After a whirlwind of diplomatic meetings over the weekend in New York, President Bush turns his attention this week to one nation and one leader. Mr. Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia will spend three days at the White House and Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas trying to strengthen the surprisingly cordial relationship that has developed between the two men and their two nations in recent months. Though obstacles remain, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin seem within reach of decisions that could open a new era of cooperation.
Mr. Putin gave a crucial boost to relations after Sept. 11 by providing strong support for Mr. Bush's campaign against international terrorism. He cleared the way for American military forces to use bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Central Asian nations that border Afghanistan and were once Soviet republics. Moscow has also helped to arm guerrilla forces in Afghanistan. In the talks that begin tomorrow, the two leaders can enhance their cooperation against Osama bin Laden and other terrorist threats and work to narrow their differences on arms control and other matters.
Although advisers to both presidents caution that no formal arms control agreement is likely this week, the two sides are moving ever closer to an accord. Moscow is apparently ready to accept the missile defense testing that the Bush administration wants to conduct, as long as Washington does not formally repudiate the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. The treaty can probably be preserved if the two leaders agree on language permitting limited defensive systems. It would be a grave error for Washington to walk away from a treaty that has helped keep nuclear peace for three decades.
Agreement is also near on trimming arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by more than two- thirds, probably to somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 warheads apiece. Currently, the United States has about 7,000 and Russia a little under 6,000. Such reductions would substantially reduce nuclear dangers and costs, including the risk of a warhead being accidentally launched or stolen as Russia's military infrastructure decays.
While they're at it, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin ought to talk about ways to improve the inadequate security for Russia's nuclear weapons and materials. President Bush, who warned last week of Osama bin Laden's efforts to obtain nuclear bomb ingredients, should support Congressional efforts to add $100 million to programs that help Russia safeguard stockpiles of enriched uranium and plutonium.
Russia's relations with Iraq and Iran remain a source of friction. Iraq has exploited Russian support to evade international weapons inspections and cheat on United Nations sanctions. Russia has hoped that lobbying for eased sanctions will bring it new business contracts and repayment of Iraq's Soviet-era debt. These commercial considerations must be subordinated to the urgent need to curb Iraq's illegal biological and chemical weapons programs.
Similar concerns apply to Moscow's nuclear reactor and weapons sales to Iran. These deals have helped sustain Russia's struggling arms manufacturers and nuclear industry. Yet if Mr. Putin means to be a full partner in the struggle against terrorism, he must agree to restrict arms and nuclear deals with countries like Iran that refuse to cut their ties with international terrorists.
Mr. Bush made clear after his first meeting with Mr. Putin in June that he thought improved relations with Russia could be a centerpiece of his presidency. He has a chance to bring that goal closer to realization this week.
Bush administration officials have been promoting what they see as a dramatic shift by Russian president Vladimir Putin toward cooperation with the West. It's true that Mr. Putin has been quick to join in the campaign against Osama bin Laden, and there are hopes for a groundbreaking U.S.-Russian agreement on a "new strategic framework" governing nuclear weapons and missile defense. But if Mr. Putin's political strategy really has changed, it's not yet apparent to Igor Sutyagin, an academic researcher at the prestigious Institute for the Study of the United States and Canada in Moscow. For two years Mr. Sutyagin has been imprisoned on trumped-up charges of espionage brought by the Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet KGB. He is one of a number of Russian academics subjected to bogus charges and secret trials since Mr. Putin came to power, in what Russian human rights activists describe as a systematic campaign to instill fear and silence dissent. Even as Mr. Putin courts the West, the campaign continues: Last week his prosecutors asked a court to sentence Mr. Sutyagin to 14 years in prison.
