- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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


Oct. 8

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on Russia:

The details are still murky, but this is too good a story for cable TV to pass up.

Russia has canceled a 21-year-old high-school-student exchange program with the United States because a Russian teenager in the program, spending the academic year in Michigan, has sought asylum here for fear he will be persecuted if he returns home. He is gay.

It is true that Russia is notably inhospitable to gays, but the terms of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, under which 238 Russian students are currently studying in the United States, require that all participants return home at the end of their year.

Because of privacy laws involving juveniles, few details have emerged from the U.S. side, but the Kremlin has used the case to portray Russia as a wholesome bulwark against increasingly decadent Western values. A top Russian foreign ministry official portrayed the student’s defection, if that’s what it was, as a violation of not only the agreement but also the basic “moral and ethical principles of Russian society.”

One could fairly ask if under Vladimir Putin Russia has any moral or ethical principles other than self-enrichment, self-perpetuation in office, encroachment on its neighbors and seeking to mask its decline as a great power by aggravating the West and especially the United States.

Nonetheless, the United States, as in the Elian Gonzalez case, is obligated to return the boy home. Then at least Western diplomats and media can keep an eye on his treatment at the hands of the Russian authorities.




Oct. 8

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Ebola and traveling:

With news that the Ebola epidemic has spread from West Africa to both the United States and Europe, it’s time for the U.S. government to step up screening at airports and impose commonsense travel restrictions on people arriving from nations facing outbreaks of the disease.

It can take as many as 21 days before Ebola victims fall ill.

Ebola is spread via direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person or animal.

A nurse in Spain recently contracted the disease after treating two priests who caught it in Africa and were taken to Spain for treatment.

It has been reported that flights with passengers coming from West Africa - which usually arrive from other destinations since there are no direct flights from West Africa to the U.S. - are not being screened at all.

The U.S. government should immediately order commonsense protective measures to be instituted at airports. Banning travel to and from West Africa should be considered if any more cases occur here. There is no need for panic, but both the CDC and the Obama administration should do more to ensure this disease doesn’t take root in the United States.




Oct. 4

Los Angeles Times on the meaning of U.S. citizenship:

In recent years, the concept of U.S. citizenship has figured in public debate largely in connection with immigration reform. Should immigrants who are in the country illegally be given a “path to citizenship”? Should children born to parents who are not here legally be entitled to “birthright citizenship”? Should young people who are here illegally be allowed to stay indefinitely as non-naturalized residents or would that constitute “second-class citizenship”?

But citizenship has meanings that are deeper and more subtle than legal permission to live in this country. It defines an individual’s relationship to his country and thus strikes chords of nationalism and personal responsibility, duty and rights. America, it is often said, is a nation of immigrants. Is it also a nation of citizens? In this series, we will explore that question and examine the changing nature of citizenship today.

As with so many foundational questions in American life, this one has its roots in the language of the Constitution. And as with so many constitutional questions, that language embraces large and sometimes competing values. The Constitution refers to the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship, for example, but it also offers important protection for “persons” living here regardless of nationality, including the right to equal protection of the laws and due process of law. “Persons” may attend schools, hold jobs, pay taxes and receive benefits.

Holders of permanent resident cards - better known as green cards - may apply for citizenship after five years of living in this country. But even if they never apply for citizenship, permanent residents are participants in the economy and their local communities, and often have spouses and children who are U.S. citizens. Some would argue that they should also be allowed to vote (if only in local elections) or serve on juries. If permanent residents were to be given a role in the political process and the judicial system, should they be required to meet the same conditions imposed on naturalized citizens, such as proficiency in English?

Complicating the picture further is the fact that many U.S. citizens - native-born and naturalized - hold citizenship in another country, and sometimes vote in foreign elections and even serve in foreign armies. Although the State Department discourages dual nationality, the Supreme Court has ruled that a U.S. citizen must affirmatively intend to renounce his citizenship before it can be taken away. In an increasingly globalized world, dual citizenship is, for some, an attractive option. Is it also good for the American political process, or does the existence of multiple allegiances undermine social cohesion?




Oct. 8

Wall Street Journal on ISIS:

A month ago President Obama ordered the world’s greatest military “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. America’s word isn’t what it used to be. As we went to press on Tuesday, ISIS was on the verge of a major military victory in Kobani, a mostly Kurdish city along Syria’s border with Turkey.

The siege of Kobani has left hundreds dead and forced some 200,000 to flee, mostly to Turkey. The city’s fall would mean a massacre of civilians and Kurdish fighters_ISIS doesn’t distinguish among “apostates”_that would put Kobani in the same sentence with Srebrenica. So soon after Obama’s call to arms, it would also be a blow to American prestige and a huge recruiting tool for ISIS. The jihadists would claim they’ve defeated an America unable to stop them.

For three weeks the U.S. has watched while doing little to help undermanned Syrian Kurdish fighters holding out against the terrorist army that is using stolen American weapons. The black flag of ISIS appeared Monday above buildings in an outlying district of Kobani, which before the war had a population of some 50,000.

