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Gun rights not exclusive enough

The Denver Post

One of the stranger revelations of this election season is that gun retailers are gearing up for a surge in winter sales if President Obama is re-elected — similar to what happened after his election in 2008.

Never mind that no significant piece of gun legislation has passed during Obama’s first term and the president has never listed gun control as a priority. Second Amendment enthusiasts continue to suspect him of secretly yearning to restrict gun ownership — or even to confiscate weapons if he could.

Polls in recent years have consistently affirmed that Americans believe it’s more important to protect the right to own guns than to enact gun control. In fact, a Denver Post poll published a week ago revealed the same pattern in Colorado: 56 percent of those asked said it was “more important” to protect the right of Americans to own guns than “to control gun ownership.”

However, the problem with such all-or-nothing questions is that they don’t leave room for opinion on specific policies.

So, yes, it’s important for elected officials to understand that Coloradans for the most part remain strong supporters of Second Amendment rights even in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora. But that doesn’t mean those same officials shouldn’t take the lead in promoting sensible reforms that reduce the likelihood of such crimes.

Speech failed to offer relevance

The Daily Star, Beirut

A rough translation to English of lyrics to a popular Arabic song goes something like this: “When I hear your words I am fascinated, When I see your actions I am flabbergasted.”

These are the sentiments of many people in this part of the world on the occasion of Tuesday’s speech by President Barack Obama before the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

They might also apply to past addresses there by Obama’s predecessors George Bush, Bill Clinton and other presidents over the past several decades.

The verbal prowess might differ, but the content is usually the same.

In addressing a number of key issues, Obama sorely needed to set down a road map for implementation.

In fact, the speech was an exercise in repetition, but with unintended irony.

Obama might feel obliged to hold forth on the burning issues of the day, such as Palestine, the Arab Spring, Syria and Iran. However, he merely appeased the usual suspects — the American public and Israel — while failing to offer anything new.

When a politician who enjoys the stature and resources that Obama does makes a decision to talk about the burning issues of the day, he should be prepared to make an effort to put out the fire. Otherwise, the difference between words and actions will lose him more and more of the audience.

Misery in Syria continues

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Estimates now run that some 30,000 people have died in Syria over the past 18 months, most of them civilians.

In the meantime, it is clear that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has no intention of stepping down. Part of the reason is that the fate of his Alawite Islamic sect is tied to his own remaining in power.

A second clear fact is that the Syrian opposition is not united — it is, in fact, divided into at least four or five factions — and thus does not present either a coherent bargaining partner if someone could cobble together serious intra-Syrian negotiations.

A third critical fact is that the outside world, quite rightly, shows no disposition to intervene in Syria militarily to impose peace, negotiations, an agreement among the different factions, and sustainable long-term government there.

One barrier to a unified international approach to the Syria problem remains U.S. opposition, prompted by Israel, of the inclusion of Iran, Syria’s closest ally, in an international package approach to resolving the problem. That position is unlikely to change. For that and other reasons the bloody conflict in Syria is thus likely to continue.

Online:

http://www.post-gazette.com

___Sept. 25

Los Angeles Times on America’s detainee problem:

In a conventional war, enemy soldiers can be captured and held as prisoners of war until the end of combat. In the criminal justice system, an arrest for a violent crime will lead to a charge, followed by a guilty plea or jury trial. But some individuals imprisoned in the war on terror declared after the 9/11 attacks face the worst of both worlds: detention without trial but without the consolation that they will be freed and returned to their families in a tolerable period of time.

Someone who lived in that twilight world for a decade was Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni who was captured near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2001 and held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of involvement with Al Qaeda or other enemy forces. ...

Although the number of prisoners at Guantanamo has dwindled, the number of detainees could rise again under legislation passed by Congress last year. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act purports to be a reaffirmation of the Authorization of Military Force passed by Congress to target the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, its reach is broader, authorizing military detention of individuals who belong to or support not only Al Qaeda but “associated forces.” Such individuals can be put on trial or detained without trial until “the end of the hostilities.”

Could that include U.S. citizens? ...

To ensure that U.S. citizens aren’t subjected to indefinite detention, Obama should press Congress to pass the Due Process Guarantee Act introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which would clarify that a declaration of war or authorization to use military force “shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

As for foreign detainees, the administration needs to make more of an effort to arrange the repatriation or resettlement of individuals no longer considered a threat. ...

Online:

http://www.latimes.com

___

Sept. 21

Knoxville News-Sentinel on U.S. remaining engaged with new democracies:

The outraged reaction of Muslim protesters to the trailer of a film that defames the prophet Muhammad — and that may not even exist in full — is both discouraging and dismaying.

