New York Times
Americans can be thankful that military operations against the Taliban and al Qaida have produced few American fatalities. Innocent Afghan civilians have paid a higher price, including those killed in mistaken American attacks.
Over all, American military action in Afghanistan has probably saved tens of thousands of civilian lives by evicting the Taliban and allowing relief agencies to resume food deliveries to famine victims cut off by an uncaring government and endless civil war. Yet even in a conflict as clearly justified as this one, the American people must insist on keeping civilian casualties as low as humanly possible. Russian occupation, civil war and Taliban tyranny have devastated Afghanistan's people. Every effort must now be made to protect them from the accidental ravages of friendly fire. ...
To a greater extent than ever before, American operations in Afghanistan have been marked by precision targeting. The advanced technology means that fewer bombs miss their intended targets. What technology cannot protect against are intelligence errors that direct attacks against the wrong locations.
That is a likely explanation for what happened in the province of Oruzgan, northeast of Kandahar, on the night of Jan. 23-24. One theory is that the wrong information was deliberately fed to the Americans by a rival local warlord eager to see his opponents killed. Armed clashes between rival factions have occurred elsewhere. If that is what happened here, the informants must be punished. If American troops mistreated prisoners, as alleged, they should be appropriately disciplined.
President Bush has stirred up a hornet's nest in Iran by including the Islamic republic in his "axis of evil" trifecta of rogue nations, along with Iraq and North Korea.
Millions of indignant demonstrators, egged on by the government on the 23rd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, took to the streets of Iran this week with chants of "Death to America." They feel Bush unfairly maligned their nation.
So then, just how do they define "evil"?
Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Iran has started jockeying for influence in Afghanistan, possibly destabilizing the interim government.
Iran is believed to be giving safe haven to members of the al Qaida terrorist network.
Iran was recently caught shipping 50 tons of weapons, including the plastic explosives favored by suicide bombers, to the Palestinian Authority.
Iran continues to fund, and likely arm, anti-Israeli groups like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, both listed by the U.S. as terrorists.
Iran has shown some promise, embodied in the reformist President Mohammed Khatami, who promotes the idea of detente with the U.S. and other nations. Iran has held four relatively democratic elections since 1997 and the vast majority of people there are voting for reformers and clamoring for real democracy.
But power in the country remains in the hands of the clerics, who control the security, intelligence and judicial systems. Iran is still led by a harsh regime that remains intent on mischief abroad. ...
There's no sense in pretending that Iran has entered an age of enlightenment. It may get there some day. But not until the folks in the street focus not on America, but on the repressive mullahs who run their lives.
Los Angeles Times
Six months ago, Pakistan was a pariah nation, creator of the Taliban regime in next-door Afghanistan and home to Islamic extremists. Today Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visits the White House as the leader of a country moving back toward the international mainstream and preaching moderate Islam. That course will require help and a long-term commitment from the United States.
Washington already has pledged nearly $1 billion to assist Pakistan, and a U.S.-led consortium of nations has let Pakistan delay repayment of billions of dollars more in loans. ...
Washington should work with Pakistan and India, both nuclear-armed countries, to ease the threat of war between the two. That should involve quiet diplomacy rather than formal, public mediation. President Bush would do well to tell Musharraf, a general who seized power in a coup in 1999, that his army cannot continue to let guerrillas cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir, the main source of tension between the neighbors. India should remove some of its troops from the border in Kashmir and move toward meaningful talks with residents of the disputed state.
For decades Washington and Islamabad had close ties that included substantial U.S. economic and military assistance and U.S. bases in Pakistan. The bond grew stronger during the joint fight against the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But then Washington's attention turned elsewhere and Pakistan became a haven for terrorists. Pakistanis question whether the United States will remain steadfast this time.
Bush, who has often praised Musharraf for casting his lot with Washington after the September terror attacks, should say it again and say it loud: The United States' relationship with Pakistan is for the long run.
Nobody seems to have told Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle about the "halo effect" that was supposedly preventing Democrats from criticizing a very popular President Bush. On the very day that The Washington Post ran a front-page story suggesting that Mr. Bush's "halo" had silenced Democratic critics, Mr. Daschle just couldn't resist some old-fashioned wartime sniping at the president's State of the Union line that Iran, Iraq and North Korea comprise an "axis of evil."
In an interview broadcast Monday on PBS' "The Newshour With Jim Lehrer," Mr. Daschle asserted that Mr. Bush had failed to make his case that the three radical regimes were really all that bad. "I think we've got to be very careful with the rhetoric of that kind," Mr. Daschle said. He went on to suggest that Iranian "moderates" were seeking to distance themselves from the United States because of Mr. Bush's statement, and warned that Washington has "got to be very careful" in the way it talks about these regimes. The problem with this formulation is that Mr. Bush's description was right on target, and Mr. Daschle is the one who is behaving in a reckless, foolish way. ...
Fortunately, few Democrats have joined Mr. Daschle's misguided attack on Mr. Bush's efforts to mobilize the country against terrorism. Even Sen. Joseph Biden, who last year suggested that the United States may be viewed as a "high-tech bully" in the fight against Osama bin Laden, is currently talking tough against terror. Other Democrats, like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, are playing a statesmanlike role by joining with the great majority of Republicans in urging the administration to take a tougher stance against Saddam. Mr. Daschle needs to understand that if he continues his sniping at Mr. Bush, he will only marginalize himself.
(Compiled by United Press International)