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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

June 4, 2014

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:


June 3

Wall Street Journal on Obama’s European solidarity:

President Obama has been notably indifferent to Europe for five long years, but maybe Russia’s aggression has given him a new focus. On Tuesday in Warsaw he unveiled a new $1 billion fund and other measures to signal America’s commitment to Europe’s defense. These are welcome steps, though a permanent troop redeployment would be better.

The Warsaw symbolism was useful and potent. World War II started in Poland, and this week is also the 25th anniversary of the first partially free elections that were followed by the collapse of Polish Communism. Vladimir Putin’s new military adventures threaten the independence of Ukraine but also once again the stability of post-Cold War Europe_especially Poland, the Baltics and other frontline NATO states that America is bound by the NATO treaty to defend.

President Obama’s Warsaw package begins to undo years of U.S. and Western European complacency. If Congress approves, and it should, the new $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative would pay for increased American training, military exercises and rotations of soldiers and ships through Europe.

The U.S. currently has 67,000 troops scattered throughout Western Europe, and those forces belong closer to the new threat in the east. The White House said Tuesday it is “reviewing our force presence in Europe in light of the new security challenges on the continent.” But President Obama missed an opportunity to make an even bigger statement this week by failing to announce a redeployment eastward. The delay will give Putin’s many apologists in London and Berlin a chance to lobby against any forward troop movement.

Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Russia to keep its tanks out of eastern Ukraine and let the May 25 elections go ahead or face harsher sanctions. It was easy for Putin to oblige, but those were the wrong bars for new sanctions. Russian and Chechen fighters are streaming into eastern Ukraine, and the Ukrainians need lethal aid to resist. It’s good to see Obama discover that keeping the peace in Europe requires an American commitment, but Putin is the kind of leader who only understands military facts on the ground.




June 3

Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on exchange of soldiers:

It is wonderful news that the Taliban released U.S. Army Sgt. Bob Bergdahl after five years of captivity.

The Taliban captured Bergdahl on June 30, 2009. Some reports have speculated that he had walked away from his unit, disillusioned by the war, but those reports have not been confirmed.

This should be dealt with later if it is true.

Now, Bergdahl should be celebrating his freedom and reuniting with family and friends.

We are elated that Bergdahl is free, but the matter in which he was released opens itself to criticism.

The United States has a longstanding policy that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. In this case, the Obama administration negotiated with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release. The president is also required to consult with Congress before something like this transpires. This wasn’t done in a timely manner. So much for that transparency we were promised back in 2008.

In return for his release, five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were released and flown to Qatar, which served as a mediator in negotiations. The five released were the worst of the worst Taliban members taken out of the combat zone.

Their mission in Afghanistan was to kill U.S. and coalition forces, members of the newly formed government and civilians. It’s quite likely all of them have blood on their hands, and this is who the Obama administration decided to release.

The administration can argue that Bergdahl’s release keeps the president’s promise that no one who serves our country will be forgotten; surely this should also include Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician who is serving a lengthy sentence for helping us find Osama bin Laden, or Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, the Marine who languishes away in a Mexican prison because he unknowingly crossed the Mexican border.

How long, President, before these situations receive the same focus as Bergdahl?

We’re glad that Bergdahl is free and safe, but the means used to free him raise serious questions about negotiating with terrorists.




June 2

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on President Barack Obama’s legacy:

President Barack Obama is at it again. In 2010, the 44th president pushed for a so-called reform of the nation’s health-care system.

He and tunnel-visioned fellow Democrats Nancy Pelosi, then House Speaker, and Harry Reid, Senate President, eschewed all legitimate Republican concerns about a major government policy change simply because they had the votes in Congress to pass their bill then.

What followed was a very rough roll-out of the health care law, smoothed only slightly through a bevy of executive orders by the president to change parts of the law.

Unfortunately, there is no legal precedent nor Constitutional power for the president to make many of the changes he has made without congressional approval — but he dared not bring the act back before the U.S. House where a Republican majority had since taken over — primarily due to voter anger at his party’s shoving through a major policy change.

Now the president has done it again. Showing continued callousness, if not actual disdain, toward representatives in the U.S. Congress who were elected by the people, the President’s Environmental Protection Agency issued the Clean Power Plan to begin to do the things the president couldn’t get Congress to do with his Cap and Trade bill: stifle the production and use of the nation’s most abundant, economical natural resource for the generation of reliable, low-cost electric power.

