Dr. Fareed Zakaria is the editor of the Newsweek
International edition and a pundit on International affairs. His column appears in Newsweek
, Newsweek International
and often the Washington Post
, making it one of the most widely circulated columns of its kind in the world. He offers a rare perspective on East-West relations, and is generally good at explaining the situation to the uninformed, though some of his opinions and editorials are arguable in a Thomas Friedman
sort of way.
Mr. Zakaria was born in India to a Muslim family. His mother, Fatima Zakaria, was the editor of the Sunday Times in India. His father, Rafiq Zakaria, was an Islamic scholar, governor of Mahrasthra for a period under Indira Gandhi, and was one of the country's better known political writers; writing on India, Islam, and British Imperialism. His brother, Arshad, is head of investment banking and former VP at Merrill Lynch in New York.
Dr. Zakaria began studying at a private primary school in Bombay. Though his family were practicing Muslims, Dr. Zakaria and his brother attended a diverse British Anglican school of 800 Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims where each day began with everyone singing Christian hymns, and he celebrated Hindu and Muslim holidays. It was here that Dr. Zakaria supposedly received a crash course in Western culture (though he'd get a lot more by later going to universities in America) and began to develop a keen sensitivity to the differences that exist between the Islamic and Western worlds.
He used to be a Reaganite, claiming he became a conservative just from watching the Indian state. “People often say, ‘How could you, living in India, end up a Reaganite?’ Well, the answer is, live in India. There are two things that people don’t understand. One is the degree to which a highly regulated economy produces masses of corruption because it empowers bureaucrats. It just has to be seen to be believed. The second is that you are very quickly inured to the charms of pre-industrial village life. Whenever someone says the word community, I want to reach for an oxygen mask.” He has now moved to a more centrist position politically.
He became interested in politics while he was earning his BA at Yale. He earned his PhD in political science at Harvard University where he taught international relations and political philosophy in Harvard University's Department of Government. In the 1990's, he moved up in stature in the foreign-policy arena; The Nation once described him as a "junior Kissinger." Interestingly, and they did meet and Henry Kissinger was apparently impressed by him and had a "scintillating" time by Zakaria's account.
"Every time something blows up, we have you on the show to tell us why."--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, July 2005
His real big break occurred when he wrote the 7000-word Newsweek cover story "Why They Hate Us" after September 11, 2001. At the time, the country was awash with knee-jerk reactions that simply blamed Islam, or religious intolerance blamed on "Muslim" extremists. It was the uneven path of globalization, especially in modernizing Arab aristocracies, Zakaria wrote, that stoked the homicidal rage. The Arabs had grasped the wrong end of the global stick, importing the vapidity of Western culture but raising walls against its ennobling influences—a formula for an explosion. “They see the television shows, the fast foods, and the fizzy drinks,” Zakaria opined. “But they don’t see genuine liberalization in the society, with increased opportunities and greater openness. As a result, the people . . . can look at globalization but for the most part not touch it.”
“Widely read, widely photocopied, widely envied,” says New Yorker editorial director Henry Finder. The essay echoed across the country in unexpected places. Rear admirals at the Pentagon made it recommended reading for US troops. He was invited on shows like The View and The Daily Show, and bantered with people like Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart.
His thoughtful critiques on the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq made him rise to prominence in the mainstream media. (He initially supported the idea of liberation through invasion, but changed his tune within a few weeks, criticizing the Bush administration in Newsweek pieces with titles like "The Arrogant Empire.") Lately he has become a popular occasional guest on The Daily Show.
At the age of 28, he became the youngest managing editor in the history of Foreign Affairs, the leading journal of international politics and economics. That brought Dr. Zakaria to New York, where he continued building his reputation writing op-eds for the New York Times and where, in 2000, he became editor of Newsweek International. Lately over the last few years, he has become a sort of media bridge to the Muslim world, articulately saying some of the objections the Muslim world has with American policy (though he doesn't let them off easy either).
He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. He offers political analysis on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopolis, and has appeared on programs like “Firing Line,” “The News Hour” with Jim Lehrer and “Meet the Press.” He edited the book American Encounter, authored From Wealth to Power, and most recently published The Future of Freedom, Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. He’s won many awards from organizations like The Overseas Press Club, The National Press Club and The Deadline Club. In 1999, Esquire named him one of the 21 most important people in the 21st century.
