Bulldozing the Peace Process?

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The World Responds Column Archive


War of Words Over Kashmir

Asian media this week contemplates the possible spread of the war on terrorism to other Asian countries, while diplomatic sparring between India and Pakistan continues -- though tensions between the two nations have eased somewhat following Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf's January 12th speech condemning terrorism "in all its forms." In the much-analyzed speech, Musharraf ordered stricter monitoring of mosques and religious schools, outright bans on Islamic extremist organizations, and continued arrest of militants.

Not everyone is satisfied however. Sudha Ramachandran probes the situation in the Asia Times, praising Musharraf's determination but criticizing the approach:

For one, the organizations that Musharraf is cracking down on were given ample time to relocate, transfer funds and regroup . . . Moreover, Musharraf has refrained from targeting the brain behind the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan -- the country's own intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It was the jihadis, no doubt, who carried out the terrorist and sectarian attacks, but they were really only the foot soldiers of the ISI. In most cases, they merely carried out the ISI's orders and implemented its "grand vision".

Ramachandran acknowledges Musharraf's increasingly hardline stance on terrorism -- including the armed groups operating in Kashmir -- but cautions: "Ultimately what matters to New Delhi is not what Musharraf says but how he acts. Will he translate his words to action?"

In another Asia Times piece, Syed Saleem Shahzad argues that Musharraf's about-face is laudable, but will have disastrous consequences in a conservative, devout society like Pakistan, leaving Musharraf "at the possible mercy of extremists." The new policy on religious schools is likely to alienate other Islamic countries too, especially since Musharraf is widely believed to be acting under U.S. and U.K. pressure:

In fact, countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have been big sponsors of Islamic seminaries in Pakistan. One of the recently banned militant organizations, Laskhar-i-Taiba, hails from the Sunni Wahabi school of thought and is the recipient of heavy Saudi donations . . . Islamabad urged Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to recognize the [Taliban regime], yet it subsequently let them down by denouncing the Taliban. Now it is doing the same with the militant organizations, by cutting down on them after spending so much time and effort in building them up.

But an editorial in The Times of India takes an optimistic view. The article bestows lavish praise on Musharraf, calling his speech, "the most courageous act undertaken by any Pakistani leader since 1947," and calling for greater U.S. support for Musharraf:

The general has to be rewarded economically, and in such generous terms that the majority of Pakistanis will have a stake in him and his reforms programme . . . Both India and the U.S. have enormous stakes in ensuring that the proposed Pakistani reforms succeed, take root and are followed by further doses of similar curative medicine until Pakistan becomes another Turkey.

The editorial dismisses continued Indian troop presence at the Pakistani border, calling it "exercise in the use of force without war" and "coercive diplomacy" meant to prod Pakistan to reign in militants in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, a deployment of U.S. troops as aid to the Philippine government in its fight against the armed Islamic militant group, Abu Sayyaf, is sparking protests in the Philippines. Writing in The Manila Times, Amante E. Bigornia admits the prospect of U.S. operations is suspicious to many Philippinos, but may also be the only effective tactic against a much feared and intractable enemy:

This is the only way that the Abu Sayyaf and, for that matter, the Muslim and communist insurgencies can be destroyed. President Arroyo's advisers and the military top brass must accept this as a fact and react accordingly -- or resign.

-- Natasha Berger

Middle East

Arab Leaders Assess Their Neighborhood

Papers from the Mideast this week mostly discuss events in the region. From the Arab press, the buzz is all about upcoming summits and meetings between Arab leaders and discussion of the internal arguments threatening to erode a unified Arab front. Some Arab journalists look at the potential of internal combustion -- both between "friendly" nations, such as Iraq with other Arab states, and between Israelis and Palestinian citizens. The Israeli papers also talk about the new, or newly exposed, friendship between Iran and the Palestinian Authority, as well as bitter arguments about Israel's recent destruction of homes in Palestinian territories.

From the Arab Press:

Predicting an eruption of "dormant inter-Arab disputes" and an awakening of age-old rivalries at a crucial Arab summit scheduled for this March in Beirut, Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayed makes the unusual argument in Gulf News that many invited leaders object to the inclusion of a number of controversial Arab leaders, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, at the summit. Why? Arafat is often criticized for his previous involvements in Lebanese politics, especially his policies toward Arab Christians. His troubled reputation in Lebanon may, according to Moubayed, put his life in jeopardy should he decide to attend:

Radical Christian groups . . . might be more than willing to strike at Arafat -- a traditional enemy whom they were unable to nail during his 10-year residency in Beirut. Many hard-core Christians consider Arafat blameworthy for the 17-year Civil War, for having engaged in combat . . .Under Arafat's orders, hundreds of Christians were killed in gang war, assassinated, or taken prisoner to Syria . . . Since leaving Beirut in 1983, Arafat, fearing for his life, has not visited the country. Arafat added insult to injury in 1993 by declaring that he will govern Gaza and the West Bank just like he "governed Lebanon for 10 years." Lebanon's first post-war President Elias Hrawi showed Maronite resentment to Arafat by refusing to meet or shake hands with him during the Arab League conference in 1996. His words nearly 10 years ago might cost him his life today -- for in the complex web of the Lebanese underground, everyone is armed, and nobody is safe from assassination.

