CNN’s Fareed Zakaria joined a Council audience on September 8 to discuss America's international leadership. Before the event, we asked him what question he wished the audience would ask.
"I wish somebody in the audience would ask: Aside from the Middle East, what's going on in the world? And how does the world look? I know it sounds as though, when people think about ISIS and Islamic terrorism, that I'm, you know the old line—aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? But it really isn't...because the Middle East is just one part of the world. It's about 300 million people, out of a global population of seven and a half billion. It's actually not that important economically. It is of declining importance strategically as the United States becomes essentially energy independent. And yet it defines entirely the way we think about the world. The trend lines in the Middle East are negative. The place is a mess. But, if you look at what's going on in Asia. If you look at the rise of India—a democratic country, increasingly pro-American. Indonesia, which has just elected a businessman, pro-reform president. Japan, which continues to try to make reforms. Even China, which in its own ways, has been opening up. These are all very positive trends. If you look at Latin America—where countries like Argentina are turning the corner and reentering and reintegrating into the world. Mexico remains very strongly pro-reform, pro-American, despite our—or at least, some insults being hurled at it from outside of the border. So basically—Africa, another place where things are—many, many good things are happening. Basically, there are many positive, optimistic trend lines in the world, aside from the Middle East."