Daily Telegraph, London, Jan. 18: Any faint-hearted observer who hoped that the second Bush administration would be less of a white-knuckle ride than the first had better think again.
For if Condoleezza Rice has her way, American diplomacy will no longer be used to rein in the president's ambition to "create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom," but rather to support it.
At her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, the putative Secretary of State set out a vision of global U.S. activism that, if not explicitly neo-conservative, is in stark contrast to her predecessor's policy of cautious restraint.
Miss Rice is a realist rather than an ideologist. Yet she is not an exponent of realpolitik in the mold of Henry Kissinger, the last national security adviser to make the transition to the State Department. Unlike Kissinger and most traditional diplomatists, she believes passionately that sowing democracy and uprooting tyranny is not only right for humanity, but also the key to U.S. security. She is now the high priestess of the Bush doctrine.
Miss Rice made her name in the Cold War; she prefers to overthrow evil empires by fomenting revolutions, rather than mounting invasions. She wants "a conversation, not a monologue" with the world, but her solution to Islamist terrorism is identical to the president's: "Drain the swamp." Like Mr. Bush, she sees neutralizing Iran and North Korea as urgent. And woe betide any European leader who dares to condescend to Condoleezza.
Corriere della Sera, Milan, Jan. 18: How can we define the insurgency in Iraq? Resistance, terrorism or both?
Arabic governments have agreed on an apparent compromise according to which "there's a difference between terrorism and legitimate resistance against occupation." This means that killing American, British or Italian soldiers would be a legitimate action of the Iraqi "resistance." In fact, many Arabic governments do not share this view.
Double ethic criterion
How's it possible to use a double ethic criterion to judge the slaughters that kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians without any distinction? Controversy spreads during the campaign for the first free elections in Iraq's history. The Arabic world, and not only, has been called to make a relevant decision. It's time to realize there's no such thing as good terrorism or bad terrorism, legitimate victims and inviolable ones.
Egyptian Gazette, Cairo, Jan. 18: Now that the United States has admitted to having found no proscribed weapons in Iraq, promoting democracy there may be its face-saving formula. But even this formula is basically faulty and misleading. The United States has yet to rally from the embarrassing repercussions of the Abu Ghraib abuses.
U.S. military personnel, involved in those inhuman practices, told investigators they were acting upon orders from their superiors.
Charles Graner, who was sentenced on Saturday to 10 years in prison for his leading role in the Abu Ghraib torture of Iraqi prisoners, blamed his misconduct on people in top positions. "Apparently I followed an illegal order," commented Graner, who showed little emotion after the sentencing. Graner said had complained repeatedly to superiors and was told to continue rough treatment of prisoners.
Model of democracy?
The United States needs to address these accusations if its claims about introducing democracy in Iraq is to be taken seriously. President Bush has repeatedly voiced keenness on making Iraq a model of democracy in the Middle East. Failing to bring to justice the real culprits behind Abu Ghraib abuses calls into question Washington's commitment to lofty principles of democracy and human rights.
Aftonbladet, Stockholm, Jan. 19: On the eve of his inauguration, President George Bush has tried to portray himself as a cooperative politician. But everything indicates that it will be the same old story as last time: Bush is ready for a dialogue, but only with those who stand by him from the beginning.
Initially, it will mostly be about foreign politics. The Asian tsunami has raised new questions about the U.S. relief policy and the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. The United States is good at immediate relief, like in Aceh, but much worse when it comes to long-term aid to poor countries.
The war in Iraq will be unsolved while elections there draw near. And according to opinion polls, a majority of the U.S. population says that the war was a mistake. Despite this, Bush is threatening a new war (in Iran).
Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Jan. 18: Tiananmen Square in Beijing shows how drastically the Chinese capital has changed in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2008. The changes have been so profound that it is hard to believe that in June 1989, the Chinese government used tanks to crush a democracy movement organized by young people and citizens.
Zhao Ziyang, then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, stepped in among students and showed sympathy with their movement in the midst of the confrontation with the military. He was denounced by Deng Xiaoping, then China's supreme leader, and other party officials for this action. Zhao thus fell from grace.
The crackdown at Tiananmen Square, which shocked the world, is far from a thing of the past. Behind the pro-democracy movement lay the people's anger at the corruption among government and party bureaucrats, as well as the public's craving for freedom of expression and news reports, and democratization of politics. A single misstep could have shaken the one-party rule by the Communist.
It will be in the interest of China to make its diplomatic and military policies transparent and thus win the trust of the international community as a country that can share democratic values with them. China will be taking a first step in that direction if it takes a fresh look at the meaning of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square.
El Universal, Mexico City, Jan. 19: It's logical that she would take up the domestic issues that worry Americans most, but she also had time to address the relationship with Mexico by referring to the topic of migration, which, she said, will be a priority for humanitarian and labor efficiency issues.
In another part of her appearance, the Bush administration official said the government of her country has started negotiations for the next phase of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the intention of arriving at a level of integration similar to the European Union.
Migration and free trade aren't small offers on Washington's part, but they shouldn't just be empty promises to convince the U.S. Senate of Condoleezza Rice's importance in becoming secretary of state. They should be serious pledges on the part of the Bush administration, demonstrating its true desire to strengthen relations with Mexico. Our government has taken the officials who make up President Bush's new Cabinet on their word.
The Guardian, London, Jan. 18: No one should be surprised by the Spanish government's rejection of a call for peace talks by ETA, the armed Basque separatist movement, since there was no mention of it being ready to abjure violence and surrender weapons. Jose Luis Zapatero, the socialist prime minister, is no less tough on terrorism than his conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, and has refused to deal with the group unless it gives a commitment to end its 37-year armed struggle.
But ETA's latest statement reflects changing times: the group has endorsed a formula for negotiations announced by Batasuna, its political wing, under which Batasuna would deal with the government, while ETA would handle issues such as prisoners in Spanish and French jails.
Mr. Zapatero can afford to be firm precisely because ETA is weak and demoralized. Last October its political leader and other key figures were seized along with a huge arms cache. And since last March's train bombings, carried out by Islamist extremists, the group has shown there is method in its madness -- a series of non-lethal bomb blasts contrasting with Al-Qaida's indiscriminate terror. Like the IRA, it is looking for a way out.
Timing is crucial
Another lesson is that it makes sense to be creative about the sequence of an end to violence. If preconditions are too tough, it may never happen; and once a peace process is under way it is smart to avoid holding it hostage by insisting on full and immediate weapons decommissioning. Timing is crucial -- an important point for Ariel Sharon as Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian president, tries to curb attacks by Hamas extremists in Gaza. Circumstances differ from conflict to conflict. But toughness that is followed by flexibility can be a winner.