Arab News columnist Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid pitches an explanation for the seemingly disjointed and soft-spoken stance of Arab leaders on Iraq. Although Al-Rashid argues that the climate for an Iraqi takedown is growing warmer in the Arab community, Arab officials are covering their bases, refusing to offer the U.S. clear support to launch an anti-Iraq campaign. Al-Rashid argues that, should the U.S. attack Iraq, the Arab world would respond according to the outcome. If successful:

Military action will be described as an act of liberation which Washington should have undertaken much earlier. On the contrary, if the campaign fails to achieve its goal, the Arab countries will issue statements condemning the action saying that they had warned the Americans in advance about the consequences.

Regarding a Possible Attack on Iraq

Although, "U.S. military superiority is certain to unseat the Baghdad regime, the aftermath is far less transparent and America could well [lose] control of the situation on the ground," argues Egyptian-American John Absood in the Jordan Times. The Unites States would do well to pursue diplomatic rather than military action against Iraq, if it hopes to preserve Iraqi unity and guarantee support from Iraq's skeptical but terribly important Arab neighbors.

Talking About the Age-Old Rivalry

Jaffer Ali writes a piece in The Jordan Times about the long-term impact on the citizens of a country which tortures others or violates human rights. He claims that "the occupation will end" because the forces sustaining Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories are no longer strong enough to combat the high costs, psychological trauma, drop in Zionist conviction, weakened political system, and other consequences that result when "occupation destroys the soul of the occupier." According to Ali, such systematic abuse "turns otherwise decent human beings into oppressors."

An Arab News editorial marvels at recent levels of Israeli U.S. hypocrisy; while holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for the recent Karine-A munitions ship scandal without "a single shred of evidence," Israel defended its blatantly illegal criminal destruction this week of Palestinian homes. Such actions reveal that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon strives to delegitimize not just Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat as well as the entire Palestinian Authority, but the territorial and political terms enacted by the Oslo Accords:

In the wake of the Karine-A capture, Sharon said the government must strategically reassess its relations with Arafat and the PA, perhaps implying that the time had come to move from a policy of passive ostracism to active removal. He declared the PA an enemy and debated with his Cabinet whether to cancel all peace agreements signed since 1993. Before the Karine-A incident, Sharon was apparently running out of creative ways to abandon the peace process. Not any longer.

Arab News uses Bush's near death pretzel experience to explore the possible changes in (U.S.) Israel policy were the U.S. President's health compromised. "While no one believes that it is anything serious," Arab News editorializes, "there are already speculations about the impact of a lame-duck White House on the world . . . If, however, Bush's unusual collapse is a symptom of more serious medical problems, we can be absolutely sure that, lacking any clear direction from a troubled White House, Washington's foreign policy will click back on to its traditional Zionist track. Palestinians will continue to choke on Israeli aggression, while the U.S. president may again choke on a typical Yiddish pretzel."

From the Israeli Press: Not in My Backyard -- Revenge or Defense?

Heated reactions to this week's destruction of Palestinian homes appear in many papers around the Middle East this week. (The number of homes destroyed and people left homeless is still being debated. Palestinian numbers, called "mammoth distortions" by the Jerusalem Post, come in much higher than those published by Israeli sources: The Jerusalem Post, for example, puts the number of homes destroyed at 28, while Ha'aretz has it at 50.) The Jerusalem Post editorializes against the "Double Standards" imposed by an international community and soft press that unfairly gives Palestinians leeway while holding Israel accountable for the increasing, unending violence. The latest portrayal of Israel as the big bad home destroyer, according to the Post, fits in with the continued maligning of Israeli defensive measures. "The big picture here," says the Post, "is that Israel goes to great length to avoid civilian casualties, while the Palestinians routinely and deliberately use their own civilians as shields in attacks against Israeli civilians."

Ha'aretz, on the other hand, argues that the recent IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) operation in the Palestinian town, Rafah, is "Blind Cruelty" pure and simple, and states emphatically that "[e]very Israeli should dissociate himself from this action and must demand an explanation from those responsible for it." A Ha'aretz column by Gideon Levy says even more strongly that the IDF's "Crime Against the Innocent" actually "constitutes a war crime" and because of the current state of political turmoil coupled with "the media blackout in Israel" in the area of the destruction, "hardly anyone says a word in protest." In the strongest language, Levy condemns the recent acts of aggression against innocent Palestinians as brutal and redemptive and "precisely the type of action that an enlightened state does not do, under any circumstances." If any double standard exists, Levy argues in direct opposition to The Jerusalem Post, it is that Israel gets away with a lower bar of ethics; "A country that opposes terrorism against civilians cannot demolish homes of innocent civilians and then claim that what it did is not an act of terrorism."

