that be careful who you wish for. You rehabilitated this guy, okay. This guy is almost part of the past. Now, you have other dealings in -- and you will have other dealings in North Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
REHMAnd the question becomes, will -- even if -- best case scenario, even if the rebels do complete their takeover of Tripoli and other parts of Libya and let's assume Gadhafi is gone in one way or another, will the rebels be able to set up a government, Mark?
LANDLERWell, it's -- they face an enormous uphill struggle. For one thing, in 41 years, Gadhafi really didn't allow the building of state institutions. So unlike in Egypt, for example, where you had a strong institutional military and other institutions of the state, you don't really have that in Libya, which means, to some extent, the rebels are starting from scratch. Then they have to deal with the fact that there's obviously, as has been well-chronicled, tribal divisions in Libya. It's a complicated country, again, unlike Egypt. And so they face very, very -- a very difficult uphill struggle.
LANDLEROne thing they do have in their favor arguably is Libya's oil resources and the fact that there are billions of dollars. There are fewer billions, by the way, than it looks like on the top line. People often talk about $40 billion, $45 billion, 35...
REHMThat he had.
LANDLER...that his regime had and that has been frozen by the U.S. and other international authorities. In fact, in terms of liquid cash that can be returned quickly to the TNC, the Transitional National Council, that's a smaller number. It's 2, 3 billion, but that's money that they can use, provided it's not misused, an important caveat. And, again, that's a little bit different than Egypt, where already you hear from the populous forces in Egypt that we're not getting the aid that we were promised, we're not getting the support we need financially.
LANDLERIn the case of the Libyans and the TNC, they will get a significant amount of cash. It will be their job to use it responsibly. But one thing they'll be able to do, for example, is start paying the salaries of civil servants, which haven't been paid by the Gadhafi regime for some weeks now.
REHMMark Landler, he's White House correspondent with the New York Times. Also here with me, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy magazine, Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. You're calls, comments, I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd in our roundup of the top international news stories here with me in the studio Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy Magazine, Mark Landler of the New York Times, Abderrahim Foukara of Al-Jazeera Arabic. Just a couple of last questions on Libya. You had journalists who really had some terrifying moments there in Libya, Susan Glasser.
GLASSERWell, that's right. This has been a particularly dangerous and influx story to cover. The journalists in the Rixos Hotel, of course, were trapped there for several days. Their situation became very dire at one point. They really didn't have sufficient supplies of food, water. There were unknown gunmen, who were loyalists to Gadhafi, who were seeming to really keep them under wraps.
GLASSERWhat was really striking is when they were eventually rescued and a team from the BBC and the Red Cross came to get them. And they seemed to persuade the gunmen that actually the whole city outside of their purview had changed was really a reminder that in the fog of war there's stunning isolation. Nobody really has a sense of the big picture. That's part of why you get such fragmentary and incomplete reports.
GLASSERYou know, we talked earlier about Gadhafi's son, Saif Al-Islam. We thought he was under the control of the rebels, then he pops up at that hotel. And it's a real reminder that, you know, reporting in the warzone is -- even in this day and age of multiple access and satellite phones that you can carry around with you and the internet everywhere and Twitter -- and, you know, even in the era of Twitter and Facebook, we don't actually know, in a reliable way, everything that's happening at every moment. And I think our expectations for the news cycle, in some ways, have outpaced the ability of people to put together a picture on the ground of what's happening in a real time revolution.
REHMAnd to what extent do we really know what's happening in Syria, Mark Landler?
LANDLERWell, we know that the Assad regime continues to crack down. And, you know, there's even reports again this morning of further people being killed in clashes with security forces, which is a pattern. They try very hard to suppress anything on the streets in advance of Friday prayer. So that's happened again today. I think what is fair to say is we're not sure how much Assad is on the run. We've now had waves of sanctions against him. He's clearly more isolated than he ever has been, perhaps more isolated than any Assad regime has been, that of his or his father's.
LANDLEROn the other hand, he doesn't show any signs -- he's certainly far, far, far from where Gadhafi is in terms of being on the ropes. And so we're, again, in a frustrating period where the International Community continues to try to tighten the vice on him. There's new sanctions being prepared at the United Nations, efforts to get the Europeans to really crack down on the energy sector.
REHMBut Russia is opposing those...