The demonstrations have taken place in some 20 countries, and, in Libya, they cost the life of the U.S. ambassador and three members of his staff. The Libyan government has promised to work with the U.S. authorities in tracking down the killers and reportedly has arrested as many as 50 people, some of them foreigners, in connection with the attack.

There was some reassuring news when an amateur video surfaced of Libyan civilians rescuing Ambassador Christopher Stevens from the consulate in Benghazi and rushing him to the hospital, cheering “God is great” when they mistakenly thought he had survived. It is a reminder not to judge a country’s people by the worst among them.

In those Muslim nations where our embassies and diplomats seem to be under regular threat by impetuous, irrational mobs, it would be a natural reaction to pack up our aid and emissaries and go home. The reaction would be natural — but mistaken.

For us to dissociate ourselves or even lower our level of engagement with the Muslim world is to invite even greater problems in the future. ...

Other cultures not steeped in free speech might not understand that our government allows free expression, even when it is offensive to many. Our encouragement of fledgling democracies should include sharing the bedrock principles upon which democracy stands.

It will be a tough, thankless task explaining the concept of free expression to people who have never enjoyed that right, but that is not an excuse for not trying. We owe it to those who yearn for democracy, as well as to those of us who have long enjoyed its freedoms.

Online:

http://www.knoxnews.com

___

Sept. 25

New York Times on President Barack Obama being at the United Nations:

The anti-American violence in the Muslim world demanded a firm push back from President Obama, who finally delivered it on Tuesday in the last United Nations General Assembly speech of his term.

Since the protests, attacks and flag burnings erupted two weeks ago over an anti-Islam video made in California, administration officials have condemned its crude depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and explained that the government had nothing to do with it. Obama made a similar point at the United Nations.

But he also gave a full-throated defense of the First Amendment right that, in this country, protects even hateful writings, films and speech. ...

Obama was right to deliver that message, however foreign it is in much of the Muslim world. The assembled leaders applauded when Obama said he accepts that, as president, people will call him “awful things every day” and that he will defend their right to do it. But a number of Islamic leaders have recently revived a push for an international ban on blasphemy, which would move in exactly the wrong direction.

Obama’s more pragmatic challenges to Arab Spring countries trying to build new democratic societies may have more impact. He said all leaders must speak against violence and extremism out of obligation to United Nations norms as well as self-interest. “Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education,” he said, and popular outrage can be turned as easily against Muslim leaders, ethnic groups and tribes as America.

Obama also bluntly warned that the politics of anger could damage international cooperation. ...

There were two fairly big omissions in Obama’s visit to the General Assembly. He spoke only briefly on areas that need more debate in this campaign — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian civil war, Afghanistan and Iraq. And while it’s reasonable for Obama to be in campaign mode, just like Romney, he is the president. He could have used some of his time in New York to meet privately with world leaders, as presidents usually do.

It’s not like he doesn’t have a lot to talk to them about.

Online:

http://www.nytimes.com

___

Sept. 25

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on foreign policy follies:

U.S. embassies are attacked while the president sleeps. His mission in Cairo sends out an apologetic statement on an anti-Muhammad movie — a statement which the White House, itself, later rebukes. The president continues on with a campaign trip to Vegas. There are reports our embassies were forewarned of the attacks.

So the crack American news media do the only thing they can do: They attack Mitt Romney.

Come again? And they claimed Romney is the one who was trying to make political hay from all this? What the heck are they doing if not trying to influence the election in the president’s favor?

And what did they savage Romney for? For disparaging a Cairo embassy press release that essentially apologized for the nutty Muhammad movie and threw the First Amendment under the bus — the same statement that, again, the Obama White House has also disavowed. ...

The European media aren’t as timid in confronting the important truths of this debacle.

“U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy is in ruins,” writes Die Welt newspaper in Germany. “Like no president before him, he tried to win over the Arab world. After some initial hesitation, he came out clearly on the side of the democratic revolutions. . In this context, he must accept the fact that he has snubbed old close allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military. And now parts of the freed societies are turning against the country which helped bring them into being. Anti-Americanism in the Arab world has even increased to levels greater than in the Bush era. It’s a bitter outcome for Obama. ...

“Washington has provided the image of a distracted superpower in the process of decline to the societies there. This image of weakness is being exploited by Salafists and al-Qaida, who are active in North Africa from Somalia to Mali.

“For a superpower, it is not enough just to want to be loved. You have to scare the bad guys to keep them in check.”

You won’t see such weighty issues explored in many of the American news media. They’re too busy worrying about how Romney looks — and how Obama comes out on Election Day.

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

___

Sept. 23

The Kansas City Star on Obama and Romney getting it wrong on China trade:

Bashing China has become a ritual in presidential campaigns.

