Aug. 6, Orange County Register on talking to the Taliban and ending the war in Afghanistan:
The Trump administration has reportedly instructed its top diplomats to engage in direct talks with the Taliban. That’s a welcome and important step toward ending the wasteful war in Afghanistan.
A preliminary discussion was held last month in Qatar, the Washington Post reported, after The New York Times broke the initial story. “We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue,” a Taliban official said.
While it is too soon to say what might come of such talks, engaging with the Taliban is a critical development in winding down the conflict.
After all, according to a BBC study published earlier this year, the Taliban remains active in 70 percent of the country even after 17 years of conflict.
At the very least, the effort should be made to seek a peaceful resolution to the war in Afghanistan.
The alternative — perpetual war with no prospects for a diplomatic resolution, or any resolution, for that matter — has proven to be a deadly, costly and futile effort.
For 17 years, the United States has been bogged down in Afghanistan with little to show for it.
Even the notion that the U.S. must remain there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a “safe haven” for terrorists falls apart when one realizes Afghanistan is still a safe haven for groups that want to do Americans harm.
“The Afghanistan war is almost old enough to vote, and we have more groups that want to launch attacks against the U.S. operating there than we did when we started,” Caitlin Forrest from the Institute for the Study of War told The New York Times.
ISIS, for example, did not exist when the U.S. launched its quixotic “war on terror,” yet it now operates in countries around the world, including Afghanistan.
American blood and treasure has been expended in pursuit of a conflict that has long since lost any discernible set of goals. And, victory in Afghanistan has been elusive in large part because what victory would actually entail hasn’t properly been defined.
President Trump, to his credit, has repeatedly expressed criticism of America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. In April, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, told the Washington Post that the president was inclined to end the war in Afghanistan.
“The president told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of there,” Paul said. “I think the president’s instincts and inclination are to resolve the Afghan conflict.”
Perhaps the talks are a sign of things to come.
If President Trump can preside over the end of the war in Afghanistan, it will be a commendable achievement which will save American lives and taxpayer money.
The sooner the war ends, the better.
Aug. 7, Miami Herald on 3D-printed guns and free speech:
The debate over 3D-printed guns blew up last week. Many people rightly see this issue as being about the Second Amendment right to bear arms, it’s also about the First Amendment and free speech.
The plans for a basic 3D-printed gun have been around for a couple of years, but the federal government prohibited online publication. Texas-based Defense Distributed challenged that policy in court. The case dragged on for a couple of years until the Trump administration recently settled. Online publication could start Aug. 1.
That got people’s attention. Americans would quickly fall victim to a rash of plastic gun violence, gun control advocates said. The weapons are untraceable, can pass through a metal detector, don’t have a serial number and can be made by felons. Several state attorneys general sued to have the prohibition reinstated and won a temporary injunction.
Everything those advocates say is true. Allowing people to make unregulated 3D-printed plastic guns will create serious challenges and consequences. However, the stifling of free speech can’t get lost in the mix.
Anyone who really wants a gun without a background check is far more likely to get it at a gun show or illegally on the streets. Real guns are more effective and cheaper than plastic ones that are good for a handful of shots at best and require a 3D printer that costs thousands of dollars. The government must tread carefully when it limits speech. Indeed, permissible limits are few and deal with imminent threats and clear harms. Child pornography, threatening someone and inciting violent insurrection enjoy no First Amendment protection.
The plans for a gun, in and of themselves, make no threat and cause no harm. The danger lies in what people might do with the plans. But free speech does not end because publication of an idea creates a potential hazard. If it did, too many important ideas would be silenced.
Federal courts have long upheld this notion. For example, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in an otherwise distasteful case, “The constitutional protection accorded to the freedom of speech and of the press is not based on the naïve belief that speech can do no harm but on the confidence that the benefits society reaps from the free flow and exchange of ideas outweigh the costs society endures by receiving reprehensible or dangerous ideas.”
An eclectic group of free-speech supporters sided with Defense Distributed in the case. First Amendment champions the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined libertarian-minded groups the Cato Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation filing amicus briefs.
Anyone can find plans for bombs and instructions on how to make drugs online. Such documents circulated even before the Internet. Government does not prohibit that speech, but it does prohibit bombs and drugs. Laws target the act, not the words.
If 3D-printed guns are untraceable “ghost guns,” require a state-issued serial number and a piece of metal, as California does, and a gunsmith license, as New York is considering. Congress and state legislatures are not powerless. They can mitigate, though probably not entirely prevent, the danger of 3D-printed guns without trampling the First Amendment.