Investigations, Indictments, And The Political Future Of Donald Trump
The New Yorker's Susan Glasser talks investigations, indictments and the political future of Donald Trump.
In a new war of words, Russia accuses the U.S. of deploying military trainers in East Ukraine. The U.S. says Russia is violating a six-week-old cease-fire agreement there. U.S. officials confirm a CIA drone strike in Yemen killed al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader. The Pentagon considers allowing U.S. soldiers to fight alongside Iraqi forces targeting the Islamic state. The U.N. warns the world’s refugee crisis has reached unprecedented levels. A meeting of Eurozone finance officials ends with no deal on Greek debt. And Pope Francis calls for global action on climate change. Diane and a panel of journalists discuss the week’s top international stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. U.S. officials debate the role of American troops in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Pope Francis calls for urgent action climate change and the UN says global refugee numbers have reached a record high. Here for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Jim Sciutto of CNN, Lara Jakes of "Foreign Policy" magazine and David Ignatius of "The Washington Post."
MS. DIANE REHMYou are, as always, part of the program. Do join us with your telephone calls to 800-433-8850. You emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. It's good to see all of you.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSHi, Diane.
MS. LARA JAKESPleasure to be here.
MR. JIM SCIUTTONice to be here.
REHMGood to see you. Jim Sciutto, what's the latest on Eurozone discussions on Greece and the debt crisis?
SCIUTTOWell, a financial lifeline delivered from the EU to Greece just today. European officials declining to give the sum of that financial lifeline, but the concern has been with this uncertainty, there's been run, in effect, on Greek banks to the tune of $2.3 billion just in the last three days, in addition to the crisis over can they pay their latest debt payments. And, of course, you've had some very defiant words from the Greek prime minister and even a bit of a warning shot across the bow during a visit to St. Petersburg.
SCIUTTOHis saying that he will look for or really take any port in a storm, implying that, well, if the EU won't help me, perhaps I'll look to Russia for help.
REHMAnd why would he go to Russia when Russia asked Greece to support Russia against sanctions and Greece voted on the sanctions for the sanctions?
JAKESWell, there are a couple of issues at play here. One is that Cyprus and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, today, agreed to a $2 billion -- I think it's a dollar, if not euro, gas pipeline to go from Russia into Greece. And so this is just more sweetener that Moscow is looking to try to win over Greece. The final vote on the extension of the sanctions isn't going to come until next week. Now Greece has, in principle, agreed to extend the sanctions, but the European Union ministers will meet next week to seal that deal.
JAKESAnd you can see where this geopolitical issues is coming to play where foreign policy really is about money and where Cyprus is really playing both sides of the coin here.
IGNATIUSIt's a double game of chicken in which Greece threatens to defect from the European consensus against Russia and Putin and Europe warns that Greece is running out of options. It's not gonna tolerate additional concessions. One interesting development in the last week has been the financial markets appear to have become increasingly adjusted to the idea that Greece might leave the euro. A year or two ago, that was seen as a catastrophic event. The Greek Central Bank, this last week, said that, indeed, it would be an uncontrollable chaos if it were to happen.
IGNATIUSThe financial markets seem a little bit better prepared. Talking to one big banker this week, he said the concern we have is that we really don't know what would happen. It's like Lehman Brothers in 2008. You let one player in the game, in that case Lehman Brothers, in this case Greece, default, and you don't know about the knock-on effects, the cascade, the contagion. And that's so that there's more confidence, but also the same worry.
REHMAnother thing I don't understand is why Greece would turn to Russia. Isn't Russia broke?
IGNATIUSRussia is hurting from sanctions. It's wrong to say it's broke. It still has reserves. But Russia is an unlikely partner in a serious Greek bailout and I have a feeling that the Greeks, with deep memories of Soviet assaults on Greece after the war would be very skeptical of a move out of Europe, out of the Eurozone toward Russia. Russia's an unlikely partner.
SCIUTTOWell, it is interesting, though. If you think that this standoff, this Western standoff with Russia is confined to the Ukraine, this is a reminder that it's not. Russia looking for opportunities here. Whether or not it's realistic and whether or not this is brinkmanship by the Greek leadership to say, hey, well, if you don't take care of us, we'll go to Russia, but you have that potential competition there. And, again, look, the number of pictures you keep seeing of NATO war planes and NATO war ships around the Baltics, as well -- 'cause remember the Baltics is a concern here.
