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Western Press Review: Renewable Energy, NATO Reform, Women's Rights And Iraq's Political Future

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 26 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics addressed by commentary and analysis in the Western press today are the future of energy use in the West, reforming NATO's military, advocating women's rights on a global scale, a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, and the attack this week on an aid organization in Karachi, Pakistan, the latest in a series of attacks in recent months on Western targets in that country.


In a contribution to "The Washington Post," Jeremy Rifkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends says the European Union and the United States "are beginning to diverge in the most basic aspect of how a society is organized: its energy regime."

He says this split was apparent at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development last month in Johannesburg, when the EU pushed for a global target of using 15 percent renewable energy sources by 2010, while the U.S. "fought the initiative." The EU has already set its own target of using 22 percent renewable resources for electricity needs by 2010.

Rifkin says, "The sun is setting on the great fossil-fuel culture that began with the harnessing of coal and steam power." While the EU has begun to mobilize its industrial sector and the public for making the transition into renewable resources, the United States "is pursuing an increasingly desperate search to secure access to oil." Oil-dependent countries will continue to struggle to ensure access to the politically unstable Mideast, with all the attendant "risks and consequences."

In contrast, the EU "is now in position to become the first superpower to make the long-term shift out of carbon-based fuels and into a hydrogen era." He says a change of this magnitude in energy sources over the next half-century is likely to have as profound an effect on society as the advent of coal and steam power did.


In "the Wall Street Journal Europe," Matthew Kaminski discusses U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's speech to a gathering of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw (24 September), in which he put forth suggestions for reforming the NATO alliance to deal with post-Cold War threats.

Kaminski says the U.S. plan "makes military and political sense." The U.S. wants NATO to create a new 20,000-strong rapid reaction force, capable of deploying within a week's time to anywhere in the world. This force would be able to "fight high-intensity wars and engage in extraction missions."

The U.S. could contribute military assets to this force that the Europeans lack, "and look unlikely to budget for," says Kaminski, "such as cargo planes, chemical and biological defenses and precision-guided missiles. The Europeans and Canadians could contribute seasoned special forces and light-infantry units."

Kaminski writes: "This is a straightforward way to make NATO a useful tool for America and its allies in an era where terrorism and rogue states rather than the Soviet Union present the gravest danger to Western civilization." The U.S. is making clear that it wants NATO to remain "a war-fighting institution," capable of fighting "the wars of the future or, as in Afghanistan, [keeping] the peace."


The Swiss daily "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" today looks at the state of the euro in light of EU finance ministers' considerable anger over the European Commission's proposal to postpone the budget balancing deadline until 2006.

Countries such as Belgium and Spain -- which were handicapped by EU-stabilizing agreements from the very beginning -- must feel the betrayal keenly, as Brussels is rewarding those EU members who have adopted the euro without having done their homework. Powerful EU members such as Germany, France, and Italy are unable to achieve a balanced budget in the coming two years and cannot maintain a 3 percent GNP.

The paper describes the commission as "paying obeisance to the large euro countries," although these countries are suffering from an economic downturn.

On the other hand, the paper goes on to say that the commission is not to blame for the fact that the "stabilization pact is turning into a farce." One can, at most, fault Brussels for not exerting sufficient pressure in times of an economic boom. Now the commission is trying to be brave in "forcefully" demanding changes in economic structures.

However, if the governments in the euro countries lack the will or the strength to put their houses in order, then the commission will be "fighting a losing battle," the paper says.


The "Boston Globe" carries a contribution today by Martha Davis of the U.S.-based Northeastern University School of Law. She urges the U.S. Senate to ratify, and President George W. Bush to support, the international Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. She says the Bush administration is "backpedaling" on the issue, in a political move "to shore up" his domestic conservative base.

Davis says that, as "one of the few countries in the world that have failed to ratify the convention and formally endorse women's equality rights, the United States is keeping company with -- and giving cover to -- the likes of Afghanistan and Somalia." She says U.S. ratification of the convention would help isolate "countries that truly deny women equal rights and substantially increase the international pressure available to promote constructive change."

