What’s the big idea?

Obama promises to tell voters what they need to know and not what they want to know. It’s a risky strategy, and one he doesn’t always follow, but when he put it into effect in April, by attacking McCain’s proposed summer gasoline-tax holiday, he helped his campaign more than he hurt it. Last week, he denounced McCain’s latest reversal, on offshore drilling. But he needs to go further. A year ago, he likened “the tyranny of oil” to that of Fascism and Communism, saying, “The very resource that has fueled our way of life over the last hundred years now threatens to destroy it if our generation does not act now and act boldly.” This is the kind of unequivocal message that Obama needs to develop. By telling just such inconvenient truths, Al Gore has inspired a worldwide movement to arrest climate change. The next President could be its most powerful leader. Obama will not rouse voters by getting lost in a tussle with McCain over the virtues of cellulosic ethanol. He can, however, make voters part of the solution by helping them understand that the greedy oil companies, the failing auto industry, and the craven Congress will not redeem themselves until consumers demand that they do so by making some inconvenient changes of their own. A little more audacity will yield a lot more hope.

Nato has to win in Afghanistan, the Taliban only needs not to lose

Back in April, Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, dodged a bullet. A fusillade of them, actually, plus a few rocket-propelled grenades, when a ceremony he was addressing came under Taliban attack in the heart of Kabul. Nato spin-doctors immediately dismissed the incident as a case of the Taliban getting lucky. Such increased reliance on terror attacks, they insisted, were signs that the Taliban had grown desperate, having been forced onto the back foot by effective Western counterinsurgency.

Similar sentiments were expressed last week – a week in which Britain’s casualty toll for its Afghan mission passed 100 – after Taliban fighters attacked Kandahar prison and freed 400 of their comrades, and began to take control of a string of villages around the southern city that had once been their spiritual capital.

No amount of wishful thinking can hide the reality, however, that six and a half years after the US-led military intervention that scattered the Taliban, the presence of some 50,000 Nato troops has not prevented the movement from regrouping and mounting a resurgence that has sabotaged plans to rebuild the country on Western-friendly terms.

Reporters say networks put wars on back burner

Getting a story on the evening news isn’t easy for any correspondent. And for reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is especially hard, according to Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News. So she has devised a solution when she is talking to the network.

“Generally what I say is, ‘I’m holding the armor-piercing R.P.G.,’ ” she said last week in an appearance on “The Daily Show,” referring to the initials for rocket-propelled grenade. “ ‘It’s aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don’t put my story on the air, I’m going to pull the trigger.’ ”

Ms. Logan let a sly just-kidding smile sneak through as she spoke, but her point was serious. Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever.

U.S., Iraqi forces meet no Sadr resistance in Amara

In recent months, Moqtada al-Sadr’s forces have fiercely battled Iraqi and US troops in Basra and Sadr City. But this time, in the southern Iraqi city of Amara, the Shiite cleric ordered a tactical retreat.

A major Iraqi-US mission to clear Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army out of one of its last supposed sanctuaries began here late last week but was met with no resistance.

Sadr – and his most trusted lieutenants, who visited Amara last week – called for restraint. He announced that an elite faction of his militia will still fight US troops while the rest would dedicate themselves to the betterment of society through peaceful means.

Routing of fighters brings anxious calm to Kandahar

Afghanistan, June 22 — A tense quiet has settled here in Afghanistan’s second-largest city, a little more than a week after hundreds of Taliban fighters mounted a dramatic prison break, then briefly took control of several villages in the area.

One of the city’s main traffic circles, Chowk-e Shahidan, was nearly empty, except for a cluster of armored vehicles manned by Afghan and Canadian soldiers. Just a few shoppers roamed nearby Herat Bazaar, Kandahar’s largest market, and a couple of dusty green pickup trucks full of Afghan police ranged the empty streets, past carts brimming with mangoes.

As Gaza cease-fire holds, Israel eases economic blockade

After three days without a single shooting violation of an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, Israel on Sunday boosted supplies of food and medicines into the Gaza Strip by about 50 percent and said it’s considering further relaxations of the months-long siege on the war-weary enclave.

For all the official playing down of the Gaza cease-fire declared Thursday between Hamas and Israel, as well as predictions of its imminent demise, the agreement may mark a break with a long-standing Israeli and American boycott of the Islamic militant organization.

Israel’s de facto recognition of Hamas’s rule in Gaza, analysts say, holds the prospect of widening international acceptance for the organization, giving it a compelling incentive to keep up its end of the bargain.

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