Clinton Presses, Courts Beijing (Jay Solomon – Wall Street Journal)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged greater U.S.-China cooperation in Asia, even as she stressed that the U.S. will increase its effort to remain a military and economic power in the region. Mrs. Clinton, embarking on a seven-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region, said the Obama administration is committed to defining events regionally and safeguarding the defenses of its allies, such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore. “Now, there are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region is coming to a close. That we are not here to stay. I say, look at our record. It tells a different story,” Mrs. Clinton said Thursday in Hawaii.
Elements Slow Aid in Indonesia, and New Eruption Raises Fears (Aubrey Belford – New York Times)
Indonesian rescue workers struggled against rough weather and difficult terrain to reach tsunami victims on Thursday as the death toll continued to rise from the natural disasters that hit the archipelago nation this week on two separate fronts and just 24 hours apart. In the remote Mentawai Islands west of Sumatra, aid workers said that the isolation of many villages as well as choppy seas meant that some victims had yet to receive any assistance three days after a magnitude 7.7 underwater quake sent a 10-foot-tall tsunami crashing onto land, smashing apart homes and killing hundreds. A new eruption Friday morning at Mount Merapi on the island of Java, about 750 miles to the east, sent more hot ash and debris into the air and stirred fears of further destruction. Powerful eruptions late Tuesday killed 34 people and destroyed villages, said Nelis Zuliasri, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency. As a steady trickle of supplies reached the islands with the help of military ships and aircraft, officials raised the toll of the tsunami to 399 confirmed dead, The Associated Press reported. An estimated 16,000 people have been displaced, officials said.
4 Nations With Child Soldiers Keep U.S. Aid (Brian Knowlton – New York Times)
In 2009, the government of Chad conscripted refugee children for unlawful use as guards and combatants in its desert battles against rebel forces; the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo forced children to carry ammunition and supplies through the jungle, and some died under their weight; hundreds of boys and girls were forced into the army of southern Sudan, despite a commitment to release them; and in Yemen, children as young as 14 make up perhaps half the ranks of both the government’s forces and the rebels opposing them. Despite those findings, in an annual State Department report on human trafficking, the Obama administration is allowing American military aid to continue to the four countries, issuing a waiver this week of a 2008 law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act. In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, President Obama said he had determined that the waiver was in “the national interest.”
Foreign Policy and the 2010 Midterms: War in Afghanistan (Jayshree Bajoria – Council on Foreign Relations)
According to the most recent polls, the war in Afghanistan is barely on the radar in the upcoming midterm elections, as the economy and jobs dominate voters’ concerns. Moreover, Americans are growing war-weary, and public support for the war is waning. An increasing number of Americans are questioning U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, and it has become a controversial issue in Congress, with President Barack Obama fielding criticism from both sides of the aisle. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about civilian aid to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which is seen as highly corrupt. Many Democrats on the left question the president’s 2009 decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. While most Republicans support the war, many criticize his July 2011 drawdown date for U.S. troops. They argue setting a deadline sends the wrong signals to U.S. partners in the region who question Washington’s commitment, and strengthens insurgents who will then simply wait for U.S. forces to leave. Regardless of which party gains control of Congress on November 2, “political support for the war depends powerfully on whether it looks like the war is succeeding or failing,” says Stephen Biddle, CFR’s senior fellow for defense policy.
The Potential Pitfalls of Winning Big (Gerald Seib – Wall Street Journal)
In an interview with National Journal out this week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was asked what his party’s main political job will be after next week’s election. He gave a surprisingly stark answer: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” In many respects, that answer summarizes both the promise and the peril before Republicans in their hour of ascendance. They are about to achieve, in Tuesday’s voting, a remarkable revival from the depressed condition in which they found themselves just two years ago, when serious analysts wondered whether the GOP had permanently shrunk into a minority party based in the South. At the same time, the temptation after Tuesday—one that comes through occasionally in candid conversations with party leaders—will be to simply look past the next two years to the potential political bonanza that awaits Republicans in 2012.