US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.{C}

1. The false Iran debate (New York Times)

In this sense, the whole Iran debate - with its receding "red lines," its shifting "zones of immunity," its threats and counter-threats, its bad metaphors and worse similes - is false, writes Roger Cohen.

2. What Could Be Next in the Race for President? (Roll Call)

Increasingly, former Speaker Newt Gingrich has become the Mr. Irrelevant in the GOP race for the presidential nomination, says Stuart Rothenberg.

3. Europe According to Hayek (Wall Street Journal) ($)

Twenty years after his death, the Austrian thinker still offers the most compelling explanation for the meltdown of the welfare state, writes Alberto Mingardi.

4. The economy, generically oversimplified (The Boston Globe) ($)

With the US economy steadily improving, Romney is now arguing that the recovery would be stronger but for the president's policies. Yet Romney would sound more convincing if his indictment of Obama weren't so familiar and generic, writes Scot Lehigh

5. Stand Your Ground tramples justice (Politico)

Trayvon Martin, a black child of 17, died at the invisible intersection of racial hatred and hating government, writes David Dante Troutt

6. The Descent of Hungary (Wall Street Journal)

How much can the European Union, by law a club of democracies, actually do to stop a freely elected government within its borders from turning its democracy into an autocracy? asks Raymond Zhong

7. When Did Hoodlums Start Wearing Hoods? (Slate)

London was plagued by young, unsupervised apprentice boys during the 12th century. They were always rioting over some political or religious issue, and they often wore hoods to hide their identities, says Brian Palmer

8. Ryan's challenge, Part 2 (Chicago Tribune)

By tackling entitlement costs, Paul Ryan asks Americans to choose their nation's future, says this Editorial.

9. Paranoia Strikes Deeper (New York Times)

Whatever Mr. Romney may personally believe, the fact is that by endorsing the right's paranoid fantasies, he is helping to further a dangerous trend in America's political life, writes Paul Krugman.

10. General Optimism (Slate)

Gen. John Allen believes that America will prevail in Afghanistan, writes Fred Kaplan

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.