Excerpts from recent editorials from around the world -

April 9 -

Chicago Tribune, on Obama's surge:

For years, Afghanistan has been The Other War. The one overshadowed by Iraq. The one that Americans thought they'd won years ago. The one that NATO was supposed to be leading.

Now, as the Iraq war recedes, Afghanistan takes center stage. And here is the central paradox of this war: NATO is winning every battle. Yet it is losing the war. ...

President Barack Obama recently announced a new strategy that borrowed heavily from the successful "surge" that quelled violence and tipped the balance in Iraq. He said the U.S. would send 21,000 troops, including 4,000 to help train the Afghan army and police. ...

Obama's surge is a canny move. As in Iraq, it isn't just about more troops on the ground, but finding the right pressure points — not all of them military — to quell the insurgents and bolster elected leaders.

Just as important, the U.S. must set some clear benchmarks for progress, as President Bush did in Iraq. That means clear, measurable goals and regular public reports on progress. President Obama promises those benchmarks. The sooner he delivers, the better.

Obama intends to win this war. But what about America's NATO allies? While America troop levels soar to about 68,000 by the end of the year NATO essentially stands pat. It is fielding a force of about 32,000 non-American soldiers in Afghanistan.

That means what has been a European-predominant force will become an overwhelmingly American one.


April 13

The Times, London, on the political crisis in Thailand:

Few governments have ever suffered the humiliation of having to airlift visiting foreign leaders out of the country to protect them from mobs. The cancellation of the 16-nation summit of the Association of SouthEast Asian nations in Thailand at the weekend is not only a national embarrassment; it is a potentially fatal blow to the credibility of the Government, brought low by the tactics that its own supporters used only six months ago to overthrow their rivals. ...

The red-shirted demonstrators who stormed the summit venue in Pattaya, unchecked by police or security forces, are not the only ones to blame for the current mayhem. ... From the start of the latest street protests a week ago, the Government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the British-born Prime Minister, has appeared at a loss. ...

Mr. Abhisit called for tough action against the protesters. But he found the police and the Army unwilling, as they had been during the airport blockade in November, to intervene. The demand yesterday by his deputy that they "fully and forcefully carry out their job" only underlined the Government's impotence. ...

Thailand is an important Western ally. Its democracy, however chaotic, has been a beacon in a region where repressive governments have often been the norm. The last three years, however, have seen an erosion of tolerance. Street demonstrators may think they are battling for freedom and justice. The danger is that they may be heralding the extinction of both.


April 15

Stavanger Aftenbladet, Stavanger, Norway, on the rescue of an American sea captain held by pirates off Somalia:

The Americans have a new hero, and President Barack Obama can bask in the glow of a successful rescue action. It is good that it turned out well. Had the action gone wrong and the American sea captain been killed by pirates, the pipe of public opinion would have been playing a different tune.

There is also a risk that the action can affect the more than 200 hostages currently being held prisoner by Somali pirates, and cause the pirates to respond to American challenges by getting better weapons and equipment.

Obama has promised to stop the steadily increasing pirate activity. But how? More naval ships in the area and a more active pursuit of the pirates is a possibility. Weapons aboard the merchant ships that sail in the area are also being discussed. That is probably a dangerous solution. What about convoys through the waters?

The real solution in on land: Building up Somali's authorities and economy. It will take time, but there are places to start.


April 9

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on Israel's new government:

Israel's new coalition government is headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the hawkish Likud Party and a pronounced hard-liner on the Palestine issue. His foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, heads the far-right Yisrael Beitenu Party. These developments raise concerns about the future of the Middle East.

The establishment of a Palestinian state is the fundamental premise of Mideast peace talks, but Netanyahu refuses to even mention it. ...

Foreign Minister Lieberman is a vocal proponent of expelling all ethnic Arabs — Palestinians — from Israel.

We cannot but feel that Israel's new government is going against the global current. ...

Obviously, it is impossible to envision security in this region without factoring in Israel's concerns. Still, we could never condone any extreme hard-line national security policy by the Netanyahu government of the sort that led to the invasion of the Gaza Strip late last year. ...

Everyone must work harder to soften the international environment surrounding Israel and urge Tel Aviv to return to a pacifist stance.

For that, the international community must recognize Hamas in one way or another. Hamas, after all, is a democratically elected majority power. In both Israel and Palestine, hard-liners have the support of their respective voters. We have no choice but to accept this.


April 10

Jerusalem Post, President Barack Obama's dealings with the Middle East:

... (President Barack) Obama has returned to Washington after his most significant trip abroad since taking office. ...

On the issues that most concern Israelis, paramount among them Teheran's nuclear ambitions, Obama reiterated that he had "made it clear to the people and leaders" of Iran "that the United States seeks engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. Now, Iran's leaders must choose whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people." ...

Obama has been convinced — partly by venerable cold warriors such as Sam Nunn and Henry Kissinger — that it might be easier to garner international support for stopping pariah states from going nuclear if the U.S. shows a willingness to sharply reduce its own atomic arsenal. ...

Thus far into his presidency, it's already apparent that Obama seeks to harness idealism with pragmatism. Yet if the G-20 (on the economic crisis), NATO (on Afghanistan-Pakistan) and Russia (on Iran) remain unmoved by appeals to multilateralism, expect Obama, like (former President Franklin D.) Roosevelt, to go with whatever works.

What this means for Israel in pursuit of its highest national interest, blocking Iran from fielding a nuclear bomb, is that Binyamin Netanyahu needs to convince Obama that doing anything short of stopping the mullahs would be dangerously reckless.