Details about the case of Mr. Sutyagin and others like it are hard to come by because trials are held in secret and coverage by the Russian media -- intimidated by Mr. Putin's campaign against the NTV television network earlier this year -- is scanty. But what is known is that the 37-year-old researcher specialized in military affairs; he prepared reports on subjects such as nuclear weapons and missile defense, using open sources -- mostly reports in the Russian press. Mr. Sutyagin's supervisors and colleagues have testified that he did not have access to classified information, but the FSB claimed that reports he prepared violated a Ministry of Defense decree on secrecy. What were the violations? No one knows: The decree itself is secret, and neither Mr. Sutyagin nor his lawyers have been allowed to read it. The only evidence presented in court has been assertions by the FSB and military officials that Mr. Sutyagin is guilty of violating a rule whose terms he is prohibited from discovering. If it all sounds like a bad parody of Kafka, that's precisely the intention: The FSB wants Russians to know that it has the ability to jail anyone who somehow displeases the authorities, regardless of evidence or the law.
It's hard to see how a government that continues to operate in this way can be a genuine partner of the United States, with aspirations to join the closest circle of U.S. allies in NATO. Mr. Putin probably calculates that the Bush administration doesn't care much about his domestic policies, or even his campaign in Chechnya, as long as he delivers on counterterrorism and missile defense. Administration officials say that's not true -- that they are not willing to drop democracy, press freedom or human rights in Chechnya from the U.S.-Russian agenda. If so, President Bush has a good opportunity to make a point. Mr. Putin is due to arrive in Washington for another summit meeting today, just as Mr. Sutyagin's court case resumes. Mr. Bush should tell Mr. Putin that if he wants to join the company of Western democracies, he must stop his bogus spy trials.
The good news from Northern Ireland is considerable and also, it is hoped, contagious.
Executive government is back with David Trimble as first minister. He was approved by the majority of members of the assembly, by his Ulster Unionist Party and by the loyalist grass roots as polled.
The new deputy first minister is Mark Durkan, new leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, which has been the main political voice of the Catholic minority for three decades.
Mr. Durkan represents generational change from Seamus Mallon in government and from John Hume in leading the party that pioneered civil rights and constitutional nationalism. Much will depend on the untested Mr. Durkan.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary is reconstituted as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, overseen by a 19-member board drawn from the main parties. It is recruiting Catholic minority police officers, with the encouragement of the SDLP and Catholic Church.
The bad news is not trivial. Because of a technicality, Mr. Trimble needed a majority of assembly members calling themselves unionist. He did not have it until nonsectarian moderates declared themselves unionists on Tuesday.
This tarnished Mr. Trimble's legitimacy slightly. It provoked a shoving match from the Democratic Unionists of the Rev. Ian Paisley, who hope to bring the structure down.
Sinn Fein appears to have converted its IRA wing to constitutionalism, but must deliver the rest of the weapons in due course. It finds the police service insufficiently reformed, boycotts the police board and discourages Catholic enlistment.
Sectarian violence by loyalist goons remains a menace. So does terrorism by two splinters of the IRA.
Mr. Trimble, Mr. Durkan and the Sinn Fein ministers must help each other, while cherishing their differences. That's what power-sharing means.
The future of the Good Friday accord depends on Mr. Trimble's politics winning skeptical loyalists away from the rejectionism of Mr. Paisley; on Mr. Durkan reinvigorating his party; and on Sinn Fein strengthening its commitment to constitutionalism.
When President Bush and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet this coming week, first in Washington and then in Texas, they will have a chance to begin molding what both sides regard as a new strategic framework for U.S.-Russian relations.
Bush would like the summit to emphasize an expected trade-off between U.S. missile defense testing and sharply reduced levels of long-range nuclear weapons. A deal of that kind would remove a cause of tension between Washington and Moscow, particularly if the two sides agree to revise and preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that has been a cornerstone for the entire edifice of nuclear arms control treaties.
The terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11 suggest, however, that Cold War formulas for a balance of nuclear deterrence are no longer as crucial as they once were to the security concerns of Russia and the United States. If it is to take hold, any new partnership will have to encompass a range of overlapping national interests.