After the Kurds begged for help, the U.S. on Tuesday escalated air strikes against ISIS artillery positions near Kobani. But the bombing is late and insufficient. ISIS fighters move in small teams and many are dug into urban areas.

The Syrian Kurds are trapped between the President’s refusal to act beyond cursory bombing and neighboring Turkey’s cynical realpolitik. In northern Syria and across the Middle East, the Kurds are secular, mostly Sunni Muslims and staunch friends of America. The U.S. needs to protect and strengthen these allies to defeat Islamist terror and restore order in the region.

As for Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘s government is letting its distrust of Kurdish intentions cloud its moral and strategic interests. Turkey refuses to let weapons and supplies cross into Kobani to reach the Syrian Kurdish YPG, or People’s Protection Committees. Ankara suspects them of links to the banned Turkish Kurdish terrorist group, the PKK. Though Turkey’s parliament last week voted to support the Obama campaign, its formidable military sits on the border, watching the ISIS onslaught.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said last week that “we do not want Kobani to fall,” and he shouldn’t. With Kobani in ISIS hands, a long chunk of Turkey’s (and thus NATO’s) southern frontier would be in the hands of a fanatical terrorist army. Davutoglu said this week the Turks were prepared to send ground forces into Syria but first wanted to see “a clear strategy” from President Obama. Join the club.

Speaking on Tuesday at a Syrian refugee camp in southern Turkey, Erdogan argued that ISIS can’t be defeated by air power alone. “The terror will not be over,” he said, “unless we cooperate for a ground operation.” America’s military brass have made clear they agree.

Erdogan didn’t offer details about a ground operation but he called for a no-fly zone to ground Bashar Assad ‘s planes in Syria, a secure border security zone, and more training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels. These columns have suggested the same for more than three years.

The regional frustration with Washington dates to the beginning of the Syrian uprising in spring 2011. The Turks and pro-American Gulf states turned against Assad’s regime and backed the rebels. The Turks, who have the best army, were reluctant to take the risk to move militarily on their own.

Out of character, Erdogan even turned the other cheek after Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance plane in 2012. But Turkish officials urged America to arm Syria’s rebels and weaken the Assad regime with air strikes and said it would follow the U.S. lead. Washington refused.

In his reversal last month on Iraq and Syria, President Obama ruled out U.S. ground forces and left out the Assad regime from his ISIS plan. As Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham wrote in these pages on Tuesday, the absence of a policy to remove Assad is a “self-defeating contradiction.” Turkey and the Gulf allies think the campaign against ISIS will strengthen their nemesis Assad and his Iranian godfathers. They are right to be worried.

The Turks and friendly Arab are looking for American leadership in Kobani and beyond. The Syrian city needs weapons and fuel supplies, a more intense bombing campaign, and maybe U.S. Special Forces to end the ISIS siege. This early crisis in the Obama campaign exposes flaws in his strategy that will continue to undermine the military effort and the anti-ISIS regional alliance.

No successful war plan is static, and Obama needs to adjust his now if he wants to stop a massacre in Kobani and the continuing march of ISIS.




Oct. 7

Express-News, San Antonio, Texas, military must do more on assaults:

The study was done in Los Angeles, but there is no reason to believe that its findings aren’t applicable elsewhere - including Texas.

It pointed to transition problems for returning veterans ranging from joblessness to homelessness to untreated physical and mental illnesses. But it also pointed to just how far the military must still go to address sexual abuse in the ranks.

The study was done by the University of Southern California. An Express-News article by Sig Christenson told of its contents.

Every problem identified in the study warrants attention. Recommendations range from better awareness and outreach programs to veterans programs becoming more holistic in their approach.

But here is one of the more salient shockers in a study chock-full of eyebrow raisers:

“Two-thirds of female pre-9/11 veterans (66.2 percent) and 60.4 percent of female post-9/11 veterans reported being sexually harassed while serving in the military,” according to the study. “Reports of sexual assault for female veterans were equally high, with 56.9 percent of pre-9/11 veterans and 37.8 percent of post-9/11 veterans reporting being sexually assaulted.”

The study takes solace in the lower rate for women in the post-9/11 category, saying it might indicate progress in preventing sexual assaults in the military.

But one pertinent question: How many assaults were even reported? A confidential Pentagon study in 2012 placed the number of military sexual assaults at 26,000, with 3,374 reported.

This study should be required reading for veterans support groups but also, especially when it comes to sexual assaults, for military leadership and members of Congress.




Oct. 7

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on energy:

The net U.S. energy import ratio (imports minus exports) was 30 percent at its peak just nine years ago. In 2012, the figure was 16 percent; by 2040 it could be as low as 4 percent.

John Manzella, writing in his Manzella Report, says this trend has profound implications on global relationships. Some major sources of energy exports to the United States - Russia, Venezuela and Saudia Arabia - will be hurt economically. With falling U.S. dependency on Middle Eastern oil, the world’s largest consumer of energy will have increasing influence in the Mideast.

That consumer is China.

