- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

The New York Times

Even before the Champagne bottles started to run dry yesterday morning, the reality of an ominous new year was dawning across the globe. With the threat of terrorism undiminished, the world faces two other immediate, multi-alarm crises abroad, one in Iraq, the other in North Korea. With many nations eager to assert their independence from Washington, President Bush and America's European and Asian allies will have to perform some intricate diplomatic choreography in the coming weeks if they are to avoid the unhealthy prospect of the United States acting on its own to enforce its will on other countries. …

The world will be watching America closely as the new year unfolds. If Mr. Bush can't find a way to work with leaders like Roh Moo Hyun, South Korea's president-elect, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, any American diplomatic or military success may prove short-lived. The United States has overwhelming power, but over the long run it will be of use only if it is exercised with self-control.

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Washington Times

Christmas came late this year to the hill people in Vietnam known as the Montagnards, and when it came, it was at the point of a gun and the heel of a jackboot.

The Vietnamese government took the largely Christian holiday as an opportunity to launch another wave of repression against this largely Christian minority. Late last week, it pronounced another series of long prison terms on eight Montagnards accused of political crimes, and that was probably just a small part of its offensive Christmas offensive. According to the Montagnard Foundation, Degar Christians (a subgroup of Montagnards) were threatened with fines, imprisonment and execution for celebrating the holiday. Moreover, the Vietnamese government backed up those threats with the mobilization of 600 squads of "fast-deployment teams" of soldiers in the highlands last October.

Tragically, this follows the same pattern of brutal repression that the Vietnamese government has been practicing against the Montagnards since early 2001, when the Montagnards rose to protest the already-serious repression against them. According to an Amnesty International report released earlier last month, there have been many reports of the persecution of Protestants, including arrests of pastors, forced closures of churches and mandated renunciations. Those who do not comply face quick trials followed by ill-treatment and torture. …

It's worth remembering (especially since the communist Vietnamese government certainly does) that the Montagnards have long been friends of the United States. During the Vietnam War, they gave sanctuary to U.S. soldiers and their lives to the U.S. cause more than half of adult Montagnard males were killed fighting alongside American soldiers during the conflict.

In the short term, Washington should pressure Hanoi to end its holiday repression. In the long term, it should do all it can to offer succor and aid to its friends, the Montagnards.

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The Washington Post

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the leftist populist who was inaugurated yesterday as president of Brazil, has been hinting that he doesn't intend to diverge much from the free-market economic policies that have brought his country eight years of steady growth and stability. Maybe that's because he doesn't need to look too far for cautionary lessons. To the south, Argentina's corrupt and spineless political elite has spent a year in a futile quest to evade the consequences of its bad financial management during the 1990s, even as the country's living standard has plummeted. To the north, an even worse Latin American nightmare is underway: Venezuela, ruined and riven by the disastrous attempt of populist President Hugo Chavez to remake the country with half-baked socialism, is mired in a political standoff that risks civil war. Mr. da Silva may have been elected with the votes of Brazilians disillusioned with what Latins describe as the "liberal" economic model of private ownership and free trade; but Brazil's neighbors are vividly demonstrating how perilous it can be to depart from that model, in the absence of a coherent alternative. …

There is not much tradition of collective action in the region, and history has given U.S. intervention a mostly bad reputation. But Venezuelans are stalemated; if nothing is done, a country that is a vital oil supplier and has preserved a democracy through four decades may plunge into anarchy. If the Bush administration will do nothing, perhaps Mr. da Silva can take the lead.

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Chicago Tribune

North Korea is not very good at producing food or making friends, but it does have one valuable talent: getting attention. It has attracted plenty since October, when it admitted that it was pursuing nuclear weapons in flagrant violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States.

But instead of trying to mollify Washington, Kim Jong Il's regime has done just the opposite. It has renounced the 1994 accord, expelled the international inspectors who were keeping watch on its nuclear facilities, and begun the process of restarting a reprocessing plant that can provide fuel for nuclear weapons. All the while, it's practically dared us to do anything about it. …

President Bush has little choice but to take a firm and principled stand, while reminding other nations North Korea presents a growing danger to the world order. Containment offers no guarantee of success, but rewarding bad behavior is a sure way to get more of it.

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Dallas Morning News

Kenya is accomplishing something most African nations struggle to achieve the peaceful transfer of political power.

Kenya's presidency passed this week from Daniel arap Moi, the man who ruled with an iron grip for more than two decades, to political foe Mwai Kibaki. There was no violence, no recrimination, no threatened coup and no allegation of election fraud. …

This is a remarkable moment. The trouble-free passing of the leadership baton is an anomaly on a continent where many so-called free elections have been coronations for the powerful and corrupt. Kenya could easily have tumbled in that direction. But it did not. And that should be an inspiration to other nations across the continent. …

Kenya has many more steps to take. Perhaps none is as significant as the one it just took.

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(Compiled by United Press International)


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