LANDLERThey've indicated, at this point, they'll vote against them. They prefer to pursue diplomacy with Assad. That's been -- also been a pattern all along. It's prevented tougher actions so far at the United Nations. And as a result, when you read about the United States putting new sanctions in place against leaders or companies, it's not clear what affect it has. You really need the Europeans and the Russians and, of course, particularly the Turks who play such a critical role, to be kind of leading the effort. And we don't have that level of unity yet. We have much more than we had weeks ago, but the resistance of Russia shows the hurdles that the International Community faces.
FOUKARAI mean, Russia obviously is doing what it's doing -- or is not doing what many Syrians would -- wanted to do for the obvious reason that the Assad regime is the only ally they have left in the Middle East. And obviously, they're not going to rush to give that up.
FOUKARATurkey now -- I mean, Turkey, as we just heard now, is leading all sorts of different efforts. One of them is actually hosting the opposition. The opposition of being -- trying to come up with some sort of common joint platform that brings them together with the protestors inside Syria. There are still some fundamental divisions among the opposition, but they are obviously working on that front.
FOUKARAWhat's significant, given the resistance of the -- outside the regime -- and I totally agree, that he's not in a position, by a long shot, anywhere similar to Gadhafi's position. But what's not working in his favor -- I mean, it's not just the issue of the sanctions and pressure from the outside world. What's not working in his favor is that Syrians have been peacefully protesting for six months now. People inside Syria have discovered their own DNA of resistance. And given the number of people that his regime -- civilians that his regime has killed, over 2,000 people, I simply do not see where he can go from here, in terms of trying to restore his grip on Syria. I don't think that's on the cards any time soon.
REHMWhat do you make of former Vice President Dick Chaney's comments that he had urged President Bush to bomb Syria, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I mean, perhaps on the one hand, it's not a surprise given what we know about Dick Chaney's role in the administration. On the other hand what's also striking about that anecdote, which comes from an account in the Times of his new book, which is coming out next week -- what's striking to me about it, though, is that even by his own account, when President Bush went around the room and asked the other principals there who supported Dick Chaney in his role, nobody else raised their hands.
GLASSERSo I think it, if anything, speaks to perhaps the increasing isolation of Dick Chaney in that as the second term of the Bush Administration wore on. But, of course, ultimately, it was the Israelis who did go ahead and take that move. So it's not that it hadn't been done. But just quickly on, you know, Syria's isolation, I do agree with Abderrahim that time is not on Assad's side.
GLASSERBut at the same time, I think that he has much wider latitude on some of them than we're, you know -- these sanctions and the sort of diplomatic effort to being undertaken against him, actually in many ways are sort of face saving for the fact that the Obama Administration, and frankly the Europeans, have been very clear they're not even considering the kind of action that they undertook -- the military action which was crucial that they undertook in Libya. And I think that gives Assad very significant breathing room.
GLASSERIf we've pretty much promised on the front end, you've already been massacring people, your own citizens and we're not going to come after you with force, you know, that gives him much more latitude to continue to attack his own people.
LANDLERWell, you know, to pick up on something Susan referred to earlier, there's a sort of debate underway about the extent to which Libya is or isn't precedent for any other situation. The administration has been saying over the past few days that the fact that Gadhafi's apparently on the ropes vindicates their strategy, shows the value of only intervening in cases where you have local buy-in, where you have a regional buy -in, in this case from the Arab League, where you burden share with your allies. And that this is really -- and some people like Fareed Zakaria have made this case, this is the way American interventions will look like in the future.
LANDLERThe counter argument advanced by people, including on the foreign policy blog, is, in effect, nonsense. The set of circumstances that happened in Libya are very unlikely to happen anywhere else. And indeed you could argue Syria validates that point. No one serious is contemplating or arguing for military intervention in Syria or is likely to. So this notion of a limited intervention may not be a one-off, but it's hard to see how this will now be the guiding model for American foreign policy, as much as people who argue in an era of fiscal and financial constraints that it really should be the American law.
GLASSERWell, that's right. It's hard on the one hand to claim, as the Obama Administration is doing, that it's a model for intervention in the future. And then on the other hand to say, well, see the trigger here was that he was outside, he was at the gates of Benghazi and he was threatening to wipe out the resistance there. Isn't that exactly what we just saw Assad do in Hama, you know, the same city which, by the way, his father bulldozed in the effort to eliminate people?
GLASSERYou know, we knew from not just accounts of people on the ground, but from satellite photos and in every other way that he was bringing in tanks into his own city. It's as close to an analogous situation as you could get if the trigger was the threatened march on Benghazi by Gadhafi.
