Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on the humanitarian crisis in Haiti
Haiti is in the throes of one of the most dire emergencies in its crisis-prone recent history, one increasingly likely to wash up on U.S. shores in the form of desperate migrants. Its government, which is integral to the problem, last month requested international military intervention, and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres agreed that “armed action” is urgently required. In response, the United States, Canada and other key powers have dithered — even as the Biden administration is reported to be preparing to house waves of Haitian refugees at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay. The situation is untenable.
In the absence of boots on the ground, there are few good means for halting a humanitarian and security meltdown in Haiti that has paralyzed fuel supplies, endangered fresh water and food delivery, triggered a cholera outbreak, and intensified what the United Nations has called “emergency” hunger threatening nearly one-fifth of the country’s 11.5 million people. Still, even without deploying police or soldiers, the Biden administration and its key allies have options for acting more forcefully and should move swiftly.
The most immediate priority is to break an inland blockade by armed gangsters that for nearly two months has sealed off the country’s main fuel supply depot in Port-au-Prince, the capital. The cutoff, allegedly in protest of fuel price increases owing to the government slashing subsidies, has resulted in drastic consequences — shuttered gas stations, schools, hospitals and shops, as well as severe shortages of food and medicine. The United States and Canada have sent armored cars and other supplies to help Haiti’s police break the blockade, but those shipments have been inadequate.
Washington could also flex its diplomatic muscle with Haitian authorities to encourage sustained negotiations between the unelected government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and a broad opposition association of Haitian civic and nonprofit groups, known as the Montana Accord. The groups correctly argue that Mr. Henry’s administration is illegitimate and ineffectual. (Mr. Henry himself has been implicated in last year’s unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.)
The Accord, named for a hotel in Port-au-Prince, has proposed a transitional period leading to elections, which are now impossible given the pandemonium that grips the nation. While the groups lack the means to organize elections, let alone confront the gangs, they at least enjoy a modicum of popular support, which the current government lacks. They deserve a role in determining Haiti’s future; Washington could give them that.
Simultaneously, the United States should extend temporary protected status, set to expire in February, for tens of thousands of Haitians already living and working legally in the United States, thereby shielding them from the prospect of deportation to a country gripped by pandemonium.
Without armed intervention, no prospective relief will be easy to achieve in a country that has dissolved into chaotic violence and florid dysfunction. However, to acquiesce to the status quo, as the Biden administration has done since the Moïse assassination, is to be morally complicit in an unfolding humanitarian tragedy. Washington cannot continue to pay lip service to resolving the crisis in Haiti. It can and should use its considerable influence to relieve the suffering of millions in the hemisphere’s poorest country.
The New York Times on Democracy and political violence in the United States
Over the past five years, incidents of political violence in the United States by right-wing extremists have soared. Few experts who track this type of violence believe things will get better anytime soon without concerted action. Domestic extremism is actually likely to worsen. The attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the House of Representatives, was only the latest episode, and federal officials warn that the threat of violence could continue to escalate after the midterm elections.
The embrace of conspiratorial and violent ideology and rhetoric by many Republican politicians during and after the Trump presidency, anti-government anger related to the pandemic, disinformation, cultural polarization, the ubiquity of guns and radicalized internet culture have all led to the current moment, and none of those trends are in retreat. Donald Trump was the first American president to rouse an armed mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened lawmakers. Taken together, these factors form a social scaffolding that allows for the kind of endemic political violence that can undo a democracy. Ours would not be the first.
Yet the nation is not powerless to stop a slide toward deadly chaos. If institutions and individuals do more to make it unacceptable in American public life, organized violence in the service of political objectives can still be pushed to the fringes. When a faction of one of the country’s two main political parties embraces extremism, that makes thwarting it both more difficult and more necessary. A well-functioning democracy demands it.
The legal tools to do so are already available and in many cases are written into state constitutions, in laws prohibiting private paramilitary activity. “I fear that the country is entering a phase of history with more organized domestic civil violence than we’ve seen in 100 years,” said Philip Zelikow, the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, who pioneered legal strategies to go after violent extremists earlier in his career. “We have done it in the past and can do so again.”
As the range of violence in recent years shows, the scourge of extremism in the United States is evident across the political spectrum. But the threat to the current order comes disproportionately from the right.
Of the more than 440 extremism-related murders committed in the past decade, more than 75% were committed by right-wing extremists, white supremacists or anti-government extremists. The remaining quarter stemmed from a range of other motivations, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League. There were 29 extremist-related homicides last year: 26 committed by right-wing extremists, two by Black nationalists and one by an Islamic extremist. The Department of Homeland Security has warned again and again that domestic extremism motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing ideologies is the country’s top terrorism threat … the threat of violence has begun to have a corrosive effect on many aspects of public life: the hounding of election workers until they are forced into hiding, harassment of school board officials, threats to judges, armed demonstrations at multiple statehouses, attacks on abortion clinics and anti-abortion pregnancy centers, bomb threats against hospitals that offer care to transgender children, assaults on flight attendants who try to enforce COVID rules and the armed intimidation of librarians over the books and ideas they choose to share.