The treaty requires that nations ratifying the convention on women's equality take action in political, economic, social, and cultural fields "to guarantee the human rights of women." Bush administration conservatives are concerned that signing the international treaty would threaten the autonomy of U.S. internal policy -- a charge Davis says is "baseless."

"[By] ratifying the convention," she says, the United States "would simply be recommitting itself to women's equality and signaling its willingness to participate in the global dialogue with 169 other ratifying nations about how to achieve that goal."


A contribution to "The Washington Post" by "Multinational Monitor" magazine editor Robert Weissman says the effects of reckless deregulation and privatization sponsored by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have been devastating in developing countries.

Weissman says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) continue "to marketize services previously in the public and non-commercial realm," for instance, implementing user fees for primary health care or education in developing countries. This results in denying poor people access to care, says Weissman, as many cannot afford the basic fees.

The World Bank is pushing for the privatization of the water industry in Ghana -- leading to a doubling of water prices. Poorer Ghanian consumers can now "pay as much 10 to 20 percent of their income on drinking water." In the Dominican Republic, World Bank-supported privatization allowed now-defunct energy giant Enron to "buy parts of the electric utility and jack up rates. When consumers and the government could not pay the high prices, Enron turned off the power."

Weissman says, "Restraints on corporate power are even more necessary in developing countries." But even while the West reviews its own economic policies, following a spate of high-profile corporate collapses such as Enron and WorldCom, the IMF and the World Bank "continue to systematically unshackle corporate activity" in the poorer southern hemisphere.


A commentary in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" discusses a series of attacks on Western and Christian targets in Pakistan in recent months. Militant Islamic forces were allegedly responsible for the murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in January. This was followed in May by the assassination of 11 Frenchmen and two Pakistanis. A few weeks later, 12 Pakistanis fell victim to a car-bomb attack on the U.S. consulate. This week two gunmen attacked the Institute for Peace and Justice in Karachi, a Christian charity organization.

The commentary says Karachi now ranks among the most dangerous cities in the world. Despite President Pervez Musharraf's security measures, he has not succeeded in bringing under control the militant Islamic forces bent on targeting Western affiliates.

"The long blood trail through Karachi" is a painful reminder to the Pakistani president that the fight against extremists has not yet been won, says the commentary. Underground militant forces are determined to derail Musharraf's regime. By creating chaos and terror, they are preventing foreign investment in the country and, as a result, there is little hope of investment from overseas stimulating Pakistan's economy. The commentary says the militants' aim is clear: to isolate Pakistan.

The paper says this is exactly what must be averted, since it is vital for Islamabad to make good on its promises to modernize the country and introduce social reforms.


In "The Washington Times," Middle East analyst Carole O'Leary of the Center for Global Peace says the forcible removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could have "potentially disastrous consequences." Policymakers thus "need to give serious consideration" to establishing a federalist state in Iraq, which she says is the one solution for postwar stabilization "that has been embraced by virtually all of the Iraqi opposition groups." She says the Iraqi National Congress (INC) "has consistently supported the creation of a unified, federal and democratic post-Saddam Iraq."

Federalism divides power between a central authority and secondary political units. It can thus provide a workable organizing structure for promoting stability in multicultural nations, "through the establishment of political units whose relationship to the center is defined in a governing document that provides written principles concerning structures and rules for governance."

O'Leary says finding a "just and lasting resolution" to the issues regarding Iraq's Kurdish minority "is essential to establishing stability in Iraq. Federalism, as an organizing structure for governance in pluralistic societies, can resolve the Kurdish question and thus promote stability -- a precondition for the development of democracy, human rights and a vibrant civil society in a future Iraq."


In the British-based "Times," Roger Matthews says the U.S. administration's proposed plans for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq are breathtakingly ambitious. Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, "now insists that once the dictatorship is toppled, the U.S. is prepared to spend considerable time and money rebuilding Iraq as a unified and democratic state." But Matthews says: "In the 44 years since the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown by the army, [a] unified state has been sustained only by persistent repression" under Saddam Hussein. If his regime were to fall, Matthews says any troops within Iraq would likely "have to cope with the effects of hatreds bottled up for decades. The violence associated with politics in Iraq was not invented by Saddam. It has been endemic since the creation of the state."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)