REHMAnd in Iran, you've got two American hikers sentenced to eight years in prison. What are they said to have done, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, it's the classic accusation, in this case, leveled at Americans held in Iran, which is spying. Obviously the -- these two and the third American National, Sarah Shourd, who actually back here in the United States. I mean, they claim that they walked into Iranian territory from Iraq by mistake. But they also say that they are journalists, not spies.
FOUKARABut, I mean, they're caught up in the web of the tension between Iran and the United States. And at this particular point in time, I'm not exactly sure what the United States can do to bring about their release. If I may just quickly go back...
FOUKARA...to Syria because really as far as Syria is concerned, the country that really matters is Iran. And obviously, Iran is supporting Syria and I do not see Syria desegregating itself from Iran any time soon. The Iranians are helping the Syrians with money, they're helping with logistics, they're helping with strategic support.
FOUKARAAlthough over the last 24 hours, we have had something very interesting from the Iranian President Ahmadinejad. When the Emir of Qatar visited him, he was talking to Assad -- Ahmadinejad that is -- and he said, violence will not solve the problem in Syria. But when he said that, he was obviously also referring to Assad's accusation to the protestors that they are killing the security forces. But the fact that he came out and he said clearly to Assad, addressing him, that violence only -- peaceful talks between the government and the people of Syria will resolve this problem is significant.
REHMDo you think that in any way could be an implication that Iran may be slowing down its support of the Assad regime?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, in some way, on some level, the Assad regime has become a burden for Iran because he's just focusing so much -- he's helping focus so much attention on Iran. But having said that, Syria -- the Assad regime is so critical to Bahrain, that -- I mean, you have to remember now they wield a lot of influence -- the Iranians willed a lot of influence in Iraq. So Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, you know, these are very powerful forces in the Middle East. And Syria is actually -- it acts as the middleman, if you will, between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
FOUKARASo yes, they are a burden. They've become -- the Syrians have become a liability for -- to Iran. But the benefits of the alliance with Assad still outweigh that burden.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm still wondering about these two hikers, Mark Landler. Could the U.S. try to do something to help get them out?
LANDLERWell, I mean, again, it's not clear what the U.S.'s leverage is. This -- by all accounts, these hikers have been caught up in a broader political and diplomatic drama. But they've also been caught up, I think, in a debate within elements of the Iranian establishment. The judiciary is quite hard line. They're close to the supreme leader. They want to give them a tough sentence and to make it stick. There's evidence that the Iranian foreign ministry is more interested in some sort of a gesture toward the United States freeing them.
LANDLERThere is a pattern in Iran where people are often given stiff sentences, but then freed in kind of a diplomatic gesture. And the U.S. has pinned some hope on that. But again, the internal politics of Iran are somewhat opaque and it's not always clear who's got the upper hand.
REHMWant to ask you about the latest in the stalemate between Anna Hazare and the Indian government, Susan.
GLASSERWell, you know, in many ways, I think this is one of the most fascinating and sort of under-covered stories of the last few weeks as we've all been -- you know, continue to be, you know, just transfixed by what's happening across the broader Middle East. You know, arguably what's happening in this protest movement that's really grown and metastasized in India is a real middle class revolt in the brewing over the endemic corruption and lack of transparency in Indian's government.
GLASSERWhy does it matter? Well, it matters because, you know, we're often fond of touting India as the largest democracy in the world. It presents an alternative system of a fast growing economy in an enormous population that could overtake China's on the one hand. But can its economy continue to soar when hampered by this kind of corruption, the heavily bureaucratic legacy of the strong state in India?
GLASSERAnd I think that's what's so fascinating about the rise of this protest movement led by an accolade of Gandhi, Anna Hazare, who's leading a hunger strike who's demanding a very, very powerful new basically ombudsman who would have extraordinary ability to operate across the Indian government.
GLASSERIn fact, the powers that he is promoting for this new person are so significant that it's actually splintered the reform movement. Because they're concerned about putting so much power in the hands of one person as an anecdote to the corruption, that needs to be addressed in the Indian government.
REHMHe's 74 years old. He's on the 11th day of a hunger strike, Mark.
LANDLERYeah, that's right. And now, you know, as Susan just eluded, there is evidence that even among his supporters there's a belief that perhaps he's gotten what he needs and he should stop. Prime Minister Singh whose government is somewhat seen as corrupt is not himself seen as corrupt. He's seen as a figure of integrity and he gave a speech where he said, this man is an idealist and we must do something. We must recognize the issues he's raising. And what the Prime Minister is saying is, we have a package -- an anti-corruption package that's moving through parliament.