After an initial period of ambiguous behavior, Putin has seized the opportunity for cooperation with Washington, not only on missile defense and the ABM Treaty but also on intelligence-sharing and American use of former Soviet air bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In so doing, Putin has proven himself willing to overrule members of Russia's security establishment who are wary of U.S. intentions.
By choosing a partnership with the United States, Putin has rebuffed Beijing's offers of a Chinese-Russian collaboration to resist U.S. hegemony. Washington stands to benefit from Putin's tilt toward the United States.
In response, Bush should offer not only to preserve the ABM Treaty in revised form and participate in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - with strengthened nuclear test monitoring that may contribute significantly to antiterrorist protection - but also to reward Moscow for long-overdue legal and administrative reforms that are enabling Russia to reverse the flight of domestic capital.
Putin's advisers say they are hoping Washington will cancel the outdated 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment withholding most-favored-nation trade status from Russia because of Soviet restrictions on emigration; support Russia's eventual entry into the World Trade Organization; and relent on U.S. prosecution of antidumping cases against Russian steel and aluminum. These are bilateral favors easily granted.
However, Bush should make it clear that the United States will not tolerate Russian infringement on the independence of Georgia and does not accept the Kremlin's horrendous abuses of human rights in Chechnya as a justifiable antiterrorist operation. Doing business with the businesslike Putin must not mean selling out third parties such as Chechnya or Georgia.
The weekend news of advances by Northern Alliance fighters suggests a first dramatic turn in the war against those who harbor terrorists. Those advances also offer a blunt answer to those who have questioned why the United States has felt it necessary to drop more than 8,000 bombs on Afghanistan.
After a month of U.S. airstrikes, seemingly without major result, Americans had begun to doubt the effectiveness, even the strategy, of the military campaign. Others saw the bombing as a senseless assault that produced too many civilian casualties -- an especially sensitive point for U.S. allies from Europe to Pakistan.
Looking for quick victory, armchair generals in Congress and academia pressed tough questions about the Bush administration's war policy. Gathered around kitchen tables, office water coolers and televisions tuned to 24-hour news, some Americans wondered why we had attacked a crumbling country, at times using precision bombs against single tanks.
Now we know why. The Northern Alliance rebels, backed by U.S. air strikes and Special Forces commandos, appear to have scored the first significant victory of America's war on terrorism. If alliance forces can hold their ground and consolidate new gains, their seizure of the northern crossroads town of Mazar-i-Sharif from Taliban fighters, coupled with a weekend offensive spreading across northern Afghanistan, could open the way soon to an assault on the capital city, Kabul.
For all the doubts raised in recent days, the Bush team had some things right. This will be a long, twilight struggle. Patience is mandatory. But already there is real progress on the ground.
In any war, victory depends on taking time to build up forces, position equipment and plot strategy. Before launching the 1991 Persian Gulf War to oust the Iraqi army from Kuwait, it took President Bush's father more than five months to build up U.S. troops, armor and warplanes in Saudi Arabia. In the current war, Bush waited less than one month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before, on Oct. 7, he launched American air power against the Taliban regime that harbors prime suspect Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorist network.
There is a learning curve in any partnership, a period of trial and error to calibrate the strategy. War plans depend on the capabilities of the enemy, the difficulty of the terrain and the effectiveness of the forces to be thrown into battle. Here, the Taliban has been a fiercer opponent than expected. The terrain is a nightmare of distant mountains and rugged wastelands. And the Northern Alliance, the best American ally on the ground--really, the only one thus far -- is flawed by a history of human rights abuses, bickering warlords and a diverse makeup of rival clans: ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.
It's taken U.S. forces time to bridge the cultural divide and learn to work with the alliance. Secretary of State Colin Powell noted to a group of editorial writers last week that this war melds together allies, cultures and technologies seemingly from different centuries. It blends the United States and British might of "a First World air force" with Northern Alliance ground troops, which Powell described as "a Fourth World force -- not even Third World, Fourth World. They have weapons, but they also charge into battle on horses, waving sabers over their heads."