SCIUTTOThey're very concerned that Russia has its sights set on them. You know, this growing standoff with Russia is not confined to Ukraine. There are other playing fields in this competition.
REHMBut Lara, Greece shows absolutely no signs of backing down.
JAKESNo. And I think we should also look to see what Germany is going to do and how Germany is going to handle itself in this scenario. It puts a lot of pressure of Angela Merkel to try to hold firm. She's in a position right now where she is the leader of the largest industrialized state in the Eurozone. Germany has the most to lose if the euro tanks, even farther than it already has. And she doesn't want to -- so she's kind of key here in making sure that Greece doesn't defect, for lack of a better word, to Russia and peel away or be able to block the extension of sanctions.
REHMSo what are the possible outcomes here, David?
IGNATIUSWell, the Eurozone leaders will meet in a summit next week and they'll consider the terms of some kind of agreement that would, in effect, provide additional financial assistance to Greece or refuse. And that, you know, they're right on the edge of that. And the question, as in most of these negotiations, is who will blink. If Merkel and the other Europeans don't blink, if they say, we really have made so many concessions, that additional concessions call into question the viability of the euro itself, which some are beginning to worry, then you get in this series of steps.
IGNATIUSAt the end of the month, $1.7 billion in Greek debt comes due. They presumably default on that. Their interim arrangements to carry them into July, then there are just a series of steps each of which gets worse. You could expect to see the financial markets then begin to react. We don't know how much. And you go toward a situation which Greece has, you know, runs out of money. It's like any country in default. It can't pay international bills. It doesn't have currency. The banks have runs. The banks have to close.
IGNATIUSSo in July, if this isn't resolved at next week's summit, you're gonna see this series of escalating steps.
REHMAnd do you think that Germany or anybody else is really gonna let this happen or is it likely the whole problem could be papered over?
SCIUTTOWell, to David's point from earlier, what is interesting is the different level of urgency that you have today versus two years ago about the possibility of (word?) as they call it. And there are a couple difference between now and then. One is that the principle people at risk today, they're less private sector and they're more government. So you don't have the banks and other investors worried that if this happens they go off a cliff. It's the governments that have taken up that Greek debt. And the other 'cause of liquidity requirements that have gone up in Europe, the view is that they are less at risk.
SCIUTTOSo it's at least more of an accepted possibility than it was a couple -- which leaves open the possibility that they do let them go. But, you know, listen, there's a lot of time left, even though the deadlines are approaching.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to the confirmed drone strike that killed an al-Qaida leader in Yemen. Who was he, Lara, and how important was he? His name, I think, Nasir al-Wuhayshi.
JAKESAl-Wuhayshi was the second in command of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He basically ascended when Osama bin Laden was killed and al-Qaida's top leader moved up into kind of the leadership of al-Qaida central. You know, this will be a huge blow for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Some analysts believe that if there are not more strikes or more steps taken right now to try to curb AQAP, then it will be the multi-headed Hydra that it has always been, that somebody else will step in easily and this terror group will continue to be one of the largest threats to the United States.
JAKESAnd, you know, we just have to see how that's gonna go. AQAP, right now, is fighting against the Islamic State in Yemen and we will have to see who kind of wins that one. It may be that AQAP is seen as the more benevolent terror group in Yemen, if you can even believe that. The Islamic State in Yemen is seen, as we saw this week with three mosque bombings of Shia mosques, that, you know, they can be devastating and past attempts by AQAP to oppress the population have really backfired on them.
IGNATIUSThis leader was formidable. He's been running AQAP since 2002, I think. He established it as the strongest al-Qaida affiliate and also the most potent in terms of its desire and ability to attack the United States. The two underwear bombers that were sent to the United States, the bomb was hidden, almost undetectably, in a printer cartridge were the work of this al-Qaida faction. Someone who's thought of as the most dangerous man in the world by U.S. counterterrorism analysts, a bomb maker named Ibrahim al-Asiri, was part of this network under al-Wuhayshi.
IGNATIUSSo I think Lara's point is right. The situation in Yemen now is so fragmented, with the collapse of the government, the U.S. efforts to run counterterrorism programs through the Yemeni military have really receded. All the U.S. seems to have left now is drone attacks.
