Can the economic crisis impact our national security?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 15 2008 6:33 AM

National Securities

The Washington Post leads with fears that the global economic crisis might create new national security risks. The Los Angeles Times leads with a local wildfire but devotes its top national story to progress on a security agreement between the United States and Iraq. The New York Times leads with the economic downturn finally hitting Silicon Valley. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with ongoing wrangling between Congress and President Bush over the possibility of providing financial aid to ailing U.S. automakers.

Hard times around the world may endanger our security at home, the WP reports. Global economic woes can aid terrorist recruitment efforts and destabilize friendly governments, even as the United States struggles to maintain funding levels for security programs. Nations that are already troubled (like Pakistan) or rely on oil revenues (like Yemen) are seen as especially susceptible to a rise in terrorist activity.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki privately agreed to support a proposed security agreement with the United States, a move the LAT says is a major step toward getting the pact ratified. The agreement would have U.S. troops out of Iraqi cities by next summer and out of the country by the end of 2011. The agreement also covers military conduct in Iraq, including limiting the ability of troops to search Iraqi homes. Maliki hasn't publicly said he'll support the deal, however, and his comments on the pact seem to be damning it with faint praise. But even if he endorsed it enthusiastically, the paper says the deal could still go south, especially if it's put to a referendum and certain factions oppose it. Maliki's cabinet is expected to meet Sunday to decide whether to endorse the deal or not. The WP goes inside with radical Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr saying his followers will resume their attacks on U.S. troops unless they leave Iraq soon and do so without signing a security agreement or establishing bases.

The NYT focuses on the recession's impact on the tech sector, an area of the economy once believed to be disconnected from the credit crunch hitting Wall Street. But as businesses and consumers alike are cutting their tech spending, Silicon Valley is beginning to show signs of weakness the likes of which haven't been seen since the dot-com crash of 2000.

Congress will reconvene next week to consider moving some type of economic relief legislation. At one point, Democrats hoped to pass a more expansive bill, but it now appears that any sweeping legislation will have to wait until after Barack Obama is sworn into office. A short-term extension of unemployment benefits seems likely, but the future of a package of loans to the auto industry is up in the air. The WP goes above the fold with the Democrats' revised agenda for the rest of 2008, while the WSJ fronts a look into General Motors Corp.'s push for aid in the face of bankruptcy.

The WP off-leads with a look at how the global economic crisis has empowered developing nations like India, China, and Brazil, whose economies remain relatively robust. That point is underscored by this week's summit, at which 20 of the world's largest economic powers will debate how best to tackle the problem, a role usually filled by the more developed "G-8" nations. Meanwhile, the WSJ declares that Europe is officially in a recession.

Everyone fronts Sen. Hillary Clinton emerging as a top candidate for secretary of state in the Obama administration. After meeting with Obama in Chicago on Thursday, Clinton joins Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Bill Richardson on the short list for the post. The NYT adds that while no specific job offers were made, secretary of state isn't the only position the two former rivals discussed. Naturally, none of the papers has any named sources on this info, and the LAT even goes so far as to ponder aloud why staffers might have decided to leak this to the press. Is Clinton trying to create a tide of public support to bolster her chances? Maybe Obama is just testing public reaction to her possible nomination?

The WP notes that Clinton's simple refusal to comment on the story marks a real departure from her earlier claims that she'd prefer to remain in the Senate. The NYT says a Cabinet post may be appealing to Clinton because she's finding her influence in the Senate limited by her relatively junior standing. The LAT argues Clinton could face a contentious confirmation hearing if she's offered the job, due largely to her husband's ties to foreign donors, but the WP suggests Clinton would be buoyed through by her good relations with her fellow senators. 

The NYT frets about the influence of lobbyists on the Obama transition team.

The WP goes inside with a look at the constraints the next secretary of state will have to work against while trying to shore up the department.

The NYT fronts an interesting look at the role the Mormon Church played in outlawing gay marriage in California. The paper finds the church gave as much as $20 million to an organization working to build support for a gay marriage ban. The NYT's story might focus on the Mormons initially, but the story broadens to include a range of religious organizations that worked together to support the ban. But what's fascinating here isn't the groups that helped the measure succeed, it's the arguments they used to get undecided voters on their side. The piece is a fascinating postmortem, and it's a welcome change from the parade of distressingly one-dimensional stories about black voters putting the ban over the top.

Inside, the WP covers the backlash against supporters of the gay marriage ban, including actions against businesses and religious organizations. The reprisals have taken the usual forms of protests and boycotts, but also vandalism and possibly even the mailing of white powder to the headquarters of the Mormon Church.

Tough, complicated "clamshell" packages are meant to deter shoplifting and protect the product inside, but the NYT says the packaging might just be hurting the consumer. The paper says that each year 6,000 Americans wind up in the emergency room after hurting themselves wrestling with an overpackaged product. The paper says some companies are finally listening to consumer complaints and opting for packaging that can be opened "without a saw."

The WP fronts a piece on poor Congolese who fled violence and returned home to find looters had stolen the small luxuries they worked for years to afford.

The best-selling book series Twilight is set in the real-life small town of Forks, Wash. The LAT examines the effect the series' popularity is having on the 3,100-person town, which drew 7,000 tourists so far this year.

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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