Susan Glasser and Peter Baker are veteran political journalists who closely covered the presidency of Donald Trump, he as the New York Times chief White House correspondent, she as a…
A truck drives into a crowd at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France killing more than 80. The French president is calling it a terror attack. Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May appoints her cabinet. Boris Johnson, the leading pro-Brexit supporter, gets the job of foreign secretary. An international tribunal at The Hague rejects China’s claims to rights in the South China Sea. In Venezuela, where food shortages are growing worse, the military is put in charge of the distribution of food and medicine. And after days of bloodshed there’s a fragile truce in South Sudan. Diane and her guests discuss the international week in news.
- Moises Naim Distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and chief international columnist, El Pais; author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be"
- Nancy Youssef Senior defense and national security correspondent, The Daily Beast
- Peter Bergen CNN's national security analyst; a vice president and director of the international security program at New America; author of a new book, "United States of Jihad: The Untold Story of Americans Fighting for Radical Islam"
Why 'Beating ISIS' Is Much More Complicated Than It Sounds
In this presidential campaign, candidates have often spoken out about their plans to defeat ISIS. Hillary Clinton wants to go after the terrorist group online; Donald Trump went so far as to say he'd declare war if he was elected. But CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen says it's not that simple.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. In what's been called a terrorist attack, a man plows a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, killing at least 84 people. An international tribunal in the Hague rejects China's claim to the South China Sea. And Venezuela puts the military in charge of distributing food and medicine as shortages worsen.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast and Peter Bergen of CNN and New America. I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Well, I must say, to end this week on this tragic note is really difficult. Peter Bergen, why don't you start us off.
MR. PETER BERGENWell, as you know, an attack happened in Nice last night by -- and the suspect has been identified as Mohammed Bouhlal, a 31-year-old married, divorced father of three kids. No previous history of -- at least he hadn't come to the attention of authorities for any kind of Islamist militant connections. He was a petty criminal. What's interesting, Diane, is I believe that this is the most lethal terrorist attack carried out by a lone terrorist in the West ever.
MR. PETER BERGENAnd it demonstrates that we have to -- we conceptualize a little bit about what the limits of the lethality of a lone terrorist can be because there's no indication that he had any co-conspirators or was part of a larger group.
REHMAnd no one's taken responsibility.
BERGENRight. And that previously, you will recall, Anders Breivik in Norway killed 77 people in 2011. That was the previous sort of height that one person had, you know, the amount of damage one person could inflict. So we're in a time where we have to -- I know, obviously, we had Orlando, the most lethal terrorist attack in 9/11 in the United States, killed 49. So we're looking at a situation where lone wolves can actually carry out attacks that actually have a large death toll, unfortunately.
REHMSomeone raised a question in our first hour about barricades and whether there were barricades for individuals and the public, but not for automobiles. How could that white truck get through there.
BERGENYou can't defend against everything. I mean, you know, go back to, say, to the Istanbul attack, which, of course, only happened in the last month also. You know, there was some discussion, well, maybe you could extend the perimeter around the airport before you get to the arrivals area. Well, that just extends the problem to somewhere else because people gather around the perimeter to get inside the secure area to get to the arrivals area.
BERGENSo, you know, I mean, unless we're planning to basically turn every nightclub, hotel, theater, public gathering into some kind of fortress-like event, we're going to see these things again.
REHMAnd we have at least two Americans killed, eight children killed, Nancy Youssef?
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFYes. The prosecutor just now -- it's actually ten children killed, a man, Sean Copeland, who was on holiday from Texas with his son, Brodie, was the American killed. I wanted to go back to something you raised about the use of the (word?) and the lack of responsibility. On the lack of responsibility, there hasn't been anyone claimed, but there was an immediate talk about ISIS. We saw a lot of talk on their telegram accounts. We saw local officials and national officials.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFWe saw President Hollande talk about ramping up the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And I think that's interesting because it raises a question. Do the authorities know something that we don't know about a possible ISIS connection or is there a conflation happening about ISIS with potential local in-country radicalization.
REHMAnd in addition to the 84 killed, we have 202 injured, including 52 in critical condition. That's from the French prosecutor in Nice. Moises.
