John Dickerson on Presidency in Perspective As Obama prepares to deliver a prime-time address on Iraq, the Slate editor takes a closer look at the evolution of the president's decision-making and how he has inadvertently cast his predecessor in a favorable light. While Democrats may point out that Obama is simply "cleaning up" Bush's messes, he is also demonstrating "the natural limits of presidential action." The slow response to the BP oil spill shows that no matter who the president is, it's simply "hard to get the federal bureaucracy to move quickly." Obama has shown that "even a smart politician with the best of intentions can be wrong." Dickerson concludes: "Perspective has a tendency to be apolitical... A president's supporters should be open to the possibility that their guy isn't always right, and that the previous guy wasn't always wrong."
Saurabh Sanghvi on Streamlining the Visa Process for Iraqi Immigrants In a New York Times op-ed contribution, the Yale law student and Student Director of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project explains that many Iraqi citizens who have worked for or with the U.S. government are in significant danger after the majority of U.S. personnel leaves. Many of these Iraqis are applying for a Special Immigrant Visas in order to make their way to America, but are stymied by an unwieldy bureaucratic process. There's a reason only 2,145 visas have been issued, even though the program has 15,000 available slots: It's an incredibly difficult system to navigate. Sanghvi then suggests some simple ways to streamline the process, such as allowing applicants to submit documents by email.
Seema Jilani on the Kabul Bar Scene Rowdy expatriate bars are a staple of any prolonged military effort in a country, but The Guardian's Seema Jilani is furious that such establishments are popping up in Kabul. "It doesn't get more colonialist," she declares "than invading a country, setting up shop, selling a prohibited, culturally and religiously forbidden product like alcohol, and throwing centuries of tradition out the window." Journalists and military personnel should be looking to establish a "relationship" with Afghans. To understand the "nuanced complexities of the region," it is essential to see the citizens of Kabul as more than "'fixers' and 'locals.'"
Bret Stephens on the Paula Abdul Theory of Foreign Policy The Wall Street Journal columnist argues the Obama administration's foreign policy team would benefit from a few sessions with Simon Cowell. As it stands now, writes Stephens, the State Department is practicing the "Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy." It doesn't matter that "you can't sing, or that you're letting yourself be played for a sucker: What counts is that you feel good about yourself, presumably because you're doing something good." Stephens says this approach has influenced the administration's dealings with Iran, its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and its response to the "Ground Zero mosque." This approach doesn't produce results, he says, and it's "moral narcissism" to believe that what matters is how you feel about the good you do.
David Brooks on the Success of Iraq Writing in The New York Times, Brooks makes the case that things are looking up in Iraq, at least from an economic perspective. Granted "it’s hard to know what role the scattershot American development projects have played, but this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world," Brooks notes. Oil production is back up, markets are well-stocked and vibrant. Basic services like trash collection "are better, but still bad." Still, when President Obama speaks to the nation about Iraq from the Oval Office tonight, he can point to at least one "large national project that has contributed to measurable, positive results."