Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, Jan. 3: U.S. President George W. Bush, in his first State of Union address in January 2002 after he assumed the presidency, described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil." He later invaded Iraq and placed the prevention of nuclear development by North Korea and Iran as a central item on the agenda of his administration's diplomacy.
The Bush administration must make the utmost efforts to resolve the problems it faces, though doing so will be no easy task.
Bush will announce his new Iraq policies early in the new year. The issue is whether he will be able to present policies that will be effective in stabilizing Iraq.
Political compromise
How will the United States promote a political compromise among factional groups in Iraq and a dialogue with neighboring Syria and Iran? Although a quick remedy cannot be found to improve the Iraq situation, we hope that Bush will make every possible effort to prevent it from worsening.
The precondition for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is establishing a solid foundation for security in Iraq. If Iraq becomes a hotbed for terrorism, the world will become even more unstable. The international community should also cooperate for Iraq's stabilization.
Corriere della Sera, Milan, Jan. 3: Can something useful come out from the obscene spectacle of Saddam Hussein's hanging? Maybe.
The end of the Iraqi dictator did not shake up our conscience solely for the conditions, more similar to a lynching than the implementation of a sentence.
Death penalty
We have been once again confronted with the old issue of the death penalty for defeated torturers, thanks to the brutality of modern means of communication.
Those who have the duty to manage justice cannot lower themselves on the same level as the criminal, whether or not he is a former tyrant.
The real battle is one ... of principles, with the double aim to encourage evolution of conscience and multiply those international courts that do not use the gallows.
The Daily Telegraph, London, Jan. 3: Tt wouldn't be the first time. If U.N. personnel have, as alleged, been molesting children in southern Sudan, they will be following in a long tradition of abuse. Around the world, U.N. officials have run smuggling and prostitution rings, stolen and sold supplies, and traded food for sex. Sometimes, the racket becomes institutionalised, as when U.N. contractors collaborated with Ba'athists on the oil-for-food boondoggle. More often, the organisation is greedy and self-serving, but stops short of outright corruption. We learnt this week, for example, that the U.N. has voted 2.5 million British pounds to refurbish the secretary-general's residence in New York (Ban Ki-moon and his wife are being put up in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria in the meantime).
The reason that the U.N. so often behaves badly is, paradoxically, because so many people wish it well. Because the organisation embodies the loftiest of ideals peace among nations it tends to receive the automatic benefit of the doubt. We are so fond of the theoretical UN that we rarely drag our gaze down to the actual one. The U.N. has therefore fallen out of the habit of having to explain itself and, in consequence, become flabby, immobilist and often sleazy.
Arms embargo
If that criticism sounds too harsh, consider its record since the end of the Cold War the period in which it might have been expected to come into its own. In Bosnia, it was worse than useless. Uselessness would have meant doing nothing. Instead, the U.N. imposed an arms embargo that favoured one side over the other, herded the losers into notionally protected areas, disarmed them and then handed them over for execution. In Rwanda, when the U.N. commander on the ground informed his superiors that a mass slaughter was planned, and that he intended to forestall it by seizing the weapons caches, he was told to do no such thing.
This same combination of being notionally present but practically absent seems to be repeating itself in Darfur today. For the truth is that the U.N. is structurally flawed: its nature ensures that it is run by careerists whose chief motive is to avoid taking responsibility. At the same time, its voting system ensures that the General Assembly is usually more concerned with criticising the West and condemning Israel than with rebuking tyrants.
The Hindu, Madras, Jan. 3: The emergence of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) a new institutional mechanism made up of some 166 million members from over 150 countries in Vienna following the dissolution of two of the world's largest conglomerations of workers' bodies, marks a historic realignment of forces in the most vital segment of the modern industrial economy.
The now-disbanded International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), which represented social democratic and Christian democratic political outlooks respectively, have attributed this manifestation of solidarity to their determination to contain what they view as unbridled globalisation. Their common objective is to protect the workers' basic right to association and hard-won entitlements to fair wages that are being eroded.
While the principal trade unions of the United States, France, Britain, and Germany, among others, have rallied behind the ITUC, which in its charter has called for reform of the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organisation, the communist-inspired World Federation of Trade Unions has kept out of the new body, arguing that its programme amounted to a compromise with the predominant model of the market economy.
Common front
The formation of the ITUC underpins a recognition by its two predecessor organisations that the traditional social democratic commitment to state-provided entitlements of labour and the Christian democratic policies geared to the free market require them to forge a common front in the present situation of massive job losses. The labour federations have in recent times been faced with the emergence of the far-right in their traditional strongholds, exploiting the uncertainties created by the churning in the labour market, as well as structural changes in the developed countries in the aftermath of the loss of competitiveness in manufacturing, especially in labour-intensive sectors.
The interdependence of social democratic and Christian democratic unions could also be seen as a corollary to the growing proximity between mainstream centre-left and centre-right political parties, of the kind already institutionalised in Germany and taking shape in neighbouring Austria. It is a relevant question whether the factors behind the current reconfiguration of forces should prompt trade unions wedded to social democratic values to re-examine their basic premise of the political economy of modern-day capitalism that the welfare state is the answer to the inequalities of industrial societies.

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