Nicholas Burns in The Boston Globe on peace in modern politics The issue and rhetoric of peace is notably absent from the media or from central platforms of political campaigns these days. "Why are we so hesitant to place peace on such a high mantle?" asks Burns. He notes the more central place the idea of peace took in presidential rhetoric through history, from Lincoln's second inaugural to JFK's search for "the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living." Burns says 9/11 might be partly to blame for bringing too many threats forward, ushering in words like "security" and "defense." But he notes that in more violent times our leaders still spoke more broadly and idealistically. He urges us to put it back into our central goals for the nation. "Wouldn't it be something if a Republican or Democratic candidate emerged in 2012 to sign a pledge for peace?"
Frank Mugisha in The New York Times on Ugandan gay rights Secretary of State Clinton's recent speech in support of worldwide gay rights highlighted the particular plight of LGBT people in African nations. "The right to marry whom we love is far from our minds. Across Africa, the 'gay rights' we are fighting for are more stark — the right to life itself," writes Mugisha, a Ugandan activist. He writes of his own experience publicly acknowledging his homosexuality, and notes the many threats that loom for those like him. He blames some of it on the influence of American Evangelicals, who promote the conflation of homosexuality with child pedophilia in Africa. He recalls his colleague David Kato's acceptance that one of them would likely die for the cause, after which Kato was beaten to death with a hammer. "I call on other leaders — particularly my African-American brothers and sisters in politics, entertainment and religious communities — to come to Uganda, to stand with me and my fellow advocates," he writes.
Charles Krauthammer in National Review on House Republicans' blunder Conservatives have much to dislike in yesterday's news that Congress reached an agreement to pass the two month extension of a payroll tax break. "The tax-holiday extension ... is the perfect campaign ploy: an election-year bribe that has the additional virtue of seizing the tax issue for the Democrats," writes Krauthammer. He argues that the bill is unhelpful because most businesses can't administrate it quickly enough or for the odd period of two months, which is shorter than even one business quarter. But he notes that House Republicans should have stopped pressing these points as soon as Republicans in the Senate passed it. He says they walked into a "trap" whereby they took all the blame for the increased withholdings from Americans' paychecks. "The GOP's performance nicely reprises that scene in Animal House where the marching band turns into a blind alley and row after row of plumed morons plows into a brick wall," he writes.
Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on withdrawal from Iraq U.S. withdrawal from Iraq happened with almost no fanfare to mark it. "The bottom line is that no one on the political spectrum can criticize the withdrawal," writes Feldman. He attributes the decision to withdraw chiefly to lack of communication; Iraqis thought Americans would accept an immunity for soldiers that wasn't legally explicit, but Obama was happy to withdraw on terms that didn't look like he was abandoning them. Republicans won't make an issue because they want to focus on the economy, not a long war their party started. Democrats won't bring withdrawal up because they are afraid of the devolving situation in Afghanistan, from which we will soon withdraw, and where the Taliban looks poised to make trouble. "The Taliban have no doubt learned a thing or two in their decade of war against the world's superpower, but tolerance is unlikely to be high on the list. The next U.S. withdrawal won’t escape public notice."
Dennis Ross in The Wall Street Journal on pressuring Iran Some think America's insistence that Iran not arm itself with nuclear weapons makes armed conflict inevitable. It's not, but "we need to be vigilant about the indicators that Iran is moving more quickly ... And we must use the time we have to apply greater pressure on the Iranians," writes Ross. He argues why an armed Iran would be so dangerous in a region where many others would want to arm themselves or deploy weapons defensively. He lists reasons we probably still have time to prevent Iran from getting a weapon, and cites historical examples where effective pressure has influenced their decisions, as when European sanctions in the 1990s prevented them from assassinating defectors. Now Syria and the Arab Spring have weakened the regime's standing. "With the Iranian regime reeling, an increase in pressure can once again put Iran's leaders in a position where they seek a way out."