After only five weeks, it seems churlish to have expected well-coordinated attacks and military precision, let alone major victories. In fact, though, Bush's generals may have pulled off a major coup before both Ramadan and winter set in. Coordinating U.S. air strikes with alliance troop and tank advances, the anti-Taliban forces appear to have secured a strategic foothold in the north, opened a crucial road link with Uzbekistan and sent the Taliban into retreat, at least for now. That could provide both a staging area for future strikes against the Taliban and a ground route to get humanitarian aid to starving Afghans.
The weekend's successes also make it clear that bombing is a means to an end. By destroying Taliban defenses and attacking its troop strongholds, U.S. air might cleared the way for the Northern Alliance advances. Only a month ago, the alliance had failed to take Mazar-i-Sharif. This time, it succeeded.
The United States had wanted to put the Northern Alliance on hold until it could develop a so-called southern strategy and pull together the makings of a broad-based, post-Taliban government made up of all Afghan tribes--especially the Pashtuns, who comprise the largest ethnic group and the ethnicity from which many Taliban members are drawn. When it became clear that effort wasn't coming together, the Pentagon brushed aside doubts about the Northern Alliance and unleashed B-52s to carpet-bomb front-line Taliban positions. That strategy now has Taliban forces on the run, pursued by U.S. warplanes and Northern Alliance fighters.
On the diplomatic front, Bush marshaled support at the United Nations over the weekend for the war against terror, laying down the new challenge to the international community: "Every nation has a stake in this cause. As we meet, the terrorists are planning more murder, perhaps in my country or perhaps in yours."
In every war, there are difficulties, doubts and dangers. In this war, with terrorists threatening more attacks on Americans, waging the battle half-heartedly is not an option.
No part of that battle thus far has been as controversial--in this country and overseas--as the heavy U.S. bombing of Taliban positions. It would be wrong to say there won't be difficult days ahead; one weekend's successes are only a beginning.
But by flushing out Taliban fighters and opening the way for the Northern Alliance, the bombing strategy now becomes part of a bigger picture. This is the way to break down Taliban resistance and get this conflict over with as quickly as possible.
Once upon a time, our greatest foe was the Soviet Union, and as long as we were strong enough to keep it from blowing us up, our security was assured. That dynamic crumbled long ago. The Soviet Union is, like Babylon, a relic of history. The world is even more dangerous now because the threat could come from anywhere, such as an unconventional terrorist attack--or one day a missile fired from one of the rogue states working to achieve ballistic missile capability. If Sept. 11 taught us anything, it is that we need to expand our imagination when it comes to shocks, and be ready for them. Thus the United States is proceeding with the development of a missile defense. What was mocked as "Star Wars'' in the Reagan era, as an expensive, impossible boondoggle, now seems like practical preparation. No one will be against it when the missile is in the air, but by then it will be too late.
Fortunately, the administration is not being deterred by the naysayers. It is moving full speed ahead. An important step in that progress should take place this week at President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, where he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to revise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Gone will be the language banning the testing of anti-missile systems. At the same time, the United States and Russia are expected to slash their nuclear arsenals by as much as two-thirds, in our case going from 6,000 to 2,000 -- which is plenty.
While the administration has been trying to lower expectations about the summit, the indications are still good that an agreement can be found. Bush would like to scrap the ABM Treaty entirely, but he would probably not object to allowing it to continue, in an altered form, as a face-saving move for Putin, who has strenuously supported it, who is basically cooperating on missile defense because he knows that the United States intends to develop it, and who is helping in the war on terror. Russia continues to suffer and struggle -- if you think the economy is bad here, imagine what it is like in the Urals -- and Putin knows that if he wants to keep hanging out with the president of the United States and retain his seat at the table of significance, he'd better cooperate. And who knows? Ten years from now, it might be Moscow that is saved from a madman's missile. Because that missile is coming -- someday, pointed somewhere -- and we need to prepare long before the chilling moment of its awful launch.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's discussions in New Delhi about possible sales of U.S. military equipment to India provide the latest evidence of increasingly close relations between the United States and the world's largest democracy.
