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Western Press Review: From Muslim World to Former Yugoslavia, Lack of Opportunity Breeds Instability

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 6 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics addressed in the major Western dailies today are obstacles to Serbia's integration with Western institutions, offering professional opportunities to youths in the Muslim world, yesterday's fatal bomb blast in Jakarta, approaches to North Korea's alleged nuclear ambitions, and the 58th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, which brought a hasty and controversial end to World War II.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:

A contribution to "The Wall Street Journal Europe" by Bijan Khezri, chief executive of Baltimore Technologies, calls on his colleagues in the U.S. corporate community to offer more training and employment opportunities for young people in the Middle East.

Khezri says yesterday's fatal car bombing of a Marriot Hotel in Jakarta once again shows that long-term stability in much of the Muslim world faces a double challenge. One is "rampant unemployment," he says. The other is the lack of opportunities "for Arab youths to translate knowledge and talent into productive activities. Without prospects of a future, Arab youths remain trapped in despair." He says the world's business communities must create more opportunities for professional training and entrepreneurship.

He suggests, for example, that America's and Europe's banking and technology sectors could recruit Arab students for temporary job training, thus laying "an important foundation for their future engagement in the [region]. Successful interns could become employees at the companies' branches in the Middle East."

Khezri says overall, "educational infrastructures are relatively well-developed throughout the region." Many private organizations also sponsor students for higher education abroad. But it is "training on the job that determines the individual's value" professionally. "[Unless] students can believe in the prospect of productively developing and applying their knowledge, there is little enthusiasm and hope."

THE WASHINGTON TIMES:

Helle Dale of the Heritage Foundation, discusses in "The Washington Times" a recent visit to Washington by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic and Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic. She says the two men "expressed their frustration with the government of the United States and the leaders of the European Union and NATO." Svilanovic seemed to suggest that the failure of Serbia to integrate successfully with various international organizations "can be blamed primarily on Washington and Brussels." The visitors were "particularly indignant that they have not received the international aid they expected."

Dale says both U.S. and EU leaders have welcomed the reform efforts of Serbia's new leadership. However, there are some "major obstacles to Serbia's [postwar] rehabilitation." One is the failure to hand over General Ratko Mladic, who is wanted on war crimes charges by The Hague. Mladic is believed to be behind some of the ethnic-cleansing campaigns perpetrated against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s.

Another obstacle to Serbia's successful integration with Western organizations is that Serbia is continuing its litigation against eight NATO countries for the 1999 bombing of Belgrade. The suit was initiated by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial at The Hague.

Dale says the "war-torn Balkans is the final piece of the European continent that needs to build peace and economic stability. Eastern and Central Europe are well on their way to joining the EU and NATO. Serbia could be an important part of this project, but until the Serbs experience a change of attitude about their past and their present, they will cut themselves off from their future."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

A contribution to "The New York Times" by government professor David Kang of Dartmouth University says the news that North Korea has agreed to multilateral talks "has been greeted with relief and hope from Moscow to Beijing to Washington."

But the contentious debate over multilateral versus bilateral talks with Washington is "peripheral" to the crisis over Pyongyang's alleged nuclear ambitions, Kang says. And "the prospect for resolving the yearlong standoff between the United States and North Korea remains dim."

For the past year, U.S. policy has been to demand that North Korea dismantle its nuclear facilities, while offering "minimal concessions" to Pyongyang. If during upcoming talks, Washington again does nothing but repeat a demand for North Korea to halt nuclear development, "the meetings will be useless." Kang asks, "If there is nothing to discuss, why even meet?" Leaders respond to "incentives and penalties," he says. And "being ordered to disarm creates the incentive not to disarm."