LANDLERSupporters of Hazare are arguing, that's not good enough. It has to be our legislation, our way or the highway, in effect. And some of his supporters are now saying, look, the prime minister's reacted, he's gotten the message. You can't insist on having the legislation 100 percent crafted by you. You have to be willing to do this in a collaborative way.
REHMHow corrupt is the government of India?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, what's fascinating about corruption in India is that, okay, on the one hand, it is a democratic country and people are elected to office by the people. But at the same time, a lot of Indians feel that their elected officials do not actually get the job done. I mean, corruption does get things done. That's the sad part of it. And this is not just about the middle classes. This is also about the poor classes who can resort to corruption to pay in bribes to get things done.
FOUKARAI mean, this thing has obviously a very strong resonance in the Middle East because of the rampant corruption in that part of the world. That's how these revolutions in the Middle East started. But the fact that you have a democratic country like India does not mean lack of corruption, or that corruption doesn't work.
REHMAnd a former bureaucrat has started a website called ipaidabribe.com for citizens to record corruption experiences.
REHMAnd welcome back, we'll go right to the phones to David in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning to you.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane, how are you?
REHMI'm fine, thanks, sir. Go right ahead.
DAVIDYes, is it possible that Gadhafi has fled to Venezuela and were that found to be true, what would be done?
LANDLERThere's no evidence he's fled to Venezuela. Almost everyone seems to agree that he's in -- not only in Libya, but probably still in Tripoli. Were he to go to Venezuela, no, it isn't clear what could be done about it. Hugo Chavez marches to his own drummer. It isn't clear how much leverage we have over him. On the other hand, if Gadhafi, you know, is brought before the international criminal court, I suppose the question for Chavez, how much isolation he wants to risk to back up a guy who the rest of the world has clearly turned on.
REHMAll right. To Clearwater, Fla. Good morning, Joanne.
JOANNEGood morning, Diane. Here's my comment. Even though the NATO air strikes have been a critical part of the military campaign, which is close to toppling Gadhafi's regime, I'd feel better if the United States was not actively involved because the United States is already fully invested in two declared wars costing us trillions.
JOANNEAnd even though war hasn't been declared in Libya, it's a war costing us additional money and meanwhile we're trying to convince China that their $1.2 trillion financial investment in the U.S. is safe. And, you know, I'm beginning to wonder because the United States has its hand in too many pots and the buck has to stop somewhere.
REHMAll right, thanks for calling Joanne. Let's talk for a moment about China which Joanne raised because Vice President Biden made his first official trip there. What as the purpose of the trip, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think it was a very interesting trip in many ways, the -- perhaps not the stated purpose was certainly to reassure China about the state of its economic investment in the U.S. economy which is considerable, as the caller mentioned. This, you know, comes right in the wake of our, sort of, national game of brinkmanship over the debt ceiling. And, of course, there's a need to reassure the markets and our big investors.
GLASSERAt the same time, Vice President Biden was traveling around the country with the presumptive error, you know, to the leadership of the Chinese communist party. And, I think, you know, that, sort of, relationship building, which is going to be crucial as we understand what role we can play as China continues to transform itself economically, possibly politically over the next few decades. This is going to be crucial but, you know, there's also still a lot of very troubling surround sound to the relationship which has had some real sticking points in the last few years, at the same time, Biden was on his visit.
GLASSERA new pentagon report came out that talked about assessing the security risks and threats associated with the relationship in China. Biden tried to take the positive route and say, well, our President, as the security bigfoot in the Pacific basin, secures China ability to focus on its economic growth. So, you know, that was a bit of spin on the vice president's part. The Chinese did not take very well to the tone of this Pentagon report, this suggestion that they represent a security threat against which the United States must spend the next generation of its military spending.
LANDLERWell, the one observation I'd make that interested me about the Biden trip is, as the U.S. economic situation has deteriorated and the credit worthiness of the U.S. has been called into some question, you see Chinese officials addressing it in a much more forthright way in the presence of their American counterparts. I remember going to China with Secretary of State Clinton in 2009, shortly after she came into office, and asking the Chinese foreign minister how he felt about China's holding of treasury bills and he didn't answer the question at all. He completely deflected it.
LANDLERI noticed, when Biden went a couple of weeks ago, that the prime minister talked about it at some length. Now, that was partly a question of protocol, maybe, foreign ministers don’t talk about treasury bills but Biden found himself in a rather open discussion about the economic strength and resilience of the U.S. and the credit worthiness of the U.S. That's a different kind of relationship then we've ever had with the Chinese. And in some ways, it put Biden on the defensive.
