Richard Haass: 'This is a Very Difficult, Turbulent World'

CFR President Richard Haass, The New Republic's Julia Ioffe, The Wall Street Journal's Carol Lee and ABC News' Martha Raddatz on the turmoil across the globe.
13:00 | 07/20/14

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Transcript for Richard Haass: 'This is a Very Difficult, Turbulent World'
We live in a complex world. And at a challenging time. None of these challenges lend themselves to quick or easy solutions. But all of them require American leadership. And as commander in chief, I'm confident that if we stay patient and determined that we will in fact meet these challenges. There's president Obama speaking out. On dealing with all of the challenges and the hot spots around the world. That was on Wednesday before the shooting down of flight 17. And the dramatic escalation of the ground war in gaza. Our experts are here to put the crises in context after this from chief white house correspondent Jonathan Karl. Breaking news. A Malaysian airlines flight has crashed, we're told. The ground phase of the war in gaza has, indeed, begun. Reporter: It looked a little like the week the world came undone. Just think. Those two huge stories, Israeli incursion into gaza. A passenger jet brought down by a russian-made missile came after the front page story in "The Wall Street journal" saying a raft of foreign policy crises have brought global instability not seen since 1979. That was the year islamic revolutionaries overtook the shah of Iran and took Americans hostage. The Chinese invaded north Vietnam. This is an ABC news special. Reporter: The United States seemed unable to do anything about any of it. Or foreign failure? Reporter: Looking around the world today, a former cia director went further. Saying 2014 looks a lot like 1914. The year the assassination of an archduke in Sarajevo touched off the war to end all wars. It's very difficult, for the U.S. Government, at that level, to tale with more than two, three, four crises at a time. The problem if you look around the world now, there are fires burning everywhere. Reporter: Fires burning not just in Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and gaza. But in the south China sea. And in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where weak governments are battling Taliban insurgencies with less help from the U.S. And perhaps most alarmingly in Syria and Iraq, where a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda has taken control of major cities. It's the flow of western jihadists into Syria that brought the stark warning we heard here last Sunday from attorney general Eric holder. In some ways, it's more frightening than anything I think I have seen as attorney general. Reporter: It was five years ago that president Obama, after less than a year in office, received the Nobel peace prize. He envisioned a different kind of world. For if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Reporter: Today, the words of the international community don't seem to mean all that much. And lasting peace is as elusive as ever. For "This week." Jonathan Karl, ABC news, the white house. Let's dig in. Our chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. Carol lee who wrote that piece from "The Wall Street journal." And Richard Haass and Julia ioffe. Welcome to you all. Martha, you have been living this first hand. Ping-ponging in all these crises spots. I was in Iraq. Then Israel. I returned to the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner. This is an astonishingly bad time for the world. I mean, we can't say enough. You heard Jonathan say that. Places on the the map that airplane can't fly. You have an administration trying to deal with them all. I think one of the things you have to do is go back and look to see where they were focused over these past few years. John Kerry was focused on Israel and look at it today. Look at it today. We herd the former chief say it's difficult to deal with two, three, four crises at the same time. Are secretary Kerry and John McCain correct when they say the world is in greater turmoil than any time before? Any time is a big phrase. The bottom line is, it's in enormous turmoil. Very different kinds. The asia-pacific is similar to Europe 100 years ago where medium and grade-sized powers are jockeying. Real friction that could lead to incidents or conflicts. In the middle east, it's just the opposite. We have weak states. States that can't control what is going on inside their own borders. The parallel to 100 years ago is that the post world war I settlement in the middle east is unraveling. The border between Syria and Iraq is irrelevant. So we have very different kinds of crises. Not to mention Ukraine, where you have Russia trying to restore a certain position on the periphery of Europe. The administrations don't have the luxury of narrow casting. They have to deal with all of these things. One of the things we heard from secretary Kerry, Carol lee, is that in all of these places, people are clamoring for more United States involvement. Some of the critics of the president say he's not doing enough. That's the tension you see the president having to deal with. One of the things happening is all the issue are blowing up at the same time. And the president is looking to pull back on U.S. Military presence in particular. And so that is, by -- his krcrit critics would say, fueling some of this. And, the president would argue he's doing what the American public wants to be done. But either way, it's having this effect where, he -- the U.S. Winds up looking a little bit feckless on the world stage. I was struck by a piece you wrote this week, where you said it was somewhat egotistical for us to focus on how great the turmoil is in the world right now. We have to put it in context. That's right. I talked to a bunch of historians. Every generation has this moment that they believe that they're the ones able to identify a moment of great change and turmoil that is unique and different and worse than all other moments of turmoil and change that came before. Just look at what happened in 2001. The second intifada. Israel-palestine. The September 11th attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan. That