The EPA showed its true objectivity on the issue when it held a series of public meetings while drafting its new policy. Those meetings occurred in 11 urban centers — from San Francisco to Boston — nowhere near any region of the country where hard-working people actually produce coal — and ultimately electric power — through their own blood, sweat and tears.

Why is it that Obama’s big legacy proposals wind up as big fights?

Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush reached out to the opposition party and worked to develop a coalition of leaders toward big goals such as No Child Left Behind and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

While Obama seems preoccupied with leaving a lasting legacy, he’s likely to be remembered for his arrogant “I am the King” approach to advance his policies his way, regardless of what he considers two minor irritants, the U.S. Constitution, and representative government.




June 3

Boston Globe on climate change:

The new regulations on power plant emissions announced yesterday by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency mark the nation’s first truly serious assault on climate change. The proposed rules, which will be subject to a four-month comment period, call for cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent within 15 years.

It’s a workable, realistic goal that will spur investment in low-emission energy technology, including wind and solar power. Phased in over a long enough period to minimize economic damage, it would nonetheless achieve a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to taking nearly two-thirds of the nation’s passenger vehicles off the road. The clearer air should save thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars in health benefits. And it would finally give the United States the credibility to push other countries, including fast-growing, fast-polluting China, to enact similar measures. It is, in every sense, a major step — and a long overdue and welcome one.

Almost all credible reports suggest the world is passing the point where it can reverse, or eliminate, global warming. But that only means it’s more urgent than ever to push for historic carbon reductions. Nonetheless, many politicians — including the usual global-warming deniers and those from both parties in fossil-fuel-producing states — rushed to claim the new rules would cause steep economic damage.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of coal-state Kentucky laughably warned of a “unilateral dismantling of our own economic supremacy.” That’s refuted by the entire history of environmental protection, in which self-interested businesses and doomsayers predicted huge economic costs to the landmark clean-air and clean-water regulations of the ’70s, only to see more jobs created in the technology boom that followed the new regulations.

In a wise move, the EPA is not dictating to states how to get to their prescribed reductions, and is giving them two years to submit plans of action.

This system, which ensures that emissions get cut in the most economically efficient way, has helped foster dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions since it was implemented in 2009. Energy prices have fallen 8 percent over that period, while the private sector has rushed in to fund energy-efficiency technology and alternative fuels. What worked here can work in other places, as the entire nation prepares for a historic conversion from a fossil-fuel economy to one based largely on renewable energy. The EPA’s plan is a vital first step.




June 3

Arizona Republic on Mexico being the new China:

Arizona’s international border is an economic engine with huge potential, and the stars are aligning to make it more powerful yet.

Mexico offers high-skill, low-cost manufacturing and easy access to the North American market.

Labor costs are rising in China, and U.S. manufactures are relocating to Mexico with an enthusiasm reminiscent of the early days of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, according to The New York Times.

Big names like Caterpillar, Stanley, Black & Decker, Chrysler and Callaway Golf are expanding there. But opportunities exist for companies of all sizes, including locally grown Arizona companies.

The whole nation benefits from trade with Mexico. About 40 percent of the content of goods imported from Mexico originates in the United States. That drops to 4 percent if the import comes from China.

But “there is no question that the border states are in the lead in using binational trade as a tool for regional development,” according to a report that introduced an on-going series of Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums, including one in Rio Rico last month.

The Nogales border crossing has long attracted produce from western Mexico. A new highway in Mexico’s interior puts Texas in a position to compete for those imports, and Texas is aggressively doing so. But Jungmeyer says the Mexican highway also allows Arizona’s ports to compete for produce from eastern Mexico.

It’s a silver-lining scenario that depends on efficient ports and good infrastructure in Arizona.

It isn’t the only example of envisioning a more rewarding international future.

In addition to a commitment by Phoenix and the state to open trade offices in Mexico City, local government leaders from Arizona and Sonora agreed earlier this year to form the Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion to work on becoming more globally competitive. This is modeled on a mega-border region in California, according to Erik Lee of the North American Research Partnership.

Last weekend, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild hosted a Borderlands Trade Conference that brought together experts from business, trade and government sectors to share ideas.

The border is an asset with growing potential for economic development, and efforts to build on that will help our state prosper.




