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Can Congress be responsible?

WASHINGTON — There was a moment in the last quarter-century when the Congress of the United States made the nation proud. It did so across all its usual lines of division: Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal, hawk and dove.

Short on firepower

In launching two previous wars in Iraq, the United States assembled formidable coalitions of dozens of countries. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Oman were among the Arab states that deployed substantial ground forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Though derided by some as a “unilateral” U.S. action, the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was supported by troops from 39 countries, nine of which deployed more than 1,000 soldiers.

Dove Obama makes a reluctant hawk

As he offered to the nation his prescription for the most recent Middle East crisis, President Barack Obama reminded me of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather: Part III.” “Just when I thought I was out,” sighed the young mob boss about his efforts to leave the family business, “they pull me back in.”

Scotland’s epic vote

WASHINGTON — Tucking into a dish of Scottish haggis is not a task for the fainthearted. There are various haggis recipes, but basically it is sheep’s pluck — the heart, lungs and liver — cooked together, then mixed with suet and oatmeal and boiled in a sheep’s stomach, then served, sometimes drenched with Scotch. People who pour whisky on oatmeal are not shrinking violets. Remember this on Thursday when Scotland votes on independence from the United Kingdom.

EU surprises Putin for once with new, sensible sanctions

For the first time since Russia annexed Crimea six months ago, the European Union has surprised President Vladimir Putin instead of the other way around. Despite a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, and despite Russia’s apparent withdrawal of troops from the region, the EU decided Thursday morning to impose new sanctions on Russia, starting Friday.

Obama’s careful war

WASHINGTON — The most compelling and encouraging parts of President Barack Obama’s Islamic State speech — his intention to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy, his pledge to hunt down its fighters and deny them “safe haven,” his moral clarity on their “acts of barbarism” — also sounded least like Obama. Everyone — and I mean just about everyone on the planet — knows that he was more comfortable declaring that America had moved “off a permanent war footing” and that the war on terrorism, “like all wars, must end.”

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An eye on the Baltic States?

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.

Ukraine deserves support from NATO countries

As Russian soldiers and tanks advance across southeastern Ukraine, the Obama administration and the NATO alliance are making a show of defending several nations that lie far away and that are not presently under attack. President Barack Obama is due Wednesday in the Baltic republic of Estonia, and a NATO summit on Thursday and Friday is expected to approve several measures, including a new rapid-reaction force, to bolster the defenses of Estonia and other Eastern European nations that have joined NATO in the past 15 years.

NFL takes the right steps to discourage domestic violence

Video footage of Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his soon-to-be wife from an elevator in Atlantic City was shocking and upsetting. Equally disturbing was the National Football League’s weak response to this clear-cut case of domestic violence. So it was unexpected — and refreshing — to see NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revisit the issue with an acknowledgment he had erred with the lenient punishment and the announcement of tougher penalties for domestic violence offenses.

2014 and the limits of rage

WASHINGTON — The short-term future of politics in the nation’s capital will be determined in large part by which party ends up in control of the Senate. But for a sense of the long-term future of politics in the country as a whole, watch the governors races.

EPA’s limits on emissions important but not enough

The country is about to see its fiercest climate-change battle. After years of congressional inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency is applying new rules to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks and — most controversially — power plants, the biggest national emitters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will try to restrict the EPA if Republicans take over the Senate. President Barack Obama’s executive actions will be an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.