The recent back-and-forth between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney fits the pattern perfectly, but this time, the smoothing-out part might be dicier — what with tensions already heightened in the South China Sea, where China is bullying its neighbors over control of disputed island chains. Beijing is already suspicious of Washington’s role in these disputes.

After Romney accused Obama of being soft on China, the Obama administration filed a World Trade Organization complaint targeting Chinese subsidies that cut prices on exported cars and car parts. Romney called the move “too little, too late,” and has said that if elected he would declare Beijing a currency manipulator, opening the door to tariffs on Chinese imports.

This may please swing-state voters with jobs threatened by foreign competition, but it should concern consumers generally. Obama and Romney are competing to be seen as eager to whack Chinese imports with tariffs, which would mean higher prices on a lot of things we buy. Only in the looking-glass world of trade politics do politicians want to be seen as tax-raisers, which is what you are when you raise a tariff.

America’s China-trade debate seems increasingly behind the curve. China’s trade surplus with the United States remains hefty, but its surplus with the rest of the world is shrinking fast. Five years ago it was 10 percent of the Chinese economy. Last year it was less than 3 percent. China’s once-low wages are rising speedily — around 10 percent a year over the last decade.

Many economists believe China’s recent investment boom has been overdone and the nation is headed for a hard landing. Within five years, thanks to its one-child policy and its rapidly aging population, its labor force will begin to shrink.

The emphasis in our trade debate is wrong. Instead of talking about raising U.S. trade barriers, why don’t the candidates tell us how they would work to lower China’s?

Online:

http://www.kansascity.com

___

Sept. 23

The Denver Post on gun rights and gun control not being exclusive:

One of the stranger revelations of this election season is that gun retailers are gearing up for a surge in winter sales if President Obama is re-elected — similar to what happened after his election in 2008.

Never mind that no significant piece of gun legislation has passed during Obama’s first term and the president has never listed gun control as a priority. Second Amendment enthusiasts continue to suspect him of secretly yearning to restrict gun ownership — or even to confiscate weapons if he could.

And their fears are stoked by the likes of the National Rifle Association, whose spokesman was quoted recently in The Wall Street Journal as warning that “there’s no political downside if Obama enacts more stringent gun-control measures” in his second term.

Oh, please. ...

True, polls in recent years have consistently affirmed that Americans believe it’s more important to protect the right to own guns than to enact gun control. In fact, a Denver Post poll published a week ago revealed the same pattern in Colorado: 56 percent of those asked said it was “more important” to protect the right of Americans to own guns than “to control gun ownership.”

However, the problem with such all-or-nothing questions — and we realize that this particular question on gun control has been a standard of polling for many years — is that they don’t leave room for opinion on specific policies.

After all, banning high-capacity gun magazines doesn’t threaten the right to bear arms. ...

So, yes, it’s important for elected officials to understand that Coloradans for the most part remain strong supporters of Second Amendment rights even in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora. But that doesn’t mean those same officials shouldn’t take the lead in promoting sensible reforms that reduce the likelihood of such crimes — or at least the likelihood of their success.

Why, of course they should.

Online:

http://www.denverpost.com

___

Sept. 25

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Syria’s misery as the war continues with nation and world divided:

It is clear both from the international news and from the likely agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, opening in New York, that the miserable situation in Syria remains front and center in terms of attention, but so far absent a viable solution.

Estimates now run that some 30,000 people have died in Syria over the past 18 months, most of them civilians. ...

In the meantime, it is clear that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has no intention of stepping down. Part of the reason is that the fate of his Alawite Islamic sect is tied to his own remaining in power.

A second clear fact is that the Syrian opposition is not united — it is, in fact, divided into at least four or five factions — and thus does not present either a coherent bargaining partner if someone could cobble together serious intra-Syrian negotiations. Nor does the disunity of the Syrian opposition present any realistic hope that a successor regime to the al-Asad government, if one could be put together, would be able to provide responsible rule to Syria, a nation of 21 million.

A third critical fact is that the outside world, quite rightly, shows no disposition to intervene in Syria militarily to impose peace, negotiations, an agreement among the different factions, and sustainable long-term government there.

There are at least two reasons for this international reluctance to intervene. ...

Effective international intervention on the diplomatic level remains difficult to achieve because of the differences of opinion that exist among the major diplomatic players. That split remains, roughly, the United States, the West, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey against China, Iran, Iraq and Russia, a formidable split in international terms.

One barrier to a unified international approach to the Syria problem remains U.S. opposition, prompted by Israel, of the inclusion of Iran, Syria’s closest ally, in an international package approach to resolving the problem. That position is unlikely to change. For that and other reasons the bloody conflict in Syria is thus likely to continue.

