Today's Papers

Going Long

The Washington Post leads with American military officials envisioning a small, long-term presence in Iraq. The idea guiding the plan is that “the United State should leave Iraq more intelligently than it entered.” The Los Angeles Times leads with a severe crackdown on domestic dissent in Iran. The New York Times leads with the Bush administration’s shift in policy toward Microsoft. Unlike its predecessor, this administration has repeatedly defended the company against accusations of anti-competitive behavior.

The White House recently floated the idea of a long-term military presence in Iraq, but the Post lead differentiates itself from previous reports by looking at the idea from the perspective of the military. Officials see the presence having four major components: about 20,000 troops responsible for securing the Iraqi government and assisting Iraqi forces; 10,000 troops to train the Iraqi military and police; a “small but significant” special-operations unit to fight al-Qaida in Iraq; and more than 10,000 troops to deal with logistics and supply.

Officials claim to be thinking more soberly about Iraq, and the Post piece is chock-full of grave reflections on the war. Officials now dismiss the 2004-06 years, when the military ineffectively tried to turn responsibility over to the Iraqis. “We had previously ‘transitioned’ ourselves into irrelevance, and the whole thing was going to hell in a handbasket,” said one senior official. Even the elections in December 2005, long viewed as a success for the occupation, are now seen as having contributed to sectarian violence.

The Post makes another interesting point—even if opponents of the war get their way, a total pullout from Iraq would take almost a year to execute. According to one official, any withdrawal would have to go through southern Iraq (to Kuwait), and it would take “at least 3,000 large convoys some 10 months to remove U.S. military gear and personnel alone.”

Iraq was also one of the topics discussed by President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI yesterday. In private talks in the papal palace at the Vatican, the pope raised his concerns about “the worrying situation in Iraq.” Across town, tens of thousands turned out for anti-Bush protests that turned violent.

Everyone seems to be a target of Iran’s crackdown on internal dissent. The government has clamped down on the media, stepped up enforcement of Islamic dress codes, tightened restrictions on banks, and harassed anyone who might challenge its policies. The LAT does note that young people have confronted the morality enforcers in some neighborhoods. But that only acts as a reminder of how long the West has been waiting for Iran’s youth to rise up and seriously challenge the clerical regime.

The NYT concludes its lead story with a suggestive quote from a professor who says “[t]he generous and noncynical view” is that the change in policy toward Microsoft reflects the administration’s general philosophy when it comes to regulating business. But the Times hints at a more cynical view throughout the piece, not least by noting that Microsoft spent $55 million on lobbying activities from 2000 to 2006. It also points out that the top antitrust official at the Justice Department, Thomas Barnett, previously worked as an antitrust partner at one of Microsoft’s favored law firms.

The NYT fronts the increasing influence of Hispanics on the Democratic presidential primary. That the Democrats are courting Hispanic voters is not exactly news. But with roughly two-thirds of the nation’s Hispanic population living in nine of the early Democratic primary/caucus states, most of the campaigns have already ramped up their outreach efforts. Compare this with John Kerry, who waited until five months before the general election in 2004 to set up a Hispanic outreach and media operation.

The immigration debate is obviously a motivating factor for Hispanic voters. But the NYT fronts another piece on how the reform bill inspired others to become politically active and mount a grass-roots campaign to defeat it. The Times features one opponent of the bill, who seems to have an amazing knack for spotting illegal immigrants—she notices them mocking her on the street and using food stamps in the grocery store. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t ask her how she knew these people were illegal. (Maybe they just didn’t look patriotic enough.)

The WP reports that after weeks of talks senior Democrats have reached an agreement with the National Rifle Association on new gun-control legislation that would strengthen the national background check system.

The NYT fronts the fascinating story of five men from western China’s Uighur ethnic minority who were released from Guantanamo Bay and given asylum in Albania. Unfortunately, they think Albania is nearly as bad. The Times dryly notes that “[m]any American officials privately describe the Uighurs’ plight as one of the more troubling episodes of the Bush administration’s detention program.”

Vladimir Putin, barred by Russia’s constitution from running for a third term as president, won’t rule out running again in 2012.

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan will sell her land near President Bush’s Texas ranch. A radio talk show host from California plans to buy it and turn it into a peace memorial.

To sir, with love … The NYT notes that the president mistakenly referred to the pope as sir yesterday instead of using the normal honorific of Your Holiness. The gaffe was fussed over by the Italian media, but TP imagines the American press had some version of this story written weeks ago.