LANDLERI noticed when he was flying home, he stopped at an American military base in Japan and was asked about this issue of did you go to China to account for the U.S. economy? And he said, quote, "I didn't come to explain a damn thing." So he felt obliged to say to a domestic audience we are not being called on the carpet by the Chinese and yet, if you read the transcripts of the meetings in China, there is an element of the Americans showing up and reassuring the largest foreign holders of their bonds.
FOUKARAI -- you know, earlier, I think it was Mark who was talking about the Cold War being over, and the cold war, as we knew it, between the West and the Soviet Union, yes, obviously it's over. But I think there's a new kind of Cold War going on now and that is between the United States and some of its allies and the Chinese and not just over the economy. I mean, if you listen to U.S. military officials saying that it was U.S. power that actually provided the security and the stability in the vicinity of China that has allowed the Chinese to do well economically in that part of the world.
FOUKARASo obviously, there is a lot of concern. I just wanted to quickly to go back to what -- the point that your listener made about Libya. I think, if you listen to U.S. officials in the Obama administration talk about why they thought intervening in Libya was important and it was all about preventing a massacre. It was all about living up to the principles and the values of the United States. But, I think, how callous would it be if they said we're there because there are benefits that we think we can -- material benefits that we can reap. I think it would sound callous to many Americans.
FOUKARAIt would certainly sound callus to a lot of people in Libya and in the Arab world. The fact is, now that the situation in Libya has ended up being what it is, there is an economic bonanza that the French, the British and, I'm not sure to what extent, the Americans will be able to benefit from.
REHMTo Woodbridge, Va. Good morning, F.D. You're on the air.
F.D.Good morning, thank you for taking my call.
F.D.My call is in reference to the earlier comments or by lack of comments by your panelists regarding the protest in India. There are some other factors that were not mentioned and I would like to mention briefly because I am very well aware of this. First of all, I don't want to refuse the prevalence of corruption at all levels. But this has not happened only during this government, it has been going on for many years. So this person, first of all, is not a Gandhian, he's allegedly Gandhian because he was only nine or 10 years old when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
F.D.So having said that, the person -- this individualist, ordered by rightwing political parties because they have no other way to make this government lose because -- an elections and other democratic processes. And the government is doing so well on all fronts, economic and foreign and everything. So there is really a movement supported by rightwing political parties as well as big corporations.
F.D.And so even the leftist intellectuals like Arundhati Roy, which is a world famous for her activism in India against dams, about water and all that, she has come opening opposing these individuals because what he want to do is, really, if you go into detail, is that he wants to bypass the democratic processes. And he wants to appoint some ombudsman and that will be given dictatorial powers. And they will be able to do something that is not done in democratic countries like India and America or Europe. It is done in countries like Pakistan and other places...
F.D....that are dictated roles...
REHMAll right, F.D., thank you for your call. Abderrahim.
FOUKARAYou know, it's interesting that when Mahatma Gandhi felt that his followers were bickering among himself, he didn't say I'm going to go on a hunger strike, he said, I'm going to fast. And the difference is that he gave his position a spiritual dimension. This guy, now, is saying hunger strike. It's a political act of protest. And when you talk about political act of protest, I mean, looked at from a certain perspective, may even sound naive that he thinks that by going on a hunger strike, he can help eradicate corruption in India simply by forcing the government to legislate against it.
FOUKARAI mean, as we said, corruption is so endemic to the system, it has practical value to the real lives of real people in India. And I'm not sure how much legislation against it can actually do to eradicate it on that level.
GLASSERYou know, history weighs heavily on this fight. I think, that's what striking about your callers comments. You know, who is a real heir to the legacy of Gandhi? Who is responsible for the crippling bureaucratic nature of the Indian state? The very socialist legacy of Indian politics, which was eluded to by the caller, to me, these are all things that really resonate, you know, with the story of India.
GLASSERAnd, I think, if they're going to get their act together to move forward economically, they're going to have to resolve these issues in a pretty fast way because they're exactly the kind of things that put off international companies. There's obviously a huge incentive to work India, given the enormous supply of labor, given the enormous benefits of being in the Indian market. But it's crippling corruption that will be more off putting to the future growth of India's economy then almost anything else.
REHMAll right, to Gerard, Ill., to Benjamin. Good morning to you.