Online:

http://www.post-gazette.com

___

Sept. 25

___

Sept. 24

China Daily, Beijing, on United States playing dual role:

Any discerning person can see the motive behind the joint drill between Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps in Guam on a recent Saturday. It was the first exercise of its kind, held purportedly to enhance the two countries’ capabilities to defend remote islands from “foreign assault”.

Tension between China and Japan had mounted further on Friday night as scores of Japanese policemen landed on China’s Diaoyu Islands. But instead of taking steps to defuse the tension, Japan started the joint drill, which GSDF claimed was not aimed at any specific island or third country.

As early as 2005, Japan’s Defense Agency had prepared a plan to defend the remote islands south of Kyushu and Okinawa against a possible “invasion” from China. ...

The Diaoyu Islands dispute is a delicate issue, and the U.S. is responsible for creating it. First, it wrongly grouped them with Ryukyu Islands (known as Okinawa today) to take over their administration in 1951. Second, it handed them over to Japan, rather than China, in 1972.

Now that it has become a covert part to the Diaoyu Islands dispute, it has the chance of absolving itself by playing a constructive role to resolve it. But it seems it is interested only in making the issue thornier.

The U.S. began test-flying MV-22 Ospreys in Okinawa on Sept 21. Since the Japanese see the airplane-helicopter hybrid as crucial leverage in a territorial dispute with China, the U.S. is encouraging Japan to stay away from a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue.

During his recent visit to China, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta reiterated that Washington would not take sides in territorial disputes in the region. But while in Japan, which he visited before China, he said the U.S.-Japan security treaty also covered the Diaoyu Islands.

The U.S. pivot to Asia and the rebalancing of its armed forces are aimed at just one thing: containing China’s rise.

We hope Washington is not running with the hare and hunting with the hounds?

Online:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn

__

Sept. 23

The Globe and Mail, Toronto on Egypt having no business accusing Canadians of insulting Islam:

Egypt appears to be trying to make the crime of “offending Islam” a worldwide one. Or perhaps it just wishes to offer a bone to the mob. Its prosecutor-general has put out an arrest warrant for two Canadians and several other Coptic Christians allegedly involved in the making of Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Prophet Mohammed film that has sparked deadly riots in some Muslim countries.

It may be primarily a symbolic gesture, but it does, in effect, put people on notice everywhere that taking issue with Islam is a dangerous thing to do. The prosecutor says the charges in the warrant (which also include causing sectarian violence and harming Egyptian independence) carry a possible death sentence.

This is a strange approach for a nascent democracy, and a bad signal from the Muslim Brotherhood, which holds power. ...

The arrest warrant may also be a way of intimidating Coptic Christian activists and silencing them about discrimination against that minority in Egypt. The two Canadians cited in the warrant say they had no involvement in the film; one had publicly denounced the film in a statement from the Middle East Christian Association.

Of course Canada would not extradite the men to Egypt. But their travels in the Arab and Muslim world must surely now be limited. And who knows what drastic consequences having one’s name on such an infamous list could have.

Strangely, Canada still has a law against blasphemous libel in the Criminal Code — section 296 — though no one has been prosecuted under it since 1936. ...

This country should make it clear to Egypt that Canada does not appreciate the threat, symbolic or otherwise, of prosecution and death against its people.

Online:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com

___

Sept. 25

The Telegraph, London on revering reservists:

In the wake of the latest defense cuts, the Government is to take a monumental gamble: that the hole left by chopping the Army by almost 20,000 men can be filled by expanding the reserves. Under this plan, an enlarged Territorial Army will put the “weekend warrior” tag behind it for good, and become — by sheer force of necessity — an integral part of Britain’s defense capability.

This decision was always fraught with peril. For many reservists, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan was a huge step up from their regular training; as a group of military experts argued on our Letters page in January, “frontline operations require a level of fitness, experience and training. that cannot readily be matched by part-time soldiers”. Only one in 20 TA personnel, they claimed, is ready for immediate deployment. So for the Government’s plan to work, those who sign up will need not just commitment, but far more training. Yet as the Duke of Westminster, the TA’s outgoing commander, warned in an interview with this newspaper yesterday, employers are already reluctant to take on its members, on the grounds that they will lose their services for too long.

How will we get the reservists we need, when those who serve are treated as second-class citizens? One of the Duke’s suggestions is that employers should be banned from quizzing applicants about their TA membership. This would be a step too far, not least because such service should be boasted of rather than concealed. But he is right that ways need to be found to compensate firms more directly for reservists’ absence — and, more broadly, to make Britain a society that values and celebrates its reservists, rather than shunning them. With the winnowing of the Army, the TA now stands in the front line of Britain’s defense. It is up to us all to make sure it is fit for the task.

Online:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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