MR. MOISES NAIMWhat's very interesting is the profile of the perpetrator, Mr. Bouhlal. He's a petty criminal. He was known to the police for his -- he was prone to violence, but it was known to the intelligence services. He did not show up in their radar of the counterterrorist organizations. And the other interesting point is that he was not religious. People who know him will say that, you know, he was not versed in...
REHMBut does this go to the point that ISIS is encouraging people, take action in your own home town?
NAIMThis is closely related to the fact that ISIS is losing, you know, being dealt a significant blows...
NAIM...in the territory. You know, the physical caliphate, you know, the large stretch of land that they controlled in Syria and Iraq is now much shrunk. Many of its leaders have been killed and they are losing terrain. But they are winning in what is being called a cyber jihad. They're winning in creating and inspiring these lone wolves that then take matters in their own hands and don't need a lot of supervision, coordination or supply of weapons or training.
BERGENThis profile of the criminal is interesting also because if you look at the Charlie Hebdo attacks where 12 people were killed and then 4 people in the supermarket that followed, if you look at the November 13th attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed, the Brussels attacks, every single one of those perpetrators, pretty much, had gone to jail in France. Now, astonishingly, 70 percent of the prison population is Muslim in a country where the Muslim population is only 10 percent.
NAIMAnd that really speaks to the problem that we're -- that France is having because France -- this is -- France is facing a campaign of terrorism. These are not one-off events. I mean, we had Orlando. If you had multiple Orlandos over the space of 18 months in the United States, people would be really freaking out and that is what we're seeing in France.
YOUSSEFBut that's why I think it's so important to talk about Hollande's decision within hours to say we're going to ramp up the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because if this is a lone wolf problem borne out of self radicalization within France, we are conflating the two and I would argue giving ISIS more power by saying that they are inspiring things that maybe they're not. We don't yet and I think it's interesting that we don't know.
YOUSSEFIt's very confusing because on one hand, you had all these accounts, bragging about it, taking credit, that are affiliated with ISIS, which is a hallmark of ISIS, and yet, ISIS uses explosives. ISIS usually has more than one attacker. And so that's why we have this confusion about ISIS' role in it.
YOUSSEFBut I think deconstructing what is inspired by ISIS, what is directed by ISIS and what is a product of local radicalization within a country is so important because the more we give ISIS credit for things that maybe they -- the beauty of saying that ISIS calling for inspired attacks is it allows them to take credit for something that maybe they had very little role in. And I think making that distinction becomes all the more important as we're seeing, more and more, attacks like this.
BERGENWe could defeat ISIS tomorrow and the essential underlying problems are not going to disappear and they are four, the regional civil war between the Sunni and Shia that is in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, the collapse of Arab governors across the Middle East, the wave of massive immigration as a result of problems one and two into Europe and the rise of European fascism. This is a very toxic mix. And when I saw fascism, I mean, ultra nationalism, choose your label.
BERGENAnd those underlying conditions are not susceptible to any easy fixes, not in my professional lifetime, I don't think.
NAIMWhat's very interesting is that despite all of this, which is completely -- it's right, you know, Donald Trump, for example, has stated -- yesterday stated that he would declare war on ISIS. So the difficulty there is, you know, what's the address? You know, where is...
REHMHillary Clinton used the word war as well.
NAIMAnd so that means we have entered into the era of the lone wolves that we know or don't know if they're associated with ISIS. We have entered an era in which the words that we use to rely on, like war and combatant and all that, are no longer clear and the confusion that ensues is part of what also creates the difficulty of how you defend against these threats.
YOUSSEFYou know, it's interesting that people are using this idea of declaring war on ISIS. Up until recently, there was great celebration that ISIS was weaker. It had lost territory. There has been a war of sorts against the Islamic State. It's two years of strikes, significant shrinkage of their land grab in Iraq and Syria, fewer fighters going in, limited funds as the oil revenues have been cut and they've destroyed literally millions of dollars.
YOUSSEFSo we have seen military successes on the ground so when people say, once you go to war with ISIS, that war has, in a sense, been happening and has not been, as Peter pointed out, a foolproof means to mitigate the ISIS threat.
