Sep 17 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Chelsea Manning: [How to make Isis fall on its own sword ]

Degrade and destroy? The west should try to disrupt the canny militants into self-destruction, because bombs will only backfire

The Islamic State (Isis) is without question a very brutal extremist group with origins in the insurgency of the United States occupation of Iraq. It has rapidly ascended to global attention by taking control of swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq, including Mosul and other major cities. [..]

I believe that Isis is fueled precisely by the operational and tactical successes of European and American military force that would be – and have been – used to defeat them. I believe that Isis strategically feeds off the mistakes and vulnerabilities of the very democratic western states they decry. The Islamic State’s center of gravity is, in many ways, the United States, the United Kingdom and those aligned with them in the region.

When it comes to regional insurgency with global implications, Isis leaders are canny strategists. It’s clear to me that they have a solid and complete understanding of the strengths and, more importantly, the weaknesses of the west. They know how we tick in America and Europe – and they know what pushes us toward intervention and overreach. This understanding is particularly clear considering the Islamic State’s astonishing success in recruiting numbers of Americans, Britons, Belgians, Danes and other Europeans in their call to arms.

Katrina vanden Huevel: Obama reneges on his foreign-policy promises

President Obama’s commitment to go into Iraq and Syria to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, the brutal terrorist group that vows to carve a “caliphate” out of Iraq and Syria, should be seen for what it is: a capitulation to bellicose folly.

Obama was elected in no small part because he challenged the catastrophic “war of choice” in Iraq, and pledged to bring an end to U.S. entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Slowly, against the bluster and macho posturing of the opposition, he tried to introduce a modicum of common sense and prudence into our foreign policy. [..]

Now Obama has announced a “strategy” toward the Islamic State that rushes into a military adventure without sufficient thought of the consequences, and without building robust international support. Arguing that he doesn’t need congressional approval, he is taking us into a war we don’t need to fight.

Zoë Carpenter: he Questions Congress Should Ask About Obama’s War on ISIS

As military leaders make the case for deepening military engagement in Syria and Iraq to Congress on Tuesday, more than two dozen groups are calling on lawmakers to seek answers to a number of questions about the mission that the Obama administration has so far failed to address.

“If the past decade of war in the Middle East has taught us anything, it’s that we must demand answers to hard questions before launching into war,” Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a statement. “That’s why, today, groups representing millions of Americans are calling on Congress to debate and be held accountable for America’s next steps in Syria and Iraq-so we don’t make the same mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

Congress has signaled it’s disinclined to have that debate by pushing any real consideration of military action until after the midterm elections. Though a number of lawmakers have called on the president to ask Congress for authorization, many are not looking for a chance to deliberate so much as to show off their hawk bona fides. Tuesday’s campaign, which includes phone calls to lawmakers, social media asks (using the hashtag #AmericaMustKnow) and petition signatures, is intended to point out the serious gaps and inconsistencies in the president’s strategy that Congress (and until recently, the media) have largely failed to take on.

Shirley Willaims: How Scotland could lead the way towards a federal UK

England and Wales need to harness the civic spirit seen in the Scottish independence referendum and devolve powers to the regions

The Scottish independence referendum, whichever side one is on, has demonstrated the civic spirit of this country. Engaging in a mobile debate on the main street of Dunfermline or Inverness, hearing a heartfelt plea for the union from a 15-year-old schoolboy speaker at the town hall of Kirkwall, in Orkney, forceful comments on trains and trams, are testimony to the rebirth of democratic politics. Turnout at this passionate election may well exceed 80%, a figure not reached in general elections for over five decades.

The referendum decision will come at the culmination of a long period of disillusionment with politicians. The SNP, like the other mainstream parties, has attracted its own share of public frustration about centralisation and the excessive rule of Edinburgh over other regions of Scotland. Nationally, the disillusionment began with the poll tax, the decline of manufacturing in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the north of England during the Thatcher years, the failure of our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis in 2008 which loaded on taxpayers the huge costs of bailing out the banks. The referendum debate is not fuelled only by controversy between unionists and nationalists. It reflects also the underlying anger and resentment among members of the public in England and Wales.

Jessica Valenti: The Texas abortion clinic battle is about more than politics. It’s about women’s lives

Reproductive rights are more than a shouting match. They’re about the ability of women to access life-changing health care

Imagine you are a young woman who has just found out she is pregnant. You already have children and you’re only employed part-time. Maybe you’re in a violent relationship. Maybe you’ve been assaulted. Whatever your motivation, you know you cannot continue the pregnancy. But when you try to make an appointment at the nearest clinic – which is a hundred miles away – you’re told that there is a long waiting list. It’ll be a month-long wait for the abortion you should, medically-speaking, have right away, making it a more complicated and expensive procedure. You can’t afford that, so you start to think about going to another country with fewer regulations, where you heard about cheap drugs that will end the pregnancy.

That is not a story that should happen in America – where abortion is legal – but it’s an increasingly common reality for many women. And, after today’s hearing from the 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in which the judges appeared to support Texas’ restrictive abortion laws, it’s potentially a daily reality for many more women in Texas.

But in the midst of court decisions, a national debate over choice and lawmakers’ efforts to limit abortion rights, we cannot afford to forget that there are real people affected by these laws.