But what about Pakistan, with whom U.S. military ties have long been close? Pakistan is India's enemy and also the essential ally of the United States in the war on the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
There is no need to choose sides between India and Pakistan, and every reason to welcome close connections with both of these nuclear-armed powers.
Being a military supplier has been a classic route to influence in another country at least since Gen. Liman von Sanders led a German training mission to the Ottoman Empire in 1913. The professional connections that officers and contractors of the two countries make can be a two-way, below-the-radar channel for intelligence and advice.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars in the past half-century over the disputed - and divided - province of Kashmir, where Pakistani guerrilla and terrorist groups (sometimes with clandestine government support) have attacked Indian positions.
There is no resolution in sight for Kashmir, and it's unlikely that the United States can provide one. But each side may be inclined to curb reckless behavior in a bid to avoiding driving the United States entirely to the other side. Each side may welcome another confidential channel to the other - one it knows will be taken seriously on the other side of the hill. If both India and Pakistan got help with nuclear weapons safety from the United States, each could have confidence in the other side's nuclear procedures, knowing their source.
India is not likely to be a big market any time soon for American defense contractors. The payoff from this relationship will be distinctly non-monetary.
Detroit Free Press
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe seems determined to push his once promising country closer to the brink of economic and political disaster by defying international demands that he adhere to the rule of law and democratic principles.
Last week, Mugabe said he would not back off the destructive policy of calling for the nationalization of predominantly white farms without compensation for the owners.
Just two months ago, leaders of the European Union and the presidents of South Africa and Nigeria thought they had reached an agreement with Mugabe to end the violent occupations of the farms. In exchange, Britain pledged financial help toward fair and orderly land reform in Zimbabwe.
But now Mugabe is refusing to even allow EU observers to monitor the country's March elections. Zimbabwe's democratic opposition wants monitors to guard against intimidation at the polls and manipulation of the voting.
Clearly it is time for the EU to step up the pressure on Mugabe's regime. Economic sanctions are an option, but given that Zimbabwe's gross domestic product already has shrunk by about 7.3 percent this year and inflation is forecast to average 83.6 percent in 2002, such actions must be carefully calibrated.
Specific, targeted sanctions and a freeze on the assets of Zimbabwe's government leaders may be the most effective strategy. Mugabe and his thugs are the ones who need to be punished and isolated, not innocent Zimbabwe citizens, who would pay a hard price for wider sanctions.
White farmers are only one percent of the population, but they control more than 90 percent of the country's best land. So land reform is a legitimate issue. But violently seizing it is not the answer. Zimbabwe's agriculture has been so disrupted by Mugabe's policies that the USAID-backed Famine Early Warning System is predicting severe food shortages soon.
Mugabe may look tough in his attitude toward the white farmers and Europeans, but he is empowering no one. As always, ordinary citizens will pay for the hubris of misguided leaders.
Two months after suffering their most stunning attack in history, Americans seem to have accepted a new normalcy that includes a heightened level of anxiety. In Hawaii and elsewhere, the economy shows signs of recovering, although it could remain fragile indefinitely and could plummet again in the event of another attack. President Bush has risen in esteem as he leads the country through this difficult time.
Borrowing the words of Todd Beamer, one of the passengers who rushed the hijackers of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, Bush said in a national address from Atlanta on Thursday, "My fellow Americans, let's roll!"
The country has begun to roll on several fronts, even as it falters on others. Bush has appointed former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to the new position of director of homeland security, where his job is to coordinate the anti-terrorism activities of 46 federal agencies. But federal agencies have failed to trace the origin of anthrax mailings, and public confidence in the government's ability for domestic investigation has begun to wane.