A New Neighborhood Relationship?

A number of papers weigh in this week on their controversial neighbor Iran . . .
The Jerusalem Post, (accusing Iran of opening new vistas of terrorism and, hence, not learning the proper lesson from September 11) argues that the "emerging alliance" between the Palestinian Authority and the Iranian government "could evolve into a proxy relationship like that between Hizbullah and Iran, has implications not just for Israel, but for the region and for the global war against terrorism."

Ha'aretz agrees for once with the more conservative Post on the Iranian matter, pointing out that evidence (alleged reports that the arms shipment on board the boat Karine-A was sent from Iran to the Palestinians) of a "widening" relationship between Iran and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, puts a grave responsibility on U.S. Mideast policy. According to op-ed contributor Danny Rubinstein, the Iranian-Palestinian Authority connection is "embarrassing," while a Ha'aretz editorial argues it is potentially dangerous for the entire region. Ha'aretz concludes:

Washington has the important task of persuading the Iranians, warning them against adventurist moves against states in the region, whether directly or indirectly, via proxies, and against trying to torpedo regional peace processes and existing agreements.

If policy-makers do not take the budding alliance between Iran and the Palestinians seriously, "Iran could infiltrate the territories and stir up the population as it could also do with Israeli Arabs . . . Such a Palestinian step certainly would worry Cairo and Amman, and could reverberate throughout the region."

-- Alyssa Rayman-Read


With military strikes continuing in Afghanistan and increasing American presence in Central Asia, European media is rife with speculation about U.S. motives and tactics. Criticism in the U.K. press is especially harsh. Simon Tisdall, writing in The Guardian, accuses the U.S. of "a strategic power grab in central Asia of epic proportions." Oil-rich and strategically located, the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are an irresistible temptation to the U.S. military:

Having pushed, cajoled and bribed its way into their central Asian backyard, the U.S. clearly has no intention of leaving any time soon. Romantics who believe this demonstrates a commitment to rebuilding shattered Afghanistan can dream on.

Tisdall warns that such maneuvering will only entrench authoritarian regimes in Central Asia, recreating the conditions -- already disastrously in effect in Saudi Arabia -- for religious and political fanaticism. And regional dominance by the U.S., writes Tisdall, will come at Russia and China's expense.

The transfer of Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners to American custody in Cuba also attracts scrutiny. The Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown condemns the U.S. for allowing transportation of prisoners "forcibly drugged, bound, shaved, hooded, chained, and kept in cages which are open to the elements and where they can just about lie down." This perceived hypocrisy will cost the U.S. the widespread support it has in its war on terrorism, writes Alibhai-Brown, since it throws into question U.S. dedication to human rights, the foundation of meaningful foreign policy:

Many of the prisoners in Cuba may indeed be the lowest and vilest men on earth, which is why they must be guaranteed scrupulously fair treatment. Human rights are fragile and easily crushed unless we are prepared to ensure them for the people we hate and demand their implementation from people we support and admire.

Not all analysis of U.S. policy is laden with doom. A piece by Robert Bruce Ware for The Moscow Times compares Russian policy in Chechnya with U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and concludes: "There is much that Moscow might learn from the U.S. campaign." According to Ware, the U.S. has done a vastly better job of explaining its mission, and its limited military operations have assuaged the worst fears of neighboring countries. Russia, meanwhile, has alienated the one group of people whose cooperation it desperately needs -- the Chechens. Still, declaring a long term victory may be premature. Ware acknowledges, "the situation in Afghanistan is likely to deteriorate in the future, as power devolves to feuding warlords."

-- Natasha Berger

The Americas

From Up North -- Canadian Press:

Canadian pundits aim their sharp wit and keen scrutiny at U.S. President Bush and his post-September 11 persona. While none are easy on the "famously moronic" Dubya, the columns try to accurately forecast international developments should the Bush administration continue along its present course.

