Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on Libya's Moammar Gadhafi:
Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya vowed that he would "fight on to the last drop of my blood" and die a "martyr." We have no doubt that what he really meant is that he will butcher and martyr his own people in his desperation to hold on to power. He must be condemned and punished by the international community. ...
Authoritative information was difficult to come by _ the government has blocked nearly all foreign reporters and shut down Internet and other communications. But there were reports of warplanes and helicopters being used to attack civilians, and human rights groups estimated that at least 220 protesters have been killed.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the violence and said those responsible must be held to account. It must quickly come up with more concrete ways to press Libya's government to stop the attacks on its people and move to a democratic transition _ preferably with Gadhafi gone. ...
The Security Council rarely acts quickly, so the United States and the European Union should impose their own sanctions while pressing the United Nations to act. Britain made a good first step when it revoked eight weapons-related export licenses for Libya. The Arab League suspended Libya's participation in its meetings.
We were reassured to see some Libyan diplomats rejecting their government's brutality. Two military pilots refused to fire on their fellow citizens and flew their planes to Malta. All should be granted safe haven.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights says Gadhafi's use of lethal force may constitute crimes against humanity. We agree. There needs to be a thorough investigation.
Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on an Arab 'domino theory':
In the 1960s and 1970s, politicians and academics came up with something called "the domino theory." It held that if one weak government in Asia got overrun by communists, its small neighbors would follow in short order.
Advocates of American military action in Vietnam often used the domino theory as one reason our troops needed to be there. It turned out that when Vietnam finally fell to the communists in 1975, few of its neighbors went through the same transformation.
Over the long run, Vietnam's communist government imitated China in joining the global economy. The nation may have a communist government, but it is run by a bunch of closet capitalists, eager to make money.
But the events of the past few weeks in northern Africa make it seem like the domino theory has a far better chance of playing out as originally envisioned.
In January, the president of Tunisia fled the country in the wake of growing demonstrations. This month, a larger and more stable government fell when longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned after days of public protests.
The protests are spreading. Significant disruptions are occurring in the small Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, in Egypt's next-door neighbor Libya and in Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula.
The running theme behind the protests appears to be a growing eagerness to remove a longtime leader, typically blamed for ruthless, corrupt and despotic behavior.
If the dominoes keep falling, the big question is what kind of people the new leaders will be.
Providence (R.I.) Journal on Wisconsin incivility:
The cries for civility after the Tucson shootings have not much impressed thousands of protesters in Wisconsin. There, many public-employee-union leaders, teachers and other public employees have used disruption and intimidation _ rather than reasoned debate and respect for representative democracy _ to try to get their way.
Consider some of the protesters' signs. One bracketed pictures of Adolf Hitler and Republican Gov. Scott Walker, elected on a platform of constraining public-employee unions' power and closing a $3.6 billion budget deficit without laying off thousands of state workers. Others read: "Scott Walker - Adolf Hitler. Can you tell the difference? I can't;" "Midwest Mussolini;" "Hosni Walker, WI dictator, must go;" "Why do Republicans hate people;" ... And GOP senators say they have received threatening e-mails and that protesters are demonstrating at their homes and businesses.
Instead of protesting on a weekend, teachers virtually closed down public schools, using taxpayer-funded sick leave to attend massive rallies at the State House.
Meanwhile, all 14 Democratic senators fled the state and holed up in undisclosed locations to prevent the Senate from reaching a quorum of 20 _ thus thwarting the sizable majority of 19 senators from enacting reforms that the Democrats view as tantamount to union-busting. ...
If citizens are not permitted to conduct public business peacefully, our society is at risk. ... We must make some tough decisions about state and local government costs in ways that respect all participants.
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Free Press on gun ownership:
When you think of the nation of Switzerland, you may think of its Alpine peaks, its high-quality watches or its renowned chocolate. You may also think of the peaceful nature of its people. Not only have the Swiss long stayed out of the wars that raged around them, but the rate of violent crime is low.
One other thing for which Switzerland is famous is its high rate of private gun ownership. By one estimate, there are 46 guns for every 100 people in Switzerland...
But the rate of murder involving guns is low in Switzerland. In 2009, for instance, only one murder per 300,000 people was committed with a gun.
That's a pretty strong indication that gun rights are not the "cause" of violent crime. In fact, private gun ownership heads off many violent crimes, because criminals cannot be sure which of their potential victims might be armed.
It's not surprising, therefore, that the peaceful Swiss recently voted strongly against tight gun-control proposals. That makes sense. Law-abiding Swiss will retain their broad right to possess firearms, rather than leave guns mainly in the hands of criminals who do not mind breaking gun-control laws.