REHMDavid Ignatius of "The Washington Post." Short break here. When we come back, we'll talk about possible plans to send more troops into…
REHMAnd we're back with the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup. This week, with Lara Jakes of "Foreign Policy" magazine, Jim Sciutto of CNN and David Ignatius, columnist for "The Washington Post." There was talk this week, Jim Sciutto, about sending more U.S. troops into Iraq. What kind of role would they play? What would they be doing?
SCIUTTOWell, the president says, trainers and advisors. We're talking about 450 U.S. troops going. What's different is that they would be more forward deployed. They wouldn't be combat troops. But they'd be closer to combat because they'd be in these forward bases with the somewhat unfortunate term, lily-pad approach, as it's been described. So you have these lily-pad positioning of U.S. forces with Iraqis, but inside the wire. So the Americans are with the Iraqi forces. They stay inside the base. The Iraqis go out, they do the fighting. But the Americans are basically telling them how to fight and where to fight and advising them and helping them getting the support they need.
SCIUTTOIn addition to that, you heard the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, say yesterday that the possibility of putting forward ground controllers out there -- so that's putting the U.S. forces actually out into combat...
SCIUTTO...to help call in those airstrikes...
SCIUTTO...which is a step that, frankly, he and others in the Pentagon have raised regularly over the last several months as being still on the table. One they haven't yet recommended to the president but they might at some point. And to have him say that -- clear that they're at least closer to that than they have been before. Regardless of whether that happens, we have seen over the course of the last year the administration gradually stretching the definition of a non-ground force. Because remember, this all started with no U.S. boots on the ground. Well, so the first, they were just in Baghdad and Erbil. Then they got put out to Anbar Province. Now they're going to be on more lily pads around the country. They're not combat troops. They're getting closer to combat. That means closer to danger.
JAKESSo I'd like to build a little bit on what Jim said. First, these 450 troops that are now going to be deployed will be in a base called Taqaddum. It's in Anbar Province, which is where most of the massive fighting has been happening in recent weeks. This is mostly a symbolic gesture to the Sunni tribesmen who are out there. As Jim said, these soldiers are not expected to leave the base. But just having them there is supposed to bolster these tribesmen's feelings to remain loyal to the fight. Where we saw in Ramadi last month, many of the Iraqi security forces fled.
JAKESNow, the Sunni tribesmen would say many of those Iraqi security forces were Shia and they weren't loyal to the ground. They didn't really have a vested interest in staying there. But one of the things that really piqued my interest about last week's announcement on this is that with this 450 new deployment, for lack of a better word, that brings the total number of U.S. forces in Iraq to about 3,500 troops. Now that is the number of a brigade combat team, which is what the Obama Administration fought for so long to keep in Iraq and withdrew all forces at the end of 2011.
JAKESI was in Iraq for three years, from 2009 to 2012. In that time, we saw this political debate on how large the troop number should be, if troops were going to remain in Iraq. It went from 20,000 to 10,000 to 5,000 to 3,500. And the Obama Administration said, nope that's not sustainable. We are not going to do that.
JAKESWell, guess where we are today?
IGNATIUSWell, I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that, even as the U.S. is sending these additional advisors, the number is relatively small. And you have to describe this as a cautious, incremental strategy by a president who remains allergic to Iraq. I mean, it's so striking that the president is being pulled back toward Iraq...
IGNATIUS...sending, you know, additional increments: 1,000 here and then 450 there, with pretty strict limits on where they can operate. What's new this week is the word -- and we'll have to see whether this holds true -- that in the future the president is prepared to loosen the limits on what these advisors can do, let them operate closer to battle. There's no question that these advisors do stiffen the resistance of the fighters they're training to the extent that they're out in battle with them. I mean, American warriors are pretty potent trainers and they -- I think they -- it does make a difference.
IGNATIUSIt also makes a difference in terms of their ability to use U.S. airpower by lasing precise targets. One problem the U.S. has had is that, as ISIS takes root in Iraqi cities, this is -- these are urban targets, very hard to hit them without lots of civilian casualties, which would obviously cause all kinds of problems.
REHMAnd haven't some drone operators said that they're getting weary of doing this?
IGNATIUSWe had a reporter from The Washington Post who was out at Creech Air Base in, I think, it's Nevada, this week, who was reporting precisely that. That they're having trouble getting the numbers of people that they need to run these drones because of exhaustion, because it's just a very wearying job.