The Globe and Mail's military analyst, Paul Koring, muses over war scenarios should the U.S. expand its anti-terror campaign into Iraq. "Despite widespread Arab, allied and Russian opposition to war against Iraq," Koring argues, "and with only the slimmest shreds of evidence linking Baghdad to either the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings or the mysterious anthrax attacks that followed, the Bush administration has carefully framed a justification for ousting Saddam Hussein." Koring predicts that a U.S.-attack on Iraq would require a substantial, long-term commitment, and one which the U.S. must likely forge on its own. The daunting possibilities of high costs, both financial strains and human casualties, appear to Koring as obstacles no longer insurmountable because of a U.S. climate changed by the September 11 attacks:

Once, there would have been concerns that the United States lacked the stomach for a major war. No more. American reluctance to accept military casualties seems to have disappeared in the wake of the killing of thousands of civilians on Sept. 11. There seems no chance of a repeat of the 1993 debacle in Mogadishu, when the deaths of a handful of Americans drove former president Bill Clinton to hastily pull out of ravaged Somalia.

In another Globe and Mail piece titled "X-ray reveals little regard for global law," Paul Knox portrays the current U.S. decision to hold alleged Taliban and Al-Queda members captive in Guantanamo, Cuba, as yet another ad hoc U.S. solution to a complex problem:

Some say they should be treated as prisoners of war under Geneva conventions. Some say they were too irregular for that, and ought to be tried by the secret military tribunals President George W. Bush was so eager to have authorized. Some say they have no rights under U.S. law, because Guantanamo is leased Cuban land. Others say anyone in U.S. custody has a right to due process.

Hashing out what is right or wrong doesn't seem to be important to the U.S. if we look at the precedent set, according to Know.

In all likelihood, the Bush administration will do as it pleases, constrained only by basic notions of humanitarian conduct. It clearly believes its captives are beyond the reach of any judicial authority, or anything that calls itself international law.

John Ibbitson poses the question: "Great war, Mr. Bush: Now what?" Although President Bush has not made public his strategy to implement another round of anti-terrorism campaigning, officials have warned that the "crusade" in Afghanistan was only the beginning. But the places most likely to harbor terrorists are those plagued by regional instabilities, shaky political structures, and civil and ethnic strife -- all require much more than a simple military shakedowns and any action would be incomplete without long-term support. "Is the Bush administration actually thinking of embroiling itself in these regional hells?" asks Ibbitson."Think Peru. Think Mexico. Think Cambodia. Think Burma. Think twice."

Awed by U.S. President Bush's growing popularity and sudden acquisition of respect, Mark Steyn decides that he'll "take the 'idiot' President any day" in a piece for the Canadian newspaper, The National Post. Why has Bush's famous stupidity not hampered his performance in the war on terror? According to Steyn's careful observation of press treatment of President Bush, "In war, the idiot President comes into his own, since war is a simpleton's game and does not require the grasp of nuance, subtlety, etc. of more complex issues such as mandatory [federal] regulations for bicycling helmets, or whatever it was Bill Clinton was busy with for eight years." Steyn also makes it clear that Americans are lucky it is Dubya and not Al Gore seated in the White House these days. Gore, Steyn explains, would have just been "disastrous."

Canadians, of all people, should understand. If Bush had gone around saying things like, "Well, you know, I think Brian Tobin could mount a serious challenge to Sheila Copps' leadership ambitions," it would indicate not great intelligence, but pathological weirdness. The job of an American president is to see through the forest, not waste his time schmoozing the trees.

From Down South: The Latin American Press

Argentinean columnists, still recovering from the past few weeks of crisis mode, widen the lens a bit, adding some international commentary into the general mix of post-economic/political catastrophe review.

Argentinean daily newspaper, La Nacion, contributes an op-ed by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell uses the opportunity to push the U.S. agenda with a pep talk of sorts -- an international "Solidarity against terrorism." He flatters readers: "The support of many countries, including our Central and South American neighbors, contributes immensely to our cause." Despite the unified work of so many, Powell warns, the "global tentacles" of terror networks like al-Queda must be still be defended on all fronts: financial, political, legal, and military. According to Powell, if the Americas stay strong in their commitment to fight terrorism and protect what we all value most -- democracy, liberty, and the like -- we will be in the fight together and we will win.

Sergio Berensztein says, in another column from La Nacion, that the lack of solid and peaceful political development in Argentina is at the root of its current economic and political crisis. The poor state of Argentina's institutions is a result of ongoing political instability, military insurrection, and the overshadowing presence of violence. Thus any major reforms must start with political overhauls: creating a more representative, participatory and democratic political infrastructure from which the necessary economic reforms will stem.

In the Mexican magazine, Milenio, Felix Cortes Camarillo argues that, despite a major U.S, effort in Afghanistan, not a lot has changed. Few American lives were lost abroad, and few leading terrorists were actually caught or killed. The principle character in the story has escaped, and the principle problem in the story goes unresolved. Militant groups, including, but not limited to, fundamentalist Muslims, continue to flourish in unknown places, hiding and harboring, training and cultivating. The war against terrorism is really not about fundamentalist Islam, concludes Camarillo. It is much more complicated than it appears on its face -- enemies and networks more hidden; political and state support much more difficult to confront.

-- By Alyssa Rayman-Read