was a pretty bad year, too. We're still alive, still here, still kicking. You have all these safe havens. That is a real fear and a real difference. Look at Yemen. Look at Pakistan. Look at what Afghanistan could become. Look at Iraq. The safe havens there for terrorists are unbelievable. You have to look at the united States. It's a very unique time. Some of the things going on are structural. The rise of powers. The breakdowns of states. Some of the things we have had a lot to do with. We have gone from the previous administration that tried to do too much. I think Iraq is an example of that. We weakened state authority. And now we have a failed state in Iraq. To an administration that is arguably trying to do too little. We see that in Syria. We see that if putting calendars on how long we're going to stay in places, such as Afghanistan, which is potentially then a crisis to come. We can say this is a turbulent world. To some extent, we are responsible, because we are still, by far, the most consequential and powerful country in the world. Richard brings up a good point, Carol lee. The white house would say president Obama was brought in to office to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And there's though -- no way we're going back in. Except we're potentially back in. The president wants to set a proactive foreign policy agenda, but he's forced to react to these things. Ukraine was not on the agenda. Russia was on the agenda in an entirely different way. He wants to get out of Afghanistan. He wanted to get out of Iraq. And now we're back in there in a way he didn't expect or desire to do. I think you're seeing him trying to run a foreign policy agenda in a way that is proactive and constantly getting forced to be reactive. And raising questions among our allies on whether the united States will be there if they come in conflict. Some of that, the president has exacerbated on his own. His decision to step back was much more impactful than the white house realized at the time and is still having reverberations. You brought up secretary of state Kerry's efforts to broker a middle east peace have failed. I thing it's going too far for critics to say it's caused what's going on right now. But it certainly came to nothing. What we're seeing now, you have covered these intifadas in the past. This one does seem to be different, particularly on the Israeli side. It sure does. I'll tell you what is different. I covered the intifada in 1988. The Palestinians were throwing stones. The Israelis had rubber bullets. Today, when I go back, and over the years, I have kept in touch with a lot of people I talked to then. Today, we have long-range rockets that hamas has. And the Israelis going in with fighter jets and artillery and missiles from ships. Anything they can do. But the people, when I talk to the people, the same people who were so idealistic in 1988, we can all live together. Today, they cannot stand each other. They never see each other. There's a wall between the west bank and Israel. We are losing the moderates on both sides. We're losing Palestinian moderates. We're losing Israeli moderates. Everyone is begging for leadership. We can't even broker a cease-fire. We can't. That's part of the problem with the Israeli policy right now. Which is Israel will succeed in weakening hamas, and then what? Toward what end? If you only weaken them, it's simply matter of months and years before they rearm. You have to try to destroy it, which is impossible. You tray to coopt it, it has not worked. Or you try to marginalize it. The only way to do that is with a serious diplomatic initiative to the moderates in the west bank. You try to separate hamas from the people of gaza, who are right now paying an enormous price for hamas' radicalism. Israel cannot have only a military strategy. They need a political or diplomatic complement. You spent time on the ground in may in the Ukraine. It certainly does seem right now that president Putin has unleashed a battle that he schi simply can't control anymore. I have been saying it for years. Vladimir Putin, for all the praise he gets in some corners of Washington. He's brilliant and outma moverering the U.S. At every turn. He's a good tactician but a terrible strategist. He stoked the fire in eastern Ukraine. It got out ahead of him. I don't think in his wildest dreams did he intend -- I don't think he every intended to down a civilian jet. He can't have. And the Netherlands are a major trading partner with Russia. Now the Netherlands are furious at him. They're calling the behavior of the rebels disgusting. He's alienated a lot of people with this. Does Putin take the opportunity now to deescalate? If he was, indeed, losing the battle, is this an opening for him? It should be an opening for us. On one hand, we create the narrative on what happened with the crash. We press the europeans to put more pressure. There has to be quietly put forward to Putin an offramp. Basically, a way to deescalate. That should be the priority of the white house. It's not enough for the senior officials to come out and excoriate Putin. Privately, quietly, we have to send out a lifeline and say, under certain terms, it's in your interests and our interests to deescalate. Let's see if we can come up with those terms. President Obama has been on the phone with president Putin twice in the last few days. They're looking for a -- privately looking for a way to deescalate this. I think the one thing the white house hopes is that this does wind up being a game-changing event. And that nothing they have done so far has had any substantial impact on the crisis. That now, you have seen the president try to pressure the europeans and Putin. Those things are taking care of themselves at the moment. You'll see the president try to guide this into the conclusion that he wants, which is ultimately a deescalation. Up until now, president Putin blaming the Ukrainians. Still blaming the Ukrainians and probably doing that for a long time. Not sure he'll ever take the blame for that. In the end, we have to know it was mistakenly shot down. Thank you all very much. A great discussion.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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