Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post says the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should trigger a recalibration of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia:
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi should spark a long-overdue recalibration of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and its reckless de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman. In the past several years the crown prince has launched a series of foolhardy foreign policy initiatives that have damaged U.S. interests, including his rupturing of relations with Qatar and Canada and the kidnapping of the pro-American Lebanese prime minister. But the best place to start the U.S. readjustment is where Mohammed bin Salman himself began: with the disastrous war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and its allies plowed into Yemen in 2015, after a northern rebel group, the Houthis, captured the capital and ousted a Saudi-backed government. Saudi officials confidently promised to make quick work of the Houthis. After more than three years of fighting, including a U.S.-backed bombing campaign that has killed thousands of civilians, the Saudi coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, has come nowhere near to achieving that objective.
Instead it has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis while committing atrocities that a U.N. investigative panel said were probable war crimes. Eight million Yemenis are in danger of starvation, and more than 1 million have contracted cholera — the worst such epidemic in modern history. Yet UAE forces, ignoring U.N. appeals, are besieging the port through which 70 percent of food and medicine supplies are imported. The Saudis keep dropping U.S.-supplied bombs on civilian targets: On Aug. 9, one struck a school bus, killing at least 51 people, including 40 children.
The Saudis say they are countering Iran, which backs the Houthis. But the Houthis are an indigenous group with legitimate grievances, and the war has only enhanced Iranian influence. As has been obvious for some time, the only solution is a negotiated settlement. But the Saudis have done their best to sabotage a U.N.-led peace process. Talks planned for Geneva in September failed when Saudi leaders would not grant safe travel guarantees to Houthi leaders.
Congressional concern about this strategic and humanitarian disaster has been mounting. In March, the Senate nearly approved a resolution cutting off U.S. aid, including refueling and targeting assistance. In August, Congress approved a defense bill that required the administration to certify that the Saudis were taking steps to minimize humanitarian casualties and facilitate humanitarian deliveries. Against overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the advice of State Department experts, the administration issued the certification last month.
Mr. Khashoggi’s death should resurface the issue, as senators from both parties are proposing. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has been holding up a Saudi request to purchase precision-guided munition kits for its bombs; that blockage should be formalized, along with a ban on all other aid to the Yemen war.
Iran hawks will howl that the prohibition will work to Tehran’s advantage. But the Trump administration’s unquestioning support for what amounts to a sectarian crusade by Sunni Saudi Arabia against Shiite Iran needs an adjustment, too. Iran’s attempt to establish itself as a regional hegemon should be resisted. But that can be achieved without buying into Mohammed bin Salman’s own imperial — and unachievable — ambitions.
San Francisco Chronicle criticizes the definition of gender that the Trump administration is considering as an intrusive, anti-science attack on transgender Americans:
The Trump administration is considering legally defining gender as a category determined by one’s genitalia at birth, according to the New York Times.
This radical change would essentially yank federal recognition from the estimated 1.4 million Americans who recognize themselves as a gender other than the one they were born into.
It’s by far the most obvious attack on transgender people from an administration that has already made it clear it doesn’t appreciate their contributions to society. (The Trump administration has also tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military.)
It’s also intrusive (no one asked for the federal government’s opinion on their genitalia) and anti-science to boot.
The medical community interprets many aspects of an individual’s physiology beyond genitalia to determine their sex. (The Trump administration would only allow genetic testing.)
Some people are born with characteristics that don’t fit the typical definitions of male or female. These communities have spent decades educating society about the long-term harm they’ve experienced when doctors have assigned them a gender. Now they have to fear the government is doing the same thing.
The Trump administration’s consideration of a fixed gender definition will lead to infinite legal, medical and social problems for transgender and intersex people.
What it won’t do is force them out of existence. Transgender and intersex people have always been part of the human race, and none of the Trump administration’s cruelties will change that basic fact.
Deseret News urges compassion for the caravan of people approaching the U.S. border from Honduras:
The United States has been a beacon of hope for people who are poor, mistreated or persecuted. That is a unique position on the world stage that must not be abdicated.
Many Americans trace their roots to people who left harsh conditions in other countries in search of a better life in the United States, and their migration, despite often-harsh opposition, ultimately has blessed the nation and its economy.
So the first reaction upon seeing thousands of people marching from Honduras and through Mexico with hopes of reaching the U.S. border should be compassion.
Journalists interviewing these people have uncovered stories about families fleeing gang violence and seeking hope for children whose future looks bleak in a country where the World Bank estimates 66 percent of the people are in poverty. In rural Honduras, about 20 percent of the people live on less than $1.90 per day.
