Prague, 28 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Western press commentary ranges widely over a number of almost perennial issues -- Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Kosovo and Serbia, world economics, Israelis and Palestinians, and new leadership in Germany and Europe.
WASHINGTON POST: West too distracted to focus on Iraq compliance
The Washington Post worries today that a credulous U.N. secretary general and a distracted U.S. president are allowing Saddam to keep weapons of mass destruction. The Post says in an editorial that Iraq has been caught in evident lies about having warheads with VX nerve gas. The newspaper says: "Members of the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan increasingly are proposing to rely on Iraq's promise that it has disarmed, rather than on U.N. inspection and verification. The VX episode demonstrates once again that relying on Iraq's word allows Saddam Hussein to keep his biological and chemical weapons capabilities."
Until recently, says The Post, U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration has been describing Iraq as dangerous to Mideastern peace. The editorial concludes: "If that's no longer true, the administration should explain why not. If it is true, what does Mr. Clinton plan to do about it?"
FINANCIAL TIMES: Milosevic must follow through with his offer
In the Serbian province of Kosovo, Kosovar Albanians are beginning to return to their homes as the Serbian forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic withdraw, The Financial Times, London, says in an editorial. The newspaper says: "So diplomacy, backed by the credible threat of force, has brought this phase in the Kosovo crisis to a successful close." But, says the editorial; "The West now needs to hold Mr. Milosevic to his offer of autonomy and to persuade Kosovar Albanians to accept."
THE GUARDIAN: The best guarantee is international oversight
Also from London, The Guardian expresses doubt that the West has found a workable answer for Kosovo. In an editorial, The Guardian says: "The exodus of Serb civilians from Kosovo is beginning to gather pace. They only have their own government to blame for raising tensions and creating polarization. But the best guarantees for the Serbs who choose to remain is international oversight over the police, and an ombudsman with adequate powers. The move towards ethnically-based partition has not worked in Bosnia, and it is not the solution in Kosovo either."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Low interest rates won't solve economic woes
Commentators in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and in the International Herald Tribune deal with different aspects of international economics. Helmut Maier-Mannhart says in the Suddeutsche Zeitung that a new appetite among world leaders for lower interest rates seems strange. He writes: "Looking for ways to ward off an impending recession which might deteriorate into a world economic depression, many policy makers appear convinced that they have found the magic formula. Interest rates must be lowered, they say."
Maier-Mannhart says: "The suspicion arises that politicians' calls for their central bankers to cut rates are intended to divert the public's attention. Can it really be that the prosperity or collapse of the world economy depends on whether interest rates are one percentage point higher or lower?"
He writes: "After all, unemployment, which the European leaders are pledged above all to combat, is in most of their countries a structural problem upon which lower interest rates can have only a marginal impact. And consider that even today's already relatively low interest rates have failed to sufficiently raise demand. If they had, Japan's recession-bound economy would be booming. After all, interest rates there are approaching zero."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Protectionism is a danger
Jeffrey E. Garten is dean of the Yale School of Management and is a former U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade. He writes in a commentary published by the International Herald Tribune that a looming threat more dangerous to the world economy than interest rates is that of anti-trade protectionism. Garten writes: "What can be done to stop a potential protectionist juggernaut? As always, an awful lot hinges on the United States. Unless it continues to import at increasing levels, the trading system will be in grave danger. But Congress and the American people must be convinced that trade will continue to have net benefits for American society. The President ought to articulate a bold vision about future goals beyond the current financial crisis."
NEWSDAY: U.S. has significant stake in Middle East peace agreement
Different parts of this week's Mideast negotiations occupy commentators in the U.S. newspaper, Newsday, and The New York Times. In Newsday, Adam Garfinkle, executive editor of The National Interest magazine in the United States, argues that the agreements reached at Wye Plantation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat don't comprise a new treaty but do deepen the U.S. involvement. Garfinkle writes: "The United States has acquired an especially intense interest in Wye's success, roughly proportional to its own investment of prestige in its birth." Garfinkle says: "Until now American diplomats credibly could threaten to walk away if Israelis and Palestinians failed to engage their better natures. But that is no longer possible. The law in superpower diplomacy is that if you broker it, you buy it. That is what the Clinton administration has done."
NEW YORK TIMES: CIA can positively influence Middle East peace
The New York Times finds involvement by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in peace brokering not so much strange as delicate. The newspaper says in an editorial: "Consideration of this matter should not labor under the naive belief that the agency is somehow entering unexplored territory. The CIA has long mixed action and analysis, often with disastrous results. That need not be the case this time." The editorial says: "President Clinton has made an extraordinary and appropriate commitment of American resources to help bring peace to the Middle East. If the CIA is careful about avoiding past mistakes, it can make an important contribution."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Quiet German transition a historical event
Heribert Prantl, writing in a Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentary, says the very ordinariness with which Gerhard Schroeder took over the chancellorship of Germany was the most remarkable thing about it. He writes: "What makes yesterday's change of government in Germany such a historic event is precisely that hardly anyone has noticed just how historic it is. For the first time in the Federal Republic of Germany's history, that most basic of democratic things actually happened just like it should happen. And that is the magic of this beginning. The third Social Democratic chancellor in the Federal Republic of Germany's history took office. And nothing earth-shaking happened."
WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Schroeder win is part of a trend
The Schroeder accession is part of a trend says Brandon Mitchener in a Wall Street Journal Europe analysis: "Gerhard Schroeder has won over Germany. Now he has to tackle the rest of Europe. Germany takes over the European Union's rotating presidency on January 1, and with it the opportunity both to advance and mold the political and economic agenda for the start of the 21st Century."
Mitchener says: "For the first time in decades, socialist leaders represent all of Europe's most powerful economies. But many of those socialists -- including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and Mr. Schroeder, who campaigned for a new middle in German politics -- are less socialist than their socialist predecessors."