Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Los Angeles Times on Syria and the Russia connection:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is putting a positive spin on a new peace plan for Syria agreed to over the weekend in Geneva by the Syria Action Group, which comprises the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as well as Turkey and Arab representatives. We hope her optimism is justified, but Russia continues to send maddeningly mixed signals about whether it recognizes that the time has come for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
Already a humanitarian tragedy, the civil war in Syria now threatens to spill into international conflict. Recently, Turkey, a member of NATO, said it had scrambled fighter jets along its border after Syrian helicopters were detected close to Turkish territory. On June 22, Syria shot down a Turkish military plane that, according to Turkey, had returned to international skies after an accidental violation of Syrian airspace. On another front, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on Syria to respect its border with Lebanon after Lebanese complaints of an incursion by the Syrian army.
The agreement reached in Geneva does represent movement by Russia and China. ...
Even so, Clinton insisted, Russian diplomats had convinced her that "they have no continuing strategic interest in Assad remaining in power" and will press Assad to undertake a political transition. She added that the requirement for mutual consent guaranteed that Assad would have to step down because the opposition would never accept his participation in a transitional government. By the same logic, however, Assad would have little incentive to accept the Geneva plan in the first place — unless Russia was willing to lean hard on his regime to the point of threatening to support international economic sanctions.
We have supported the Obama administration's unwillingness to intervene militarily in Syria or to arm the Syrian opposition, whose agenda is still unclear. But if the violence continues and a civil war threatens peace between Syria and its neighbors, the pressure for military action by the U.S. and its allies will increase. The Geneva agreement offers an alternative, but only if Clinton's assessment of Russian intentions is correct.
New York Times on chaotic Pakistan:
For years, Pakistan has ignored the Obama administration's pleas to crack down on militants who cross from Pakistan to attack American forces in Afghanistan. Recent cross-border raids by Taliban militants who kill Pakistani soldiers should give Islamabad a reason to take that complaint more seriously.
Recently, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief of staff, raised the issue in a meeting with Gen. John Allen, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He demanded that NATO go after the militants on the Afghan side of the border, according to Pakistani news reports. General Allen demanded that Pakistan act against Afghan militants given safe haven by its security services, especially the Haqqani network, which is responsible for some of the worst attacks in Kabul.
Fighting extremists should be grounds for common cause, but there is no sign that Pakistan's military leaders get it. ...
Some in Congress want to designate the Haqqanis as a terrorist organization. That would be unwise because such a move could lead to Pakistan's being designated a terrorist state subject to sanctions and make cooperation even harder. The United States has no choice but to try to work with Pakistan, including the army, when it can.
Officials hope the crisis in relations caused by the killing of Osama bin Laden and other events will pass. Meanwhile, they are holding the Pakistanis more at arm's length and setting narrower goals; President Obama declined to hold an official meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari at the NATO summit meeting in Chicago in May.
The United States has little choice but to continue drone attacks on militants in Pakistan. It has urged India to become more involved in Afghanistan and on Thursday, a conference was held in New Delhi to urge companies to invest there. That makes sense as long as India's activities are transparent. Pakistan is paranoid about India, which it sees as a mortal adversary.
After 2001, Pakistan had a chance to develop into a more stable country. It had strong leverage with the United States, which needed help to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan received billions of dollars in aid and the promise of billions more, which Washington has begun to suspend or cancel. But the army continues its double game — accepting money from the Americans while enabling the Afghan Taliban — and the politicians remain paralyzed. Soon, most American troops will be gone from Afghanistan. And Pakistan will find it harder to fend off its enemies, real and perceived.
Chicago Tribune on college student loans:
Congress has reached a one-year deal to keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling for millions of Americans. Republicans and Democrats said all along they wanted a deal to happen, and so did we. It would have been arbitrary and unfair to double loan rates all at once, especially with interest rates in the private sector at record lows.
This should prompt debate on a critical question, though: Do low-cost, government-guaranteed loans drive tuition and fees higher? Would college be less expensive if loans weren't so cheap?
The research to date has not proved a causal connection between easy money and skyrocketing tuition. But that would be logical: When demand rises and supply does not, prices rise. Government-assisted loans boost the buying power of students, but the benefit to students is limited if those loans prompt college tuition to rise.
This much we know: Demand has risen. America invests billions of dollars in financial aid every year. Student loan debt has grown to exceed credit-card debt. Young lives are being forever altered by the burden of rising education costs.
