Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

May 23

The Washington Post say paused Disinformation Governance Board was doomed from its inception

The Disinformation Governance Board has been put on pause — leaving skeptics of the new body within the Department of Homeland Security sighing with relief. The board was from the start too mired in controversy to perform its intended function. But its collapse is no cause for celebration.

The rollout of the DGB was rife with mistakes. Its name was eerie enough (and its infelicitous initials close enough to “KGB”) to conjure the specter of an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth,” and details on the board’s function were scarce enough to lead even those who might have otherwise supported it in concept to wonder about its effect on free expression. The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, pointed out that any real enforcement authority for the DGB to direct the removal of information on the Internet would be unconstitutional. The ACLU was right: The DGB couldn’t and didn’t have any real enforcement authority. Instead, it was meant to be an internal coordinating body, given a mission to establish best practices for DHS in the work the agency is already doing to fight malign influence campaigns online.

Whether the creation of the DGB was the most effective way to draw up these best practices — which could range from offering tips on correcting false narratives through public messaging to advising agencies on how to monitor social media for disinformation without impinging on civil liberties — was never clear. Yet this episode has shown how vulnerable the government is to the same types of campaign the DGB was supposed to help it fight. Some of the questions about the board’s ambit were legitimate; worries about the perceived liberal bias of the woman picked to lead it, researcher Nina Jankowicz, while overblown, still merited consideration. But amid the legitimate criticisms arose a focused, aggressive right-wing effort to mislead citizens about the board’s role, and to harass Ms. Jankowicz until she tendered her resignation.

Those most at fault in this imbroglio, of course, are the actors who flooded the Web with lies and misogyny. But DHS’s own errors were a showcase in some of the worst practices for blunting disinformation: failing to anticipate how opportunists might exploit its odd name or vague mission to sow distrust, for instance, and then failing to mount a robust response as smears spread far and wide. These failures are the reason the DGB had to be, at least temporarily, dismantled. They’re also a reason, however, that some version of the job it was designed to do remains necessary. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Biden administration has learned from this going forward.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/23/disinformation-governance-boards-collapse-showcases-problem/

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May 19

The New York Times says support for Ukraine means support for democratic values and the right of countries to defend themselves against aggression

The Senate passed a $40 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine on Thursday, but with a small group of isolationist Republicans loudly criticizing the spending and the war entering a new and complicated phase, continued bipartisan support is not guaranteed.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that the next few months may be volatile. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia could take “a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” she said, with the increased likelihood that Russia could threaten to use nuclear weapons.

These are extraordinary costs and serious dangers, and yet there are many questions that President Biden has yet to answer for the American public with regard to the continued involvement of the United States in this conflict.

In March, this board argued that the message from the United States and its allies to Ukrainians and Russians alike must be: No matter how long it takes, Ukraine will be free. Ukraine deserves support against Russia’s unprovoked aggression, and the United States must lead its NATO allies in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that the Atlantic alliance is willing and able to resist his revanchist ambitions.

That goal cannot shift, but in the end, it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions. And the U.S. aims and strategy in this war have become harder to discern, as the parameters of the mission appear to have changed.

Is the United States, for example, trying to help bring an end to this conflict, through a settlement that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the United States and Russia? Or is the United States now trying to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration’s goal shifted to destabilizing Vladimir Putin or having him removed? Does the United States intend to hold Mr. Putin accountable as a war criminal? Or is the goal to try to avoid a wider war — and if so, how does crowing about providing U.S. intelligence to kill Russians and sink one of their ships achieve this?

Without clarity on these questions, the White House not only risks losing Americans’ interest in supporting Ukrainians — who continue to suffer the loss of lives and livelihoods — but also jeopardizes long-term peace and security on the European continent.

Americans have been galvanized by Ukraine’s suffering, but popular support for a war far from U.S. shores will not continue indefinitely. Inflation is a much bigger issue for American voters than Ukraine, and the disruptions to global food and energy markets are likely to intensify.

The current moment is a messy one in this conflict, which may explain President Biden and his cabinet’s reluctance to put down clear goal posts. All the more reason, then, for Mr. Biden to make the case to American voters, well before November, that support for Ukraine means support for democratic values and the right of countries to defend themselves against aggression — while peace and security remain the ideal outcome in this war.

It is tempting to see Ukraine’s stunning successes against Russia’s aggression as a sign that with sufficient American and European help, Ukraine is close to pushing Russia back to its positions before the invasion. But that is a dangerous assumption.