JAKESAlso wearying is the idea that for as many troops or as many U.S. resources that Washington is trying to put into Iraq, the Iraqis are still having a hard time stepping up and answering the call. This week we saw Secretary of Defense Ash Carter up on the Hill. He said that of 24,000 Iraqi troops that could be trained, that U.S. forces are ready to train, only 7,000 troops -- Iraqis -- have gone through the training pipeline. There's this huge, sprawling airbase in western Anbar. It's called al Asad. It looks like the desert planet from "Star Wars." I mean, it's just, you know, acres and acres of nothingness. And there are -- there's not training going on there. It was set up for people to train the Iraqi security forces and they haven't had a training in weeks, if not months.
SCIUTTOIf you talk to the commanders who were involved in the Sunni Awakening during the surge, 2007, 2008, they will say, you train by leading by example. The training you do behind the wire is helpful but it's not real combat training.
SCIUTTOThey have to be with those Iraqi forces. That's how you earn loyalty. That's how they are inspired in a way to follow that example of being good leaders in combat. So, you know, this idea that you can complete that training just behind the wires is one that the commanders, themselves, who are involved in the successful training of Sunni tribes during the Awakening seven, eight years ago, say is impossible.
IGNATIUSYes. I think Jim sets the issue. The president has committed to a strategy of degrading and ultimately destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and eventually in Syria. There's an increasing suspicion that, in fact, the president -- looking at what he thinks are a series of bad choices -- is basically trying to play out the policy to the end of his term and that the next president is going to have to really decide what the lasting U.S. policy is. We'll see. One key test, I'm told, will be, if the Iraqi security forces feel it's time to mount an assault to retake Ramadi, the provincial capital in Anbar that was overrun a month ago.
IGNATIUSAnd if that battle begins and the Iraqis get in trouble and it seems to be faltering, as happened with the attack on Tikrit, the U.S., I'm told is -- the president is prepared to put in more and loosen the rules, take a more active role. It's -- if you were going to describe a slippery-slope strategy...
IGNATIUS...this would be it.
SCIUTTOWell, it's interesting, because only a month ago, before Ramadi fell, we were talking about retaking Mosul. And that kept getting punted.
SCIUTTONow, you can't even think about that because you've got to take Ramadi...
IGNATIUS...which is only 60 miles from the capital. And of course a city that was, you know, described by General Dempsey a couple months ago as not structurally -- strategically important, rather. But, now, clearly it is.
REHMSo for all you close watchers, what could -- what might the outcome be here. We can't keep putting troops in there. The American public, despite the fact that you have many Republicans, some Democrats, calling for more and more troops -- surely, the American people, at some point, are going to protest. Lara.
JAKESWell, this puts the Obama Administration in a really bad position, right? I mean, it's a really no-win thing. A lot of experts have said, look, you either win Iraq or you get out. You need to be decisive about something. And this half-baked strategy of trying to do a little bit of both is not really working. So, make a decision, stick to it, commit, and let's figure out what we're going to do. You're absolutely right that American families -- especially families of the service member and a huge part of President Obama's base, Hillary Clinton's base -- do not want the United States to commit more to yet another war in the Mid-East.
JAKESThere's also a lot of people who say, look, we can't keep doing this, you know, if we're not going to win. This makes us look weak across the rest of the world, if we are not getting anything done and we're just getting our pants handed to us.
IGNATIUSThe -- President Obama has said consistently that this has to be the Iraqis' fight. We can't want it more than they want it. And that's a good principle to start with. The problem is, this is a fragmented country. Our strategy is premised on the idea that they'll fight together. A Shiite-led army and government will fight to save Sunni cities in Anbar and Mosul. And so far, the evidence is that that isn't so. So it presents the U.S. with a real dilemma because the adversary here, ISIS, is really toxic, as they have raged across, not just Iraq and Syria, but now increasingly Libya, Yemen...
IGNATIUS...and even into Afghanistan, Sinai. They are a potent adversary. So I do think we're in a situation where, if you're depending on an Iraqi government that is so fragmented, that just seems unable to pull itself together, the U.S. will be faced with a much starker choice. And I'd be surprised if the answer was, let's just pull out and, you know, sayonara. Take care of your own problems.
REHMBut isn't it a fact that Iraq was a -- an artificial country to begin with, pulled together, pushed together by the U.S. and Britain? And the question remains whether it may come apart again.
