Prague, 9 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics discussed today in Western media commentary are Afghanistan's political future, seen in light of the 6 July assassination of Minister of Public Works and Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir; the anticipated speech on Wall Street today by U.S. President George W. Bush, addressing his nation's recent wave of corporate accounting scandals; and debating Paddy Ashdown's role as the high representative in Bosnia.
An editorial in the British "Financial Times" says the 6 July assassination of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir, considered alongside the dozens of civilian deaths in a mistaken U.S. air raid a few days earlier, both suggest that "international security policy and U.S. military tactics in Afghanistan need to be seriously reviewed."
The U.S. administration and its allies are involved in two main goals in Afghanistan, the paper says. One is to root out any remaining Al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters. The other is to help stabilize the Transitional Authority of Hamid Karzai so Afghanistan can eventually rebuild. But in pursuing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the "Financial Times" says the U.S. military has relied unduly on local Afghan forces. In doing so, the U.S. has left itself open to "exploitation by unscrupulous Afghan commanders." This policy also threatens to stoke regional and ethnic rivalries, the paper says.
Pursuing these two goals in tandem is becoming increasingly counterproductive, the paper says. The antiterrorist campaign and peacekeeping operations should be more coordinated, it suggests, adding that Washington should "rethink its hostility to peacekeeping." And "more needs to be done," the editorial writes. A national Afghan police force "is vital, and money is still desperately needed."
In a contribution to Britain's "The Guardian," author David Chandler discusses Paddy Ashdown's role as Bosnia's new high representative, a post he took on in late May. Chandler likens this position to that of a colonial governor, and says Ashdown has the power "to sack elected presidents and prime ministers and to impose legislation by decree." But he points out that no Bosnians were involved in selecting Ashdown for this role. Instead, his appointment "was decided by a group of Western governments."
Under these circumstances, Chandler asks, "What is the role of Bosnia's democratically elected politicians?" Ashdown "argues that while political parties represent the interests of the ethnic groups, it is his job to put forward the public interest, the interests of 'all' Bosnians."
Bosnian politicians are seen as "a barrier to the pursuit of the public interest because of their allegiances." Chandler says Ashdown thus concludes that a high representative from outside the region is a better judge of the interests of all Bosnians than their elected politicians.
Chandler says this "narrow view" risks "reducing Bosnian politicians to the role of administrators of international policy decrees." "If there is any lesson from six years of international rule over Bosnia," he writes, it is that "high-handed intervention" in Bosnian politics has not helped overcome ethnic divisions. Instead, it undermines the collective political institutions that would allow Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim representatives to negotiate their own solutions.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
In an item in "The Washington Post" today, reprinted also in the "International Herald Tribune," the "Post's" Dana Milbank and Mike Allen say U.S. President George W. Bush's speech on corporate malfeasance later today could make his administration seem hypocritical. Long viewed as a friend of big business, the Bush administration's corporate dealings are further complicated by an ongoing federal investigation into the Halliburton Company's "aggressive accounting" while Vice President Dick Cheney was in charge of the company.
Milbank and Allen remark that in the past, Bush's master's degree in business was an asset, and his appointment of corporate executives to his administration "symbolized efficiency and good stewardship." But the authors say now that corporate America has been tarnished by a spate of accounting scandals, "the administration's corporate background and pro-business policies are a potential liability."
So Bush now faces "a delicate task": He must "make a credible denunciation of corporate wrongdoing and offer reform proposals to calm markets and boost investor confidence." To do this successfully, the authors say, Bush "must overcome questions about his administration's strongly pro-business record, as well as the records he and his administration officials compiled as corporate executives before coming to power."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
In a contribution to the European edition of "The Wall Street Journal," retired U.S. army intelligence officer and author Ralph Peters warns that there will be no quick results in Afghanistan. "Worthwhile results require long-term engagement," he writes. "The process will be endlessly frustrating and it will not be cheap. Yet he says this policy is "less expensive than the alternative" -- leaving the country to be run by virtual mob rule.
