Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on Mideast peace still elusive 12 years after 9/11 attacks:
Twelve years ago this Wednesday, we were suddenly and stunningly jolted from our naive notion that the world was a much safer place than we had led ourselves to believe.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, took 3,000 lives and impacted millions more by jerking the blinders off our heads. So America saddled up, went to war in the Middle East, and eventually earned some measure of justice by taking down many al-Qaida leaders and sending the Taliban running into the hills.
Yet a dozen years later, the Middle East looks no more stable nor peaceful than it was in 2001. That leads many to wonder what U.S. policy should be in the region. It's a debate without a clear right or a left, nor easy answers, as the nation considers taking action in yet another turbulent locale, Syria.
The 9/11 attacks directly led to the U.S. military action in Afghanistan. That war has cost 2,200 American lives with success hard to measure, though the No. 2 U.S. commander there, Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said last week he believes victory still can be won before forces withdraw at the end of 2014.
The terror attacks also indirectly led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq a year later, based on the belief Saddam Hussein's regime had supported the terrorists and amassed destructive weapons. Our nation committed more than 4,400 lives and billions of dollars in a divisive engagement that many still believe was a mistake ...
Now civil war in Syria pits Bashar Assad's government against revolutionaries seeking to add that country to the Arab Spring list of toppled dictators that included Libya's Gadhafi and Egypt's Mubarak. His armed forces' apparent use of chemical weapons in a recent battle has the Obama administration seeking "targeted, limited" airstrikes against some of his military sites.
If we learned anything from these messy Mideast uprisings it's that removing one group of bad actors doesn't lead to peace, stability and democracy — usually just to a different group of equally bad actors who impose their own brand of oppressive rule and political retribution.
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on vexing U.N. vetoes:
Many Americans may be infuriated that Russia and China have signaled their readiness to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for intervention to punish Syria's use of chemical weapons in its brutal civil war.
According to U.N. rules, adopted in 1945 when the international organization was created, any of the five permanent members (the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France) of the Security Council may veto any resolution brought before the council, thus preventing any action the other members may favor.
Critics believe that the U.N. founders made a terrible mistake in granting that veto power, and perhaps they're right. But it would be a serious mistake to think that the veto power doesn't serve American interests as well as those of our adversaries.
Over the years, the American ambassador to the U.N. has frequently exercised the right to cast a veto. ...
The first United States veto came in 1970 and dealt with a major crisis in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The United Kingdom, of which Rhodesia was once a colony, vetoed seven Security Council resolutions on that subject. Two years later, the United States cast the only veto on a resolution that was critical of Israel.
In fact, since 1972 the United States has been by far the most frequent user of the veto and nearly all the vetoes involved resolutions that were contrary to Israel's political interests. ...
Benjamin Ferencz, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II, suggested (in a recent letter to The New York Times) that in this case the Security Council should refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, "which is competent to penalize crimes against humanity." What he didn't say, however, is how the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, could be forced to face that court.
Still, the U.N., for its faults and machinations, does provide a useful if imperfect global platform for maintaining peaceful relations and providing humanitarian aid, as world leaders envisioned when it was formed at the end of World War II.
The United States should never allow its involvement to diminish its security or sovereignty, but the United Nations, vetoes and all, does serve a valuable purpose.
New York Times on Pakistan's peaceful transition:
During most of his five years as Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari was so embattled that there were constant rumors that he would be killed, jailed or ousted in a military coup. On Sunday, he left office after a formal lunch hosted by his political rivals. This was the first time that an elected Pakistani president had completed his term; most others were overthrown or forced to resign. It was a remarkable development in a fragile nation not known for peaceful transitions. On Monday, Mamnoon Hussain, an obscure 73-year-old political figure, was sworn in as his successor.
This was all seen as a hopeful if unexpected sign that democratic institutions may be taking hold. Zardari, elected president after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was assassinated, was controversial. Senior judges tried to unseat him through corruption prosecutions; generals spread rumors of possible coups; the news media and the public criticized him incessantly; the Taliban vowed to kill him. But he confounded critics by surviving. He also strengthened democracy by moderating the powers of his own office and the confrontational tone of politics in general.