IGNATIUSThe whole of what was once the Ottoman Empire was formed into countries. The borders were drawn first by the British Sykes and the Frenchman, George-Picot in 1960 and then ratified in the Treaty of Versailles. And people have been arguing ever since that those boundaries are artificial. The problem is that if they dissolve, if they disintegrate, that the potential for a kind of ethnic blood-letting across the Middle East -- we've been seeing a taste of that, but it could get much worse.
IGNATIUSYou know, you have to be careful about just saying, well, let those borders dissolve. They're lines in the sand. Let them blow away. Because it would be a very violent process.
SCIUTTOThose divisions would not disappear by drawing new lines in the sand, and the fact -- and sparking new ethnic cleansing, right? Because the areas -- the fact is, those areas, while predominantly Sunni in the North and the West and predominantly Shia in the South and Kurdish up in the Northeast, there is mixing. There's mixing in families. And then let's say that you do then get people behind the walls. You know, they have resources to fight over: oil, et cetera.
REHMBut, as David talks about, the growing strength of ISIS -- I mean, what's it going to take to fulfill the president's statement, wish, hope that the U.S. defeats them. It doesn't sound as though the will is really there.
IGNATIUSWhat some of U.S. commanders say is, give this time. Wars often go badly in the beginning, in the middle. Certainly World War II was that way. If you look at the map of this broad battle space, you saw, this last week, a significant success for the U.S. coalition in northern Syria and the northeastern border of Syria, where ISIS basically was wiped out in an area it had hoped to control and it's supply lines into Syria and Iraq were damaged. And people say, you know, these will -- look at these things, not the big kind of cataclysmic view. I -- well, just -- I wouldn't, at this point, want to vote for success of this campaign. Because the successes are small and incremental.
REHMAnd the U.S. has been at war in that region for more than 10 years. How much longer, David? And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The pope came out with a much anticipated encyclical on climate change. It was released yesterday. David, what would you say has been worldwide reaction?
IGNATIUSIt's early to judge. Certainly, Pope Francis continues to be an inspirational and bold and, to people who agree with him, visionary leader, to step up to the climate change issue this powerfully, to talk about our human stewardship of the planet as opposed to domination of it is new language for a pope.
REHMOur moral responsibility.
IGNATIUSYes. It was a very powerful message and I think it's going to resonate around the world. And I think it's going to have long-term effects. We're all focused on the short-term effects on U.S. politics. I'll let other members of the panel speak to that. But just in terms of what the pope said, the detail, the seriousness of his own climate science, if you will, was pretty striking.
JAKESI just thought it was striking that he made a huge pitch against consumerism. I mean, a lot of what he said in the encyclical was it sounded a lot like common sense. Turn off a light when you leave a room. And, you know, use the Metro or public transportation instead of driving. Plant a tree every once in a while. These sound like kind of common sense...
REHMDon't waste water.
JAKESExactly. You know, huggy things to do. But it was really a poke at the industrialized world as well. Because he is saying that so much of the consumerism has generated so much of the pollution that has, in turn, really hurt the climate and the environment. And so we saw some reaction from people who said, you know, the pope really shouldn't be talking about these types of things. He should be talking about things that are the values that we have been talking about for decades, with, you know things like abortion, things like contraception, things like...
REHMAre those not political?
JAKESWell, right. I mean, exactly. And so he -- what's happening in the Holy See right now is also very interesting. Because Francis has made it clear, he doesn't want to focus on some of these hot-button issues that, frankly, alienate a lot of people that the Catholic Church is trying to bring into the fold. So he said, okay, yes, I believe -- to these certain guidelines that we've adhered to for a millennia. Having said that, you know, let's focus on things that appeal to or, you know, involve a great many -- amount of people.
SCIUTTOIt -- fascinating and topical and real world, so in character for this new pope. And it's been a consistent line since he arrived. I mean, the moment he arrived, he said, the church should be less about doctrine and more about service. Get back to its role of helping the poor.
REHMThe name he chose for himself.
SCIUTTOFrancis, the saint that, you know, the perfect example for him to follow. And then his messages that shows some openness, for instance, to gays. Certainly not a doctrinal change for the church, but an openness that wasn't there before. Also an ability to take on the abuse issue, right, in more real-world terms. He's a guy who wants to bring the church into the real world where it can make a difference in the real world. And I think the thing about turning the lights off, et cetera, is something that, you know, politicians don't like to say because he makes it a joint cause and a joint responsibility that we all have to make a difference here. And, of course, when it gets into politics, because it always does -- we heard the term Marxist thrown around here.
