Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Obama's messy foreign policy still beats going to war

Nothing suggests failure like a president who spends a foreign trip defending his foreign policy. Yet there was President Barack Obama at the end of his Asia trip in Manila last week, struggling to offer a nuanced view of his handling of global affairs. American interests have taken a beating recently in Syria, Egypt, Israel, Ukraine and elsewhere. But the carping from Obama's conservative critics masks a central difference between the foreign policy of this president and the last one — and for that matter, the Republicans who ran against him for the White House. While the path has been bumpy and occasionally tentative, Obama has avoided making the big strategic mistakes that are so costly in both human and financial sacrifices and that can scar entire generations.

Republicans have hounded Obama for refusing to intervene more directly in Syria's civil war and for failing to more aggressively confront Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. The criticisms have come against a backdrop of other criticisms about the effectiveness of the president's foreign policy, from the collapse of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians to the latest crackdown on the prodemocracy movement in Egypt by the military-led government that ousted the first popularly elected president, Mohammed Morsi. The refrain argues that if Obama was more forceful in threatening U.S. military action the bad actors and outcomes would disappear.

That is an unrealistic view of global politics and of America's military capabilities. It is unreasonable to expect the United States to intervene militarily in Ukraine. Working with Europe to tighten sanctions is a slower and less dramatic but more effective way to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea. And beyond raising the stalemate to a higher risk of violence, arming Syria's opposition with advanced weapons would accomplish little beyond increasing the arms pipeline to militant Islamist groups.

Obama has triggered much of the criticism by sending mixed messages about his resolve to strike Syria militarily, the extent that Ukraine should push back against Russia and American expectations of Egypt in the run-up to new elections. That lack of clarity has tangible costs. Some European allies are looking to soften the Russian sanctions because they fear their own economies would be harmed. Others wonder whether the administration will backtrack on America's security guarantees across the globe.

But Obama's mixed record also is the result of conflicting domestic agendas abroad and the reactive nature of crisis management. While he was unable on his Asia trip to seal the deal on a trade pact with Japan, Obama did secure a new defense agreement with the Philippines. Across a wider front, the United States and Iran are making progress over resolving threats from Iran's nuclear program. And the deal negotiated between the United States and Russia has already removed 90 percent of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, a peaceful breakthrough many thought implausible only months ago.

Obama inherited a mess in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he wound down those two wars and channeled the American public's war fatigue into a diplomacy-first approach. He should be more consistent in pursuing America's policy goals abroad, and clearer about sorts of situations constitute a threat to the national security interest. But the administration's foreign policy is one built on many tiny steps forward rather than dramatic military intervention, and as messy and frustrating as that can be it is the more responsible approach.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18