Not everyone desires to have a gun. Nor is everyone competent or responsible enough to own a firearm. But whether in Switzerland or the United States, responsible, legal gun ownership is not the cause of violent crime.
Chicago Sun-Times on Chicago's political landscape:
For the first time in 22 years, the words Mayor and Daley are no longer inextricably linked.
In a remarkable victory, Rahm Emanuel trounced five opponents. Emanuel won 55 percent of the votes, besting even the most pie-in-the-sky projections.
Emanuel is now mayor-elect, poised to take over a dramatically different city from the one Daley first encountered as mayor in 1989. ...
Let's admit it: There was a moment of shock, doubt even, after Richard Daley announced he was done.
Love him or hate him, most of us know nothing about _ or have long forgotten _ living in a Chicago run by anybody else.
That passed quickly, we're happy to report, and a new sense of ownership among everyday Chicagoans took over. A record number of candidates filed for alderman, and the public appetite for a City Council with a backbone grew. After living under Daley's iron fist for years, an impotent Council seemed almost normal. It took the emergence of quality aldermanic candidates here and there to remind us aldermen can be more than hand puppets. ...
If you didn't know it before the campaign, most Chicagoans are now aware, at least vaguely, that Chicago city government is broke.
With a deficit approaching $700 million, austerity is the new reality in Chicago. Daley staved off dramatic cuts with one-time fixes, but that no longer cuts it. For Daley, being mayor was mostly about more _ new buildings, new programs, new spending.
Those days are now officially over.
The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo., on computers outperforming people:
We haven't talked this much about a game-playing computer since Deep Blue beat a Russian at chess.
The IBM-designed computer beat Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997. Its descendant, IBM's Watson, beat "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a trivia contest, and once again it's got lowly humans pondering our eventual second-class status to the almighty machine.
There's the excitement _ just think of the advances in speech therapy or speech recognition for people with disabilities. And the fear _ will it take away jobs? And if so, who is going to pay the mortgage?
That Watson is the eventual result of years of human collaboration and design is lost in that discussion. ...
Humans can build fast computers. Some say Watson's buzzer response made the competition unfair. And humans can build computers and programs that understand speech patterns, even nuance, and computers that are highly accurate. They can figure out how to keep computers cool enough not to flame out, and they can figure out gentle transportation options to get a computer from A to B.
But until a computer can build a human, and one that can move himself around and make his own way to a game show, and show empathy and paraphrase the "Simpsons" just to make other humans laugh, we won't cede to the overlords. Not just yet.
San Francisco Chronicle on Wisconsin's unions:
The masses are rising up against imperious leadership in Manama, Sanaa, Tehran, Tripoli and Madison, Wis.
Yes, the home of world-class cheese and the world-champion Green Bay Packers has been in an uproar over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to eviscerate the rights of many public employees unions to bargain on anything other than wages. It would force members of non-law-enforcement unions to vote every year to recertify their union's existence, and end payroll deduction of union dues.
Walker's overreaching move seems to have boomeranged. Thousands of protesters are descending on the Capitol each day, and outnumbered Democratic legislators have gone into hiding to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the quorum it would need to ram through its union-weakening measures.
"Shared sacrifice" has become a mantra of the times _ and Wisconsin's public employee unions have shown their willingness to consider concessions. What Walker is trying to do is roll them, while sparing the unions that supported his election. The backlash is as deserved as it is vigorous.
Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on U.S.-Egypt relations:
In April 2010, we noted here that Egypt was facing a "fragile" political time.
"Ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat by Islamist radicals in 1981," we wrote, "political power in Egypt has been wielded by President Hosni Mubarak, with no semblance of genuine democratic give-and-take." We pointed to the rise of a "democratic reform movement" with uncertain prospects for victory as Egypt moved toward the 2011 presidential election.
That democratic movement has, of course, since achieved the remarkable accomplishment of toppling Mubarak. But what form the country's political system will take remains unclear. ...
The Muslim world provides two examples of how Islam can be reconciled with political openness: Turkey and Indonesia. Both are relatively stable countries.
If installed in post-Mubarak Egypt, such an open political system would provide the young revolutionary generation the freedom of expression it has understandably been demanding. ...
A democratic system would give Islamic radicals a political voice, with uncertain long-term effects. Egypt's government, for the first time in decades, could become a strong opposition voice at times to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Given the tinderbox nature of the Palestinian-Israeli issue, it's easy to foresee circumstances in which strong anti-Israeli sentiment would erupt in Egypt. ...
Recently, for the first time since 1979, Egypt allowed Iranian Navy ships to pass through the Suez Canal. ...
What this means is that our leaders should be aware of the range of opportunities as well as the challenges arising from these revolutionary times.
The Jerusalem Post on the Israeli settlements:
In a worrying move, the U.S., through its Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice, reportedly informed Arab governments and the Palestinians that it would support a statement by the president of the UN Security Council censuring Israel for "settlement activity."