A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal. Though Russia’s planning and fighting have been surprisingly sloppy, Russia remains too strong, and Mr. Putin has invested too much personal prestige in the invasion to back down.

The United States and NATO are already deeply involved, militarily and economically. Unrealistic expectations could draw them ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war. Russia, however battered and inept, is still capable of inflicting untold destruction on Ukraine and is still a nuclear superpower with an aggrieved, volatile despot who has shown little inclination toward a negotiated settlement. Ukraine and Russia now “appear further apart than at any other point in the nearly three-month-long war,” as The Times reported.

Recent bellicose statements from Washington — President Biden’s assertion that Mr. Putin “cannot remain in power,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that Russia must be “weakened” and the pledge by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that the United States would support Ukraine “until victory is won” — may be rousing proclamations of support, but they do not bring negotiations any closer.

In the end, it is the Ukrainians who must make the hard decisions: They are the ones fighting, dying and losing their homes to Russian aggression, and it is they who must decide what an end to the war might look like. If the conflict does lead to real negotiations, it will be Ukrainian leaders who will have to make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise will demand.

The United States and NATO have demonstrated that they will support the Ukrainian fight with ample firepower and other means. And however the fighting ends, the United States and its allies must be prepared to help Ukraine rebuild.

But as the war continues, Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain.

Confronting this reality may be painful, but it is not appeasement. This is what governments are duty bound to do, not chase after an illusory “win.” Russia will be feeling the pain of isolation and debilitating economic sanctions for years to come, and Mr. Putin will go down in history as a butcher. The challenge now is to shake off the euphoria, stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission. America’s support for Ukraine is a test of its place in the world in the 21st century, and Mr. Biden has an opportunity and an obligation to help define what that will be.

ONLINE: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/19/opinion/america-ukraine-war-support.html

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May 22

The Wall Street Journal says that Democrats’ obsession with climate crisis will cost American consumers, workers and businesses

Democrats are fighting over the Biden Administration’s antidumping investigation of Chinese solar manufacturers, and it’s a revealing brawl. Progressives want cheap and abundant green energy that boosts U.S. manufacturing, but they’re discovering they can’t have it all.

The Commerce Department in March launched an investigation to determine if solar companies are circumventing antidumping duties on China by diverting production to Southeast Asia. Cue accusations by solar power producers, rooftop-solar companies and their friends in Congress that the Administration is sabotaging their own green energy goals.

“This investigation could expand harmful, job-killing tariffs on solar imports, raising costs for consumers,” 22 Senators, including 19 Democrats, warned this month.

On the other side of this fight are U.S. solar manufacturers, unions and Congress Members from the Rust Belt including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. They warn solar imports will imperil U.S. manufacturing jobs unless Commerce intervenes.

The roots of this dispute go back a decade. After the 2008-2009 recession, Democrats sold green subsidies in the Obama stimulus as a way to revive U.S. manufacturing. But then the Chinese figured out how to produce inexpensive solar panels at scale with cheap labor and energy (i.e., coal power). Between 2008 and 2013, global solar prices fell 80%.

In 2012 the Obama Administration responded to complaints by U.S. manufacturers that their overseas competitors were benefiting from government subsidies by slapping tariffs up to 250% on Chinese imports. Forget that the Energy Department also provided loan guarantees to Solyndra and other U.S. startups.

Rather than boost domestic manufacturing, the tariffs drove Chinese companies to move some production to Southeast Asia. China now makes up a mere 1% of solar imports while Malaysia accounts for 31%, Vietnam 29% and Thailand 26%. U.S.-made photovoltaic panels comprised about 20% of the solar market last year.

U.S. solar manufacturers now say Chinese companies are dodging tariffs. Maybe they are, but plunging photovoltaic panel prices have been a boon for U.S. solar power. Tariffs will raise the cost of solar generation, which will be passed onto utility rate-payers. Higher costs could also curb homeowner demand for rooftop panels, which no doubt is why many of the Democrats howling about Commerce’s probe are from sunny states.

It’s hard to feel sympathy for U.S. solar companies, which benefit enormously from government mandates and subsidies, including a 26% federal tax credit. They’ve also been aided by anti-carbon policies that have driven many nuclear and fossil-fuel plants to retire prematurely and will destroy more jobs than they create.

