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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We turn to four international affairs columnists now for their assessment of the challenges that face the next President and his foreign policy team. The columnists are Thomas Friedman of The New York Times; Trudy Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer; Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald; and Newsweek International’s Fareed Zakaria, who is also managing editor of Foreign Affairs.
Trudy Rubin, Let’s start with President Clinton’s efforts to get a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. What’s your view of the status of those talks?
TRUDY RUBIN: I think the game is basically over. The President had an idea of taking the two most difficult parts of this — the statuses of the holy places of Jerusalem and who would control them, and the question of whether the Palestinian refugees from ’48 and their descendants could return to Israel proper and creating a framework where there was a tradeoff, and where Palestinians would get control or sovereignty over the top of the Temple Mount, and the right of return would be given up by the Palestinians. That was a bold move, and that was the essence of this plan. Basically the Palestinians cannot accept that or have not accepted it. It’s a “no but” from Arafat. And Prime Minister Barak, who initially indicated that he could accept giving up sovereignty over the top of the Temple Mount is backing off now. So that’s the heart of the matter. And the rest of it is just commentary, and I think these talks will drag on, but I’m afraid it’s just too late for them to go anywhere.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Friedman, what do you think?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: I think we’re basically at a fork in the road in the sense that we’re either going to have a tribal diplomatic solution here, or, a tribal solution or a diplomatic solution. The tribal solution basically will be if people conclude what the Palestinians have decided that Israelis only understand force and that the only way Palestinians are going to achieve anything is through force. And therefore they’re going to pursue basically the force option, in which case Israelis are going to elect Ariel Sharon and give them force back,. There’s the kind of Palestinian view out there is that they’re a big fat dumb Silicon Valley where everybody is interested in stock options and BMWs, and if you apply enough force basically they will cave. This is going to be tested if we opt for a tribal solution. There is a chance, though I don’t quite agree with Trudy that this is over.
In the Middle East nothing is ever over, certainly not the peace process. I think what Clinton has shown us by his probably is what the final deal looks like. What is interesting is Arafat has said, you know, yes but, or no but. I’m not sure what. But the reason for the but, the reason there is no clear-cut no, is not only because he doesn’t want to be blamed, it’s because all the surrounding Arab countries know that if this ends up in a tribal solution, if it ends up in war, it can blow up on their streets and threaten him too, threaten those leaders as well. So I think the game is still really not clear here, which way it’s going to go.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Andres Oppenheimer, where do you come down on this?
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: I don’t follow Middle East as closely as Tom or Trudy. But in a nutshell I think what Israel wants and what the Americans want is to stop the bloodshed. I think the first priority now is to stop the bloodshed. In that sense I don’t think they’re going to resolve what they couldn’t resolve in 5,000 years or certainly since the creation of Israel. What they want, I think, is, you know, a semblance of an agreement, an illusion of an agreement, something that would stop the bloodshed that had already caused 360 plus deaths for the past two or three months.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Fareed Zakaria, tell us your view, and also, what does it mean for the incoming Bush administration? I’m not hearing you, Fareed Zakaria. We’ll try to fix and I’ll come back to you. Trudy Rubin, what’s it mean for the incoming Bush administration?
TRUDY RUBIN: Well, when I say that it’s over, I think that the effort of President Clinton to resolve this before the end of his administration is over, but obviously the Bush administration is going to have to figure out what to do. I think it’s going to be very difficult, because what Clinton was trying to do is to get a framework for a final agreement, which could carry over to the next administration. If that isn’t achieved then the Bush administration is going to come into a very difficult situation, where it’s hard to go back to piecemeal negotiations, incremental negotiations, which were what was going on for the last seven years, but where there’s no framework to get to final status. And so I think that the Bush administration is going to take a while, it’s going to have to take a while to put together some kind of a team to decide on their approach. It may not be possible to get back to the table. And it’s going to affect their whole policy in the Middle East, and also their attempt to recreate a coalition to contain Saddam Hussein, because there will be an increase in anti-Americanism due to the ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, Fareed Zakaria, let’s hope we can hear you now. Tell us what you think about the status of the talks and what it means for the incoming Bush administration.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, Elizabeth, I think the most interesting aspect of this negotiation has been the degree to which it is a peace process that is now governed by political elites. That is it is a peace process that has much less support among the people, both of Israel and Palestine. It’s true that the Israeli people support to it a greater degree, but by and large what you’re seeing is essentially a peace of the princes, as Fouad Ajami has said, not of the people. Now what the Bush administration has to decide is whether to continue the Clinton administration’s push and try to kind of create conditions under which this final deal will take place, or put it back on the back burner and allow to it ripen in its own time when people make their own mistakes and come to their own realizations.