Congress provided tools to the Justice Department to pursue terrorist links on U.S. soil. However, bipartisan cooperation has fallen apart in consideration of an economic stimulus package. The House has approved a $100-billion bill focusing on tax cuts for business while Senate Democrats favor a $66.4-billion plan emphasizing help for the unemployed and tax rebates for low-income people. A special session of Hawaii's Legislature produced no bold action to spur the state's economy.
Congress approved a $15 billion rescue of the airline industry less than two weeks after the terrorist attack. However, many seats have remained vacant because of Americans' fear of flying without adequate security in airports and aboard planes. Sporadic alerts from the government with no guidance aggravate the problem.
Aviation security legislation has been held up in Congress over the issue of whether to federalize baggage screening. Delays in passing the legislation, which Bush has agreed to sign into law regardless of the screening issue, has hampered the recovery of the travel industry.
That industry is the largest sector of Hawaii's economy, so the effect has been crushing, even beyond businesses directly reliant on tourism. Nearly 25,000 workers in Hawaii have lost their jobs or had their hours greatly reduced in the past two months.
Governor Cayetano and other emissaries of the state have traveled to Japan to encourage tourists to carry through with their vacation plans. The governor last week went to New York carrying Hawaii vacation gifts to the city's heroic police officers and firefighters and the message that Hawaii is a safe tourist destination.
Hawaii's tourism is slowly beginning to recuperate. Isle arrivals were down by about half in the first few weeks after the terrorist attack, one-third or thereabouts in October and less than one-fourth in the first week of November, below comparable periods last year. Domestic travel to Hawaii has achieved nearly a full recovery, while Japanese visitation, cut in half last month, remains 40 percent below last year.
Slowly but surely, America, including Hawaii, have begun to roll but it will take a while to reach full speed.
President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin seem to be on a win-win track with the thorny questions of nuclear weapons and missile defense.
As they prepare to meet this week in Washington and at the Bush ranch in Crawford, in Central Texas, a historic agreement that has been hashed out over several meetings between the two could be realized.
The Russians want deep cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Bush wants more leeway to test missile defenses and set up a test site in Alaska.
The cuts in offensive arms could end up being as deep as two-thirds of each side's roughly 6,000 missiles.
With the dramatic war against terrorism unfolding, this potential milestone toward a more stable world -- not to mention closer U.S.-Russian cooperation -- is easily overlooked, though its importance should not be underestimated.
Los Angeles Times
Another sickening, all-too-familiar political assassination in Mexico City gives President Vicente Fox the chance to break ranks with his corrupt predecessors and become a true champion of human rights as promised.
Last month, unknown assassins killed Digna Ochoa, a respected Mexico City lawyer who distinguished herself in defending political dissidents and unpopular guerrilleros. Her murder was an ominous reminder of the persistence of the dark side of Mexican politics.
In contrast with killings of human rights advocates during the seven-decade rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, no responsible group has suggested that the administration is behind the Ochoa shooting. That alone is progress. Now, to remove any doubt that he has broken with the past, Fox should continue offering federal assistance to Mexico City in its investigation of the murder. Earlier this month, anonymous cowards threatened five more human rights activists. Wisely, the Mexican federal attorney general has acted to avoid a new tragedy by providing all the activists, and their families, with government protection.
For decades, authoritarian PRI governments carefully avoided criticizing human rights violations abroad, saying that to do so would be interventionist and thus contrary to the Mexican constitution. Likewise, these officials consistently denied charges of human rights violations in Mexico, labeling the outside critics too as interventionist.
Mexico underwent unprecedented political change last year when Fox's election ended the PRI's domination. Fox promised to make human rights protection a cornerstone of his administration's domestic and foreign policies.