Currently, he is hosting a international affairs TV show called Foreign Exchange. He often has non-American guests on the show, and offers a wide range of international topics. He lives in New York City with his wife; a Harvard MBA jewelry business-owner, his son and his daughter.
I will mention that a lot of people don't like Fareed Zakaria. He is "politically conservative," but that can mean a lot. Plenty of Muslims don't like him, calling him a "chamcha" which is a derogatory Urdu word for a toady. People consider him traitorous for supporting policies like the Iraq war, racist "homeland security" practices, etc. that marginalize his fellow minority citizens, especially when anti-minority media biases and popular misperceptions are omnipresent (e.g. common misbelief of an Al Qaeda - Hussein link). He was the one who was advocating that U.S. should go to war with Iraq just to save the prestige. ("If we have threatened Saddam with military actions, or else our prestige is at stake.") He's also hated for appearing too conciliatory towards Bush, despite his change of heart concerning Iraq, and criticizing the East more than the West. Who knows, maybe he's hoping for a cabinet position, I heard an unprovable accusation that he used plenty of pro-Bush rhetoric around the last two US elections in the hopes he'd be offered a job. By and large, he defines himself as a Muslim, but basically he disagrees with a wide swath of the Muslim community in America on certain political issues.
“By and large, there is a suspicion that I’m betraying my roots, whatever that means,” Zakaria says. “The only way I can respond is to say I’ve simply never been defined by religious identity, so I can’t be defined by that now just because it has come into the question.”
Bob Woodward wrote in his book, State of Denial, that Paul Wolfowitz tapped Dr. Zakaria for a position on an elite secret group formed to advise the White House "well into the Afghanistan bombing campaign," and likely as the precursor to Iraq.
To be fair, he also calls the US government on its mistakes. In March 2003, the week the bombing started, Zakaria let loose a long and pointed Newsweek cover story called “Why America Scares the World.” The essay openly criticized the Bush administration for its failure to conduct diplomacy and attempt—or even pretend to attempt—to build an international consensus for our action in the Gulf. “The point is to scare our enemies,” he admonished in his essay, “not terrify the rest of the world.”:
"Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq (troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani) Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world."
One online poster said it's not that he's pro-Bush or anti-Bush, but he makes a mistake in assuming the elite of Muslim countries will be able to effectively modernize their nations. In The Future of Freedom
, he had a short piece that Pakistani President Musharraf
was the better than any of the politicians currently in Pakistan (which I disagree with, but I'm sure he's better than both Mia Nawaz Sharif
and Benazir Bhutto
. If you were able to understand that, I'm impressed by your foreign knowledge skills, or you're Pakistani, or both. ).
He is reported to be a neoconservative. Or maybe he's a neoliberal since he likes globalization like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. If that's true about the former, he's the only neocon that I can stand, and even so he's rubbing me the wrong way. "I do know a lot about the world of Islam in an instinctive way that you can't get through book learning," he said thoughtfully in an interview, but admits he finds the role of token Muslim explainer in the American media slightly uncomfortable. "I occasionally find myself reluctant to be pulled into a world that's not mine, in the sense that I'm not a religious guy." Some have accused him of being an atheist or admitting to it, which I don't know. I don't want to question his beliefs, but a big part of the reason he gets called in so often on news talk shows (and the Daily Show) is his Muslim background and name. That's not to say he's a hypocrite, but he knows how to capitalize on his name. Personally, I think he understands Islam better than any reporter I've ever seen, and my opinion is that it should be his duty to correct the misinformation that exists about Islam and Muslims. In other words, he's among the best we got, but there's room for improvement. A lot of people believe in Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" idea, and since Zakaria studied under him when Huntington was Zakaraia's thesis advisor, as well as lived in two different civilizations, he might be able to provide some insight or debunking to the misperception in today's society. Since he's admittedly not that religious, his defense of Islam in his columns and TV appearances really needs a lot of work; even I could do a better job. Despite all my beefs with him, he's an interesting thinker and an above-average writer, at least above the uninformed dreck that passes for international news nowadays.
"If I could change one thing about American foreign policy, what would it be? The answer is easy, but it's not something most of us think of as foreign policy. I would adopt a serious national program geared toward energy efficiency and independence. Reducing our dependence on oil would be the single greatest multiplier of American power in the world."
Author of books:
Strong Nation, Weak State: The Rise of America to World Power (1998)
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (2003)
http://myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=Dr._Fareed_Zakaria (He's not my hero)