SCIUTTOAnd as Lara was saying, some of the candidates saying, well, he should be talking about these issues, which happen to be the issues they agree with him on, as opposed to this one which they do not.
REHMJames Sciutto of CNN. Short break. When we come back, your calls, your comments. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. 800-433-8850. First to Scott in Silver Spring, Maryland. You're on the air.
SCOTTHello. Thank you for taking my call.
SCOTTI've actually tried to call a number of times on the subject of the Euro and the Greek economy and things have come up. Unfortunately, I've not been able to get through. I have an old friend who worked for the World Bank for 38 years. And when the Euro was being proposed, he said, if any of the southern European countries, and to some extent, the UK, would vote for the Euro, they'd be dumb as a rock. When Germany had its own currency, when the German economy would get really rolling and the Mark would go up, the exports would go down.
SCOTTThe imports would go up, and their economy would be quelled. Now, by dragging down the value of the Euro, because of having all the southern European countries involved in it, the Germans are making out like gangbusters. Every time their economy keeps growing and growing and growing, there's nothing to impede the growth compared to the rest of the European economies.
IGNATIUSScott makes a great point, which is that from the beginning, the Euro has lacked the flexibility needed to help different regions of Europe, of the Euro Zone, adjust when they have problems. Greece's problems are very hard to solve when deeply indebted Greece, can't, in effect, lower the price of what it produces so that it's more competitive in markets. That's how economics tells us that countries, companies get out of trouble. They get out through flexible adjustment. There isn't that process and as people look at this, they say, if you're not gonna have flexibility, then you're going to need to impose a common fiscal policy on the entirety of the Euro Zone.
IGNATIUSSo that everybody is forced to keep their books together, the way the United States of America is. Individual states have to live in this, our federated nation.
REHMAll right. To Dexter, Michigan. Peter, you're on the air.
PETERHi Diane. Thanks so much for taking my call.
PETERYeah, I just had a comment on the Pope's new encyclical and just some of the things I've been hearing, you know, across, not just on this show, but, you know, across the nation about his encyclical. You know, people kind of looking at the environment or maybe more of a social issues and kind of trying to look at how Pope Francis is, you know, his views on both of those. And I just wanted to say, I really think it's a consistent view. If you look at paragraph 120 of the encyclical, he talks about how everything is interrelated.
PETERConcern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. And he goes on to talk about how can we, you know, genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, no matter if they're troublesome or inconvenient, if we're failing to protect a human embryo. So, I think it just goes to show that the whole teaching of Catholic, of Catholicism, as presented by Pope Francis, is that it's all interrelated. And it's not to force a distinction between, you know, one side of the teaching or the other.
REHMVery interesting. Thanks for your call. You know, I find myself wondering what's going to evolve from this as the Pope comes to Washington. How is that going to play out in light of this encyclical, Lara?
JAKESI suspect here in Washington, and then also in New York, where he will be heading on that same trip, that he'll be received very warmly. I mean, it's a very progressive, for lack of a better word, kind of stance that he's taken, in terms of couching how the Catholic Church should be moving ahead. And to your caller's point, the caller was obviously very educated on this issue, maybe should be a guest on your show next week. You know, he is not backing away from some of this core Catholic dogma.
JAKESHe is not at all saying, we, not at all, saying we support abortion. We support certain other, you know, issues, gay marriage, all of this. Right. But he's saying, let's just not focus on that. And I -- what's kind of struck me about the encyclical is that he made this one point about mother Earth, which goes also back to the caller's point about how this is all interrelated. I thought it was a very interesting phrase for him to use, for the Pope to use mother Earth.
IGNATIUSYou know, it's interesting. Why is it such an outlandish claim to say, and you could dispute the science of climate change, but he made it a broader point about pollution and garbage and so on. Why is it such an outlandish point to say that we all have responsibility? You know, that how easily that becomes a political hot button issue, but talking about his visit to Washington in September, I believe it's five of the Republican candidates are Catholic, so the challenge to them, how do they rectify their faith with the Pope's positions on these issues, which are very hot button issues with the Republican Party?
REHMAnd then you're going to have the Paris climate talks at the end of the year, David.
