Prague, 1 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary on international and East European issues proved sparse today and over the weekend in much of the Western press. Leading U.S. newspapers cast a wide net -- discussing issues from U.S. isolationism to Chinese human rights violations to world trade.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Killing and jailing followers of Falun Gong will solve nothing
From Boston, the Christian Science Monitor takes issue today with what it calls the "spiritually bankrupt" Chinese leadership, and expresses admiration for the thousands of Chinese active in the Falun Gong religious movement. The newspaper's editorial says: "China's authoritarian leaders face their biggest opposition yet, and for them, it's like punching a cloud.
"Over the past week, thousands of followers of a religious practice called Falun Gong have slipped into Beijing, just walking around, trying to talk to officials in protest against a crackdown on their beliefs and leaders.
"A loosely organized movement of millions of Chinese, Falun Gong has no political agenda other than to protect itself. Yet, the more it is suppressed, the stronger its faithful express their beliefs through peaceful, public witness."
The Christian Science Monitor concludes: "The world can only watch as this giant nation plays out a drama between a government that is spiritually bankrupt and masses of people searching for greater meaning in life. Killing and jailing the brave followers of Falun Gong will solve nothing."
NEW YORK TIMES: The task for internationalists will be to make the case for an expansive world view
In an editorial on Sunday, the New York Times worried that charges of a "new isolationism" in the United States may have degenerated into mere name calling. Spokespeople for U.S. President Bill Clinton and his Democratic Party are, of course, aiming the charges at the Republicans.
But, the New York Times' editorial concluded, if there is a new isolationism in the United States, it may be generational, not political. And the fault may lie with a leadership that has failed to educate and persuade the rising generation.
As the newspaper put it: "An entire generation, the one just below George W. Bush's, is growing up with no connection to World War Two and only the dimmest memories of the Cold War. This generation is clearly comfortable with economic engagement abroad. The task for internationalists in both parties will be to make the case for an expansive world view that defines broader diplomatic engagement and leadership by the United States as necessary components of national security and global stability."
WASHINGTON POST: Unilateralism must not be the only option available
International affairs columnist Jim Hoagland, writing in a commentary on Sunday in the Washington Post, said the problem goes far beyond public attitudes. An inept White House and a mean-spirited Congress, in his words, "now cloud U.S. strategy."
Hoagland wrote this: "Congress and the White House must now look at the cumulative and schizophrenic effect of their recent political sparring and piecemeal decision-making on strategy. The result is increasingly to isolate the United States and to bring together the world's other declared nuclear powers in opposition to a growing strain of U.S. unilateralism."
The columnist wrote that the United States and those who would be its friends may have more to fear from how domineering the United States has become than from any U.S. withdrawal from foreign interests. He says that what he called "unilateralism" is more to be feared than isolationism.
As he put it: "America is becoming far more domineering abroad than most Americans can comprehend. Congress requires the Pentagon to keep 6,000 warheads deployed and available for launch on intercontinental missiles, bombers and submarines--even though the Pentagon says it does not need more than 5,000 to destroy all possible adversaries. It could in fact live with many fewer warheads."
Hoagland wrote this: "China, Russia and France now form a united front in opposing U.S. efforts to change the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] treaty. Beijing and Moscow have drafted a UN resolution to prohibit any treaty changes. Even in Britain there is unease in official circles with the direction of U.S. strategy, although Prime Minister Tony Blair is too close to President Clinton to permit any expression of disquiet at a political level."
He concluded his column this way: "The United States can go it alone in setting deterrence strategy and counterproliferation if it must. But Congress and the White House must not let unilateralism be the only option available to Americans. Like economics, security is a global matter now."
NEW YORK TIMES: Far-right parties feature a rejection of European integration and ugly attacks on foreigners
The New York Times in an editorial today laments what it calls the "election surges for anti-immigrant far-right fringe parties" in Austria and Switzerland last month.
These are unsettling, the editorial says, not just because of the new strength and negative ideology of the parties, but also because of their ignorance and superficiality.
The newspaper says, in its words: "These parties feature incoherent economic policies, a rejection of European integration and ugly attacks on foreigners."
The newspaper emphasizes that the wins do not raise fears of a new Nazism, but rather of American-style Christian fundamentalism as represented by U.S. politician Pat Buchanan. But the paper says: "The far right's success is worrisome nevertheless, because it comes in good (economic) times."
The rise of extremist parties threatens to cause a general shift of political weight to the right, the New York Times' editorial says. As the newspaper puts it: "The mainstream Christian Democrats in Switzerland and Germany have moved to the right on issues like immigration, in part out of fear of losing votes to the extremists. This, in turn, has affected the national climate. The far-right victories in Switzerland and Austria could intensify the seepage of their views into the mainstream. (Yet) they could also have a healthy effect, if they spur traditional parties to try harder to persuade voters that nationalism and isolation can only lead to decline."
WASHINGTON POST: The cause of trade could use a victory
World trade and an approaching World Trade Organization (Nov. 30, Seattle) summit draw editorial comment from the Washington Post. In his early years as U.S. president, Bill Clinton championed far-reaching trade initiatives, the editorial says, but he and his administration have been de-clawed.
The Washington Post editorial says this, "Now that (the Clinton government) has moved on, it has lost fast-track trade-negotiating authority and scarcely tried to win it back; it is approaching a trade summit in Seattle apparently unsure whether to lead the charge against protectionism or play defense. The only glimmer of trade liberalization comes from two regional tariff-cutting bills in Congress, one for Africa and one for the Caribbean."
And even those are in trouble with the Republicans who control Congress, the newspaper says. The editorial urges action, saying: "The Senate Republicans should let the Democrats have their vote on their issues; the Democrats should stop sabotaging the trade bill. Both the African and Caribbean measures are fairly modest: They allow poor workers abroad a chance to compete fairly for the patronage of American consumers. After five years of defeat and stagnation in Congress, the cause of trade could use a victory."