Pondering 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.
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Paul Krugman: Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell
The political reaction is scarier than the fires.
In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.
Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.
So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.
But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.
These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.
John Kerry: Diplomacy Was Working Until Trump Abandoned It
The president put us on a path toward conflict and turmoil with Iran.
President Trump says that on his watch, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. But if he had wanted to keep that promise, he should have left the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement in place. Instead, he pulled the United States out of the deal and pursued a reckless foreign policy that has put us on a path to armed conflict with Iran.
After Mr. Trump authorized the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani last week, Iran announced it was no longer obligated to follow the agreement, which had reined in its nuclear ambitions, and it launched ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing American troops, to little effect. Adding to the turmoil, the Iraqi Parliament approved a largely symbolic resolution to expel American troops who have been fighting the Islamic State.
Though Mr. Trump has since walked back from the brink of war, I can’t explain the chaos of his presidency as it lurches from crisis to crisis, real or manufactured. The president has said he “doesn’t do exit strategies.” Clearly he doesn’t do strategies, period.
Charles M. Blow: My Journey to Radical Environmentalism
It’s never too late to take action aimed at protecting our planet.
I can’t quite remember the moment when I became radicalized about protecting the environment and the planet, but it happened last year. That’s late in life, I know. At 49 years old, it is very possible and even likely that I have more years behind me than in front of me, but that is when it happened.
Before that, I didn’t do more than was required by law.
I have lived in New York City since 1994. Mandatory recycling was phased in citywide by 1997. So, I recycled what was required.
Five years ago, when my last two children went away to college, I got rid of my car, but not for environmental reasons. I just didn’t need it anymore, and it was expensive to maintain.
But something happened to me last year. [..]
It seems to me that environmentalism involves not only the changes we personally make, but also proselytizing, getting more people to join us.
My journey to radical environmentalism is not complete. To the contrary, it’s just beginning. I think that the only way to prevent the radical alteration of our planet is to commit to a radical alteration of our own behavior.
Andrew McCabe: If you think Iran is done retaliating, think again
I am glad Qasem Soleimani is dead.
Iran’s measured response to the general’s killing has many people believing the worst of this crisis has passed. Should we be relieved? By limiting its response to U.S. military targets, Iran sent a powerful message to its own people that Soleimani’s killing would not go unavenged. Tehran managed to accomplish this without escalating a military conflict with the United States.
However, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials would be well-advised to remember that Iran’s most provocative actions have often been asymmetric attacks conducted through proxy forces and terrorist elements. It is those deniable, civilian-focused attacks we should be looking for as this situation unfolds. As a counterterrorism leader for the FBI, it was my job to figure out how events abroad would impact us here. And I am afraid the saga of Soleimani is far from over. [..]
n Wednesday, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement groups warning them to remain alert to the possibility of Iranian-sponsored terrorist and cyber attacks in the United States. They were right to do so. Iran is unlikely to forget about the death of Soleimani. Despite cool-headed comments lately from Iranian leaders, missiles that missed their marks in the Iraqi desert may not be enough to satisfy their desire for retaliation.
Iran has a long history of striking when their adversaries least expect it. I am confident that our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are working hard to keep us safe. We should help them by remaining vigilant. We may not be out of the woods yet.
Strongly held views are unlikely to change regarding the morality and tactical wisdom of President Trump’s decision to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani as he traveled on a road outside the Baghdad airport after having arrived on a commercial flight. But the debate regarding the long-term impact of this act on America’s place in the world, and the potential vulnerability of U.S. government officials to similar reprisals, has just begun.
How did it become acceptable to assassinate one of the top military officers of a country with whom we are not formally at war during a public visit to a third country that had no opposition to his presence? And what precedent has this assassination established on the acceptable conduct of nation-states toward military leaders of countries with which we might have strong disagreement short of actual war — or for their future actions toward our own people?
With respect to Iran, unfortunately, this is hardly a new issue. [..]