BERGENBy the way, the Obama administration is conducting wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries right now. I mean, is the idea we should go to war with 14 of them or what -- this whole idea -- Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have read the Constitution, which is, you know, Congress is in charge of this declaration of war. The Obama administration has repeatedly asked Congress to come up with some kind of formulation about war against Syria and Iraq and they've just abdicated their responsibilities.
BERGENSo it doesn't matter what anybody says about this issue, if Congress is simply unwilling to take a vote on this.
REHMSo what is France likely to do in the face of this latest attack?
BERGENYou know, they have said multiple times last night, for instance -- I mean, they are doing everything they can. I mean, short of turning France into a total police state, which is not going to happen, they're taking a lot of measures.
REHMPeter Bergen, he's CNN's national security analyst. He's also the author of "United States of Jihad: The Untold Story of Americans Fighting For Radical Islam." Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast, Peter Bergen of CNN, Moises Naim of El Pais. He's the author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What it Used to Be." Now Theresa May may find out exactly about what you're writing.
NAIMYes. And in fact, her ascent to power is a manifestation of the weakening and the constraints on the British Prime Minister Cameron essentially launched the referendum, in a way to try to secure his stay in power. And that backfired and ended up with him leaving. Theresa May is 59 years old, is the former home secretary, which in the U.K. means that she was in charge of crime policy, counterterrorism, immigration, passports, all the hot issues. She was not -- she was anti-Brexit. She was not in favor of the U.K. exiting Europe. But she wasn't a vocal advocate. And she has said that Brexit means Brexit. That means that there will not be another referendum to, you know, there's not a do-over here.
NAIMAnd that she is going to move forward to implement the implications of the vote. The detail there is that implications are not clear.
REHMAll right. And what I'd like to know is how she arrived at the decision to select Boris Johnson.
BERGENWell, I think it's evidence that she has a sense of humor. Because, after all, Boris Johnson has insulted pretty much every significant leader around the globe. He called -- he described Hillary Clinton as a kind of a steely-eyed nurse from a mental hospital at one point. He, I mean, and he's insulted, you know, the Turkish leader. You know, you can't think of anybody he hasn't insulted.
REHMBut why would she choose him?
BERGENWell, I mean, it's very puzzling. And also, you know, of course, Brexit is really, you know, Boris Johnson's, you know, it's on his -- in his obituary on it, it'll be, this was the principal, you know, driver of this. And now he's going to be in the difficult position of having to negotiate the actual terms of Brexit with the French...
REHMBut he's not a very good negotiator, considering that...
BERGENWell, I, you know, it is very puzzling. But I will say, she seems Maggie Thatcher-like in her -- I mean, there's really been a night of the long knives. Anybody who could possibly, you know, be a threat to her, she's basically fired or got to resign. So -- and I think, you know, she seems already to be quite an effective leader.
YOUSSEFI'm going to offer a couple of theories, if I could, and see if it's plausible. You know, not just Boris Johnson but a number of Brexit supporters she put in her cabinet in key posts. And that arguably buffers her from sort of the politics of negotiating the Brexit, one could argue, and allows her to focus on domestic reforms. That's an argument. And the counter-argument would be that having sort of a split within your own party and your own cabinet, prolongs the uncertainty of what comes post-Brexit and how Brexit happens. So there are a number of interesting theories. I mean, if you want to get smug about it, he travels a lot of he's the foreign secretary, so he's out...
REHMHe's be out of her hair.
YOUSSEF...he'll be out of the country. So that might be easier. And so those are the theories you hear about sort of possible reasons. But I think it's interesting, several days later, nobody's quite sure and the uncertainty he brings, just by bringing him on, I think prolongs potential economic instability for the U.K., because there's not a clear path ahead.
NAIMSo Theresa May has distributed hot potatoes to her cabinet members and given very difficult tasks to those that were promoting those ideas. So while everybody is centering and paying attention to Boris Johnson and, you know, all the insults. He, for example, said about President Obama, that he's a symbol of the part-Kenyan president ancestral dislike of the British Empire, as a result of President Obama's decision to move a bust of Churchill and so on. He has been insulting, as Peter said, everyone.
