The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s Afghan war – a race against time

Bernd Debusmann(Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

By making the war in Afghanistan his own, declaring it a war of necessity and sending more troops, President Barack Obama has entered a race against time. The outcome is far from certain.

To win it, the new strategy being put into place has to show convincing results before public disenchantment with the war saps Obama's credibility and throws question marks over his judgment. Already, according to public opinion polls in August, a majority of Americans say the war is not worth fighting. Almost two thirds think the United States will eventually withdraw without winning.

There are similar feelings in Britain, which fields the second-largest contingent of combat troops in Afghanistan after the United States. A poll published in London this week showed that 69 percent of those questioned thought British troops should not be fighting in Afghanistan.

In the United States, almost inevitably in a country that never forgot the trauma of the only war it ever lost, 36 years ago, pundits are conjuring up the ghost of Vietnam. A lengthy analysis in the New York Times wondered whether Obama was fated to be another Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who kept escalating the Vietnam war.

from The Great Debate:

Human bargaining chips in deals with Iran

Bernd Debusmann (Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Seven summers ago, in a crowded conference room of a Washington hotel, an Iranian exile leader gave the first detailed public account of Iran's until-then secret nuclear projects at the cities of Natanz and Arak. It greatly turned up the volume of a seemingly endless international controversy over Iran's nuclear intentions.

The disclosures, on August 14, 2002, did little to earn the group that made them, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), merit points from the U.S. government. A year later, the Washington office of the NCRI, the political offshoot of Iran's Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) resistance movement, was shut. The State Department placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations. (The MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, had been given that designation in 1997).

from The Great Debate:

Michael Bloomberg and America’s guns

Bernd Debusmann--- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions are his own ---

New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping in where President Barack Obama fears to tread -- confronting America's powerful gun lobby. In the country that holds a commanding global lead in civilian gun ownership, it promises to be a hard fight.

No matter how it goes, America's position at the top of the list of gun-owning nations looks secure. Up to 280 million guns are estimated to be in private hands and the arsenal is growing year by year. On a guns-per-capita basis, the United States (90 guns per 100 residents) is way ahead of second-ranked Yemen (61 per 100), according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey issued by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Elvis and America’s birthers

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. --
Nobody ever landed on the moon, the televised images are a hoax. John F. Kennedy was murdered in a complex plot involving the Mafia and the CIA. Elvis Presley lives. Barack Obama was born outside the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president.

All these claims stem from conspiracy theories and myths born in the U.S. and they throw a question mark over the long-held view of experts that such ideas flourish most in societies where news is controlled, access to information difficult and barriers to independent inquiry difficult to overcome.

from The Great Debate:

Driven to drink by marijuana laws?

(Bernd DebusmannBernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Tough marijuana laws are driving millions of Americans to a more dangerous mood-altering substance, alcohol. The unintended consequence: violence and thousands of unnecessary deaths. It's time, therefore, for a serious public debate of the case for marijuana versus alcohol.

That's the message groups advocating the legalization of marijuana are beginning to press, against a background of shifting attitudes which have already prompted 13 states to relax draconian laws dating back to the 1930s, when the government ended alcohol prohibition and began a determined but futile effort to stamp out marijuana.

from The Great Debate:

The Ugly American and other stereotypes

Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

What happened to the Ugly American, the one with the loud shirt and the loud voice, expecting the natives to speak English? Has he been shouldered aside by the Arrogant French?

That's the conclusion one could draw from a survey this month of 4,500 hotel owners around the world who rated the French the world's worst tourists, bad at foreign languages, arrogant and tight-fisted. Spaniards, deemed noisy and messy, came second in a field of 27. Americans ranked 9th on the list of the top 10 best.

from The Great Debate:

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez

Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life Venezuelan leader who flourished in the role of Latin America's defender against an evil empire led by a devil who smelt of sulphur and was named George W. Bush.

Those were the easy days for Chavez. Now he has become a dragon-slayer without a dragon, an actor on a stage without the most important prop. It was one thing to rally the Latin masses against the widely-detested Bush, it is another to deal with Barack Obama, "the first (U.S.) president who looks like us," in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

from The Great Debate:

America’s spies and a language crisis

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

"There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know…The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran."

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Iran and a meaningless phrase

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

It's time to kill the international community. The phrase, that is.

Usually shorthand for the governments of "the West," the phrase is over-used (a Google search produces 447 million hits) and under-thought. It is often misleading and sometimes plain wrong. As in President Barack Obama's news conference remarks this week on Iran's post-election crackdown on protest:

from The Great Debate:

Fearing the supermen of Guantanamo

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate--Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own--

Americans need to be afraid, very afraid. If President Barack Obama has his way, the country will soon be at serious risk of terrorist attacks coordinated by Muslim men held in maximum security prisons from where no-one has ever escaped.

These inmates possess superhuman strength and cunning. Even in solitary confinement, they might recruit fellow inmates to the cause of al Qaeda and incite riots. They might succeed where the worst of the worst American criminals failed - break out and disappear, seamlessly blending into the community. Next thing you know -- a mushroom cloud.

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