The following are excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Chicago Tribune, on Obama’s surge: For years, Afghanistan has been The Other War. The one overshadowed by Iraq. The one that Americans thought they’d won years ago. The one that NATO was supposed to be leading.
Now, as the Iraq war recedes, Afghanistan takes center stage. And here is the central paradox of this war: NATO is winning every battle. Yet it is losing the war. …
President Barack Obama recently announced a new strategy that borrowed heavily from the successful “surge” that quelled violence and tipped the balance in Iraq. He said the U.S. would send 21,000 troops, including 4,000 to help train the Afghan army and police. …
Obama’s surge is a canny move. As in Iraq, it isn’t just about more troops on the ground, but finding the right pressure points - not all of them military - to quell the insurgents and bolster elected leaders.
Just as important, the U.S. must set some clear benchmarks for progress, as President Bush did in Iraq. That means clear, measurable goals and regular public reports on progress. Obama promises those benchmarks. The sooner he delivers, the better.
Obama intends to win this war. But what about America’s NATO allies? While America troop levels soar to about 68,000 by the end of the year NATO essentially stands pat. It is fielding a force of about 32,000 non-American soldiers in Afghanistan. That means what has been a European-predominant force will become an overwhelmingly American one.
On the Net:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, on the rescue of a U.S. captain and crew from Somali pirates: The rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates Sunday was an exercise in basic sovereignty. …
Piracy is not a dispute between nations. It is not a problem to be resolved by diplomacy between disagreeing parties. And history has certainly shown it is not a problem that goes away by paying the ransoms demanded by the pirates. Piracy is an act of international lawlessness. Negotiating with pirates makes as much sense as negotiating with a mugger.
On the Net:
The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, on the need for President Barack Obama to tackle immigration reform: Adding to an already ambitious first-year legislative agenda, President Barack Obama is going to push ahead with immigration reform, hoping to succeed where President George W. Bush failed. …
Obama has promised to secure the borders with more agents and better technology and to reduce the incentive to sneak across the border by reforming the “dysfunctional” immigration bureaucracy that forces would-be legal entrants to wait years to enter the United States. The most controversial provision is likely the path to citizenship, allowing illegal immigrants to “come out of the shadows” by paying a fine, learning English and going to the back of the line for citizenship. …
Politically, this is perhaps not the most opportune time to tackle immigration. With the economy in recession, advocates on different sides of the debate said that immigration could become a polarizing issue in a year when Obama has other major battles to fight. …
Bush’s experience, when the economy was good and his party controlled both houses of Congress, shows that there is no really right time.
But the only excuse for not acting on immigration reform is if Congress and the country find the status quo - 12 million illegal immigrants - acceptable.
On the Net:
The Denver Post, on electronic health records: President Obama’s announcement this past week that his administration will beef up care for veterans and create comprehensive electronic health records for them is a step forward for those who have protected this country.
It’s also an opportunity for the country to test drive the reform ideas the president sees as central to healing the nation’s broken health care system.
A transition to e-health records will be a complicated and expensive task, but projected efficiencies and improvements in health care quality make the idea worthy of exploration. …
As the drive toward digitizing health care records has gained momentum in recent years, so too have concerns about patient privacy. Any time there is easy access to vast stores of personal information, there is a risk of that access being abused.
Patients must retain control over the privacy of their records no matter how the system ultimately is configured and Congress must ensure measures are in place to offer privacy protections.
As it stands, American hospitals and doctors’ offices have been slow to go electronic, and the main holdup is money. It is enormously expensive to buy such a system.
The president’s stimulus plan, which includes money for the transition both in the veterans system and the private sector, will push such change. Even though the president has encouraged the development of an encompassing e-health care record system, it’s clear such a reality is a long way off.
On the Net:
San Antonio Express-News, on Congress and farm cuts: With government bailouts generating so much populist anger, at least one area has been excluded from outrage - agriculture. The question is why?
In hard times, it’s now conceivable for the government to provide some form of assistance to failing businesses. But thriving industries that put out their hands make a mockery of the system.
Call it welfare for the rich. Most of the subsidies go to large farm operations with annual incomes averaging more than $230,000, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.
President Barack Obama tried and failed to do something about it recently, crafting a plan to prohibit “direct payments” to farms with annual gross receipts exceeding $500,000.
What seemed like an eminently fair and sensible proposal was too draconian for the powerful farm lobby and the lawmakers who bow before it.
In both the House and Senate, lawmakers from farm states argued against the limits, saying that the president went too far in his efforts to scale back the subsidies. …
In the end, White House officials acknowledged the plan may have been too “ambitious,” although it represents a sad state of affairs when prudence and common sense are regarded as overreaching. …
On the Net:
The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, on former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens: Based on what is known about Ted Stevens’ conduct, the Alaskan didn’t deserve to be re-elected to his seat in the U.S. Senate. But even more importantly, based on what is now known about the conduct of the federal prosecutors who secured a corruption verdict against him last year, he didn’t deserve to be convicted, either.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the conviction based on prosecutors’ admission that they botched the case. … And then the judge took the highly unusual step of ordering a criminal investigation of those prosecutors. He was right on both counts. …
The only good to come out of this episode is that the country’s new attorney general, Eric Holder, voluntarily revealed the Justice Department’s failure to abide by the rules and moved to drop the charges. That’s a good sign for Americans who were appalled at the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Department. Oddly, though, it was Bush’s Justice Department that prosecuted Stevens who, like the former president, is a Republican. …
The prosecutors who handled the trial were removed from the case. Sullivan called their behavior “outrageous” and held them in contempt in February. Outrageous hardly begins to cover it. If the Justice Department will illegally prosecute a U.S. senator of the president’s own party, then who among us can be safe?
On the Net:
Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, on filing taxes and the federal tax code: Today, millions of Americans will file their taxes. They are not only funding the federal government, they have already shouldered a second tax burden, the cost of determining how much they must pay.
From the homeowner who pays $50 for software to compute his taxes, to the small business forced to hire an accountant, to the corporations that have to hire legions of tax attorneys, American families and businesses spend billions each year just to figure out their taxes. …
The need for taxes is understandable. It takes money to run the government. Taxpayers may not like the reality, but they understand the necessity of some taxes. This second burden is completely unnecessary. We face this tremendous expense because of the monstrous complexity of the federal tax code. That code is 6.7 million words, and it changes all the time. There were 500 changes made last year. …
Congress needs to replace the federal tax code with a simpler system that doesn’t impose a massive burden on taxpayers. Americans realize they have to fund the government, but they shouldn’t have to pay billions on top of that burden just to determine their tax bill.
On the Net: