US Opinion and Commentary

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Obama’s Whac-a-Mole Strategy

Posted July 15th, 2016 at 10:47 am (UTC-4)
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U.S. military policy under Obama has been different, narrower in its scope and more modest in its goals….These are ongoing military actions, not unending wars, and ones that the U.S. can easily afford. They also work. A Whac-A-Mole strategy is no fun for the mole. Just ask the Islamic State as it watches its territory shrink…

What the Nuclear Deal’s Backers Owe to Iran’s Victims

Posted July 13th, 2016 at 1:54 pm (UTC-4)
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For the Obama administration and its supporters, the best way to counter Iran’s bad behavior is to reach out even more to Iran. It’s a fashionable theory for engagement enthusiasts. If only we treated rogue states like normal states, then they will act accordingly. But recent events disprove this pleasant hypothesis.

Duty, Danger and Death in Dallas

Posted July 13th, 2016 at 10:46 am (UTC-4)
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Eulogies by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush Tuesday praised the call to duty of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas last week. Both presidents also sounded the call to America to put aside differences and work toward the common good.

Acknowledging that police officers and their families know “each new day can bring new dangers,” Bush said “none of us…could be prepared for an ambush by hatred and malice.” He added “too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions and this has strained our bonds of understanding common purpose.”

Obama observed the nation was not as divided at it may seem. He addressed both sides of the “black vs. blue” debate, saying “an overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally,” but are undermined when broadly depicted as biased or bigoted.

He also noted that no one is “entirely innocent” of having bigoted thoughts or feelings, including police departments….we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests troublemakers or paranoid…or a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.”

It will take more than words of two presidents to bring these polarizing issues closer to the middle.

America Is Acting Locally, the Islamic State is Thinking Globally

Posted July 12th, 2016 at 11:41 am (UTC-4)
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The United States will fail to defeat the Islamic State and protect the homeland if it does not reframe its strategy to contend with the Islamic State globally, rather than focusing on tactical successes in Iraq and Syria.

Dallas Mourns

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 9:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Dallas, Texas is bracing for a week of anguish, burying five police officers, killed by a man who the Dallas police chief said “was asking us how many did he get. And he was telling us how many more he wanted to get.”

President Barack Obama will be in Dallas Tuesday, once again assuming the role of consoler-in-chief at an interfaith service. With him, Vice President Biden and former president George W. Bush, who also was the governor of Texas.

Thursday’s killings of the police officers, Wednesday’s police shooting of a black man in Minnesota and Tuesday’s police shooting of a black man in Louisiana is again raising — and politicizing — the issues of policing and race relations — past, present and future.

Obama: 8,400 U.S. Troops to Stay in Afghanistan

Posted July 6th, 2016 at 3:54 pm (UTC-4)
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President Obama announced Wednesday that approximately 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through the end of the year. That’s about 3,000 more than originally planned.

The U.S. Can’t Ignore Russia, or its Increasingly Horrendous Behavior

Posted July 6th, 2016 at 11:26 am (UTC-4)
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The White House and State Department believe the only way to make progress in Syria is to work with Moscow, even if that means setting the isolation effort aside. That makes some sense, only if Russia actually honors its agreements in Syria and makes progress resolving the Ukraine crisis. But neither of these things is happening.

How Foreigners Really Regard U.S. Power

Posted July 5th, 2016 at 10:55 am (UTC-4)
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Americans in general have mistaken beliefs about how foreigners view the United States. The misbeliefs stem in large part from circumstances and experiences of the entire American nation….a couple of other factors that are infused with partisan politics account for most of the mistaken beliefs among Americans.

Obama’s Generals Want More U.S. Troops in Iraq

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 10:47 am (UTC-4)
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According to several senior military, congressional and administration officials, the generals on the ground, including Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland…have been frustrated by what they see as arbitrary caps on troop levels set by the White House and a process that discourages them from directly asking for what they need.

Diplomatic Revolt on Syria Policy

Posted June 17th, 2016 at 12:54 pm (UTC-4)
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51 U.S. diplomatic officials took the advantage of a a legally protected channel to express their dissent with Obama administration policy in Syria, and called for the use of targeted military strikes against the Syrian government.
The cable came from the State Department’s Dissent Channel, designed to give the Secretary of State and others an opportunity to hear alternative or dissenting perspectives from official U.S. policy.
This comes on the heels of criticism from Sen. John McCain in which he blamed President Obama and his policies regarding Iraq and Syria for the mass shooting in Orlando last Saturday.
Obama’s policies regarding Syria has been well chronicled (see “The Obama Doctrine” by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg) and subjected to dissection by some of the world’s foremost experts on foreign policy.

To Say or Not to Say: ‘Radical Islam’

Posted June 14th, 2016 at 5:34 pm (UTC-4)
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What’s in a word, or two?
President Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam” is back in the American political discussion, raised by Donald Trump in the aftermath of Saturday’s massacre in Orlando.
Trump demanded Obama’s resignation because he refuses to use the term “radical Islam” when referring to acts of terrorism.
Obama responded tersely Tuesday, saying “there’s no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.”
It’s a debate that’s raged for years: “can you defeat an enemy if you don’t know what to call it?” versus “can we expect help from Muslims if we paint the entire religion with the same brush?”

Madmen and the Politics of Islamophobia

Posted June 13th, 2016 at 2:32 pm (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin The worst mass shooting in U.S. history – at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla. – brings to mind another slaughter of innocents by a madman claiming allegiance to an ideology: the 1977 killing of 77 people, most of them children at a holiday resort, by Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik. Like Omar […]

Obama’s Hiroshima Embrace

Posted May 27th, 2016 at 4:24 pm (UTC-4)
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It was a solemn walk down the promenade for President Barack Obama with Japan’s Prime Minister. With every step, Hiroshima’s Atomic Dome came into focus, the Pond of Peace shimmering brightly thanks to the Eternal Flame licking the sky.
After delicately placing a wreath at the foot of the Memorial Cenotaph, Obama moved to the podium. He took a few extra seconds to begin, to honor the moment: the first President of the United States to visit the city that a predecessor bombed with the deadliest weapon known to man.
Obama acknowledged the magnitude of that decision without apology. He appealed to all nuclear nations, including the United States, “to have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
He mourned the innocent from all of the world’s wars, saying “we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”
Hindsight, they say, is 20-20. And the farther away we get from a historical event, the more clarity we seem to gain.

Vietnam and the Obama Legacy of Engagement

Posted May 24th, 2016 at 11:01 am (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that the United States is lifting practically all restrictions on the provision of weapons to Vietnam caps a remarkable turnabout in relations between the two former adversaries. Four decades after U.S. forces retreated in defeat from a bloody and ill-considered war, the United States is now the […]

The New Deal With Vietnam

Posted May 23rd, 2016 at 6:57 pm (UTC-4)
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Adorned by pastel colored flowers and framed by a red curtain, the golden statue of Ho Chi Mihn seemed to dwarf everything else in the room, including the high level meeting between Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary and the President of the United States.
With that as a backdrop, Barack Obama came to Vietnam to “remove a lingering vestige of the Cold War:” the embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam.
Obama made the point that the lifting of the arms embargo underscores the U.S. commitment to “strong defense ties with Vietnam and this region for the long term…united in our support for a regional order in the South China Sea.”
Without naming China specifically, Obama gave fair warning to Beijing that the U.S. will continue to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same.”
Critics — including fellow Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California — say by lifting the arms embargo, Obama gave away a negotiation lever to move Vietnam to respect human rights. Obama said each transaction will be scrutinized on its own merits and the issue of human rights will continue to be raised.
Everything the U.S. does with Vietnam will be seen through the prism of a long war lost. This trip to Hanoi— and later this week to Hiroshima — reminds us that there are lots of blips along the long arc of time.