The net import changes have enormous potential to help the U.S. economy. Policy changes we support, including lifting the ban on crude oil exports from the United States and fast-tracking liquefied natural gas terminal permits, would make this even more true.

Aside from the obvious benefit to the American economy, what will the moving energy picture mean for geopolitics? It may be trite to say that energy is politics and politics is energy, but the truth of the statement is self-evident.

A decline in dependency on Russian oil and gas among European nations would decrease Vladimir Putin’s ability to behave badly. Countries dependent on Russian energy are reluctant to criticize Putin’s moves.

What happens in China won’t stay in China. If the Chinese economy expands and taps more and more Mideast oil, exporting countries will prosper and energy prices will be higher. But if China can’t supplant the U.S. as a major importer of Mideast oil, Manzella said, “global energy prices may remain relatively low or not rise to levels projected in the past.”

We’re already seeing the downside of recent lower oil prices in Oklahoma. Many of the publicly traded Oklahoma oil and gas producers saw their share prices drop in the third quarter, by as much as 40 percent.

This bad news should be tempered by the realization that, long term, the United States is better off when it’s less dependent on Mideast oil. And the world is better off if Russia loses leverage because of lower energy prices - and/or if U.S. exports supply some of what Russia’s been shipping to Europe.

The U.S. energy boom has wiped out predictions made not so long ago that American demand for energy would continue to increase its vulnerability to unstable governments halfway across the globe. Last year, domestic energy production fulfilled nearly 85 percent of U.S. demand. The nation’s superior and pioneering use of new drilling technologies has tapped vast reserves of oil and gas. Can’t those same technologies be used elsewhere in the world and erase the advantage the United States now has?

Perhaps, Manzella says, but in the short term the U.S. energy boom is unlikely to be replicated. America has an edge, he says, because of the huge base of shale/tight oil plays, private ownership of mineral rights, thousands of independent drilling companies, a large census of drilling rigs and “strong capital markets that fund new ventures.”

In England, where on-shore energy reserves may be abundant, individuals don’t own mineral rights. Surface landowners are loath to accept disruptive drilling activity that won’t benefit them financially.

The wild card in the advance to an extremely low U.S. net import rate over the next 25 years is government policy - in particular, potential restrictions on hydraulic fracturing and a crackdown on how oil is transported.

Perhaps of greater concern, long term, is China. It’s become the largest importer of Mideast oil. What will the Chinese do militarily to safeguard their oceanic pipeline of energy supplies?

The bottom line, in Manzella’s view, is that although America is becoming more energy secure, “subsequent events could make the global environment more volatile.”

That’s all the more reason to encourage domestic energy production with rational and realistic federal energy and environmental policies.




Oct. 8

The Australian on world not turning back on threat:

As soon as U.S. alliance quibbler Hugh White appeared in The New York Times attacking the Abbott government’s decision to deploy military personnel against Islamic State it was only a matter of time before he was invited to broadcast his views on the ABC. The NYT’s inaccurate and tendentious piece was tweeted by ABC hosts last weekend and Professor White was on Radio National yesterday saying the coalition nations would not be able to achieve their objectives with current commitments. They were, he said, “going through the motions and better off not doing it”. Hardly pressed on the risks of inaction, he said: “I don’t think IS is the problem, the problem is the collapse of Iraq and Syria.”

Given thousands of men, women and children have been raped or killed on the basis of their race or religion, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes for their lives, this sort of strategic stiff-arm is extraordinary. In reality it has been the reluctance of the international community to remain militarily and diplomatically engaged in Iraq that has allowed the situation to develop. It is disingenuous to suggest the collapse of Iraq is the problem when the only parts that have collapsed are those that have fallen to IS. That the national broadcaster should be so eagerly uncritical of views that would see the world turn its back on genocidal slaughter, sadly, is something we have come to expect. The ABC frequently displays attitudes to the alliance, international affairs and national security that would be more at home in a university seminar (or protest) than in a national discussion about pragmatic, humanitarian and strategic outcomes.

As the sinister black IS flag is raised over the Syrian border town of Kobane, the world is all too familiar with the need for a ground offensive to support the aerial strikes that, so far, have failed to halt the IS advance. The coalition has been clear about the need to empower the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces to tackle IS. No one suggests this will be easy, quick or risk-free. In our pages experts including former army chief Peter Leahy, former Iraq forces commander Maurie McNarn, strategist Peter Jennings and counter-terrorism specialist David Kilcullen have aired perspectives on this dilemma. IS will not hesitate to use civilians as human shields and reports suggest they are already melting into the cities.

Yet for all the complexities and horrors of the situation, and all the reluctance to enjoin another protracted Middle East conflict, the question the Greens, Professor White and the ABC need to address is what would happen if the international community did not act? We know many thousands more would die. We know refugees would flood to Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere. We know the Iraqi government would come under threat as IS pushed on for Baghdad. We know IS would continue to inspire and recruit Islamic extremists globally, including on our shores. We would fret about responses from Turkey, Iran and the Gulf states. There is sensible debate to be had about the scope of the intervention. But in the face of the IS threat, doing nothing is not a serious or acceptable option.



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