The U.S. reportedly agreed to back a statement that "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process." According to news reports, the U.S. also agreed to consider supporting a UN Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and to commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel's settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.
The Palestinians, however, were unwilling to budge on their demand that settlements be labeled "illegal" in a Security Council resolution, and are pushing to have the council vote. Barring a compromise, the Obama administration must now contemplate the prospect of using its veto power in the council for the first time. But even if the Palestinian resolution is vetoed by the US in the end, damage has already been done. ...
At a time when it has become more clear than ever that repressive, bellicose autocratic regimes are the main source of instability in the regime _ and not an Israeli _ Palestinian conflict that remains unresolved because of Arab intransigence _ the U.S. should be placing itself staunchly in Israel's corner. It should not be entertaining compromise proposals that imply the further delegitimization of some of Israel's historic and security imperatives.
The Japan Times, Tokyo, on Japan's economy:
Recently there has been much debate in Japan over whether the "Galapagos syndrome" _ development in splendid isolation from the rest of the world _ fits Japan. Galapago-ists argue that Japan should embrace its falling position in the world, adjust to diminished expectations, and find contentment in tending its own garden in its own particularly Japanese way.
Globalists, on the other hand, support Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Third Opening of Japan to the world, after the first opening with Commodore Matthew Perry's arrival in the 19th century and the second, after Japan's defeat in World War II. Japan would enter into new free trade agreements, refigure Japanese agriculture and accept foreign workers.
The Japanese business world seems to be coming down on the side of the globalists, as the fall in domestic consumer demand forces them to look outward. Even as the job situation becomes desperate for recent Japanese grads, they are increasingly hiring non-Japanese grads _foreign students studying in Japan as well as those graduating from universities in their home countries.
Sony, for example, plans for 30 percent of its new hires to be foreign nationals by 2013. ...
Smaller and medium-size companies are also reportedly starting to recruit foreign students, especially Chinese students, at job fairs in Japan. ...
Like it or not, globalization seems to be here to stay, although surely that does not mean casting off all things Japanese as well.
The Star, Toronto, on the "Arab spring":
Terrified Mideast despots are marshaling helicopter gunships, tanks and commandos to preserve their grip on power, after seeing autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt swept into the dustbin of history. But the vast Arab awakening is showing a gritty stamina that few could have predicted barely a month ago.
Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Egyptians jammed Cairo's Tahrir Square forcefully reminding Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi and the military that they will continue to press for sweeping constitutional and political reforms. In Tunis, the main square has just been renamed to honor Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who struck a spark of fury that swept the region.
Elsewhere, democracy activists face a steeper challenge. The aging autocrats who rule Bahrain, Libya and Yemen imposed brutal crackdowns that left hundreds dead or injured. Yet even there, as in Algeria, Jordan and elsewhere, reformers were prepared to brave police truncheons, tear gas and bullets to make their voices heard. ...
This "Arab spring" has done more to buoy Arab pride, vigor and hope in a few short weeks than any movement in the past three decades. The reformers' democratic instincts and openness is a repudiation of inward-looking Islamism and al- Qaida's nihilistic violence. Moreover, this awakening does not draw energy from anti-Americanism, despite Washington's initial jitters. And it regards Israel as an afterthought, if at all. There is far, far more at stake.
"This nation has been born again," Egyptian reform leader Ayman Nour told the Star. "These people have been born again."
The Telegraph, London, on Britain and the Arab unrest:
David Cameron's unexpected visit to Cairo was an important gesture of support to Egypt's democracy movement. Calling for "reform not repression" across the region, the prime minister argued that a more democratic Middle East is in Britain's strategic and economic interests. Indeed it is, but achieving that desirable goal may yet prove elusive. The military that now governs Egypt has promised free elections and we must hope they are true to their word. Given that this will mean relinquishing the power they have wielded for the past 50 years, such an outcome cannot be guaranteed.
While the Arab uprising is proving remarkably adept at toppling dictators, what will take their place is impossible to predict. ...
What is not in doubt is the fact that in all the countries hit by disturbances there are significant British expatriate communities. As the National Security Council draws up contingency plans for their evacuation, it will, we suspect, be rueing the decision taken last October in the Strategic Defense and Security Review to scrap our only aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal. The decision means we will have no such capability until 2020 when the new Queen Elizabeth carriers are launched. ... Foreign basing and over-flight rights will not be a great deal of use when trying to mount an emergency evacuation, where an aircraft carrier with helicopters would prove invaluable.
It was reported at the weekend that there are now plans to turn the Ark Royal into a floating heliport in London. It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Decommissioning the carrier was a serious mistake whose folly has taken just a few months to expose.