Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Taliban


America’s war in Afghanistan has reached the end game

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Compared with past wars, America’s struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan has been light on casualties.

After almost 12 years, the U.S. death toll stands at roughly 2,000. In the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Civil War, this country has lost that many in a single day.

But the trend – reflected in a spate of recent casualties among soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord – has been headed in the wrong direction. A New York Times analysis last week showed that the rate of deaths has risen dramatically in the last two years.

A few numbers tell the story: It took almost nine years for the United States to lose its first 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. It took only 27 months to lose the second 1,000.
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Helping lawmakers get re-elected isn’t Army’s mission

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Many members of Congress stumping for re-election back in their districts decry government spending and those awful earmarks. Except (wink, wink) our earmarks, that is.

That’s as good an explanation as any for why the House more than tripled funding for a 70-ton tank the Army doesn’t need or want – and added hundreds of millions more for other items the Pentagon didn’t request, including an anti-drug program that duplicates one performed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

It’s all about jobs that lawmakers can brag about preserving in their districts. If it means the Army gets more tanks that have little use in the kinds of war it’s been fighting in the 21st century, so be it.

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Woman to woman in Afghanistan’s villages

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The battles, the bombings and the arguments over Afghanistan’s future often overshadow the country’s most threatened population: women.

Some soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been forging ties with female villagers who are normally almost invisible to outsiders. As reported from Afghanistan by The News Tribune’s Adam Ashton, “female engagement teams” fielded by Lewis-McChord battalions are serving as liaisons between the U.S. military and Afghan women.

Among them are Sgt. 1st Class Laurie Eggleston of University Place and Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Wages of Yelm, who manage the effort on behalf of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The teams help the Army connect with Afghan women, one on one, as part of its mission to defeat the Taliban. In the process, the villagers see American women who are confident and educated, women who aren’t guarded around the clock by males. Eggleston and Wages embody the expansive opportunities available to most Western girls and women.

Given Afghanistan’s traditional culture, the females of that country’s rural villages may never enjoy the same range of opportunity. But let’s hope they wind up better off than they were before the Taliban were driven from power in 2001.

They could hardly be worse off. The Taliban may have achieved an all-time low in the subjugation of females. They drove women from most professions, forbade them from leaving their houses without male escorts, whipped them if they didn’t conceal themselves from head to foot in public; deprived them of medical care; and shot them in front of crowds if they were accused of adultery.
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Who, exactly, will replace Mubarak in Egypt?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States supports democracy and detests autocracy. Except when it doesn’t.

What’s been happening in Egypt may be one of the excepts. Huge angry crowds have taken to the streets, threatening to overturn the dictatorship that’s been misgoverning and mismanaging the country for as long as most people can remember.

Since President Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, he has systematically crushed any opposition groups that posed a serious threat to his rule, rigging elections and sometimes brutalizing his opponents.

The complication is, he’s also been a crucial American ally in the Middle East. He kept his country out of the Soviet orbit during the cold war, kept violent Islamists at bay and maintained the friendly ties his much more impressive predecessor – Anwar Sadat – established with Israel.

Those policies served his interests, and it so happens they served American interests as well. As Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have once said about a Nicaraguan dictator, “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.”

So far, the Obama administration is following that line with Egypt. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared Mubarak’s government to be “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

In other words, we’ve got your back, Hosni.
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With safeguards, let those terror suspects talk

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Somebody in the White House should have winced Sunday when Attorney General Eric Holder raised the possibility of more Miranda-less questioning of terror suspects.

“We’re now dealing with international terrorism,” he said about the attempted Times Square bombing, describing it as a “new threat.” The “now” and “new” suggest that that the bomber’s apparent Taliban connection was a big surprise that has suddenly required the Obama administration to rethink how it handles suspects.

Let’s hope Holder and others in the administration weren’t caught that flat-footed. There’s nothing remotely new about international terrorism; the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993, and the likes of al-Qaida have been targeting the United States ever since.

The supposed novelty of an international attack has at least given the Obama administration a pretext for re-examining its overly rigid practice of reading Miranda rights almost immediately to suspected terrorists arrested on American soil.

This conventional police approach is clearly a reaction to abuses of the Bush era. It’s also an overreaction.
Delaying a Miranda warning or questioning someone as an enemy combatant, by themselves, are not the same as torture or extraordinary rendition. Extended questioning without a warning can be done within the law. There’s also room to legally expand the practice, as Holder seemed to be conceding.
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Obama picked right gamble in Afghanistan

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Big decisions are risky decisions. President Obama took the right risks at West Point on Tuesday when he outlined his plans for a troop surge in Afghanistan.

The obvious gamble is that any military venture in Afghanistan can turn out well. There’s a long history of foreign interventions coming to grief in that remote, mountainous, tribal country.

But the earlier interventions – such as the ill-fated Soviet occupation of the 1980s – were attempts to turn the country into a colony or dominion. The United States and its NATO allies aren’t trying to own Afghanistan, which means the intervention can be much more limited in its goals and duration – which in turn enhances the chances of success.

The gambles Obama chose not to take were to either abandon the country or try to get by – as the Bush administration did – with an inadequate force on the ground. The end result in both cases would be a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Taliban, whose leaders are implacably hostile to the United States, liberal democracy, Western civilization – anything but the inhuman, primitive theocracy they are trying to resurrect from the Dark Ages.
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