Pakistan remains a dangerous country. ...
It is vitally important that Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military, headed by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, work together to strengthen democratic processes. Kayani, probably the most powerful man in the country, should step down as planned in November and be replaced by someone who will continue to decrease the army role in politics.
Now that Pakistan has secured a $6.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the government should make the reforms needed to get the country on a sound financial footing. That has to include making sure that Pakistan's wealthy elite pay income taxes, and, if Pakistani leaders are smart, will also include shutting down a nuclear weapons program that wastes billions of dollars better spent on social programs like education.
The peaceful transition from Zardari to Hussain gives Pakistan a marker on which to build.
Omaha World-Herald on Olympics rightly bringing back wrestling:
After making a mess of things, the International Olympic Committee finally got it right.
Wrestling is back.
In an inexplicable move earlier this year, the IOC's executive board cut wrestling from the list of Summer Games sports, explaining that it wanted to look for new sports that would sell more tickets and be more television-friendly.
Wrestlers worldwide, and those in the Midlands, rightly protested. After all, their sport was part of the original games in ancient Greece and has been included in every modern Olympics except 1900.
The ill-conceived move even brought together some unlikely allies. The United States, Iran and Russia all threw their weight behind the campaign to reinstate wrestling.
On Sunday, the Olympic committee admitted its mistake and voted to include wrestling in the 2020 and 2024 games. Although it stopped short of re- instating wrestling as a "core" Olympic summer sport, IOC President Jacques Rogge acknowledged that "wrestling has shown great passion and resilience in the last few months."
In the fight to remain in the Olympics, wrestling's international governing body reworked the sport's structure, added weight classes for women and adopted rules changes designed to make the sport easier for spectators to understand and more fun to watch. In the long run, those changes could be a real positive for the athletes. ...
Olympics officials axed wrestling because they said they wanted new, more popular sports. It was a dumb idea, and the vote to bring wrestling back shows they seem to understand that now.
Going back to its roots is a good move for the Olympics and for the athletes of the future.
Los Angeles Times on cashing in on Uncle Sam's sweet tooth:
Federal efforts to protect growers of sugar beets and sugar cane epitomize everything that's wrong with U.S. farm programs. At times they've artificially raised the price of sugar, costing consumers billions of dollars; at other times they've stuck taxpayers with the bill for the surplus sugar production they've promoted. The fact that the sugar program is likely to survive the latest rewrite of the farm bill unscathed is a testament to how limited the bill's "reforms" are.
Sweeteners are ubiquitous in processed foods, and sugar is the most popular by far. There are two primary sources in the United States: sugar beets, which are grown in parts of California (mainly in Imperial County) and 10 other states, and sugar cane, which is grown only in Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana and Florida. According to the most recent national data, there are 155 sugar beet farms in California — all in the southeastern corner — and two sugar refineries.
Like the rest of the agriculture industry, beet and cane growers enjoy considerable protection from the federal government that's not contingent on their incomes. But while other farmers are typically offered subsidized crop insurance (taxpayers cover roughly 60% of the cost) and guarantees against steep reductions in revenue, beet and cane farmers are also protected by import and production quotas that limit supply, deter competition and inflate prices.
Their trade associations argue that the sugar program offsets foreign governments' sugar subsidies, which trump American farmers' superior productivity. ...
The rationale behind the sugar program is the same one used to justify every federal farm subsidy: To ensure a reliable food supply, farmers should be protected against the unpredictable and potentially ruinous swings in harvests and crop prices, not to mention unfair foreign competition. The most straightforward way to do so would be a means-tested system that helps farmers who run into financial trouble. There's limited sensitivity to need in U.S. farm programs, however. As a result, their benefits flow overwhelmingly to the largest — and, consequently, most durable — agribusinesses. According to economist (and farm program critic) Vincent Smith, 10 percent of the farm operations collect 60 percent of the $23.5 billion in annual farm subsidies.
Both of the competing farm bills passed by the House and Senate would eliminate the egregious direct-payment program, which pays cash to farm owners based on their acreage even in times of record profits. ...
