Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The London Evening Standard on the United Kingdom's role in fighting ISIS:
The extent to which politics has changed in the wake of the Paris attacks can be seen in the confidence with which the prime minister is now talking about a "comprehensive strategy" to win MPs' support for air strikes against IS in Syria. Given the reservations expressed about the idea recently by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, not to mention the consistent opposition of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, this shows how fast we have moved on.
And that includes the Parliamentary Labour Party. Before the attacks many Labour MPs would have felt obliged at least to abstain from a vote on air strikes — which Mr. Corbyn opposes in the absence of UN authorisation — though a solid group of backbenchers would always have voted in favour of them on principle. But now, given the devastating criticism of Mr. Corbyn's stance on security this week by the PLP, it seems far more likely that Labour MPs will feel able to support the strikes. Mr. Corbyn can hardly appeal to party discipline, given his own record.
More importantly the public mood is changing. As we report today, polls show a fairly even split on backing air strikes in Syria — unsurprising given the wave of popular sympathy for Paris. Indeed, France has invoked the little-known clause in the EU treaty that allows any member state to call on the others to aid with military assistance.
It was very different when Parliament voted against air strikes in 2013. That vote was a valid expression of unease about a flawed policy which had identified the admittedly repellent Assad regime as the main problem in Syria and his removal as our main objective. This was a problematic approach even at the time. The unpalatable truth is that President Assad was and is the lesser evil in this conflict and IS should be our real target, given its record of genocide against the Yazidis, mass rape, the annihilation of minorities and the destabilisation of the entire region. It is inconsistent, as Mr. Cameron points out, that we should bomb its forces in Iraq but not in Syria, given that its centre of operations is Raqqa in Syria.
But air strikes can only be part of a larger endeavour to bring an end to the war in Syria. That would mean a deal to include all the main players, not least Russia and Iran, President Assad's main supporters. A deal that accepts that he may remain in power for now in return for stepping down later is within reach. Now is the time to act; we cannot leave the fight against IS to others.
The New York Times on mass surveillance:
It's a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.
Speaking less than three days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 and injured hundreds more, Mr. Brennan complained about "a lot of hand-wringing over the government's role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists."
What he calls "hand-wringing" was the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans' phone records. In June, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection of domestic phone data by the government (but not the collection of other data, like emails and the content of Americans' international phone calls) and requires the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make its most significant rulings available to the public.
These reforms are only a modest improvement on the Patriot Act, but the intelligence community saw them as a grave impediment to antiterror efforts. In his comments Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a "wake-up call," and claimed that recent "policy and legal" actions "make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging."
It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency's detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.'s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it's not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.
Most of the men who carried out the Paris attacks were already on the radar of intelligence officials in France and Belgium, where several of the attackers lived only hundreds of yards from the main police station, in a neighborhood known as a haven for extremists. As one French counterterrorism expert and former defense official said, this shows that "our intelligence is actually pretty good, but our ability to act on it is limited by the sheer numbers." In other words, the problem in this case was not a lack of data, but a failure to act on information authorities already had.
In fact, indiscriminate bulk data sweeps have not been useful. In the more than two years since the N.S.A.'s data collection programs became known to the public, the intelligence community has failed to show that the phone program has thwarted a terrorist attack. Yet for years intelligence officials and members of Congress repeatedly misled the public by claiming that it was effective.
The intelligence agencies' inability to tell the truth about surveillance practices is just one part of the problem. The bigger issue is their willingness to circumvent the laws, however they are written. The Snowden revelations laid bare how easy it is to abuse national-security powers, which are vaguely defined and generally exercised in secret.
Listening to Mr. Brennan and other officials, like James Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one might believe that the government has been rendered helpless to defend Americans against the threat of future terror attacks.
Mr. Comey, for example, has said technology companies like Apple and Google should make it possible for law enforcement to decode encrypted messages the companies' customers send and receive. But requiring that companies build such back doors into their devices and software could make those systems much more vulnerable to hacking by criminals and spies. Technology experts say that government could just as easily establish links between suspects, without the use of back doors, by examining who they call or message, how often and for how long.
In truth, intelligence authorities are still able to do most of what they did before — only now with a little more oversight by the courts and the public. There is no dispute that they and law enforcement agencies should have the necessary powers to detect and stop attacks before they happen. But that does not mean unquestioning acceptance of ineffective and very likely unconstitutional tactics that reduce civil liberties without making the public safer.
China Daily on global financial growth:
In face of the slowest growth since the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, the G20 members must shoulder their collective responsibility to promote growth.