NAIMBut the person that I think needs more attention is David Davis, who is actually the secretary for exiting Europe. And he is a long-term back-bencher, member of parliament, leader of the Tories. And he will be actually -- he will lead the negotiations...
NAIM...to get, you know, define new arrangements between the U.K. and Europe.
REHMI wonder about the British people's reaction to her selection of Boris Johnson and whether they would, having heard these insults, having heard or seen the way he's behaved, whether they might have some question in their minds?
BERGENI don't think there's an American analog to Boris Johnson, really. I mean, people like Boris. I mean, he was, you know, a pretty successful mayor of London. He got elected twice. You know, he -- people are fond of him. I mean, he doesn't -- it doesn't matter what he does.
BERGENHe keeps falling upwards. I mean, look, by the way, this is a big promotion, to be foreign secretary, from being mayor London.
REHMOf course. Of course.
NAIMProvided he's successful. He can just also be a catastrophe.
REHMAll right. Let's turn our attention to the ruling in The Hague on claims to the South China Sea and why, Moises, this is such a significant ruling.
NAIMSo start with the fact that the South China Sea is the, you know, is has shipping lanes that -- where a third of world trade goes through. It also has, it's, you know, the U.S. thinks -- or studies show that it has about 11 billion barrels of oil and about 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. So it is a very rich sea. And China has been very aggressive in trying to take control of that, to the point in which it has defined the definition of island. So they took some rocks and started expanding the rocks and made them into an island, to the point in which one of those islands now has a 10,000-feet runway. And it has, so, you know, all kinds of military facilities. And there is talk that they're going to move people there to populate those former rocks and now islands.
NAIMAnd the point is that those islands then generate sovereignties, according to them. And then, last week, the permanent court of arbitration, a tribunal constituted under the U.N. Convention of the Sea, they -- in the Hague -- reject this, China's claim to the South China Sea. And this is an important test. This is a test about -- this is the first time that the Chinese government has been summoned to the international justice system. And it's also the first time that we are going to test if they are going to play by the rules or they are just ignore -- going to ignore. And the government of China has already said that this is not enforceable and they are not going to pay attention to the ruling.
YOUSSEFWell, that is the problem, isn't it? I mean, it's not often you say The Hague sweeps Asia and offers such a solid win for the Philippians, which had brought this suit to them in 2013. But there is one Achilles heel in all this, which is The Hague cannot enforce this. And so what we're going to start to see, presumably, is that the Chinese will sort of test it. And they started to do that this week. They sent in two patrol boats. The -- Taiwan responded, sent in its own patrol boat, because they're one of the six nations that believes that they have rights to the South China Sea.
YOUSSEFSo the question becomes, for the Americans and maybe for -- I'm coming at this as a military correspondent -- is how does the U.S. respond? Can -- there is the risk of now escalation. You now have the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, traveling to China this week. If China violates it, how aggressively will the United States try to enforce this ruling? Because, in the past, the United States has done patrols, Naval patrols, and flights to maintain freedom of movement. But what happens when the Chinese, as they have threatened to do, challenge that? How much will the United States work to protect it and at what risk?
REHMAnd that's the question. What is the risk for the U.S. to challenge this, Peter?
BERGENWell, I mean, the risks are, you know, eventually a peer-to-peer war. I think the likelihood of that is very unlikely, after all, since China is essentially the United States' banker. You don't usually kill your banker. But, you know, I think it's important for listeners to understand what this dispute looks like when you look at it from a sort of 30,000 feet. The Chinese are claiming that 1,000 miles from their coastline, everything out is theirs. So it'd be like the United States saying, hey, pretty much every island in the Caribbean is actually American. I mean this is a very, very unusual claim.
BERGENThe fact that they lost it is not surprising, because of course it's not theirs. Bu they've, you know, if you go to a Chinese school, from day one you're indoctrinated about the red-dot line out...
BERGEN...and that this is yours.
YOUSSEFBut the problem is the Chinese signed the Convention on the Law of the Sea. And the court found that by doing that, you have sort of forgone...
YOUSSEF...to the historical claims that you say that entitles you to that territory so far away from your borders. And so that was the legal means in which they were able to rule against them.
