President Bush has made no secret of his desire to drive Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. What has been unclear is how Mr. Bush expects to strike. Partial answers to that question come now in the form of a preliminary Pentagon planning document described in The Times yesterday by Eric Schmitt. It suggests that the military brass is considering a large-scale air and ground assault involving as many as 250,000 American troops.
At this early stage in planning -- long before actual operational details are set -- there ought to be some discussion in Congress and around the nation about the manner of American intervention in Iraq. At the moment, the White House seems to be moving toward a military offensive early next year. ...
Under the preliminary Pentagon plan, tens of thousands of Army and Marine ground combat troops would invade Iraq, most likely from Kuwait, backed by hundreds of warplanes based on carriers and airfields in as many as eight nearby countries. Warfare on this scale carries substantial risks.
A new war against Iraq may not be a rerun of the low-casualty 1991 campaign to liberate Kuwait. This time, with the survival of his regime on the line, Mr. Hussein may not be as easily deterred from using his hidden stocks of anthrax, botulinum toxin and VX nerve gas.
Congressional leaders, including top Democrats, have rushed to voice approval for the popular notion of getting rid of Mr. Hussein. They have not, however, lived up to their responsibility for demanding a full public discourse about how to pursue this attractive goal with maximum chances of success and minimum risk to American forces, interests and alliances. Discussion of these issues is possible without giving away legitimate military secrets. War with Iraq, if it comes, is still many months away. What is urgently needed now is informed and serious debate.
European leaders are currently mired in a billion-dollar scheme that is gaining a fraudulent stench. No, this has nothing to do with Enron or WorldCom. Instead, EU farm subsidies, and the noble efforts of some to compost them, are being hotly debated, thanks to the current crop of controversy that EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler has capably sown.
Mr. Fischler has drafted a proposal that envisions the first comprehensive reform to EU subsidies since they were implemented 40 years ago under Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Under Mr. Fischler's plan, yearly subsidies, which total $43 billion, wouldn't be reduced for at least the next three years. But farmers would receive no more than $297,000 in subsidies, and direct payoffs would be reduced 3 percent per year over six to seven years. Also, subsidies would no longer be linked with production and would instead reward adherence to food safety, animal treatment and environmental standards. This aspect of the proposal is important, because the current system has prompted some farmers to falsify their yield numbers, a la Enron, and caused gluts in the marketplace, hurting farmers abroad. ...
All the same, the union has vested interests in making changes before 2004. By then, the union is expected to usher in 10 new members, which would increase the number of farmers in the union by half and put considerable strain on the union's finances. And the plan does have its staunch proponents. "Its three-letter acronym is a byword for greed, waste, inefficiency and fraud; and to make matters worse, the EU's creaking 27 billion pounds a year common agricultural policy is jealously protected by the country it benefits most: France," the Guardian editorialized Monday. "Each year sees new increasingly surreal revelations about phantom olive trees, exaggerated milk quotas and fields of crops which exist only on paper."
Sound familiar? The EU farm subsidy controversy may grow to be just as contentious as America's serial corporate-fraud debacle. Europe has proved just how chaotic farm subsidies can become -- a parable America, with its own mounting farm subsidies, should watch warily.
It may be that the widely varying accounts of what happened early Monday morning in the Afghan hamlet of Kakarak, which came under attack by a U.S. gunship, will never be reconciled entirely. But this much is known for sure: Scores of innocent Afghan women and children attending a wedding party were raked from the air with heavy machine gun and cannon fire, and a number were wounded or killed. Among the victims were close supporters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a crucial U.S. ally whose government is engaged in an uphill struggle to establish its authority in the very region where the killings took place. Mr. Karzai, who estimates that 46 people died and that more than 130 were wounded, has responded by demanding that American forces coordinate military raids more closely with his government. It's not the first time he has made that request, nor is this the first incident in which U.S. troops have killed innocent Afghans in the president's home province. This time Mr. Karzai should be heeded. ...