In 1987, then-Secretary of Education William Bennett shook up the higher-education orthodoxy by asserting that government financial aid helped to push tuition higher. The "Bennett hypothesis" is invoked in media coverage and policy debates today.
It is difficult to isolate the effect of government-based aid, in part because there are so many higher education options and price points.
The balance sheets of Princeton and Harvard, with their huge donor-supported endowments, have little in common with those of the least-selective private schools. ...
Some states are exploring alternative ways to finance an education. California, for example, might allow students to pay for their schooling by pledging a portion of their future earnings.
Congress, for now, has avoided a jolt for students with the deal on interest rates. It could help students in the long run make better decisions if it pushed for transparency by educators and a loan system based on genuine demand.
Longmont (Colo.) Times-Call on the need for progression of Title IX:
Women in sports. Forty years ago, few ever got an equal chance to see that. Title IX set out to change that backward way of thinking. That, and legendary female tennis player Billie Jean King.
Title IX was the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in education that passed in 1972. King showed this country what could happen if women were given an equal chance. Today, few can comprehend the logic of women being denied that right.
Take a moment to applaud the steps taken over the past 40 years.
The applause is over. There is still work our society must do.
How many women do you see coaching Division I men's college basketball? Or college football? How many women do you see coaching men or boys sports at any level? Or women athletic directors? Or front office personnel in pro sports, say a general manager or owner?
The answer: not enough.
The world of sports writing is doing its part with a concerted effort to hire more women. The major professional sports leagues, all levels of college and high school sports should follow those efforts. If they do, 40 years from now, fans might see a woman coach the Denver Broncos.
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland on black marines being finally honored properly:
Some of the young Marines attending a leadership seminar at Cleveland State University during Marine Week last month walked right by two generals to shake hands with a different kind of VIP.
This Marine — later identified by others at the seminar as retired Master Gunnery Sgt. J.C. Cunningham of Euclid — was no ordinary Marine. He was one of the first African-American Marines, a Montford Point Marine, who enlisted in June 1944 when America needed the patriotic service of its black citizens just as much as its white ones — but when its armed forces were still segregated.
Those first black Marines were sent to swampy Montford Point, N.C. — near to, but a world apart from, Camp Lejeune, where white Marines trained. Before braving the enemy, they had to brave vermin and inadequate food. Then many went on to Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other World War II battlefields. On Wednesday, nearly 400 of the estimated 420 still living turned out in Washington for a long-overdue awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the Montford Point Marines' determination to serve and to break down the color barrier. Cunningham, according to a civilian Marine employee who encountered him there, was among those in attendance.
Other local Montford Point Marines include prominent Cleveland lawyer James R. Willis and Herman R. Douthard, also of Cleveland.
"They not only helped defeat tyranny overseas; they thoroughly discredited a poisonous philosophy deeply held and long defended by elites here at home," said House Speaker John Boehner at Wednesday's ceremony. Cunningham, Willis and Douthard need to get ready for more handshakes and photographs. They've earned them.
The Seattle Times on putting focus on coverage and cutting costs after Affordable Care Act decision:
The U.S. Supreme Court changed the national discussion with its decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act. Time and energy spent debating medical-insurance coverage must now focus not only on providing care but also containing costs.
The latter is urgent because soaring health-care costs are the No. 1 threat to economic prosperity and government treasuries. The law did not address enough substantial reforms to rein them in.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle must accept the decision and move ahead. Republicans should put a lid on the prattle about repeal. President Obama and Democrats get a few scant moments of gloating about their policy triumph, then they must deliver on deeper commitments imposed by their achievement.
Broad medical coverage will benefit tens of millions of Americans. Their access to prenatal care, preventive medicine, discounted drugs and basic access to medical treatment will save money. ...
U.S. corporations and manufacturers compete in a global business environment against companies with virtually no health-care overhead. The Affordable Care Act offers some relief.
Knee-jerk threats to dismantle the law need to be challenged with a single question: How will the outraged, arm-waving politician provide health care for 30 million uninsured Americans?
The public quickly adapted to the prospects of continued coverage for young adults on their families health plans, no denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions and no dollar caps on coverage.
Less is made of the boon this plan represents for the insurance industry, which remains the core provider and will see a tidal wave of new business. ...
The Affordable Care Act is an extraordinary opportunity for the nation. Maximizing its potential requires a laser focus on managing care and cutting costs.