BENJAMINGood morning, Diane.
BENJAMINI wanted to get your panels comments on the idea that the populous uprising movement that began there in North Africa, Arab Spring, could possibly, you know, we're seeing that as morphing into a global middle class revolt, you know, evidence in India and what's going on in Europe and London. And specifically, the role that telecommunications is beginning to be able to play in uniting large groups of people together for a common cause.
REHMInteresting point, what do you think, Mark?
LANDLERWell, to that list, you might add the Tea Party in the United States. I mean, the political campaign that's developed so far in this early stage in the U.S. has been driven by insurgencies, so far insurgent candidates and people who are fed up with the establishment and there's a degree of alienation and disaffection with Washington that's about as deep as many people can remember.
LANDLERSo, I think, he raises an interesting point. And it's true, certainly, of the Chinese that they have been extremely concerned that some of the same populous forces are going to threaten them and that's why we've seen some unusual levels of repression, even by Chinese standards, in the past several months. He talks about India correct, he talks about Europe. I mean, there's a sense of a reordering in the world where a lot of things are being questioned.
LANDLERAnd indeed, you could make the argument that the root of it is a sense that people are powerless to effect their governments. The governments aren't listening to them. Other people are getting rich while their conditions remain stagnant or even going backward. And, of course, it's fascicle to say that the young men, in particular, but men and women in the Arab world have a similar situation to the young people in Europe. But there are certain parallels in terms of their feeling of powerlessness and a lack of responsiveness of their leaders.
REHMMark Landler, he's White House correspondent for the New York Times. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Susan, you wanted to add to that?
GLASSERWell, I think, here's what I would say. If you take away the, sort of, gloss of Facebook, Twitter, we're in the midst of revolution-ing communications, and you take away that gloss, everything that Mark said, you know, could apply to a conversation about the 1930s. You know, we're living in a period of not only global reordering, but in the context of a very significant series of waves of economic insecurity.
GLASSERAnd, you know, to me, certainly the attributes in the nature of these upheavals are being shaped by our new communications possibilities, by the ways in which the world is smaller than ever before. But I think there's also a common historical parallel that we need to look at, which is that political instability flows from enormous economic dislocation and I think we're in one of those periods in the world.
REHMTo Cincinnati, Ohio, good morning, Travis.
TRAVISYes, hello, how are you?
TRAVISAll right. I just have a question. I've heard on a couple, like, republican extremist shows that the Transitional National Council in Libya are actually, like, Northern Al-Qaida and Northern Taliban. I just want to know if any of the ladies do that because I don't hear on any other programs, just these extremist shows.
REHMWhat do you think, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, what I'm hearing from both members of the Transitional Council, such as, they're charging that a fair hearing in D.C. and from the U.S. ambassador to a Tripoli Gene Cretz, is that there are a few elements among the rebels who may have been with Al-Qaeda, sometime in the past. And they went back there -- Libyans and went back to Libya. Both of them acknowledge that the uprising, rebellion, revolution, whatever you want to call it in Libyan, has had an Islamist strand to it.
FOUKARABut they do not see that as a particular threat to either the future of Libya or to relations with the United States. They see it as more of the reflection of the configuration -- the wider configuration of Libyan society. And both of them concur that the people who've actually massively led the uprising against Gadhafi, are, you know, a cocktail of many different people, some of them Islamists, some of them liberals, some of them religiously conservative and so on. But neither of the two men saw this issue of the connection with Al-Qaida as being either significant or as a threat.
GLASSERWell, yeah, and I think the caller rightly points out that this has been a theme that you've heard in American conservative concerns about the intervention in Libya. Just who are our partners there? Is this rebel group ready to take over power? And there's a legitimate set of questions and there's some unknow-ables, I think, about what Libya's path is going to be, going forward.
GLASSERThe transitional government, the transitional council may very well not be where the government of Libya ends up in a year or so. I think, that's part of the risk in neighboring Egypt with potentially much more significant consequences, as well.
REHMSusan Glasser, she's editor and chief of Foreign Policy magazine, Abderrahim Foukara, he's with Al Jazeera Arabic and Mark Landler of the New York Times. Just a final word, President Obama spoke this morning. He spoke to governors and majors up and down the East Coast this morning and said all indications point to this being a historic hurricane. He urged Americans to take Irene seriously because it's likely to be a dangerous and costly storm.
REHMI would ask all our listeners to take good care. I want to have you back on Monday. Thanks for listening, I'm Diane Rehm.
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