US Opinion and Commentary

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The Endless War on Terror

Posted November 20th, 2015 at 3:09 pm (UTC-4)
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Exactly one week after Islamic State militants unleashed a fury of killing across Paris, news came of armed men storming a western hotel in Mali and taking civilians hostage. It is yet another sad reminder that terrorists are in our midst. The so-called “war on terror” officially began just days after September 11, 2001. Fourteen years later, that battle has not yet been won. Increasingly, there is a weary acceptance that this is not a singular war that can be won. Terror comes in many forms and, as the events of the past week show, on many fronts. That realization has not stopped the search for a strategy to smash terror groups and improve security. Experts agree it will be a very long and complex effort.

Paris Attacks Provide Fresh Fodder for Presidential Hopefuls

Posted November 19th, 2015 at 2:36 pm (UTC-4)
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American presidential campaigns are always rough and tumble.The horrific and shocking terrorist attacks across Paris are forcing a hard look at the national security positions from both Republican and Democratic candidates. Hillary Clinton made her more hawkish-than-President Barack Obama views known at an appearance Thursday at Council on Foreign Relations, suggesting directly arming Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish forces if the Baghdad government won’t . Regarding the 10,000 Syrian refugees promised sanctuary in America by Obama, Donald Trump said “They’re going to be gone. They will go back” if he’s elected president. The scale of the last week’s deadly attacks poses a serious question for all those hoping to win their party’s nomination: how to end the scourge of terrorism? Their answers may prove to be a weeding out process.

Refugees Another Casualty of Paris Attacks

Posted November 18th, 2015 at 3:54 pm (UTC-4)
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A group of American governors has declared it will not settle any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees the U.S. government has pledged to accept. But that position only amounts to an empty threat. State governors cannot make such decisions legally.The attempt to refuse refugees, which President Barack Obama described as a “dark impulse,” reflects a sense of fear following the devastating attacks by Islamic State militants across Paris. And it cuts to the heart of America’s historic identity: to be a country that welcomes those in great need whose lives are threatened. Despite the president’s vow to continue that tradition, others are pointing to shocking terrorist attacks at a soccer match, a concert and Parisian cafes as reason to tighten up America’s borders, lest just one terrorist slip by.

Dissecting Obama’s Islamic State Policy

Posted November 17th, 2015 at 3:20 pm (UTC-4)
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Just days after the shocking attacks by Islamic State fighters in Paris, a video allegedly by the group appeared online, declaring that Washington D.C. was its next target. Anxiety rippled through the capital city, prompting yet another round of questions about President Barack Obama’s strategy in Syria. Some pointed to Paris as an example of why the president should order ground troops to Syria: the Islamic State has not yet been defeated, observers argued, and it has proven ability to export its terrorism far away from its base in Syria and Iraq. Obama objected – again, again and, then, yet again during a press conference. From Obama’s standpoint, this fight is not solely America’s – and history shows that U.S. engagement in messy conflicts abroad haven’t done much but bring more suffering to Americans. Still the questions linger, driven by worries of an attack on U.S. soil.

What Next?

Posted November 16th, 2015 at 11:41 am (UTC-4)
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The scale of the attacks across Paris is forcing a global rethink on how to prevent terrorism. Even as the violence unfolded last Friday evening, world leaders were going live, sending a clear message to the Islamic State that such carnage will not be allowed to stand. As the dead and injured are mourned, and Parisians try to absorb the terrible reality of the coordinated attacks, governments are asking what else must be done to stop such evil.

Going After ‘Jihadi John’

Posted November 13th, 2015 at 3:47 pm (UTC-4)
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News that a U.S. airstrike may have killed the most recognizable, if covered, face of the Islamic State in the heart of its stronghold in Syria says it all: the Obama administration, with the help of select Kurdish fighters, is taking the fight to ISIS, right in its own backyard. After months of withering criticism, the president announced last month that he was sending 50 military advisers to the region to bolster its air campaign. According to Secretary of State John Kerry more than 8,000 airstrikes have been carried out at IS targets over the past year, and it’s paying off. The Islamic State has been forced from 20 to 25% of territory it controlled a year ago, Kerry said. If the death of Mohammed Emwazi, the British knife-wielding masked man who has starred in IS videos of beheadings is confirmed, it will go a long way towards convincing the world that the United States isn’t prevaricating about Syria anymore.

India’s Dizzying Growth Is Not to Be Ignored

Posted November 12th, 2015 at 5:36 pm (UTC-4)
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This week, President Barack Obama used a newly-established “hotline” to send India his best as it marked Diwali, the country’s famed festival of lights. That same day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the following: “President Obama & I look forward to meeting in Turkey during the G20 Summit.” It all sounds rather chummy. But not to economists and the like, who warn the United States is missing out on THE moment to engage more deeply with New Delhi. Why? Because this year, India surpassed China, becoming the world’s fastest growing major economy.

America’s “After-wars”

Posted November 11th, 2015 at 1:48 pm (UTC-4)
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Veterans Day is a somber moment for Americans to pause and honor the men and women who have served the United States in war. But what of the other battles that erupt when American veterans return from active duty to resume their lives? The so-called “walking wounded” are everywhere: the amputee with a prosthetic limb, the U.S. official who must decide whether to send men and women into combat (Who can forget former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visibly tearing up when asked about American troops fighting in Iraq?) and those who appear to be okay, but really aren’t. There are countless men and women suffering with brain injuries or PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – or both. And there are the parents, spouses, partners and children of the dead whose lives are forever changed. There is widespread acknowledgement that many of our vets have been under-treated, if treated at all. That war drags on, slowly and painfully, for its victims.