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times on political change in Mexico:
Enrique Pena Nieto, who won Mexico's presidential election Sunday, campaigned on a pledge to restore peace and prosperity to a nation increasingly weary of drug violence and slow economic growth. His slender margin of victory and lingering worries about the turbulent role his party has played in Mexico's history, however, suggest that many of his countrymen worry about Pena Nieto's ability to honor that pledge. That is a concern, too, for the United States.
The two nations are inextricably entwined. What occurs south of the nations' shared border almost always has an impact north of it. Mexico is the United States' third largest trading partner and, for better or worse, it also is directly involved in the immigration, drug and gun issues that play a major role in U.S. politics and policies -- at both the state and federal level.
Pena Nieto faces several challenges. ...
Whether the newly elected president's claim is correct will determine how he is accepted at home and the international role he ultimately will play. If he helps create a better, safer and less corrupt society, he'll unite his people, burnish his party's tarnished reputation and play a major role in cross-border and global affairs.
If he does not, Mexico's festering economic problems that prompt waves of people to cross into the United States illegally will continue. The power and influence of organized crime and its ability to traffic drugs likely would grow as well. That would exacerbate the already difficult U.S.-Mexican relationship.
Americans have a vested interest in Pena Nieto's presidency, but they can do little to influence its success or failure. When all is said and done, the United States must wait to see if he can honor his pledges.
The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky., on Syria's Assad making enemy of neighbor:
Syria's president, Bashar Assad, has likely made a fatal mistake for the future of his regime by alienating Turkey.
Early on in the 16-month uprising, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Assad to cease shelling crowded neighborhoods in towns where the rebels had holed up and urged the second-generation dictator to begin instituting needed democratic and economic reforms.
Assad ignored him, as he has other national leaders who have offered similar advice.
Instead, he stepped up the pace of bloodshed and, with support from Russia and Iran, dug in for the long haul against the rebels. Turkey had been a bystander, reluctantly offering sanctuary to civilian refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.
However, Turkey has increasingly become a place for the rebels to retreat, refit and rearm, as well as a location for their wounded to be treated.
It is now openly the headquarters of the umbrella rebel group, the Free Syrian Army. ...
Intense fighting continues inside Syria, intense enough that the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission told the Security Council that it was too dangerous for the U.N. observers to return to the country.
Russia was alarmed enough for the security of one of its few friends in the Mideast to begin readying shipment of a half-billion dollars worth of arms — fighter jets, helicopters, air defense systems to Syria.
Those arms suggest the Russians are worried about outside military intervention.
But the U.S. and the other Western nations have repeatedly disavowed any intention of intervening in Syria.
The real threat, now that Assad has alienated Turkey, is better trained, armed and organized rebel forces operating from sanctuaries along the border.
Erdogan said recently, "Turkey will support Syrian people in every way until they get rid of the bloody dictator and his gang."
Sounds like Assad has lost a friend.
The Jerusalem Post on Islamist threats in Africa:
Speaking at a seminar of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington last week, US Army Gen. Carter Ham warned that Islamic movements in Africa were linking up and threatening regional stability.
"What really concerns me is the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts.... That is a real problem for us and for African security in general."
These movements are al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Beginning with the establishment of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in 1994 and the activation of an American military command that focuses on the 53 states in Africa in 2008, the US has taken a leading role in efforts to train, equip and advise African countries that face threats to their stability.
Increasingly, the threat has come from Islamist terrorist movements. ...
Al-Shabab in Somalia also has its origins in an earlier period. In the 1990s, during the civil war that engulfed Somalia, an Islamist organization known as the Islamic Courts Union emerged as one of the most powerful players in the country.
Unwisely, it sought out conflict with Ethiopia by encouraging Islamic rebels across the border, and it was eventually brought to the brink of defeat. In its place al- Shabab emerged in 2006. ...
The recent explosion of violence in Nigeria at the hands of the Boko Haram movement is also troubling.
Founded in 2001, Boko Haram aims to enforce Shari'a law throughout Nigeria and has been responsible for weekly bombings and attacks on churches throughout the country. According to recent reports in Nigeria there are allegations that Boko Haram is receiving funding from foreign sources and Gen. Ham has asserted that it is now working with networks that lead back to AQIM and Shabab. But there are skeptics. ...