The Ochoa assassination is a test for the president, an opportunity to show his nation and the world that Mexico has changed--that human rights advocates can now work freely and safely. The best way to do it is by bringing to justice those responsible for the murder.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
In June 1967, facing the threat of attack by three Arab neighbors, Israel launched a preemptive strike and sent tanks rolling across its borders into land that had been in Arab hands for years. Thus began Israel's occupation of two zones known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- and the modern chapter of friction between Israelis and the Palestinian residents of those territories.
It is time for that occupation to end. It humiliates and punishes the 3 million Palestinians who live under watch of Israeli tanks and troops. It places young Israeli soldiers in constant peril. It puts Palestinian and Israeli civilians in frequent and volatile contact, with the result that magnificent biblical cities have turned into bomb targets and shooting galleries. And, because of tight security measures in recent years, it is slowly strangling the Palestinian economy.
Under a peace framework negotiated at Oslo, Norway, in the early 1990s, Israel was to withdraw gradually from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, at each step granting new autonomy to the Palestinians and receiving new guarantees of order and security. That phased approach is not working. Life for Palestinians has grown worse, not better, leading them to believe that the Oslo process was a trick. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has not delivered the security that Israelis expected. Israel has continued to build new housing settlements in occupied land to which it has no right, doubling the Israeli population in Arab territory. The trust-building steps envisioned in Oslo have instead turned into new rounds of suspicion and recrimination.
Israel's withdrawal can't happen all at once; neither side is prepared for the economic or security arrangements. But the United States should insist that Israel stop expansion of the housing settlements and begin dismantling them. The first Bush administration did exactly that 10 years ago, using measured financial and political pressure, and it was the right approach. A full Israeli withdrawal to something like the 1967 borders is now under discussion among Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals, and the United States should help that happen safely and fairly.
Many Israelis insist on continuing the occupation so that their troops can hunt down terrorists and their government can hold a bargaining chip for future negotiations. But the military chokehold on Palestinian cities is an ineffective way to stop terrorism. Instead, it imposes collective punishment on innocent Palestinians while fueling new extremist rage. As for future negotiations, the ultimate goal should be a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians, but Israel will still hold many, many cards when that time comes.
Palestinians, too, are skeptical of unilateral Israeli withdrawal. They want it to occur in the framework of negotiations over borders, refugees and other issues. But the Palestinian Authority has very little negotiating leverage at this point, and a lifting of the Israeli occupation would be a great relief for average Palestinians under almost any circumstances.
The Bush administration can't force Israel to end the occupation. Israel is, after all, a democracy, and just this year it elected a hawkish prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is ill-disposed to compromise with the Palestinians. But withdrawal should be the Bush administration's message. The United States cannot continue being a party to an occupation that is illegal under international law, that brutalizes the Palestinian people and that stimulates further terrorism against Israeli civilians. Continued military occupation only spills more blood, deepens old wounds and prolongs a terrible conflict.
There's no question that the Feb. 9 sinking of the Ehime Maru will leave an indelible black mark on the U.S. Navy in Hawaii.
But perhaps it's time to salute the Navy and Japanese divers who risked their lives to recover the nine crew members who drowned when the USS Greeneville submarine rammed their Japanese training vessel.
The U.S.-led diving mission ended Tuesday with the recovery of eight of the nine drowned crew members. The body of 17-year-old Takeshi Mizuguchi remains missing.
Divers spent more than 300 hours underwater. They plunged several decks down inside the 830-ton ship to look for bodies, dodging tangled nets, mattresses and other debris.
Their efforts created warm feelings in the chilly aftermath of the disaster. Relatives sent letters expressing profound gratitude to the Navy and the people of Hawaii.
"When we were so saddened after the accident, many people helped and supported us," five family members wrote.
In another letter, the widow of Jun Nakata, a 33-year-old Japanese teacher, thanked Rear Adm. William Klemm and "the people of the U.S. Navy who considered the nine missing as though they were members of their own families and continued their efforts in salvaging the Ehime Maru, despite the worldwide tensions that occurred after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington."