The unusually high farm profits in recent years have given Congress a golden opportunity to try to wean agribusiness from federal subsidies and market-distorting protections. But lawmakers seem incapable of making meaningful changes even to a program as flawed and costly to consumers as the one that protects sugar beets and sugar cane farmers regardless of their potential to thrive without Uncle Sam's help.
The Australian on Obama haunted by post-Iraq uncertainty:
A Dozen years after 9/11, Barack Obama's address on Syria provided a sobering insight into US strategic hesitancy. It underlined the extent to which prevarication and weakness have become the hallmarks of the President's administration in dealing with the challenges of jihadist extremism and global terrorism.
As a reluctant belligerent, he has clutched, understandably, at Russia's proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. He has used this to delay the congressional vote on a retaliatory strike against the Assad regime. No one can reasonably criticize Obama for that: a diplomatic way out would be better than military action. But what he could not disguise is the extent to which Syria, like so many current security and strategic issues, is bedeviled by Obama's penchant for leading from behind.
His case for a retaliatory military strike against Syria is well made. It was indeed the "worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century". But the case against Bashar al-Assad has been compelling for two years (long before the Syrian rebels were infiltrated by al-Qaida-linked militants). In that time, 100,000 Syrians have been slaughtered. Yet Washington has allowed itself to be outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now Obama is beholden to Mr. Putin to get him off the hook.
Apart from giving the orders that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama has failed to provide the firm leadership the post-9/11 world needs. During his re-election campaign, Obama pronounced al-Qaida "decimated" and "on the path to defeat". ...
Obama has sometimes bordered on apologetic about America's global role, sending all the wrong signals to the likes of Iran and North Korea. No wonder governments from Riyadh to Seoul are worried about their reliance on the US. There should be no shame in wisely asserting American power. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi rapidly surrendered his WMDs when he saw what happened to Saddam Hussein.
Military force must always be a last option, but we need more decisive leadership from Washington. Former president George W. Bush had to work assiduously to muster backing from allies and instill fear into enemies after 9/11. Yet, in deriding the legitimacy and success of the US in Iraq, Obama increased his challenges on Syria.
The Japan Times on now Japan must deliver in regards to Olympics:
The International Olympic Committee has chosen Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. It is hoped that Tokyo's hosting of the once-in-four-year global games will help dispel the "locked in" feeling prevalent in Japanese society — which has been primarily attributed to difficult economic conditions — and help to enhance the level of sports in Japan. But government leaders must realize that their promise to end the leaks of radioactive water from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has now become an international pledge.
The government must mobilize all available resources to quickly solve the leak problem so that not only people in and around Fukushima Prefecture but also participants in the Olympic and Paralympic Games will not have to worry about radiation problems. ...
Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo, the candidate cities to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, all had strong and weak points. Madrid, which sought to hold the games in a less extravagant way, is suffering from Spain's serious economic problems. Istanbul, which could have become the first city in the Islamic world to host the games, had its image tarnished by clashes between government forces and demonstrators earlier this year. Tokyo, whose marketing campaign stressed, "You're in safe hands with Tokyo," had the festering radiation problem.
It appears that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech in Buenos Aires, the venue of the IOC's convention — in which he stated that the situation at Fukushima No. 1 is under control and that the "effect" of contaminated water is fully contained within the 0.3 sq. meter harbor adjacent to the nuclear power plant — helped to convince the IOC to award the games to Tokyo. ...
Japan's campaign to win the right to host the games had a very regrettable aspect to it. Princess Takamado gave a speech at the outset of Tokyo's presentation in Buenos Aires, in which she thanked the international community for the help it extended to Japan in the aftermath of the 3/11 disasters. This smacks of the use of an Imperial Family member for a political purpose, and even the Imperial Household Agency expressed its discomfort. The Diet should question the government on this point and ask it to refrain from similar actions in the future.
Mami Sato, a Paralympian from Kesenuma, Miyagi Prefecture, gave a powerful speech stressing the power of sports to restore people's confidence based on her experience in the 3/11 disasters. Japan needs to make serious efforts to nurture more athletes who embody the ideals stated by Sato.