Gen. Ham's recent warnings in Washington about the influence and cooperation of Islamist movements in Africa should not fall on deaf ears. In February and April he made similar statements about the very "real danger" that these groups pose. Recent attacks throughout countries bordering the Sahara, combined with the weakening of state power in Tunisia, Libya and parts of Egypt, mean this combined threat harms innocent Africans and has the potential to spread terrorism to the Middle East, Europe and America.
The Telegraph, London, on Hong Kong powering on:
The heckling of Hu Jintao in Hong Kong yesterday is a reminder that it retains its distinctive style 15 years after being handed back to the mainland. The Chinese president was in the former British colony for the inauguration as chief executive of Leung Chun-ying, a property surveyor who has been accused of clandestine membership of the Communist Party and of illegal building at his home on Victoria Peak. Mr Hu's inaugural address was interrupted by a member of the audience shouting, "End one-party rule." At the same time, a mass demonstration aired dissatisfaction with both the mainland and local governments.
Both incidents provide heartening evidence that Hong Kong continues to play an important role in pushing for political liberalisation in China. That may be uncomfortable for the leaders in Beijing, but against it must be set the value to them of the Special Administrative Region created in 1997 — with its financial and legal expertise and a triple-A credit rating — as a gateway into the mainland for foreign capital. Despite its transformation over the past 20 years, Shanghai cannot match that record.
Less encouraging is the disillusionment of Hong Kongers with Chinese rule, as witnessed on the streets yesterday and in two recent opinion polls. Among complaints are the widening gap between rich and poor, made worse by a property market inflated by excess capital from the mainland, and the ever-distant prospect of being able to elect the chief executive by universal suffrage. As Beijing prepares for a new leadership after a decade of repressive rule under Mr Hu, the situation is unlikely to improve. But Hong Kong should never despair of its influence on China that its autonomy provides - not just as a model for doing business but also as a catalyst for political change.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on Afghan detainees:
The Military Police Complaints Commission's report made public last week — the latest chapter in the Afghan detainees controversy — makes an important point, one that ought to have been obvious: Canadian military police officers on foreign missions should be enabled by their superior officers to understand what is going on around them, to help them navigate the pitfalls of human-rights violations, international law and, in a word, a foreign country's complex politics.
Frustratingly, the underlying issues - the most compelling questions - of whether Afghan detainees were handed over to be tortured by some of their fellow Afghans, and whether Canadians were negligent in letting that happen, remain mysterious. In other words, it is still unknown whether Canadians were involved in war crimes.
The MPCC is what it is: a commission to deal with complaints against military police. The eight officers against whom two civil-liberties organizations made complaints have all been cleared.
The report concluded, however, that the Canadian commanders in Afghanistan, as well as another authority called the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, who is an adviser to the Chief of the Defence Staff on policing matters, had not given adequate guidance to the military police. They had not sufficiently communicated to the officers the principles and polices they needed to know in order to do their job well.
All this was clouded by the MPCC's own difficulties in obtaining documents from the federal government. The commissioners complain that the government behaved like a difficult opposing lawyer in civil litigation, using the discovery process as "a litigation tool." A large portion of their report is given to a discussion of the conflict over documents.
The MPCC was created as a result of the Canada Forces' troubles in Somalia in the 1990s, in the hope of avoiding future problems, or at least remedying them. It is unfortunate that, as yet, the Canadian public is very little the wiser about the disturbing matter of the Afghan detainees controversy, even after the efforts of the Military Police Complaints Commission.
China Daily, Beijing, on World Bank needing to evolve:
The new president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, who began his five-year term on July 1, faces many challenges reforming the international financial institution and promoting its goal of reducing global poverty.
There are still 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day, 22 percent of the total population of the world's developing countries and regions. This is a far cry from a world free of poverty, and there is still much to be done.
There is no doubt that over the past 60 years, the World Bank has played a very important role in helping developing countries fight poverty. However, to meet the challenges of the changing international economic situation, the World Bank must adapt and evolve.
To support infrastructure construction, energy, agriculture, education, and other fields in developing countries has been the main work of the World Bank. But this support usually came with harsh conditions attached, which damaged its impartiality and fairness.
In recent years, the collective rising of emerging countries has changed the global economic landscape. ...
For many developing countries the biggest challenge they face is creating jobs, and they want the World Bank to increase investment in human capital.
As an international financial organization whose role is to help developing countries eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development, the World Bank has a greater responsibility than ever before.