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Western Press Review: U.S. Military Action In Iraq, Making Aid More Effective

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 3 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press today discusses U.S. aid to developing nations, the anniversary of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, the Russia-NATO partnership, the future of Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, and weighing the possibility of a U.S. offensive on Iraq.


An editorial in "The Washington Post" writes: "It will be 13 years tomorrow (4 June) since China's Communist rulers squelched a movement toward freedom and democracy by sending tanks and troops to Tiananmen Square." It says the fact many pro-democracy activists are still "rotting away" in labor camps and prisons is a pretty fair indicator of "the morality and political legitimacy of the men who are running [the] country."

"China's democracy activists don't get a lot of attention from world leaders these days; Tiananmen is no longer much of a rallying cry. The Bush administration, seeing Beijing as a potential partner in the war on terror, makes minimal gestures in the direction of human rights."

By some measures, the paper says, China "has come a long way since 1989. Its economy has grown rapidly, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, the World Trade Organization has embraced it as a member. But the Communist Party's effort to create a market economy inside a repressive one-party state also has led to severe strains: rampant lawlessness in much of the countryside, corruption, and violent labor protests against unemployment, and abusive working conditions."

China's pro-democracy activists have argued that the transition to free enterprise must be accompanied by official accountability. In the struggle "for the values that matter most," says the "Post," it is these activists, and not their captors, who "should be recognized as America's true partners."


An editorial in "The Boston Globe" says in creating the new limited partnership between Russia and NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin "has made it clear he realizes that for Russia to become a prosperous, stable country it has no choice but to join up with the West. That means dropping the pretense of forming a strategic partnership with Beijing. It also means backing away from troublesome dealings with the hard-line clerics who rule Iran."

The "Globe" says Russia's inclusion in NATO is another step toward completing "a transformation that has been under way for several years. During the Cold War, NATO was aimed at defending Europe from a Warsaw Pact invasion."

Now, its primary purpose "is no longer the defense of Western Europe. It has become a hybrid organization, part military alliance and part political club. Belonging to the club means that members must resolve their quarrels, practice democracy with civilian control over their armies, and respect the human and civil rights of minorities. Having Russia in this club, even without a veto over expansion or military decisions, is almost certain to enhance the security of the other members."


A contribution to "The Christian Science Monitor" by Tom Freedman, senior adviser in the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, discusses the issue of U.S. aid to developing countries. Aid supporters argue that the U.S. does not give enough, he notes, while its critics say financial aid is squandered by corrupt governments in recipient countries. But now, Freedman says, "challenged by the moral issue of suffering abroad, and the reality that terrorists are exploiting poor countries," the issue is now about how to make development aid more effective.

"Just as in the Cold War," he writes, "when aid was seen as a strategic tool to block Soviet influence, may leaders now recognize that fighting global poverty may be a strategic U.S. influence in the war on terror."

Freedman says the need for more aid to help nations become stable and economically successful is obvious. But additionally, the effectiveness of aid must be improved. "Fifty years of development aid has not left areas such as Africa appreciably better off," he writes. "Aid can be a strategic tool. Successful development is not just altruistic, it is in America's long-term interest," he says. In Afghanistan, "the U.S. sent plenty of aid after the Soviet invasion in 1979, but basically left the country when the Soviets did. The resulting chaos created a vacuum that the Taliban filled."


In "The Washington Post," staff columnist Fred Hiatt says any of the scenarios for U.S. action against the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would prove very difficult. He says even if Iraq were to let UN weapons inspectors in, it is unlikely they could uncover "what Saddam Hussein has had 3 1/2 years to hide." But economic sanctions have not succeeded, in the decade they have been in place, in convincing him to comply. "Which leaves force," Hiatt writes, "with all its risks and uncertainties."

The U.S. president's military advisers are reluctant to advocate such an option, he says -- and rightly so. It is their job to thoroughly consider the possible dangers: "First, that many people would die in a war, but also that allies would not cooperate or offer staging grounds; that Saddam Hussein would use his weapons of mass destruction when attacked; that he would prove as difficult to locate as Mullah Omar; that Iraq would fracture, or find itself ruled by someone just as odious; that U.S. forces would be stretched and vulnerable in other parts of the world."

"So it is a quandary," Hiatt writes. If U.S. President George W. Bush takes no action and Saddam Hussein is eventually succeeded "by a peace-loving and democratic government, the reluctant generals will be proven right." But if he does move to unseat Saddam Hussein, "we will never know whether the resulting casualties and disruptions prevented something worse."


An analysis in Belgium's daily "Le Soir" says that over the weekend, U.S. President George W. Bush once again spoke of the possibility of the U.S. taking "preventive" military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The paper says Bush made this statement seemingly oblivious of the consensus among U.S. allies against any intervention in Iraq. Speaking at the West Point military academy in New York state, Bush said the war against terrorism will not be won on the defensive, that threats must be addressed before they become realities.

The American president thus resumed his discussion on the so-called "axis of evil," for which he was so resoundingly criticized abroad. Some European allies found his description of such an "axis" -- comprised of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea -- "simplistic." Many have also noted that no clear link has been found between Iraq and the 11 September attacks.

The president spoke with unprecedented firmness, says "Le Soir," and his advisers made clear that this was a new component of Bush's political strategy. The paper notes this new speech, advising that the war on terrorism be widened in spite of the opposition he met with during his trip to Europe last week, was made before a particularly susceptible audience -- that of American military elites.


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" today discusses Russia's concerns over its Kaliningrad exclave. The EU says Poland and Lithuania must impose a visa regime on Russians, with no exception for Kaliningrad's 900,000 citizens, who have to cross their neighbors' territory to travel to the rest of Russia. The EU has thus far refused Russia's requests for visa-free travel for its citizens passing through. "The EU has good reason to resist any special arrangements," the paper writes. Kaliningrad's chief exports "are drugs, organized crime, prostitutes, and stolen cars." At some point, it says, Russians "should be allowed to travel into the EU visa-free. [But] neither the EU nor Russia are ready for visa-free, yet."

The "Journal" continues: "One day, Kaliningrad could be an entrepot center for legitimate trade, rather than criminality. But Moscow, so exercised by the EU's imminent invasion, has blunted efforts over the past 10 years to make this happen." An agreement with the EU "that lets people cross borders to trade, legally as much as possible, will be good for Kaliningrad's Russians and their neighbors. It is not in the EU's interests to isolate anyone," the paper says.


An article in "Newsweek" by Fareed Zakaria, editor of the weekly's international edition, says: "Relax. There won't be a nuclear war on the Indian subcontinent. At least not this month." The magazine acknowledges that India is "frustrated" with Pakistan's failure to prevent Kashmiri militants from committing attacks against Indian citizens and interests in the disputed region. However, it will "be deterred from launching a military offensive by two things -- nuclear weapons and American soldiers." The nuclear weapons India and Pakistan possess "have actually had a sobering effect on both," it says. "[If] neither side had nuclear weapons, they would be at war right now. Nuclear deterrence is not pretty, [but] it usually works."

Second, an Indian offensive would be complicated by the fact that "many of Pakistan's prime targets -- its air bases, for example -- are swarming with American troops. For its part, Washington has a huge incentive to put out the flames. If there is a war, its operation against Al-Qaeda will collapse, as Pakistan's troops abandon the Afghan border to fight Indian forces."

Besides, says "Newsweek," India's strategy is working. New Delhi has been making threats to prompt Washington's pressure on Pakistan to act against the militants, and Washington "has moved fast." The danger lies after this current crisis has simmered down. Both sides "are reaching a point of no return," says the magazine. Another crisis later may not be "so easily defused."