By calling for closer cooperation to address the immediate issue of stabilizing growth and providing momentum for long-term development, Chinese President Xi Jinping has pointed out the way for the G20 to exercise its leadership in shoring up global growth and generating more concrete beneficial outcomes.
The G20 economies account for about 85 percent of the global GDP, 80 percent of world trade, and two-thirds of the human population, and the group is now the main forum for promoting global economic and financial cooperation, having proved its capabilities with timely and effective collaboration to address the global financial crisis.
However, it has become increasingly difficult for the G20 to deliver big outcomes over the years.
This year's G20 summit was held in Turkey on Sunday and Monday, prior to which the International Monetary Fund had not only already cut its forecast for global growth to a mere 3.1 percent this year, the slowest annual growth since 2009, but also warned that the global economy faces risks from the persistent low growth.
The disappointing global growth prospects have laid bare the G20's inability to deliver on previous targets. Last year, the G20 leaders agreed to put policies in place that would raise their collective GDP by an additional 2 percent by 2018. But the current growth momentum does not allow too much room for optimism if policy coordination is not strengthened to ensure global financial stability, especially as the United States is expected to begin raising interest rates soon.
To maintain stable global economic growth in the short term and inject new impetus in the long run, the G20 members must press ahead with the transition from crisis response to long-term governance as soon as possible.
As the host of the G20 summit next year, China will shoulder the responsibility of driving global growth by pushing ahead with its transition to sustainable growth driven by innovation and consumption, and advancing its opening-up and shared development initiatives in the coming years.
China will also strive to forge new consensus among G20 leaders on building an open world economy to facilitate international trade and investment and achieve equitable and inclusive development.
The Wall Street Journal on the United States' position regarding Syrian refuges:
President Obama on Monday assailed the U.S. political backlash against resettling more Syrian refugees, especially Muslims, calling it un-American. Well, maybe he should have thought about that before he decided to do so little in Syria and let Islamic State build a vast terror sanctuary.
"The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife," Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Turkey. "We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism."
Mr. Obama was reacting to the political stampede, following Friday's jihadist massacre in Paris, against the president's decision to accept at least 10,000 of the millions of refugees fleeing Islamic State and Syria's civil war. Every GOP presidential candidate we've heard is now calling for restricting the refugee flow into the U.S. At least 12 Governors are taking steps to bar them from their states, and Congress will vote sooner or later on blocking funds for Syrian refugee resettlement.
What did Mr. Obama expect? It would be nice, and we would prefer, if Americans accepted Syrians the way they have so many war refugees over the decades_from the Jews of Europe, to the Hmong and Vietnamese, to Cubans and Afghans. The West needs loyal Muslims of moderate beliefs to help defeat the radicals; we shouldn't want to alienate them.
But refugees from those earlier foreign conflicts didn't include agents who would continue the war on U.S. shores. As France is learning, Islamic State is only too happy to use the Syrian diaspora to plant its agents to kill the French. At least one of the killers on Friday is believed to have migrated from Syria through Greece and into Paris. Nearly all of the other migrants, Muslim and Christian, have no such bloody intent. But can you blame the average American for refusing to volunteer as a next door neighbor?
Mr. Obama was especially harsh on those, like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who say Christian refugees should be a priority. "When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful," Mr. Obama said. "That's not American. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion."
But Messrs. Bush and Cruz are right that Christians are under particular threat from Islamic State. If they aren't killed for jihadist sport, they must convert to Islam or die. Their daughters are raped and forced into Muslim marriages. Their churches are blown up. The U.S. would have been right to accept and save more Jews from Nazi genocide in the 1930s and 1940s. Syrian Christians are no different today.
The larger point is one we've been trying to explain to our progressive friends since the war on terror began. An important reason to accept small infringements on liberty to prevent terrorist mass murder is because the political consequences of failure will be so much worse for liberal values.
Metadata collection or surveillance of mosques or Muslim students doesn't compare to what a frightened American public might support if a Paris-like event occurred on Rush Street in Chicago or the Mall of America in Minneapolis. The internment camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II were a shameful period in U.S. history, but FDR, a progressive hero, allowed the camps under political pressure after Pearl Harbor.
The same point holds for overseas interventions. Mr. Obama boasts that he has avoided George W. Bush's Iraq mistake by not intervening in Syria. But doing nothing also has moral consequences. These now include the rise of a terrorist caliphate, the worst refugee flood in Europe since World War II, and the increasing risk of Paris-like killings across the West. Mr. Obama's foreign policy of liberal nonintervention may lead to the deaths of far more innocents than creating a Syrian safe-zone and destroying Islamic State would have.