The people who make up the caravan are suffering deprivations and health problems, including swollen feet, lacerations and infections, as the Red Cross told politico.com. People don’t voluntarily endure such hardship unless their lives reach a critical level of desperation. They speak about the hope of a better life in the United States.
The second reaction should be concern about the need to handle these people in an orderly and humane manner if they should make it to the U.S. border. For obvious reasons, the United States cannot allow thousands of people to storm their way in with no vetting.
But the nation also should not cruelly separate families at the border, as it has in the past, while determining who stays and who is sent back. The long-term implications of such separations on the psyches of children and parents alike are likely to lead to many unintended consequences in the future.
An asylum-vetting process already is in place. The truth is that most in the caravan are not likely to be granted their wish. Using statistics provided by the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, The New York Times earlier this year said 75 percent of asylum cases originating with nationals from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala were denied between 2012 and 2017.
Despite President Trump’s assertions that Democrats are behind the current wave, most of those years were during the Obama administration.
Merely being impoverished or fearing for one’s life is not an official reason to seek asylum. An immigrant must prove he or she is part of a persecuted group that is being targeted because of religion, race, nationality or as retaliation for political speech.
That does not mean the nation should turn its back on those who are desperate.
While the president obviously sees the emerging caravan as an opportunity for political gain ahead of midterm elections, his tweets, including unsubstantiated fears that the caravan is being infiltrated by international terrorists, are not helpful.
However, his threats to withhold international aid to Honduras and other Central American countries come closer to a productive response. Those nations are rife with official corruption that makes life unbearable for many of their citizens. Pressure could spur substantive changes that might make migration unnecessary.
Meanwhile, Congress and the president should lay politics aside and resume efforts to pass meaningful immigration law. That would include a guest-worker system and a more realistic, fair and compassionate asylum policy.
Compassion for others and safety for all on both sides of the border should be the true measure of our nation’s rich immigrant heritage.
Tampa Bay Times on combatting climate change:
The effects of climate change are coming harder and faster, according to a recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, a child born today — if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut nearly in half before she’s a teen — will live in a world on track to irreversible damage. That catastrophe would begin just as that same child is graduating from college in 2040, far sooner than previously expected, and at a lower increase in global temperature than earlier thought. Stalling is no longer a viable strategy.
The report’s authors say if greenhouse gases continue to pollute at the rate they do now, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels in a generation. That would swamp coastlines, ruin crops, worsen droughts and increase the severity of hurricanes and wildfires. The report shows two things should happen: Renewable sources of energy would have to provide up to two-thirds of the world’s electricity, and coal would have to fade from roughly 40 percent today to almost nothing by 2050. “There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” said Drew Shindell, an author of the report and a climate scientist at Duke University. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump mocks climate change — and as recently as his 60 Minutes interview this month, said he doubts people cause it — while planning to expand the use of coal and withdrawing from the Paris climate accords.
While combatting climate change requires global leadership, local leaders are doing what they can in its absence. Two dozen local governments, stretching from Citrus to Manatee counties, have formed the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, to plan for and fight climate change. This is wise, as a 2014 federal report said Tampa Bay is one of the areas of Florida most vulnerable to rising seas. Officials will deal with real-world implications of changing climate and rising water. For example, how high must a bridge be built to be usable in 70 years? Should it be built at all? Where can seawalls stem the tide of rising water?
As laudable as these local goals are, the best solution is to stop climate change before it’s too late rather than simply reacting to its effects. The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in economics have worked on the answer. William Nordhaus of Yale has been called “the father of climate-change economics,” and his solution is a universal tax on carbon. His research established a range of potential amounts. Such a tax would provide a marketplace incentive to cut pollution and stimulate innovation without a heavy hand from government. It also recognizes that pollution has a cost, and that the polluter should bear it.
The Nobel co-winner, Paul Romer of New York University, has done research showing how governments can foster innovation. “Many people think that dealing with protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore the problem,” he said. “They want to deny it exists; they can’t deal with it.”
He is exactly right that it is time for governments at every level to step up. Solving the problem won’t be cheap or easy, but it is possible. That child born today shouldn’t be handed a past-due bill when she reaches adulthood. The price will only get higher the longer officials wait to act. Start paying now, or be prepared to pay a crushing price later.
The Orange County Register warns Wall Street against aligning with Democrats:
In the Trump era, buttoned-down, straight-laced conservatism is widely seen to have been replaced by wild-eyed, open-throated populism. Yet Trump has worked closely with Congress to deliver economic policies that big-business Republicans have wanted for decades. In a strange and important way, however, those gains aren’t translating to political support. Wall Street is going blue — and making a big mistake.
