US Opinion and Commentary

“VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussion and opinion on these policies.” — VOA Charter

Showing Archived Posts

COP21: Turning Point or Empty Promises?

Posted December 14th, 2015 at 11:32 am (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Nearly 200 nations signed the Paris accord to tackle climate change – but signing isn’t implementing, critics say. The deal sets out to commit signatories to reduce carbon emissions, but the targets are not legally binding. And that worries those who don’t trust big polluters, like China and India, to act. Even its most ardent supporters aren’t dismissing inherent flaws. Top US negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged this in an appearance on ABC News a day after the deal was announced Saturday. “I understand the criticisms of the agreement because it doesn’t have a mandatory scheme and it doesn’t have a compliance enforcement mechanism…. That’s true.” The other worry for detractors is that because the agreement is not a “treaty,” US congressional approval is not mandatory for ratification. Optimists point out that, while imperfect, the pact is a serious beginning, evidence that the world is no longer ignoring that which cannot be ignored.

Calls Grow Louder for New US Terror Strategy

Posted December 11th, 2015 at 1:28 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Until 2011, this was the face of international terrorism, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. That year, President Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for a top secret mission to take out bin Laden, who had been found living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The mission succeeded and for a long time much of the world relaxed, knowing the man who was behind September 11th was gone forever. Just three years later, the Islamic State took al-Qaida’s slot as the most dangerous terrorist organization, emerging out of the wreckage of Iraq with its signature brutality of beheading hostages and taking huge swathes of territory. A president once admired for acting boldly against al-Qaida is now under withering criticism for not doing enough to stop this latest incarnation of radical Islam. With the shooting deaths of 14 Americans at a workplace holiday gathering in California by a radicalized Muslim-American couple last week, a new poll shows Americans are now just as nervous as they were right after September 11th.

Tackling the Threat of Islamic Extremism

Posted December 10th, 2015 at 3:08 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

There has been a steady drip, drip, drip of criticism aimed at President Barack Obama’s strategy against terrorism, and the threat posed here in the United States. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump dominated the debate with his controversial call to bar Muslims from entering America in the wake of the deadly mass shooting by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California. Obama’s Oval Office address was examined and torn apart by his fiercest opponents for lacking anything new in the fight against the Islamic State, and for failing to comfort the nerves of ordinary Americans. From the president’s standpoint, those calling for a tougher response by pressing for a new military effort against jihadists are ignoring history – at America’s own peril.

Demagoguery or Democracy? Trump’s Take on Muslims

Posted December 9th, 2015 at 3:58 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These famed words, written by American poet Emma Lazarus and inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, have greeted immigrants arriving on the shores of New York since 1903. They are the essence of these United States, the foundation of its democracy. So, when Republican hopeful Donald Trump proposed barring all Muslims from entering America in response to the San Bernadino terror attack is he practicing democratic principle of free speech? Or, are these the words of a demagogue?

America’s Angst Over Islam

Posted December 8th, 2015 at 3:55 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

As we learn more details about the Muslim couple who carried out last week’s terror attack in San Bernardino, California, a tortured debate has erupted. Fear has unleashed unvarnished and sometimes ugly and inaccurate statements about Muslim-Americans. Emotions roiled further when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we figure out what is going on.” The response has been overwhelmingly negative. Bloggers took to their computers and social media to condemn “Islamaphobia.” Between the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, a passionate debate has exploded. Islam itself seems to have become yet another casualty of terrorism.

Rating Obama’s War on Terror

Posted December 7th, 2015 at 3:30 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

President Obama referred to the “evolving threat” of terror attacks during his address to the nation Sunday night in the aftermath of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. That attack and the Islamic State assault on soft targets in Paris symbolizes the president’s worries. Instead of highly sophisticated acts of terror like the September 11th attacks, now heavily armed individuals detonate explosives or fire at civilians gathered in public spaces. Last week, it was a work holiday party in San Bernardino; in 2013, it occurred during the famed Boston Marathon; four years prior, an army psychiatrist began randomly shooting colleagues at his base in Texas. While Obama’s critics condemn what they say is an incoherent and inadequate response to Islamic State militants, many experts agree there is no simple answer or strategy. The intersection of extremist ideology masking as religion, the availability of weapons, a flood of war-weary immigrants and those who might be inspired by Middle Eastern militants have made the war on terror far more challenging than ever before.

‘We Will Prevail’

Posted December 6th, 2015 at 8:52 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

President Barack Obama gave a rare address from the Oval Office Sunday night on last week’s mass shootings in San Bernardino, California – deemed an act of terror – that killed 14 people at a work holiday party. While acknowledging that the U.S. is confronting a terror threat at home, he tried to reassure the country by vowing that “we will overcome” such acts of terror. He called for stricter laws on assault-style weapons, and reiterated his decision not to engage U.S. troops in a ground war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

State of Fear

Posted December 4th, 2015 at 5:04 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fear as “to be afraid of something or someone; to expect or worry about something bad or unpleasant.” To be terrorized is defined as “to cause (someone) to be extremely afraid” or “to force (someone) to do something by using threats or violence.” So, if someone changes their behavior or alter their thought process because they fear guns and the carnage they can wreak, have they been terrorized?