IGNATIUSWell, I think the Pope very much understood that this is a year of decision. He timed his encyclical, it said, in part, knowing that the Paris meetings were coming. One point that we haven't noted much is that what he's done in the encyclical is to unite faith and science. And embrace science and what science tells us about our planet.
REHMHe is, himself, a scientist, a trained scientist.
IGNATIUSYes, he was trained, it said, he studies chemistry seriously and so he has a background to be able to do this, and people who looked through the encyclical carefully note just how much science there is in it, in terms of the language.
REHMBut in accessible language.
REHMThat was the other part of it.
IGNATIUSThe interesting part, when he comes to America, is, you know, you already have Rush Limbaugh saying, what the Pope is saying is that people should vote Democratic. And that's not the last you're going to hear of that line.
REHMWhat about within the Vatican? There have been some stories that his conservative critics within the Vatican, within the Roman Curia, are very, very opposed to what the Pope is doing.
IGNATIUSThis impression we have that the Pope has absolute power, we should dispense with that. Because it's still a very entrenched institution. I remember I went to Easter mass in the Vatican. This is just before the transition from Benedict to Francis. And you see the cardinals walking down the aisle. And boy, is that the most homogenous group I've ever seen of octogenarian white men. You know, this is not a, in practice, a liberal minded organization. In effect, the choice of him was fairly remarkable.
IGNATIUSBut there is great resistance, and as Lara made the point, you know, there is no doctrinal change on the big hot button issues, right? Married priests, for instance, women in the church. Abortion, homosexuality, et cetera. So, you know, there's a lot of change that even this great innovator -- is not, he's not going there.
JAKES"Foreign Policy" magazine has done some reporting on the Pope's diplomats at the UN. And the conclusion has been that the diplomats have really adhered to the dogma that the Vatican has been espousing for years, prior to Francis coming in. But they're still very focused on gay marriage. They're still very focused on, you know, not letting women be priests and abortion and these types of issues. So, it's raised questions about, you know, does this Pope really have influence? Or does he really not believe what he's saying to the rest of the world?
JAKESOr is it really a third option here, that change is hard. And sometimes it takes a lot of time for these types of attitude shifts to take root.
REHMAll right, let's talk a bit about the UN report on refugees. What does it tell us, David?
IGNATIUSIt tells us that the refugee problem around the world is accelerating, is reaching record high. The number that is in this UN report is that there are now 60 million displaced people around the world. That last year, were 14 million additional people joining that group. A big driver is Syria, where half the population, roughly, has been forced to leave its homes. But it's spreading all over the world, and it's striking how ill prepared countries are to receive this flow of refugees for even...
REHMWhere are they going?
IGNATIUS...well, as we can see, they're desperately smuggling themselves across borders. The flow of refugees into Greece, seeking to get into the rest of Europe is huge. The people who come from Libya, to Malta, hoping to get to Italy, is huge. All over the globe, people are fleeing desperate situations. If there was ever a situation that made you think, you need some kind of UN, international policy to respond. I'm glad we have this UN report, but that you'd say, let's have some policy that gives us a response.
JAKESSo, two kind of factoids jumped out to me in this report. One was that with 60 million refugees, if you put all of those people into one country, that would be the 24th largest country in the world, which is just -- it blew my mind away to think about it in those terms. Also, that one of every four of the refugees is Syrian, as David noted. And that they're also going to the neighboring countries. Turkey is taking the largest number of the refugees in right now. And that puts so much more pressure on Ankara...
JAKESAs Erdogan is trying to deal with Daesh, with Iraq.
JAKESYou know, it's just, again, it shows how this is not -- these geopolitical issues are not just limited to a black and white, this is how you fix it, this is how it doesn't. I mean, it has knock on effects for the rest of the world.
REHMAnd how many are the United States taking?
SCIUTTONot many. I mean, compared, partly, we're further away, right? The figure that struck me is that 60 million figure, that's one in 100 people in the world. Right, is a migrant. You know, due to conflict. You have to think of the stress, certainly on Europe, but also the stress of the states that are much closer to it. A country like Jordan, that has taken so many Syrian refugees. Jordan is a -- not a rich country, right? I mean, it's dependent on US aid. But then, you look within Europe, which actually has a formula for doing this.
SCIUTTOThey have a formula to say each country should take X number based on wealth and population, et cetera. But within that system, you have countries, for instance, Estonia, that are resisting taking their portion. And they caught up on the border in Italy by the thousands. So, even places that have an entrenched system, a formula, it's not working there. So, then you have these other countries who aren't even approaching that, and they're really bending, I think, under the strain of this.