I have a feeling that in this particular case it may be smarter to let the dust settle, let the Palestinians think about what they’ve done, let them recognize, in a way, that there is no great utopia in holding onto the figment or the dream of Jerusalem. But the Israelis realize that there’s no real dream for them either, that a permanent occupation of the West Bank is essentially incompatible with life as a democracy. It will simply corrode the democratic fabric of Israel. And so then you have a situation, I think, where, after calmer heads prevail, they may come back to the table. But the attempt to have this all done on an American timetable at Camp David and by January 20th, is not working. I don’t say it’s a bad idea. It was a noble effort; it could have worked. It’s just very clear to me that it hasn’t worked. And we’re going to have to take a much slower approach to it. I agree that the shape of the final deal is already sort of visible. But we’ve always known roughly what the shape of the final deal would be, and we’ve always known that the great sticking point would be what it now is, which is Jerusalem.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Friedman, briefly what it means for the incoming administration?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Well, I think if President Bush really thought about what he’s facing in the Middle East, he might want to go back to Palm Beach County and personally start hand recounting votes, to tell you the truth, because I think it’s going to be a real mess. And the truth is we have no idea really what this administration thinks about Arab-Israeli peace making, Israeli settlements, Yasser Arafat, or the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Colin Powell has not really opined on this, Condoleezza Rice hasn’t, and President-elect Bush hasn’t. So I wish I could tell you I knew what it meant for them. I can only tell you what it means for them if I knew what their intentions were, and those aren’t clear. Right now they are hoping that it can be tied up in the near future. That is obviously unlikely. They won’t be able to pursue any regional Middle East policy as long as this continues to fester.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Andres Oppenheimer, moving to other parts of the world, what other situations or areas will demand immediate attention from the new administration?
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: Well, in terms of time, Elizabeth, one of the biggest priorities he’ll have, not because of his choice but because of the agenda is Latin America. In April, late April, President-elect Bush – then President Bush — will have to go to the summit of the Americas, to the third summit of the Americas that will be held in Quebec, in Canada. So remember, the first one was held by Clinton in 1994, here in Miami. And that’s where he came up with this idea of creating a free trade area of the Americas, and everybody was very happy and everybody clapped. And there were big expectations in the region and then nothing happened. So now Bush will have to show up in two or three months in late April at the summit of the Americas in Quebec and deliver something, there was a deadline, there is a deadline to start this thing in 2005, and not much has happened. So there’s a lot of disappointment, there’s a lot of disillusion, there are growing challenges to democracy in the region. And he’ll have to put out a lot of fires unless he comes up with a bold, intelligent, uplifting agenda at that meeting.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Trudy Rubin, your comment on that and other areas where you see trouble ahead.
TRUDY RUBIN: I think that whether there’s trouble ahead depends to a large extent on how the Bush administration redefines its relationships with allies and with big powers like China and Russia. The Bush team has talked a lot about wanting stronger relationships with allies and how the Clinton team has done it wrong. But now they have to deal with the issue of national missile defense, which they want to rush ahead with but the European allies and Russia are very much against, also China. If they go forward with that without adequate consultations, that could roil those relationships. They have to decide whether to keep troops in the Balkans, if they pull back that could trouble the NATO relationship. And I think the Bush team also is going to have to decide what to do with small wars. They don’t want to be the world’s 911, and that may be a wise decision. But if they’re not going to be, then they have to decide how to strengthen regional organizations that can deal with smaller wars and also what they want to do with the United Nations, if UN peacekeeping can be strengthened, which is an enormous if.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Friedman, you’ve written so much about globalization. Is this team prepared to deal with the problems of globalization that lie ahead?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: These are all thoughtful international people. But again, I hate to keep repeating this theme, Elizabeth. We just came out of a campaign where foreign policy wasn’t an issue. And the President-elect really didn’t opine himself, and his designates have not really opined themselves, so we really don’t have a clue. To me the big question is, if we look back on the Clinton administration, we now know what their foreign policy was. It was sustainable globalization. Just as during the Cold War the previous administration thought the big game was managing the relationship with the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent China, these people thought the big game was managing an increasingly integrated global economy, and you managed it basically by beating back the bad guys in Serbia and Iraq, you managed it by expanding free trade and by engaging in bailouts of Mexico and Asia when you needed to. That was basically what they did, it was their understanding of the world. It was about sustainable globalization.