REHMSo how many years has this dispute been going on? And how many more years is it likely to go on, Nancy?
YOUSSEFIt's been going on for 40, 40-plus. Even, because, you know, the Chinese will claim they had historical -- that historically they were there. And they've tried to prove that. And there have been counterclaims. How long it goes on, it's for the foreseeable future. Because this is at a time that China is asserting its place in the world. Now, it hasn't done so as aggressively in other means as it is in the South China Sea. But this, again, the ruling is not enforceable. And so how many nations -- are the Vietnamese and the other states going to come together?
REHMThe other Asian nations.
YOUSSEFThat's right, that claim territory -- are they going to step up? What happens, as Moises said, that when the Chinese start to establish themselves, put populations there, how do you stop that? So it's hard to see how this is resolved in any time soon. But the fact that ruling was so against the Chinese and -- was fascinating. And the rhetoric we heard from them this week certainly suggested that they weren't going to back down.
REHMBy the way, just back on to the attack in France, the French prosecutor has said, the ex-wife of the suspect is being detained for questioning. It was reported that she had been beaten by him.
BERGENAnd think of Orlando -- Mateen in Orlando, you know, just about a month ago, he -- his first wife accused him of domestic abuse. And just, you know, murderers often start by torturing or killing small animals. And it turns out the domestic abusers are violent people, who often go on to do worse acts of violence or even, you know, murder or whatever.
REHMAll right. Let's turn now to Venezuela. We've heard about this -- these extreme food shortages, Moises. We now hear that the military has been tasked with distribution of those foods. How trustworthy is the military?
NAIMIt is not really trustworthy because they have already been in charge of most of the ministries in charge of the food distribution and all that. This is just a way of justifying a takeover by the military, explaining it as a way of dealing with the crisis in food and the medicines. Something like 82 percent of Venezuelan surveys say that they now eat less than they used to a year ago. 52 percent of those surveyed say that they cannot eat three times a day. And this is happening in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world and the worst managed economy in the world also.
REHMHow did they get to this place?
NAIMIt's a combination of bad policies and bad ideas and a lot of oil that they thought could sustain them. Once the oil prices went down and essentially the government has run out of dollars to import. And before that, they had destroyed the domestic capacity to produce. So the country is completely dependent on imports and it doesn't have the hard currency to pay for those imports.
REHMMoises Naim of El Pais. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Nancy, might there be a vote to remove President Maduro of Venezuela from office?
YOUSSEFWell, the thinking is that at some point there will be a call for a no-confidence vote and that would lead to a new election, that that would sort of be the channels in which you would have the kind of reforms. It's interesting, you know, you hear Moises speak and one thinks, well, why would the president hand over so much authority to the military because of the risk associated with it? And the truth is, because he doesn't have any choice. I don't know if we can, in this country, appreciate, every day Venezuelans are getting up and standing in lines for hours and hours and hours, all day, and sometimes coming out with nothing, at a time when we're at triple-digit inflation and oil prices at their lowest.
YOUSSEFAnd my concern is, when I hear about this -- and maybe this is the Egyptian in me speaking -- that militaries inherently are not prone to offer economic, long-term, enduring economic solutions. And so how you get out of this predicament. It's very hard to see with the sort of ideas being put forth this week.
REHMAll right. We have a number of callers waiting. Let's open the phones, 800-433-8850. First, to Elaine in Lanham, Md. You're on the air.
ELAINEHi, Diane. Great show, as always.
ELAINEI just wanted to comment. I heard the panel talking about why Ms. May has appointed -- why would she appoint Boris Johnson. And he's a loose cannon essentially. He's the British version, to me, of Donald Trump. Even down to his crazy hairstyle. So, you know, it may be that the same thing that is attracting people to Donald Trump, which I think is his entertainment value -- if you want to call it that -- is probably some of the same thing that has attracted the Brits. And maybe they want entertainment with their bad news. I don't know.
REHMWhat do you think, Peter Bergen?
BERGENI mean, on -- Boris Johnson is quite different from Donald Trump in lots of ways. I mean, you know, he's not in the business world. He edited The Spectator, which is a conservative magazine. It's quite a good magazine. He had a fairly distinguished career doing that. He was mayor of London. He engaged in conventional electoral politics. He's an important member of the conservative party. He's not really the outsider. I mean, Donald Trump has no political...
