Best columns: The U.S.
Don’t repeat past blunders in Iraq
“The recapture of Mosul is terrific news,” said USA Today. But it’s what happens after ISIS is finally evicted from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria that “will define whether extremism has won or lost.” The battle for Mosul left 80 percent of the city in rubble and hundreds of thousands of residents stranded in desert displacement camps, broiling in 110-degree heat. A host of factions will now jockey for control of the region: Sunnis, Shiite militias, Kurds, the Iraqi government. “There’s even fracturing within tribes and families, especially between Sunni Arabs who shunned ISIS and those who did not.” To avert a replay of the chaos and terrorism that followed the U.S. invasion in 2003, the State Department and U.N. must deploy their “soft power” to mediate among the rival factions. Free elections should be held in Nineveh province in September, so liberated Iraqis can choose their own local leaders. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s central government must be pressed to give Sunnis a fair share of power. The U.S. “blundered badly in 2003 when it invaded Iraq based on false premises,” and again in withdrawing all troops in 2011. “Blundering a third time would be unforgivable.”
Government by nepotism is failing
The Washington Post
Whether you’re running a company or the federal government, said Elizabeth Spiers, “nepotism doesn’t pay.” I once worked as a hedge fund analyst evaluating companies, and those that were “family run” always raised red flags. In most of these firms, senior managers related to the owner were “woefully unqualified or incompetent,” as well as “unfireable.” When Donald Trump left his family business to run the U.S. government, he appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka as senior advisers, knowing he could count on them for “blind loyalty.” Ivanka, a 35-year-old whose primary experience is in selling condos and clothes, recently sat in for her dad during a meeting at the G-20 summit, while Jared, 36—who inherited a real-estate empire— “seems to feel qualified” to negotiate Middle East peace and handle “everything the president doesn’t understand or wants to delegate.” Government by nepotism is now backfiring: Kushner foolishly took numerous meetings with Russian operatives and “neglected to mention them on crucial security forms,” while Donald Trump Jr. sought opposition research from the Russians. In a normal administration, they’d resign or be fired. But they’ll stick around because, well, they’re family.
A remedy for blind partisanship
The New York Times
In our polarized politics, “righteousness comes easily,” said David Leonhardt. Any discussion of the hot-button issues that divide liberals and conservatives easily spirals down into “a nasty, personal argument.” So I have a suggestion: “Pick an issue that you find complicated,” and on which “you’re legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts.” Read up on it. “Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially.” If our political system is to become functional again, instead of an intractable war between blindly loyal tribes, Americans need to open their minds, consider evidence and well-reasoned opinions, and be willing to see the gray in issues we now define in black and white. Liberals like me, for example, should be willing to consider the idea that our immigration policy should be more like Canada’s, which admits people based on whether they have skills to contribute to the economy; we should also examine whether charter schools can help poor children get a better education. Tax reform, global trade, health care, abortion, the minimum wage—all are complex issues, with no simple “right” answer. “By questioning your own beliefs,” you may discover new information— and increase your respect for other Americans. ■