Fareed Zakaria Talks Modern World
Famed Expert on International Affairs comes to Cornell
CORNELL UNIVERSITY, Ithaca NY - On Monday, April 25th, host of the CNN show [i]GPS[/i] and [i]Time Magazine[/i] editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria came to Cornell’s Statler Auditorium to discuss the “Post American World” as part of the Bartels World Affairs Fellowship Lecture Series.
He began with the Middle East’s revolutions. “When did something like this last happen?” he asked. It has certainly been a long time since there has been so much turmoil in a concentrated region. This points to the broader issue, Zakaria stated, that this area of the world is playing catch-up.
In the 70s and 80s, everything pertained to the Cold War; civil wars that broke out had two sides, one sided by the U.S. and the other by the Soviets. But in the early 90s, Zakaria explained, this broke down as the Cold War came to an end, which resulted in the world beginning a development in one single direction. In the 70s and earlier, inflation was an issue for developing countries. In 1979 though, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Paul Volcker used a recession to kill inflation, causing other countries to follow suit, leading to a much more economically stable world today. In the 1970s and 80s, email, Twitter, Facebook, and even the internet were not yet invented, meaning that states could isolate their citizens and keep secrets from them. Now however, this is simply near impossible, and governments no longer have this “monopoly of truth” as Fareed Zakaria aptly put it.
However, the countries revolting were not caught up with this new direction of the world, one with economic stability and technological advancements, and these actions we see now are the attempts of citizens to bring their countries up to speed with the rest of the modern world. In their attempts to oppose colonialism, the governments that formed when these countries finally earned their sovereignty actually put their countries on a track that moved backwards against the global trend, Zakaria explained.
With large amounts of youth in these countries as well as the proliferation of technology finally reaching the region en masse, these people who were stuck behind modern society are able to try to bring their nations up to par with the rest of the world. Dr. Zakaria explained that with privately run television channels, people can see the perils of their nation, and with the internet, people can [i]anonymously[/i] criticize the government and bring to light some of the truths that had been ignored and replaced by information from the government.
Zakaria added that Egypt is the country we should keep our eyes on, as they are at the center of the Arab world and the model for revolution in the region.
Zakaria then went on to discuss America’s position in modern society.
“We are already in a post-American world,” he argued. There is a willingness to defy the United States that until now was entirely nonexistent. Zakaria says that that the issue is more psychological than fact-dependent. China, as it grows and is on path to overtake the U.S. economically, no longer feels that it must agree with every American decision and is now making its own decisions, as are other growing countries such as Brazil. Though America is still a dominant power, other nations for the first time in a long while are attempting to “occupy that space” of most powerful nation.
And with the financial crisis, these countries got an even better advantage, Zakaria clarified, because they were less affected than we were, therefore evening the balance of powers a bit.
Zakaria then transitioned into a discussion of the American economic situation. He is in favor of cutting some military spending, as we do not even use a lot of it. “What are we waiting for?” he jokingly asked, responding to the fact that the military still has not used certain technologies that have been developed.
He maintains that the problem is and will be unemployment. Our GDP is already back to pre-crisis levels, Zakaria explained, but unemployment is a different story. As we innovate and develop our technology more and more here in the U.S., jobs are either sent oversees due to prices of labor or replaced entirely by an automated system. Still, Dr. Zakaria expressed, the United States cannot become more like China, and actually shouldn’t. Our strength as a nation has always been openness to culture, ideas, trade, etc. We now live in a world filled with it, just as we have always, in theory, wanted. The issue that we now have is that this new, globalized world is not controlled entirely by the U.S.
Zakaria then answered a variety of questions from audience members, and stayed afterwards to sign copies of his book [i]The Post-American World[/i].