Now, I don’t know, because no one has told us, whether this new team really shares that framework, believes in all of those constituent parts, or has a different take on the world. I think the most important foreign policy initiative so far for the Bush administration was taken yesterday by a guy named Alan Greenspan by lowering interest rates, by basically, hopefully taking steps that will prevent a hard landing or recession here, which would have huge economic and political ramifications all over the world.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Fareed Zakaria, you see new problems in globalization, political rather than economic problems, right? Define those problems and tell us how you think this team will confront them.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Elizabeth, it seems to me in the 1990s, globalization was essentially about economics. It was about the dominance of market capitalism and democracy to a lesser extent. And it was about the American boom. I think Tom is right. Domestic economics has an enormous effect. And the 1990s were about countries all over the world deregulating, liberalizing, opening up capital markets. Well, the next decade is likely to be about, if you will, the political problems produced by this liberalization — all of which is a great thing. But it produces political backlash, it produces political tensions. If you look at Europe now, the Europeans are increasingly resentful of American economic dominance, American cultural dominance. They want their own standing army for the first time in 50 years. If you look at the third world, the consensus for free trade, for further free trade, has essentially broken down since Seattle. And it’s not just because of the few hundred latte-sipping demonstrators dancing outside the Seattle Hall. It’s because of what happened inside those corridors of power.
Third world countries have basically decided that they have made enough concessions for now; that further concessions on free trade have to come from western countries, and they have to be the liberalization of agricultural markets, that is farm subsidies. If that’s not going to happen, you have a crisis with free trade. This is going to play itself out in Latin America, it’s going to play itself out in Asia. And then finally you have the inevitable next crisis of globalization that’s going to take place where some country is going to get too fat too fast, capital markets are going to punish it, and then the political ramifications this time around are likely to be more severe because fundamentally what’s happened, I think, is that a lot of people around the world have decided we like globalization, we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it on our terms at our pace. And we’re not going to have Washington dictate. That famous image of IMF Chief Camdesseus glaring over Suharto of Indonesia when he forces him to sign a bailout package, that kind of imagery I don’t think we’re going to see in the future. That’s what I mean by the political dimensions of globalization, creating if you will a political consensus for sustainable globalization to keep going forward.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Andres Oppenheimer, you all shared a theme in your writings about the danger of resentments growing vis-à-vis the United States. How do you see President Bush dealing with this? Remember in the debate he talked about humility, the need for humility.
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: That may have been a little campaign rhetoric. What troubles me is that this administration and a lot of people who are being appointed to key jobs, Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and others, are all Eurocentric-minded people. And this country have said that kind of people – you know, secretaries of state with deep roots in Europe or eastern Europe for a long time, and the world has changed. A lot of people if you live in Miami, Texas, California, you tend to see the world with different eyes. And you tend to see the world in north south terms rather than east west terms. And if you look at the statistics, trade statistics, immigration statistics, if you ask yourselves, which are the countries that have the greatest impact on every day life in America, it’s certainly not Germany, it’s not France, it’s not even the Middle East. It’s, they’re very different countries, again, if you live in this part of the country it’s certainly Latin America, and other parts of the world. So what troubles me about this administration is that I don’t see sort of a modern agenda, I don’t see a broader scope than the traditional Euro-centric, Soviet-minded China-minded view of the world.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you Andres and thank you all of you.