Today's Papers

Opportunity Flops

The Washington Postleads, oddly, with Secretary of State Rice stopping by Beirut for hours and “outlining” a plan that didn’t amount to much of one: The administration wants a (likely NATO-led) peacekeeping force (sans U.S. soldiers) and is happy to support a cease-fire … once Hezbollah gives up, returns the kidnapped soldiers, and moves back from the border. USA Todayalso leads with the war but focuses on the gift Rice came bearing: $30 million in aid. The paper also flags an in-house poll of Americans showing most respondents blaming Hezbollah for the fighting, but half also said Israel’s response has “gone too far.” Two-thirds said the White House doesn’t have a clear Mideast policy. 

The New York Timesleads with the collapse of the five-year-old world trade talks. Known as the Doha round because that’s the city they started in, the negotiations broke down over agriculture policies: The U.S. has been pushing for the EU and others to end their agriculture tariffs, with others responding that the U.S. first needs to cut back its farm subsidies—and that is a no-go. The Los Angeles Timesleads with southern California’s mega-heat wave threatening to fry the region’s antiquated power grid

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another dozen wounded in fighting for a hilltop town about two miles north of the border. The NYT cites one soldier who spoke of an “enormous amount of antitank missile fire.” Israel also appears to have captured two Hezbollah fighters. About 80 rockets landed inside Israel, wounding about a dozen. Also, two Israeli airmen were killed when their helicopter crashed just inside Israel under unclear circumstances.

Nobody apart from the Post plays up Rice’s proposal, perhaps because it didn’t consist of much that was new or quickly achievable. The NYT has a smarter take: It stuffs Rice’s visit and instead fronts the fighting and a wee problem with the envisioned peacekeeping force: Nobody seems up to sending troops. “All the politicians are saying, ‘Great, great’ to the idea of a force, but no one is saying whose soldiers will be on the ground,” said one European official. “Everyone will volunteer to be in charge of the logistics in Cyprus.”

Another potential issue, as the WP notes, is that Hezbollah has suggested it won’t go for a foreign force in southern Lebanon, particularly one with a mandate to disarm the militants.

The administration, of course, still doesn’t want a cease-fire. “Any peace is going to have to be based on enduring principles and not on temporary solutions,” Rice explained. “We’re seeing here is, in a sense, the growing—the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

Slate’s Fred Kaplan counters that Rice’s proclamation was the equivalent of a mayor in the middle of a crime wave announcing that “he’s not going to put more police on the streets; he’s going to convene a summit to address the wave’s root causes.”

USAT announces on Page One: “U.S. AID FOLLOWS RICE TO MIDEAST.” But as the Wall Street Journal notes, aid has already been piling up in Beirut and near the Syrian border. The problem is getting the stuff to where it’s most needed in the south. “We have no safe passage and no coordination to know about military strikes,” said a spokeswoman for one aid group.

The LAT has a detailed account of two Red Cross ambulances that were hit by missiles Sunday. It’s a compelling piece. But the WP gives more context: Israel has apologized to the local head of the Red Cross and promised to coordinate.

In Gaza, five Palestinians were killed including a woman and her grandchild along with a 4-year-old boy by what Israel said was an artillery round that misfired. The firing came after militants launched about a dozen rockets into Israel.

With Iraq’s prime minister scheduled to visit the White House today, two GIs were killed in Iraq, and, among other Iraqi deaths, the mayor of Ramadi was assassinated.

Only the Journal highlights the latest from Afghanistan, where “hundreds of Taliban fighters” assaulted government buildings in one town in west of the country.

After yesterday’s Post revealed that Pakistan is ratcheting up its nukes program with a new plant—thus pumping up the subcontinent’s nukes race—the White House said it’s long known about the plant. It just didn’t feel like telling Congress, which instead learned about it a few days ago from independent analysts. As it happens, the Senate is about to consider whether to approve the nuclear deal Bush has inked with India, and Pakistan’s plant might just give senators pause.

“What is baffling is that this information—which was surely information that our own intelligence agencies had—was kept from Congress,” said a top proliferation expert from the first Bush administration. “We lack imagination if we think that this is no big deal.”