But aside from bringing warm feelings and closure to most of the victims' families, the recovery mission has become something of a diplomatic coup, particularly in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that left the United States in dire need of global allies.
Under a new law that allows Japan's Self-Defense Forces to participate in a backup role in the U.S.-led war, Japan has sent a flotilla of warships on a reconnaissance mission to the Indian Ocean in preparation for a planned dispatch of other naval units.
The good feelings generated by the operation in Hawaii may have helped defuse political opposition in Japan to the mission. At a minimum, its success took away a rallying cause that opponents might otherwise have used.
Meanwhile, here in Hawaii, plans are under way for an Ehime Maru memorial in Kaka'ako Waterfront Park. The structure is likely to incorporate an anchor from the sunken fisheries training vessel.
The memorial will be a constant reminder of that ill-fated collision. But let it also remind us of the brave efforts of the Navy and Japanese divers who faced peril to bring the Ehime Maru victims home.
New York Post
It may be comforting for Americans to pretend they have many Arab friends in the Middle East.
Alas, 9/11 sure shattered that myth.
By now, everyone knows about Saudi Arabia's double-dealing. Everyone knows of its nurturing of anti-Western militancy and its obstruction of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, even as it claims to support Washington in every way.
Yet Egypt, which is similarly problematic, has managed to escape the spotlight.
Indeed, Washington continues to write a $2 billion check to Egypt each year, while Cairo merrily fuels anti-American fervor - and hardly anyone in America raises an eyebrow.
That's got to end.
The $2 billion in mostly military aid was intended to create stability by curbing Israel's military edge over Egypt. (Israel gets about $3 billion a year.)
But the cash and hardware were also meant to reward Egypt for making peace with Israel and for serving as a moderate secular voice in the Middle East.
Egypt has failed on both grounds.
Indeed, the cold peace with Israel gets more frigid every day. And the government essentially allows fundamentalists to persecute - and kill - those who support the peace (when the fundamentalists are not carrying out pogroms against Coptic Christians, that is).
More pertinent is that, for all its brutal repression and harsh treatment of anti-government Islamic extremists, Egypt remains a Petri dish for Islamic terrorism.
And Osama bin Laden's key advisor, Ayman al-Zawahri, is an Egyptian who heads the country's Islamic Jihad.
Yes, the government crushed the paramilitary wing of the country's powerful fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, after bloody attacks on tourists threatened the nation's economy.
But President Hosni Mubarak in many other ways has fostered fundamentalism, allowing Islamist extremists to take control of a whole variety of cultural, educational and professional institutions.
It's revealing that no Egyptian newspaper (and the government controls all of them) has bothered to cover the case of Atta.
Instead, Egyptian readers have been supplied with their usual diet of vicious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, supplemented by bizarre anti-American slurs.
Ibrahim Nafi, the editor of the government-controlled Al Ahram, who got his job with Mubarak's blessing, has actually claimed that the food the United States is dropping in Afghanistan is genetically poisoned.
Egypt was once an important center of secular Arab culture. But it's become a country where leading authors like Naguib Mafouz are murdered for "blasphemy" or for backing peace with Israel.
This is largely the fault of the regime America has backed ever since Anwar Sadat was assassinated for ending open hostilities with the Jewish state. And of the fact that fundamentalist charities have stepped in where the state fails to provide basic services. And that corruption is worse than ever.
As with its good-buddy policy toward Saudi Arabia, America's support for Cairo (specifically, its see-no-evil attitude toward the Mubarak "moderates") is based on the misguided notion that another regime would only be worse.
The answer to that, of course, is: 9/11.
There is no middle ground when it comes to terrorism.
Those who harbor it, nurture it, close their eyes to it, out of sympathy or fear, are no friends of America.
Certainly, hotbeds of anti-Western militancy don't deserve $2 billion a year from Uncle Sam. The sooner Washington understands that, the better.
(Compiled by United Press International.)