At first blush, the statistics are surprising. New data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, for the first time since Barack Obama was elected, America’s financial community is poised to dish out more cash to Democrats than Republicans. Given the way grassroots Democrats rail against corporate America, it’s especially odd to see boardrooms sour on Republicans.
Culturally, however, Wall Streeters have their reasons. On policy, they tend to talk a big game about the dangers of Trump’s trade wars or the economic risks he runs by poor-mouthing the EU or rattling sabers in the Mideast and Asia.
But it’s domestic considerations that are likely deepening their hue of blue. The “boardroom liberalism” that grew up in the Obama years has kept right on going. More than ever, financial elites either embrace identity politics and progressive moralism out of principle or out of pragmatism.
These days, the only sure-fire way to deflect populist backlash against “plutocrats” and “the 99 percent” is by making a huge show of one’s personal or institutional “wokeness,” spending big on progressive-approved causes, conspicuously advertising to groups with lots of political capital in liberal politics, and, well, giving money directly to incumbent Democrats and Democratic challengers.
The epitome of this turn of events is Michael Bloomberg, who recently re-registered as a Democrat. He understands as well as anyone that, today, there are no lead roles reserved in American politics for people in the mushy middle. If you’re a wealthy member of the elite, the fact is you face tremendous pressure, inside and out, to pledge your allegiance to the ideology of the Left.
Nevertheless, if Wall Street thinks they can come out on top by aligning against Republicans, they’re in for a harsh lesson. For one, California politics has starkly shown how the combination of big money and radical politics produces a huge backlash, not to mention a big raft of costly and ineffective policies that end up increasing inequality.
Turning the country into California in that respect might be a progressive dream, but it will only alienate, outrage, and mobilize more and more Americans against the financial elite.
Some Wall Streeters might think they’ve got a more clever rationale. Perhaps they could help move the Democrats to the center, staking out ground for a new moderate majority that sees big money as a big ballast for responsible governance. It’s a nice thought, but it’s irresponsibly off-base. The Obama years plainly showed that the progressive culture warriors who have captured the Democrats’ agenda have no interest in being turned into squishy moderates. Certainly the wealthiest progressives, in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and beyond, feel this way.
For big finance, the best way to curb populist excess isn’t to be found in throwing its weight behind party ideologues Left or Right. It might feel scary to risk the wrath of the progressives, but the real danger will come from losing even more support on Main Street.
China Daily says U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia would threaten the post-Cold War nuclear security framework:
It is to be hoped that United States President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is merely to woo votes in mid-term elections, or to exact concessions from Russia.
For if he does dismantle the historic treaty, the US president will be removing a crucial cornerstone of post-Cold War nuclear security regime, and truly opening a Pandora’s box of troubles.
The 1987 treaty, which bans ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges from 300 to 3,400 miles, put an end to a dangerous US-Russia nuclear standoff in Europe, and led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated. It has not only saved both signatories a costly and hazardous nuclear arms race, but offered reliable protection for the US and its allies in Europe and the Far East.
That is why NATO defense ministers issued a joint statement that describes the INF as “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security”, and reiterated they remain “fully committed” to the “landmark arms control treaty”, despite their concerns about Russia’s latest missile capabilities.
That is also why some worried observers have called the prospect “the most severe crisis” in global nuclear arms control since the 1980s.
Should Trump pull the US out of the treaty, doubts will naturally arise whether the other significant US-Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty, the 2010 New START, which limits the number of deployed strategic warheads, will survive when it expires in 2021.
If the US withdraws from the INF, it will immediately reactivate a potentially lethal nuclear faceoff with Russia, with the US’ NATO allies finding themselves again exposed to a direct nuclear threat from Russia.
And the domino effect will not stop there. Despite it being a bilateral treaty, Trump cited China among the reasons he was pulling the US out of the agreement. The hostility he has adopted toward China means that it will also feel the need to enhance its missile deployment.
Both Washington and Moscow have lodged similar complaints. Since both have questions about the other’s honesty, they should resort to the inspection and verification procedures both had agreed to in the treaty and straighten things out.
As to US security concerns involving China, Beijing, too, has a lot to discuss with Washington, especially under the current circumstances, with deepening and broadening mutual distrust.
But that has nothing to do with the US-Russia INF Treaty, and should be handled independently.
Mixing the two essentially unrelated matters will do nothing except worsen strategic mistrust and breathe further life into a new Cold War.
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