2009 Archives

Journalists present perspectives on current events

Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series kicks off 28th season

The Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and the Hart Global Leaders Forum present three respected journalists in a series of in programs September 8 aimed at broadening our perspectives on current events.

They discussed the environment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other global challenges during the Series' Turner Construction Student Forum.

Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and author of books including The Post-American World, also addressed the challenges of personal politics when asked whether he considers himself a centrist.

“I find that when people ask what team they’re going to support, they end up with: ‘That answer has to be right because my team is always right,’ ” he said.  “I think that’s fundamentally intellectually dishonest. What you should be asking is: ‘What is the right answer?’ The one thing I’ve learned through a not-so-long career is that you’re always better off saying what you believe and standing exactly where you think you should be.”

Zakaria participated in the discussion with Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and author of books including Hot, Flat, and Crowded; and David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN, editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report and former White House adviser.

Here are highlights of the question-and-answer session with SMU and area high school students before their panel discussion as part of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series.

China and India are redefining the global economy. How should the U.S. respond?

Zakaria: That’s a very good question because it is in some ways the great event of our lifetime. When historians write about the world we’re living in 100 years from now, al-Qaeda will probably get a few paragraphs, and China and India will get a chapter each, if not more.

We, as the United States, face a fundamental choice: Do we want to accept, embrace and adapt to this, or do we want to deny and fight it? To deny and fight it, you could say … let’s keep out their goods, let’s keep out their ideas, let’s keep out their people.

The problem is the United States has always succeeded because of its openness – because we’re open to the ideas, the trends, the food, the culture, the people of the world. Even though this is the biggest change we confront … I think if we embrace it, we will find that we will do remarkably well in a world where others are doing well also.

What is the most important technology to develop for the green movement?

Friedman: Whenever people ask me that question – Are you a wind guy? A solar guy? A nuclear guy? – my answer is I’m none of those. I’m an ecosystem-for-innovation guy.

I don’t believe we’ve invented or found yet the scale green solution we need to give us abundant, cheap, clean, reliable electrons. My own philosophy is that this is not a problem for regulators; this is a problem for innovators. The solution is going to come from engineers, not regulators and bureaucrats.

My favorite fuel is the ecosystem of laws, standards, regulations and, most important, prices – carbon tax, energy tax, gasoline tax – that would stimulate 10,000 green innovators to go into 10,000 garages to try 10,000 things – 1,000 of which would be promising, 100 of which would be way cool, and two of which would be the next green Google and green Microsoft.

What needs to be done to achieve victory in Afghanistan, and how would you define it?

Zakaria: The definition of success in Afghanistan is to achieve a degree of stability in that country that allows for the exercise of political authority by local players, by Afghans, who are not interested in allowing terrorists to destabilize neighbors or countries like the United States or in Europe.

That definition is very minimal. I think the United States is fundamentally doing a few things very wrong in Afghanistan. We should not be in any meaningful sense trying to nation-build in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the third poorest country in the world.  … When you talk about creating an Afghan National Army in a country that does not have strong national institutions, where very few people have gone to school, these are very difficult propositions.

My strategy for Afghanistan is deal-making. Make deals with local elites as long as they’re willing to buy the basic bargain – no harboring al-Qaeda or groups like them – buy them off, rent them, whatever it takes, and that will allow us to get out of there. I think the entire project has been far too ambitious.

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