Meanwhile, threats against members of Congress are more than 10 times as numerous as they were just five years ago … There are four interrelated trends that the country needs to address: the impunity of organized paramilitary groups, the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military, the global spread of extremist ideas and the growing number of G.O.P. politicians who are using the threat of political violence not just to intimidate their opponents on the left but also to wrest control of the party from those Republicans who are committed to democratic norms …. Preserving the health of our democracy is as much a matter of preventive care as it is the application of a tourniquet. A promising place to start combating political violence is with extremist paramilitary groups.
While the majority of such violence in the United States comes at the hands of people not strictly affiliated with these groups — the man who is accused of attacking Mr. Pelosi, for example, echoed their hatred of Nancy Pelosi, but it’s not clear whether the man had links to any of them — they are nonetheless often the vanguard of violent episodes, such as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and they are active in spreading their brands of ideological extremism online.
They go by many names: the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, the Three Percenters, the Wolverine Watchmen. Some fancy themselves militias, but they aren’t, according to the law. These groups have been around in their modern incarnations since the end of the Vietnam War, and their popularity has waxed and waned. In fact, political violence is as old as the nation itself; right-wing frustrations with democratic outcomes have birthed militia movements throughout American history. Most notably, the Ku Klux Klan has spent over a century and a half, from Reconstruction to the present day, terrorizing Black Americans and others in service of political ends.
Today, levels of political violence are high and climbing. In 2020 the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that violence from all political ideologies reached its highest level since the group began collecting data in 1994. And extremist paramilitary groups have again become a common presence in American life, on college campuses, at public protests and at political rallies.
The Wall Street Journal on the labor market
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy created 261,000 new jobs in October, which beat Wall Street’s expectations. Upward revisions for September added to the evidence that the job market is holding up despite rising interest rates.
But hold the confetti. The labor market also showed the beginning of some cracks, as the unemployment rate rose to 3.7% from 3.5% and 328,000 fewer people were employed. The labor participation rate fell for the second month in a row, and unemployment ticked up for nearly every demographic group except teenagers. This evidence suggests that while employers are still hiring, the pace of hiring is slowing.
The upshot is that the job market is headed for harder time as the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases continue. Companies are already reporting job freezes and in some cases layoffs, especially in the tech industry where stock prices have been hammered this year.
Elon Musk sent sacking notices to 3,700 Twitter employees on Friday, about half the workforce. Amazon said it is pausing new hires for the corporate workforce, citing the “unusual macro-economic environment.” Lyft is laying off workers, as is CNN. The larger story is that companies are putting up the storm windows in case there’s a recession coming in 2023, which there may be.
The mixed jobs news is unlikely to deter the Federal Reserve from its drive to restrain inflation. Average hourly earnings rose at a healthy 4.7% rate in the last year, which is good news for workers but not for inflation. Wage pressure continues across the economy, especially for workers who leave for new jobs. The Atlanta Fed’s tracker has wage growth growing at an annual rate of 6.3% in the three months through September. Workers should enjoy the gains while they can because there are rougher days ahead as the Fed moves to fix Washington’s great inflation mistake.
China Daily on U.S. trade with China
Australian Resources Minister Madeleine King hit the nail on the head in an interview on Tuesday when she described the hope of some Western countries that they could soon end their reliance on China for rare earths as a “pipe dream”.
This is because China holds the world’s largest reserves of the mineral resources and accounts for around 80% of global production of rare earths, which are needed for a wide variety of products, ranging from smartphones to aerospace technology to wind turbines.
Yet rather than calling for joint international efforts to ensure the safety and stability of the industry and supply chains for the good of all countries, King insinuated that Australia and the United States should cooperate to boost investments in the minerals in order to break China’s monopoly, as it is a country “that has seen this need coming and made the most of it.”
But despite being the world’s largest trading and manufacturing country, China has never and will not seek to weaponize trade or its dominant position in certain fields such as rare earths’ production. Rather, it continues to advocate and uphold free trade and economic globalization as a means to counter protectionism and the “decoupling” trend initiated by Washington that hurts the interests of all nations.
King’s remarks highlight the dilemma that Australia finds itself in when it comes to its economic and trade ties with China. On the one hand, China has long been Australia’s biggest trading partner for both the export and import of goods. On the other hand, Canberra is willingly playing the role of Washington’s vanguard in the Asia-Pacific in its strategy to contain China, which means it has to toe the U.S. line even at the expense of its own interests.
In the latest move, the U.S. is reportedly preparing to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in northern Australia to send “a strong message to adversaries.” Australia had earlier joined the U.S. in banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei citing national security concerns, and has had running spats with China on such issues as human rights and the South China Sea after Washington began hyping up its groundless allegations of human rights abuses and coercive behavior on the part of China.
China is doing its best to play its part in keeping the world economy and international trade stable. Other countries likewise need to shoulder their due responsibilities to ensure the normal functioning of relevant trade and economic cooperation, rather than trying to use the economy and trade as political tools or weapons, which only destabilizes the global economic system to the detriment of all.
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