Further investigation should clarify at least the basic facts. If American forces prove to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people, compensation should be paid and U.S. commanders should give a public accounting of how and why such a tragedy occurred. Such action is vital in distinguishing, for Afghans, U.S. operations in the country from those of the Soviet Union and other hated occupiers who came not to fight foreign terrorists but to impose their rule by force.
For now there is no denying the reality of the torn children's bodies at nearby hospitals, or of women who say they were gunned down as they danced in celebration. Such terrible testimony raises the question of why the AC-130 gunship, a weapon capable of laying down a dense carpet of deadly metal, was employed at night against a civilian area, especially if ground forces were nearby. More broadly, the episode should cause the Bush administration to rethink the balance between pursuing the isolated cadres of Taliban and al Qaeda militants still in Afghanistan and supporting Mr. Karzai's effort to establish a stable and pro-Western government. Both tasks are important, but this week at least, one has been pursued at great expense to the other.
Los Angeles Times
Not even Brazilians' whooping ecstasy at winning the World Cup this week could counterbalance international investors' deepening melancholy about that South American nation's economy. Brazil's stock prices are foundering, and last week J.P. Morgan's bond market index had Brazil as a riskier investment than even impoverished, overcrowded Nigeria.
That doesn't make much sense. With a population of 175 million spread across 3,261,200 square miles, Brazil is Latin America's largest country and produces enough steel, autos, chemicals, machinery, shoes and other products to generate a gross domestic product of about $500 billion. Yet investors seem to believe that among the main emerging economies, only Argentina, which defaulted on its debt in December, is a more hazardous place to put money.
International investors have both economic and political concerns about Brazil. First, the nation has enormous debt -- 55 percent of its GDP. However, leading international economists believe that Brazilian authorities' astute handling of the economy after a 1999 devaluation crisis shows they have the brains to finance the nation's debt without creating the chaos that plagues Argentina. ...
Investors' political worries hinge on the possibility that come October, Brazilians may elect as president left-wing politician Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula has hinted that he would follow the same fiscal discipline as President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, at one time considered a leftist. Everywhere Lula's Workers' Party has won power it has earned a reputation for clean government and responsible management. But a clearer commitment to disciplined free-market economics could ease investors' minds.
Trouble in Brazil means big trouble in the hemisphere. Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde has urged the International Monetary Fund to provide whatever help Brazil needs. Likewise, the U.S. cannot afford to let Brazil face its economic challenges alone.
President Bush might be able to have his Scottish terrier, Barney, and his springer spaniel, Spot, at his side next time he visits Britain, but he'd better leave them home on his next trip to Hawaii. While Britain is preparing to extend its successful "pet passport" program to North America, Hawaii is considering only reducing its minimum animal quarantine to five days.
Hawaii's quarantine was reduced in 1997 from four months for all animals to one month for incoming pets that had been subjected to rabies shots at least 30 days before their arrival, been given blood tests and been implanted with microchips. State Veterinarian James Foppoli is preparing to ask the state Board of Agriculture to reduce the quarantine to as little as five days.
Britain required a six-month quarantine for all incoming animals until two years ago, when it exempted animals from Europe that had been microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and given blood tests to ensure that the inoculations worked. More than 50,000 cats and dogs have been allowed into Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme, which now applies to animals from 52 countries and Hawaii.
The British government is preparing to include North America in the program. U.S. diplomats were joined by transatlantic travelers such as Sting, Elton John, Liz Hurley -- her Alsatian, Nico, died in quarantine -- and David Hockney in encouraging such a move. Elizabeth Taylor reportedly considered declining her royal investiture as "dame" two years ago after learning that Sugar, her white Maltese terrier, could not attend. Bill Clinton is said to have been miffed about having to leave Buddy at the White House instead of taking him to England.
"The government recognizes that extending the scheme could remove a significant barrier for people in the U.S.A. and Canada wanting to come to the U.K. with their pets on holiday, business or even permanently," says British Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley. The change, expected in the fall, is likely to include an additional requirement that each pet from North America be registered with a vet to ensure regular checks after arrival. Hawaii should consider using the British program as a model.
(Compiled by United Press International)