REHMAll right, to Nora, in Houston, Texas. You're on the air.
NORAHi. Thank you so much, Diane, for taking my call. I wanted to talk about the Syria -- I guess the refugee crisis (unintelligible) from Syria as well as our policy in Iraq right now. I feel like our foreign policy for more than a decade has been a failure, has essentially brought us nothing but more deaths. And just the idea that we're going to continue to fuel this war, even if we're not going to put, quote end quote, "boots on the ground," but just advisors, I think is just ridiculous.
NORAI think that America just needs to find a different approach instead of just continuing this machine of war. What about helping the people to like build an economy there? Helping the people who are, I guess, the civilians who are struggling. Because if you're just funding the people with the guns, war is all there's going to be. You need to lift these people out of poverty so that they can help themselves instead of creating this cycle of poverty and destruction.
REHMThanks so much for your call. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
REHMWhat do you think, Jim?
SCIUTTOWell, I think Nora makes a great point. Syria, let's speak in military terms, just for a moment, everyone agrees you can't solve the ISIS problem in Iraq without Syria. There really has been no Syria policy for years. Just take as an example, the training of the moderate Syrian rebels. We're several months since that's been announced. To date, 90, I believe is the figure, have been trained. I mean, you know, and the ultimate figure of 5,000, even that's not going to change the calculus on the ground.
SCIUTTOAnd it feeds this sense, that David mentioned earlier, that behind the scenes, the real intention here is to punt on this until the end of the administration, because you're not going to, and maybe the President has that right during that timeframe. You can't, certainly during that timeframe, you can't solve the problem. But by punting during that timeframe, how much worse than it gets? And of course, now, one of the big concerns is that Assad himself is in danger of falling.
REHMBut what good does punting do? I mean, Obama goes out of office, but we're still left with the same situation. So, what have we accomplished?
IGNATIUSNot much, except keeping the situation from getting even worse. I think President Obama's core interest here is preventing ISIS from destabilizing, toppling the regime in Jordan. That would put the regime in Saudi Arabia at risk. There is a view that if you don't do something to contain the problem it will spread, and there's every evidence that that's true. I was struck listening to Nora. Very powerful statement that she made that so many of the things that she said about these policies aren't working.
IGNATIUSWe just get nothing but more bloodshed. You would have heard that from President Obama, that was his deep conviction when he became President, was we need to turn a page, these policies haven't worked. And one of the most painful things to watch, for all of us, as journalists, has been, he just gets drawn deeper and deeper into a conflict that fundamentally, he doesn't believe in.
JAKESSomeone once told me that if the United States had put as much money into rebuilding Iraq's power grid as it did into funding the military campaign in Iraq, that the war would not have gone on as long as it did when troops were there full time. And certainly, may not have extended into where we are today. But I would just also remind people that, you know, you look at what's happening in Iraq today and these the ISIS Daesh is really spreading fear among people.
JAKESLook at what happened in Ramadi. I think that the Iraqi security troops outnumbered ISIS by 10 to one and they still fled.
JAKESAnd ISIS came in and took over Ramadi. There were some pictures released this week of Daesh crucifying people in the northern city of Mosul, the place we were talking about earlier. So, military force can't do it alone. It does have to be buy in with these communities. But the communities themselves are completely terrorized and they want fast military support to come help them.
SCIUTTOYou know what it comes down to, I think too, is that what is the actual goal here? Has it been articulated? Lara and I, David spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, going back to the invasion. The goal in Iraq was constantly changed over time. It was WMD, it was democracy, it was containment. It was, you know, making it stable enough for US forces to leave. In Afghanistan, it's changed a number of times. And as has the goal changed in Iraq and Syria again today. You get the sense that no one, if they haven't articulated it, they don’t really know it, what that goal is.
SCIUTTOAnd perhaps, deep down, it is contained. Because the President has come to some sort of decision that can't be changed with American military power. But that goal has to be decided upon and articulated and the American people have to have a chance to pipe in.
REHMAnd on that gloomy note, we're going to end our discussion of the Friday News Roundup. Jim Sciutto of CNN, Lara Jakes of "Foreign Policy" Magazine and David Ignatius. His latest novel is "The Director." And thanks for listening, all. Have a great weekend. I'm Diane Rehm.
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