The rapid expansion of renewable power is also increasing the cost of maintaining a reliable electricity grid, which will raise costs for U.S. manufacturers, rendering them less globally competitive. This is why a carbon tariff—i.e., a tax on foreign imports based on the CO2 emissions of where they were made—is gaining traction in Congress.

Democrats’ solar fight illustrates how their climate obsession is leading to more trade protectionism. American consumers, workers and businesses will be the losers.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-biden-solar-panel-tariff-brawl-china-green-energy-price-cost-democrats-climate-change-11652980030

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May 24

The Los Angeles Times says, after another school shooting, that the American Dream dies in our own schools and home, by our hands and those of our neighbors

Perhaps this is how it all ends — self-government, self-defense, self-control, liberty, unity, family. Perhaps the fate of the nation is to watch its soul die along with the at least 19 students and two adults shot to death Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. This is us, the American people, on both sides of that gun — and countless other guns on countless playgrounds, shopping centers, streets and homes, killing our children, ourselves and each other. Killing our future.

This is who we are. This is what we have become. We can no longer send our children to school without pangs of anxiety that they will be in the line of fire in what ought to be havens of safety and learning. Nor can we find refuge in churches, mosques or synagogues, or in shopping centers, or at baby showers, picnics or parties. When we feel in danger, we get out our guns. Our guns put us in danger, so we get more.

Abraham Lincoln, in his earliest known public address, said that the still-young United States could never be brought down by a foreign enemy. It was 1838, he was only 28, and the Civil War was still nearly a quarter-century into the future. But he was correct when he told his Lyceum audience that “All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.”

No, any danger to the U.S. comes from within. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher,” he said. “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

He was president by the time the nation had its most serious brush with suicide over the question of whether freedom means some people have the liberty to buy, own and exploit others, or whether it instead means all must be free. The Civil War was straightforward, with a clear enemy — even though it was ourselves — that wore different uniforms and could be defeated on the battlefield.

Now it’s not so simple. We are again our own enemies, but what are we killing ourselves for? We don’t even know. We just keep getting our guns, loading them and pulling the trigger. We elect political leaders who promise action, but we never hold them accountable. In any case, the killings continue. This may be the suicide of which Lincoln spoke. This may be why we die, not for a great cause but for a loss of love and respect for one another and the dream that bound our forebears together.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-05-24/editorial-ulvade-shooting-national-suicide

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May 24

China Daily says Tokyo’s acquiescence to U.S. in Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity excludes China and leaves Japan truckling

As some Japanese said, Tokyo’s reception of visiting U.S. President Joe Biden was grandiloquent to the point of truckling.

Even though Tokyo should be well aware that the so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity proposed by the United States represents Washington’s latest scheme to try and exclude China from the regional economic structure and that it will unavoidably harm regional development and unity, it was still happy to attentively set the stage for the U.S. leader to unveil it.

Even though Tokyo is well aware that the Quad will make Japan a tool, along with India and Australia, for Washington to threaten China’s security at the costs of regional peace and stability, it was still happy to host the Quad summit on Tuesday.

Likewise, although Tokyo should be well aware that it is the U.S. that has provoked the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Japan has been happy to join the U.S.’ sanctions against Russia, irrespective of how they affect the stability of Northeast Asia.

And if the Japan-European Union summit earlier this month is taken into account — which produced a highly provocative joint statement covering issues of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights conditions in China — it is fair to say that Tokyo feels no qualms about throwing itself into the arms of the West, although it is well aware that in doing so it is betraying common regional interests and Asian values.

And history shows that when Japan forgets it is a member of the Asian family, it causes disaster in the region.

After the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century that initiated Japan’s rise, the country started looking down upon and harassing, and then invading and enslaving, its neighbors.

It was its “historic” victory over Russia in their war in 1904 that led to the country’s self-aggrandizement peaking to such an extent that it embarked on a militarist and expansionist path of no return, leaving unhealed wounds in the region that continue to fester.

Now is another time that the country seems on the verge of doing that with the connivance of the U.S.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. Their win-win cooperation has not only benefited the two peoples but also the rest of the world. That offers an important lesson that Japan should heed.

If Tokyo once again becomes consumed by notions of regional dominance, even though it plays the role allotted to it by the U.S., it will be set on a course that will repeat its past missteps.

ONLINE: https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202205/24/WS628cbe91a310fd2b29e5eb77.html

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