BERGEN...so. You know, and I just...
REHMBut in terms of his outspokenness, in terms of his capacity for insults, in terms of his not caring what he says or who he...
BERGENI'm not going to go down that route.
REHMOkay. What do you think, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, I mean, to me it just speaks to the sort of the polarization of the world around us, where the idea of sort of appealing to the middle and speaking to that way is giving way to an expectation that people speak as aggressively as one feels in the kind of increased polarized environment we're finding ourselves in.
NAIMIt may not be that complicated. Seventeen million British citizens voted in favor of Brexit. And Boris Johnson was the leader of that campaign.
REHMMoises Naim of El Pais. When we come back, we'll talk about the NATO Summit and South Sudan. And take your calls, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back. Let's open the phones to Albemarle, North Carolina, and Ben, you're on the air.
BENHi, Diane, you know, I've been listening to this show, and it's making me think I want to ask the panel. You may have mentioned it, I'm not sure. But what is it that in recent times has made France a target for these ISIS and terrorist attacks?
BERGENBasically, you know, here's -- here's a telling statistic. If you have a Muslim name, and you go for a job interview, you're two and a half times less likely to be called to that job interviewed than somebody who has a Christian name. And so, I mean, just the level of discrimination is very high. The French are, you know, they don't like immigrant population, and obviously, you know, that's reflected in the fact that the French have supplied more foreign fighters to ISIS than any other country in the West.
REHMAll right, so Felicity in Wichita, Kansas.
FELICITYThanks so much for taking my call.
FELICITYI am wondering, I know the French president, Francois Hollande, has extended the state of emergency for France for another three months after the Nice attack, and I'm wondering what that extension of state emergency means for the U.S. and for, you know, for French-U.S. relations.
YOUSSEFIt's a very interesting question. You know, in the hours before this attack, Hollande had lifted the state of emergency that had been in place, and it said at the time we can't live in a state of emergency forever on Thursday. And so broadly speaking, what the state of emergency does is allows for more aggressive police practices, searches, things of that sort.
REHMStopping people for no reason?
YOUSSEFI don't know the specifics of French law to tell you, but it just gives them more legal freedoms. Now in terms of how it affects the United States, it's a very interesting question, and I'd just be conjecturing. I think -- you know, this state -- the current state of emergency in France will be for three months. And what does it do to a world community when you have a major player like France living in that long of a state of emergency? Does it raise sort of a heightened sense of security around the world? We'll have to -- we'll have to see.
REHMAnd that leads us to a question about NATO. The summit concluded last weekend, and some of those members are saying we're in a band new Cold War, Moises.
NAIMIndeed, they met, and they are very worried about the Baltic region. There's nine countries, including Russia, that have shorelines there, and there have been increasing tensions, and they're worried that Russia and the Kremlin have designs for -- to recover some of those countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union, you know, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and all of that.
NAIMThey decided that they would have a multinational force of up to 4,000 troops in the Baltic region, and then 3,500 American troops will rotate in different countries. And there will be...
REHMAnd what was -- what was Vladimir Putin's reaction to that?
NAIMThat it was a belligerent move, that this was -- that building up NATO capabilities runs counter to the stability to the region, that that was creating sources of friction and instability.
REHMOkay, but now let's take this back to the relationship between the president of the United States and Vladimir Putin as a result of what's happened in France. Does that have an impact on their relationship, Peter?
BERGENWell, I think their relationship is very, very bad, and...
BERGENI think their relationship is -- I mean, Obama does not like Putin at all and regards him as a bully, and so, you know, that's not going to change. Is it possible that, you know, there might be a little bit more agreement about what to do on Syria? You know, it's not out of the question. But I mean, as Nancy was sort of indicating earlier in the program, I mean, Syria is not a problem that's going to be fixed anytime, you know, in the next several years.
REHMProbably in my lifetime. Let's go to Mark (PH) in Milton, Florida. You're on the air.