Who Is Lying? The Media or Republican Front-runner Ben Carson?

Posted November 10th, 2015 at 3:15 pm (UTC-4)
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As the Republican presidential field prepares for its fourth debate, Ben Carson and the media are having a knock down drag out fight over “the truth.” It began last week when an article questioned Carson’s oft told story of being offered a full scholarship to the very prominent military academy West Point. The article went on to assert that his campaign admitted to fabricating the story. Other news outlets began digging around for biographical blips, and still other publications came to his defense, scrutinizing word by word the claims of lies. What does all this have to do with winning the Republican presidential ticket? It’s called the “vetting” the candidates’ records, thereby holding them to a very high standard of truthfulness. The question is, does it help educate American voters? Or is just a lot of noise?

Burmese Opposition Win Raises Expectations for Speedy Change

Posted November 9th, 2015 at 1:39 pm (UTC-4)
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It looks to be a landslide victory for the political opposition in Burma, which really means for Aung San Suu Kyi, affectionately known as “The Lady” among the Burmese. The United States, which has invested heavily in helping steer one of history’s most repressive military regimes towards democracy, gave its cautious thumbs up to Sunday’s general election. The top U.S. official for East Asia urged a “credible” transition of power. And therein lies the rub: how much real change can we expect? As one observer put it, the vote needs to be seen for what it truly is, “…a flawed, partial exercise in democracy that won’t lead to the profound changes that people would almost certainly vote for if only they were given the opportunity.”

Former President Bush Rates Another Former President – His Son

Posted November 6th, 2015 at 1:54 pm (UTC-4)
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It’s an odd and not at all common family situation: a former president weighs in on the presidency of his son. Meanwhile, it’s all made public just as another, younger son struggles to win the Republican presidential nomination. In a new biography, set to be released next week, former President George H.W. Bush sharply criticizes two key figures in former George W. Bush’s presidency: Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Father Bush feels they did not serve his son well during a very difficult moment in his presidency, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. It feels a little like airing private family matters, or settling personal grudges. But as one columnist pointed out, the elder Bush was recording history as several U.S. presidents have already done. Either way, Rumsfeld punched back shortly after the biography was reported in the press. In an interview with NBC News, Rumsfeld told NBC News “Bush 41 is getting up in years…”

The Despair of White Working-class Americans

Posted November 5th, 2015 at 4:05 pm (UTC-4)
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A study released this week by economists at Princeton University tells a grim story: the number of deaths by suicide, alcohol and drug abuse among working-class whites ages 45 to 54 has risen precipitously — 22 percent overall — since 1999. Experts tell us the only recent comparable spike in mortality can be found among Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What is going on? In essence, the world many blue-collar white Americans were born into has changed to such a degree that it no longer exists. Jobs they might have held have evaporated or are now overseas. The loss of power through unions and the growth of corporate greed helped too. The resulting economic tensions have split families, further limiting opportunity. Political pundits point out that this sad phenomenon helps explain the appeal of outsider would-be presidential candidates like business mogul Donald Trump and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Whither Peace 20 Years After Rabin’s Assassination?

Posted November 4th, 2015 at 4:03 pm (UTC-4)
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A deal between Israelis and Palestinians now seems impossible. The current narrative is whether or not they are sliding towards a third intifada. Today it seems clear that the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was committed to making some kind of deal with the Palestinians beyond what was agreed to in 1993. Rabin, who helped engineer victory for Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, was a believer in military might before negotiations. And maybe that was what was so threatening about him. Rabin had fought for Israel’s existence. And then, he shook the hand of his enemy, Yasser Arafat. Whatever it might have looked like in reality, peace was very possibly at hand when he was shot and killed in Tel Aviv 20 years ago today.

Syria: More Men, More Money

Posted November 3rd, 2015 at 4:58 pm (UTC-4)
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Friday brought the announcement by the White House that fewer than 50 Special Operations troops would deploy to Syria to provide “some training, some advice and some assistance.” Saturday, the White House anted up another $100-million ($500-million since 2012) for moderate Syrian opposition groups to keep schools open, restoring access to electricity and clean water and supporting an independent media. Monday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes asserted the mission of the Special Forces is to be a force multiplier to help those fighting the Islamic State, not to take part in raids or combat. But he did say those troops “may have to engage the enemy.” The U.S. strategy in Syria has been questioned and criticized for nearly four years, and the latest moves have only raised more of the same.

Turkey’s Erdogan: A Mixed Blessing?

Posted November 2nd, 2015 at 2:34 pm (UTC-4)
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Turkey is often viewed by the West as an island of stability in a sea of turmoil. For the United States, there is no question that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a leader it needs badly to help stave off more tumult, and maybe even deliver a decisive blow against the Islamic State. On Sunday, Erdogan’s ruling party regained its majority in parliamentary elections, sparked by a hung parliament in June’s general elections. Not content to give up 13 years of AKP rule, critics say Erdogan stoked a nationalistic atmosphere that led his party to victory. And there is ample evidence that Erdogan has become ever more repressive of Turkey’s democratic institutions. As one blog put it: “Dealing with Erdogan is now, for his Western partners, much like holding a wolf by the ears: risky, but the alternative seems much worse.”