Peters observes that the U.S. and its allies "may find it useful to work with the warlords now and then." But he warns against the tendency "to do what is easy today, though destructive tomorrow." He says during the Cold War, the U.S. also "fell into the habit of supporting dictators and strongmen" who helped further certain aims. The U.S. now needs to "help the Afghans develop a moderately more humane, somewhat more tolerant, slightly more promising future."
Peters says that if the U.S. can help Afghanistan install the rule of law, "further human rights, assist in building a rudimentary system for secular education, and support the rebuilding of the nation's basic infrastructure," the U.S. "might finally be seen as a positive force.... [Instead] of being viewed as a country that only bombs Muslims, we might be seen, at last, as a country that builds, too."
A commentary by Stephan Marchand in France's "Le Figaro" discusses the possible "big bang" enlargement of the European Union, in light of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Marchand says the new agricultural project to be outlined tomorrow by EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler is one that "could change the face of the European countryside."
Fischler will point out that the EU will soon have 10 new members and millions more subsidized farmers. If the CAP remains as is, the enormous amount allocated for subsidies -- 40 billion euros -- will no longer be enough. To offer farmers in new EU members the same benefits as current members would be "budgetary suicide," writes Marchand.
In order to finance EU expansion, it is necessary to "radically modify" the allocation criteria for agricultural subsidies, says Marchand. Commissioner Fischler has suggested that they no longer be granted based on quantity produced, but as rewards for respect for the environment, product quality, and the well-being of livestock.
But Marchand says revising the CAP is not so simple. Within the EU, the CAP accounts for a major portion of the common budget. And France, by far the largest agricultural power in the EU -- and thus the main beneficiary of the current CAP system -- is duly aware that French farmers would be the losers of big bang expansion.
A "Financial Times" piece by Roula Khalaf says recent indications that the U.S. is planning a military campaign in Iraq may be spurring Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to speed up development of weapons of mass destruction.
Khalaf quotes a European diplomat as saying weapons of mass destruction (WMD) "are a last resort" for Iraq. Saddam Hussein "is not a madman, he didn't use WMD in the Gulf War." But the envoy added, "I'm afraid that if the U.S. tries to liquidate him or change his regime, he might have nothing to lose and then resort to their use."
And Saddam Hussein may be encouraging this idea in Western minds, says Khalaf. "While denying the existence of Iraq's WMD programs, he has been meeting the head of military manufacturing and the chief of the nuclear power agency.... [That] the meetings are made public by Iraqi television, say opposition leaders, is meant to send a signal to Washington."
The U.S. is seeking two things from an Iraq campaign: the return of UN weapons inspectors and a toppling of the Iraqi regime. But Khalaf says some observers argue that the U.S. plan for a "regime change" "heightens the importance" of WMD to the Iraqi leader, making it more likely he will develop or use them.
The regional daily "Eurasia View" looks at recent attempts by Turkmen dissidents to overthrow the regime of President Saparmurat Niyazov with the help of the international community. Meeting in Vienna in June, exiles and dissidents from Turkmenistan laid out plans for a new Turkmenistan, and asked agencies from other countries to help realize them.
The blueprint calls for free and fair elections, the release of political prisoners, and the expansion of freedoms of speech and assembly. It serves as "a unified opposition agenda," having brought together the Communists, Social Democrats, veterans, and expatriates.
Several parts of the plan "would logistically require outside help," the paper says. Others "would require external legal and political muscle. Rather than calling for a revolution, the document proposes to end Niyazov's lifetime presidency through international pressure."
"Eurasia View" calls Turkmenistan "Central Asia's most autocratic state." Turkmen opposition groups are now stressing their unity in the attempt to overthrow Niyazov, in "cooperation" with international partners. The paper concludes that, given the difficulty of coordinating campaigns in Turkmenistan, "it is easy to understand why dissidents from Niyazov's closed regime have decided they can only reclaim their country with international muscle."