The U.S. administration must be willing to make some kind of offer. North Korea "clearly does not want to go nuclear," Kang says. If it did, it could have done so long ago. Instead, North Korea "has consistently maintained that its foremost desire in return for scrapping its nuclear program is a security guarantee from the United States." If Pyongyang means what it says, Washington "can simply agree not to attack North Korea if it will agree to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

A second piece in "The New York Times" today -- this one by Michael O'Hanlon and Mike Mochizuki, joint authors of a book on North Korea -- says the goal of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program "is realistic, but only if the United States is prepared to engage North Korea on a wide range of issues -- especially its failed economy." They say North Korea "probably won't listen to a proposal that requires it to make all the initial concessions."

The United States must "promise not to attack North Korea and to establish diplomatic ties." Pyongyang, for its part, would "eliminate chemical and biological weapons, stop producing and selling missiles, let all Japanese kidnapping victims [leave] North Korea for good, [and] begin a human rights dialogue with the outside world." It must also cut back its conventional military forces and undertake "major economic reforms." Conventional forces "gobble up most of North Korea's military budget and perhaps 20 percent of its total gross domestic product."

The authors say these reforms "would amount to regime change -- but regime change without war."

All these elements "should [be] on the table immediately. By offering the North's leaders a vision for an alternative future, the United States and its allies may be able to dissuade them from their self-destructive path. And a broader agenda for diplomacy has the best chance of getting North Korea to consider what it has so far refused to do: giving up its nuclear weapons capacity."

NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG:

The Swiss daily "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" considers the many factors of instability in Indonesia that might have contributed to yesterday's attack on the Western-owned Marriott Hotel and surrounding buildings in Jakarta's business district, killing 13 people and wounding some 150 others.

Indonesia suffers from immense economic problems as well as ethnic tensions, which the paper says makes for "an explosive mixture" with great potential for causing disruption.

In this case, says the commentary, it is far from clear what the actual aims were of the attack. But this recent bombing does serve to underscore the image of Indonesia as a place where instability is prevalent, which is a bad political environment for potential investors.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG:

The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" also considers the economic impact of yesterday's terrorist attack in Indonesia. Many foreigners stay at the hotel that was targeted and the U.S. Embassy arranges many receptions there; hence, the Marriott's security measures are better than elsewhere in this capital city. This attack has magnified a feeling of insecurity among foreign businessmen, diplomats, and tourists.

"For Indonesia, which is still struggling with the aftermath of the attack on tourists in Bali in April, this could not have come at a worse moment," says the commentary. Investors are bound to rethink their plans and may possibly withdraw. "Without capital investments, the country will never escape from the poverty trap."

At present, the largely Muslim population is a tolerant one and has seemed immune to extremist Al-Qaeda terrorism, but such a fragile state may be a breeding ground for militancy. The paper says the explosions in Bali and Jakarta "may not signify the crescendo of South Asian terror, but merely an overture."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:

An item in today's "International Herald Tribune" by "The New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof marks the 58th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, an event widely believed to have brought a hasty and controversial end to World War II. Kristof calls the bombing -- the first-ever use of the atomic bomb -- "one of the most morally contentious events of the 20th century."

The "traditional" U.S. position has been that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, followed by Nagasaki, was carried out to end the war decisively, thus saving thousands of lives. This argument has, at times, been "poked full of holes" by various U.S. historians.

But Kristof says revelations by Japanese historians actually bolster the U.S. contention. They say before the atomic bombings, the Japanese military was refusing to give up. Continued fighting "would have meant more firebombing of Japanese cities and a ground invasion, planned for November 1945, of the main Japanese islands." Kristof notes the fighting on the "small, sparsely populated islands of Okinawa had killed 14,000 Americans and 200,000 Japanese...[on] the main islands, the toll would have run into the millions."

The Japanese peace camp seized on the chance provided by the massive devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to reinforce their calls for surrender.

Kristof says it seems indecent to defend "the vaporizing of two cities." But "we owe it to history" to realize that "the greatest tragedy of Hiroshima" is that, "in a complex and brutal world, the alternatives were worse."

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

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