Mass Shooting in San Bernardino: America’s War With Itself

Posted December 3rd, 2015 at 1:59 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

It was frighteningly familiar: people going about their business during a typical week day when suddenly gunfire erupts, killing and wounding innocent civilians. This time it happened at a social services center in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen people are dead, numerous others wounded and two suspects – a young Muslim couple – were shot and killed by police. Terrorism has not been ruled out. Neither has the possibility that the male suspect was a disgruntled employee. Once again, President Barack Obama appeared on television to offer condolences and press for stricter gun laws. Obama also pointed out that these incidents are unique to America. “We have a pat­tern now of mass shoot­ings in this coun­try that has no
par­al­lel any­where else in the world.”

“We Serve and Protect”

Posted December 2nd, 2015 at 2:42 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Painted on the sides of police cars in Chicago are the words “We Serve and Protect.” That motto is under siege with the availability of videotaped incidents of police brutality directed at African-Americans. Outrage erupted once again with the release of videotape showing a white Chicago policeman gunning down black teenager Laquan Williams, who is seen walking away from police. Public anger grew to a fever pitch, in part because the tape, which shows McDonald falling to the ground as a white cop fired 16 shots into his body, was not made public for more than a year. Under intense public pressure, Chicago officials charged the police officer with first degree murder, and soon after, fired the city’s chief of police.

Voices of Moderation Struggle to Drown Out Extremism

Posted December 1st, 2015 at 3:24 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

The terror attacks in Paris have sparked yet more tortured debate about Islam – both inside and outside Muslim communities. Very few dispute the notion that the vast majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the ultra-fundamentalist beliefs —and violence — of the Islamic State. But the voices of moderation are often unheard, creating a deep frustration among Muslims. Attacks on the scale of Paris strike fear in everyone. And it begs the question: Who owns Islam?

The Heat Is On

Posted November 30th, 2015 at 2:23 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Expectations are high in Paris for a deal to slow global warming. President Barack Obama laid down the gauntlet during a trip to Alaska, saying “This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.” There are hopeful signs: the debate is no longer whether or not climate change exists, but how to curb the greenhouse gases that cause it. As negotiators from 195 countries try to hammer out an agreement over the next two weeks, some experts are saying it’s a waste of time. Why? Because there is no set benchmark or standard built into the process of promising exactly how much a given country must reduce emissions. Still others say that softer approach is exactly how to convince leaders to act, if not now, then in future.

Thanksgiving Tension Over Terrorism

Posted November 25th, 2015 at 2:13 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Not since 2001 have Americans entered the holiday season with more trepidation, more nervousness, thanks to the Friday the 13th attacks on Paris. Thanksgiving weekend sends millions of Americans onto roads, into airports and train stations and shopping malls, soft targets for terrorists intent on wreaking havoc. On Monday, the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert, urging Americans to be vigilant in public places and on public transportation, especially during the holiday season. Wednesday, President Obama came to cameras, flanked by his homeland security team, to reassure the public that law enforcement and intelligence services will be on the job through the holiday to secure the country. He said there is currently no specific or credible intelligence of a terrorist plot. Is there a threat? Yes. What’s the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the U.S.? The experts say, extremely low.

Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet. What’s Next?

Posted November 24th, 2015 at 5:12 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Another twist to the multi-faceted war in Syria took place this morning along the Turkey-Syria border. A Russian warplane was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets after being repeatedly warned to exit Turkish airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin described it as a “stab in the back” by a business partner, accusing Turkey of supporting the so-called Islamic State. President Obama says Turkey has a right to defend itself and its territory, but urged Ankara and Moscow to avoid any escalation. Obama starkly outlined the distinction between U.S. and Russian efforts against IS: “We’ve got a coalition of 65 countries … Russia right now has a coalition of two: Iran and Russia, supporting Assad.” Standing next to Obama at that moment was French President François Hollande. Their conversation will shape the conversation Hollande will have with Putin in Moscow later this week. And that conversation will impact the next moves on what has become a crowded battlefield.

The Politics of Fear

Posted November 23rd, 2015 at 2:29 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Famed former President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” That aphorism is timeless, particularly in these times. The wave of deadly attacks across Paris by Islamic State militants has understandably frightened many. Are we next? That is the common questioned being asked by the United States and other, more vulnerable targets, like Germany. IS is exporting their war from its base in Syria. Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopeful — and frontrunner – Donald Trump is calling for government database to track Muslims in the United States. That is what fear can do to any of us.