Step Up to the Plate

By Zakaria, Fareed | Newsweek, October 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Step Up to the Plate


Zakaria, Fareed, Newsweek


Byline: Fareed Zakaria

Rising powers need to act like powers.

You can count on a few things during the U.N.'s annual General Assembly. The traffic will be bad, the speeches will be worthy (if a bit dull)--and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will say something absurd. This year the Iranian leader suggested that U.S. officials orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to save Israel and "reverse the declining American economy." (Has he noticed the actual effect of the war on terror on America's fiscal state?) It continues to be a pity that a great civilization like Iran is represented by such a character.

In other ways, however, the atmosphere this year was muted. I asked Israeli President Shimon Peres, who has been going to such gatherings for decades, for his read of the mood. "There is more worry than there used to be," Peres said. He described a general atmosphere of unease and uncertainty amid which emerging nations were jostling for influence. "I don't think it's that America is going down, but the world is becoming larger and more complicated."

There has been much worry about the activities of countries like Brazil and Turkey, with many Americans arguing that the two countries have become troublemakers, cutting deals with Ahmadinejad and turning away from America. But we have to understand the dynamic that is altering the power status of these countries. Twenty years ago Brazil was struggling to cast off a long legacy of dictatorship, hyperinflation, and debt. Today it is a stable democracy with impressive fiscal management, a roaring economy, and a wildly popular president. Its foreign policy reflects this confidence and a desire to break free of its older constraints.

In a speech in Geneva on Sept. 11, Brazil's intelligent and ambitious foreign minister, Celso Amorim, explained that even eight years ago, the United States absorbed 28 percent of Brazil's exports, but now buys only 10 percent, surpassed by China. Africa, too, is now a major trading partner for Brazil. In explaining the country's new interest in Middle Eastern affairs, Amorim pointed out that Brazil's 12 million Arabs would constitute the fourth or fifth-largest Arab nation in the world. Recently, in another speech, Amorim urged Brazil to be bold and expansive in its conception of its interests. …

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