MARKThank you, Diane. I was calling in regards to Venezuela and the bad decisions, the shortage of food, people exiting the country with what they can carry is all due to socialism. Look at North Korea, where people starve to death and rummage across the landscape eating leaves and grass. And look at the former Soviet Union. The only bright spot in China is the part that capitalism is allowed to exist, and for the most part they made decisions like building cities that are -- that no one can afford to live in, and they're empty.
MARKIt's -- socialism is a failed ideology. It fails everywhere. Even the Nordic countries, Sweden is exporting people that they invited in, and they're going bankrupt. Denmark is falling back off of their socialist policies because they're going broke.
REHMDo those countries have similarities to Venezuela?
NAIMVenezuelans will pay anything to have the kind of socialism that they have in Sweden. What's going on in Venezuela is a strong rhetoric about socialism that was launched by President Chavez with his Bolivarian revolution and what he called the socialism of the 21st century. But in fact it about kleptocracy, it is about stealing...
NAIMKleptocracy is kleptocrats in power, people stealing blindly from the resources of the state and incompetence. This has been a significantly incompetent regime that has tolerated corruption levels that are...
REHMExplain to me how that kleptocracy could have gone on for so long while the government was still operating, and then all of a sudden a downward slide?
NAIMThe government was getting about $100 billion in oil exports and indebted the country to the hilt. And one day the international credit markets dried up, and the price of oil went down, and the number of barrels of oil that could be sold also shrank because they had sold them in advance. And even if they shipped them, they could not take the money because they had already committed them.
NAIMAnd so a combination of dwindling production levels, malfeasance and ineptitude created the conditions that created the Venezuelan tragedy today.
REHMAll right, let's go to Cleveland, Ohio. Kevin, you're on the air.
KEVINHi, Diane, I've said it before, you're a national treasure.
KEVINBefore Pearl Harbor, it was agreed in this country that fascism in general and German national socialism in particular could never be defeated. The children were brainwashed, the soldiers were willing to die for their fuehrer. But we did it. It took a worldwide coalition and a complete sweep of the region, but we turned it around, and I hate to say it, but I think that's the only thing that's going to stem this radical Islamic terrorism. A worldwide coalition's what it's going to take, and you've got to do it now, strike while the iron's hot. I'm (unintelligible) number of countries to commit to going in and cleaning it up.
BERGENComparisons to World War II don't really work. I mean look, in World War II, 18 million men and women served in the military, while today, you know, the number is, you know, a small fraction of that. We spent 40 percent of our GDP on military during World War II. We're spending, you know, three or four percent today. They're apples and oranges. Sixty million people died in World War II. No -- there's not an American in the country who wants to do a, you know, massive sort of invasion of the Middle East.
BERGENEven the most right-wing of the -- or most conservative, you know, Republican candidate, Lindsey Graham, was talking about 20,000 troops, and he, you know, he was one of the first people out of the race. So there's no constituency in the United States for some massive ground war in the Middle East. And plus it wouldn't work. I mean, ISIS is a relatively small group.
REHMThen what it is that Donald Trump is saying when he's calling for a war?
YOUSSEFI don't know. I understand the caller's frustration because what I hear him saying is there's been this drip, drip of war since 2003 against an enemy that rather than being defeated is actually becoming more sophisticated, more lethal, more barbaric. I understand the frustration. And maybe this is the Arabist in me, but I think there's a limit to what the U.S. military can do for a region that has to fix its own problems.
YOUSSEFWe're -- I mean, in Egypt, in Syria, in Iraq, they're unstable governments, unstable economies and uneducated populations that are being taught a brand of Islam that is not one that most of us recognize and allow for terror groups to essentially hijack Islam. It -- there is a limit to what the U.S. can do to change the outcome in other countries. Ultimately the change will happen within the region.
YOUSSEFI understand the caller's frustration, I share it, and I wish that there was a military campaign. I feel like given the commitment this U.S. military has made to the region, if there were a military solution, they would have crafted it.
REHMHere's an email from Mario. Could Theresa May have appointed Boris Johnson was foreign secretary, hoping he will fail and end his political career, Peter?
BERGENWell, as we were all agreeing in the break, you know, she wins either way. If he succeeds, she succeeds. If he loses, you know, she neutralizes a potential, you know, challenger to her as a prime minister.