June 2

The Japan Times on Poroshenko’s assignment:

Much hung on the results of Ukraine’s election last week. Citizens were not just picking the next president. They were choosing whether they would bow to the thuggery of Russian-backed rebels or whether they would assert their independence and demand a say in theirs and their country’s future.

Not surprisingly for a people who have endured six months — before and after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych — of sometimes bloody protests against a corrupt and antidemocratic administration, they opted for the latter, refusing to be intimidated by the threats from the East. Yet if the people’s work is done, the responsibility now falls on the shoulders of newly elected President Petro Poroshenko to end the downward spiral of corruption and incompetence.

Since Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February in the face of mass protests triggered by his decision to scrap closer ties with Europe and instead link his country more closely to Russia, the Moscow government has worked to assert its influence over its neighbor.

Russian-backed separatists who seized power in several cities declared the government in Kiev, as well as the elections last week, illegal. They held their own ballots that, not surprisingly, returned overwhelming results in favor of breaking with the central government. They refused to allow national election to proceed in areas under their control.

The remainder of Ukraine’s citizens backed Poroshenko for president, giving him 54 percent of the vote, sufficient to avoid a runoff.

Poroshenko is seen as a pragmatist who, while favoring closer alignment with the West, understands the need for good relations with Russia as well. Many of the protesters who have occupied the Maidan, the central square in Kiev, see Poroshenko as part of the system they fought to remove.

Poroshenko denies charges that he is another of “the oligarchs” who saw the Orange Revolution of 2004 as an attempt to enrich themselves.

For all their differences, the one common thread in every government in Kiev since 2004 has been a penchant for self-enrichment. The Maidan protesters, along with outside forces such as the International Monetary Fund, have been pushing through a package of reforms that would increase transparency and end the corruption that has characterized Ukraine’s economy and politics since 2004.

Poroshenko can prove his bona fides by backing those reforms, strengthening them and making them a reality.




May 31

The Australian on foreign policy:

Barack Obama reaffirmed his belief in American exceptionalism in a speech this week aimed at reframing his foreign policy. This was no small point coming from a President who won office partly by capitalizing on a decline in the US’s global standing. When he accepted the Democratic nomination in August 2008, Obama made a bold promise. “I will restore our moral standing,” he declared, “so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.” Now that he is well into his second term it is difficult to offer a positive assessment against this mission statement. The US under Obama has been slow, recoiling and tentative in international affairs. Because of the global leadership role the President accepts, this is a cause for concern.

Make no mistake, Obama is himself an embodiment of the very exceptionalism he embraces. That a one-time slave-trading nation, not so long ago riven with state-sanctioned racial inequality, can elect an African-American to the White House shows the power of the ideas that form the Great Republic. His election, of itself, did much to revive US standing as the bastion of democracy and freedom. But looking for repercussions in American foreign policy achievements, we are bound to be disappointed. Unless he shows more resolve in his final two years, his presidency will be seen as a period of drift when global threats from Iran and Russia went unchecked, the Middle Eastern quagmires deepened and China ever so surely began to feel emboldened.

To be sure, Obama points most proudly to scaling back and ending military engagements in Iraq and, in the coming two years, Afghanistan. But there is little evidence sufficient work has been done in either theatre to consolidate the gains. In his speech to graduating officers at West Point this week the President even promised to close Guantanamo Bay; the same turning point his predecessor aspired to and that Obama pledged in his 2008 campaign.

In his reference to America’s age-old argument between isolationism and adventurism, at least the commander-in-chief seemed to comprehend that in this age of global threats the US cannot realistically isolate itself from its role as an international force for order. But he placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches; a surprising priority when his current nemesis, Russia, has played such a spoiling role with its UN Security Council veto on issues such as Syria and Iran. In Obama’s own words: “A new century has brought no end to tyranny.” An end may have been too much to ask for, but we are entitled to question the lack of meaningful progress.

Obama sounded dewy-eyed when holding out a “very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement” with Iran. He also boasted of how the American “ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away”. That is not much of an achievement, or deterrence, thus far. In our region, the US pivot to Asia — somewhat forgotten with distractions in eastern Europe — has done little to stymie provocative actions by the Chinese navy. And North Korea remains unchastened. The President speaks of a world where “hopes and not just fears” govern. But for solutions he cannot afford to be fearful of US power.



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