If Mr. Obama fought Islamic State with half the vigor with which he delivers moral lectures, he'd find that a much less fearful America would welcome far more refugees.
The Washington Post on Hillary Clinton's performance during the second Democratic presidential debate:
The Conventional wisdom about Saturday night's Democratic presidential debate is that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the front-runner, committed a number of gaffes that might come back to haunt her. This demonstrates that the perception of how candidates "do" in debates has little or no relation to the substance of their words.
Ms. Clinton is paying a price for attempting to inject a modicum of policy nuance into a discussion with two opponents, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who are trailing her and have nothing to lose by spouting undiluted populism. On the minimum wage, for example, Mr. Sanders and Mr.?O'Malley insisted that it be raised over time to $15 per hour, even after the questioner posited that a leading Democratic labor economist, Alan Krueger, believes the costs in lost jobs of such a huge increase, from the current level of $7.25, could outweigh the benefits. Their answers boiled down to: "I don't care what the leading expert says, I want $15." So much for evidence-based policy-making.
By contrast, Ms. Clinton supported a Senate bill to raise the minimum to $12 per hour, still high by historical standards (as she correctly noted), with plenty of latitude for states to raise it even higher to accommodate local conditions. In response to that, Mr. O'Malley asserted that Mr. Krueger should be ignored because he is an economist "on Wall Street," which the lifelong academic and government servant is not.
These fact-free flights of demagoguery figured only minimally in post-debate commentary. Instead, Ms. Clinton's meaningless musing - "I come from the '60s, a long time ago" — dominated the coverage because Republicans may use it in ads to make her seem old and out of touch. No doubt; and so what? Even worse, supposedly, was Ms.?Clinton's clumsy effort to justify her purportedly excessive sympathy for Wall Street by linking it to that sector's suffering when planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. We would argue in mitigation that this was at worst an attempt to respond in kind to another tendentious line of attack from her opponents: that she is indifferent to Wall Street's need for regulation.
No, her plan for the financial sector does not include the breakup of big banks that Mr.?Sanders feverishly but vaguely demands; it focuses instead on the "shadow banking sector," which may be a greater source of risk than the banks anyway. Amid all the vilification on the populist left these days, the truth remains that the country needs a robust financial sector and that not all the people who work in it are evil, and to the extent Ms. Clinton was struggling to make that point, she was right. It's hyperbolic to assert, as Mr. Sanders does, that "the business model of Wall Street is fraud" — though if he had been talking about politics, he might have had a stronger point.
The Chicago Tribune on terrorist attack in Beirut:
A horrific terror attack by Islamic State that killed many in a world capital: Yes, in Paris on Friday. But a day earlier the target was a busy neighborhood in Beirut, long ago known as the Paris of the East.
Two coordinated explosions at rush hour killed at least 43 people and injured 200.
Before most people outside the Middle East had a chance to absorb the implications of the Lebanon bombings, the terrorists struck Paris. The scope of that violence, and the fact that Islamic State could strike so far from the chaos of Syria and Iraq, represents a dangerous escalation of the threat to Europe, and to America.
The Beirut attacks reflect another aspect of Islamic State's global jihad: The Sunni-dominated organization targets Shiite Muslims.
The two explosions Thursday were apparently set off by suicide bombers in a Shiite neighborhood of south Beirut. This was the first time Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in Lebanon. By the weekend, local authorities said they had arrested seven Syrians and two locals. They also said the carnage could have been far worse: Five suicide bombers apparently targeted a hospital but could not gain entrance.
The neighborhood, Bourj al-Barajneh, is closely associated with Hezbollah, the Shiite terror organization that also operates as a political and military force in Lebanon — and as a proxy power for Iran.
In the bigger picture of who is pulling strings in the region, Iran, which is Shiite, looms large. It opposes Islamic State in Iraq and supports effective militia forces in Iraq. But in Syria, Iran is more interested in supporting the besieged government of Bashar Assad. There are political as well as religious components to this many-sided confrontation.
Iran needs Assad in power to protect Hezbollah in Lebanon. Otherwise, Hezbollah — in a continual faceoff against Israel — becomes vulnerable. This is how Hezbollah ends up fighting in Syria, and on the same side as Iran and Russia.
In going after Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic State sees itself as taking it to the Shiites, and to Hezbollah and to Iran. "The militants are trying to force Hezbollah to make a decision over priorities: secure Lebanon or fight in Syria," Labib Kamhawi, an analyst based in Jordan, told The Washington Post.
The attack the day before Paris, the attack the Western world largely missed, largely ignored, speaks volumes about the war being waged by Islamic State. Ruthless in its tactics, it is bent on accumulating enemies, which might just be the key to its ultimate demise.