REHMAll right, and an email from Efran in Pittsboro, North Carolina, who is someone blaming the victim. He says the municipal and regional governments of Nice screwed up royally. There should never be a large crowd gathered in any Western city without major vehicular control barriers. This has been repeated with the Marine detachment in Beirut and many other locations in Iraq. There is no longer a normal celebration or demonstration.
YOUSSEFI hear the frustration, but practically speaking we -- look, in Iraq they had this problem, and you went in Baghdad at the height of the wars, and there were T-walls, 12-foot walls over every -- around every major road leading to every major city or neighborhood within Baghdad, and those walls are still up. That's the kind of level of protection that would be involved to mitigate against this threat. I mean, that's -- and you can -- there is a rebellion with it. I think everyone would say that we don't want to live in sort of this warlike state.
YOUSSEFAnd once those walls go up, at least what Baghdad teaches us, is it's very hard to bring them back down. And so I think it's premature to be blaming the municipality because to me that's the kind of security measure you would need in place to stop a madman with a lorry willing to drive it at full speed into a crowd of people.
REHMAll right, and Moises, fighting erupted again in South Sudan. What's happening?
NAIMThe president and the vice president are fighting. They both want to control the country. This is the youngest country in the world. Last Saturday it was its fifth anniversary of independence from Sudan. They immediately -- they were together in fighting for independence, and once they became an independent country, the president and the vice president had their own -- each one has their own army, and each one distrusts the other.
NAIMAnd they had a war for two and a half years in which 50,000 people were killed, two million people were displaced, and then there was a ceasefire. And last week, just a minor altercation erupted into violence again. And there is a great concern that this can escalate into an all-out civil war.
REHMAll right, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's take a caller from Toledo, Ohio. Jeff, you're on the air.
JEFFThanks for taking my call, Diane.
JEFFMy question is for the panel, and it involves the ruling in the South China Sea. You made a good point that life would still be -- that the conflict -- that conflict between the Chinese and America is unlikely. But what chances are there that a conflict between the Philippines and China or Vietnam and China drags the United States into a war that it wouldn't have chosen otherwise?
NAIMAll the countries that are involved and that have maritime interests in the South China Sea have a deep economic dependence on China. So it's not that easy. The Philippines is not going to go into war -- to war with China, nor is Vietnam. Again, the economic interdependency with China is just too significant.
YOUSSEFAnd the U.S. military is not eager to in any way fuel that. The reason for freedom of -- that the ships and the aircraft happen is to protect freedom of movement, not to in any way escalate. The goal is de-escalation and protecting the passage through the South China Sea.
REHMSo Peter, what do you want to wind up this hour by saying, what's happened in France?
BERGENUnfortunately this is -- we're going to see more of this in Europe. In the United States we're insulated from it by both geography and to some degree the American dream. Yu can drive from Paris to Damascus. You can't drive from Damascus to Washington. We've had relatively small numbers of Americans go and volunteer for ISIS, I mean really a handful. A number of them are dead. None of them have come back.
BERGENSo, you know, this is real problem that is going to be generational for the United States. We're somewhat insulated from it, thankfully.
YOUSSEFWell, I mean, I -- I don't know if your viewers or listeners feel this way, but I -- there's such an exhaustion that you feel amongst all of us week after week after week having to hear about these events. And so I -- you hope that that sort of leads to some really substantive conversations about not who to blame or who to attack or who to ostracize or who to deport but really concrete and creative solutions to get at this problem because that's what it demands. It demands a level of imagination that we haven't had to deploy yet because of the depth of the problem that we're dealing with.
NAIMI concur with that. We have entered a very dangerous period that is rendered even more dangerous by simplification, by terrible simplicity, and we have to be very careful about converting bad ideas into policies.
REHMMoises Naim, Nancy Youssef, Peter Bergen, thank you all so much.
YOUSSEFThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd I do want to let listeners know I will be on vacation the next couple of weeks. You'll have some wonderful people sitting in this chair. I'll be back with you on August 2. In the meantime, be safe and keep listening. Thanks. I'm Diane Rehm.
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