• Fareed Zakaria: Why Failed States Are Not A Real Threat  The Newsweek columnist stakes out an intriguing position in his new column, arguing that failed states are less worrisome from a security standpoint than weak ones. "After all, there are many drastically failed states (Burma, Congo, Haiti) that pose no terrorist threat." Not only does nation-building in failed states have a low likelihood of success, it risks making bad situations that much worse by inflaming local radicals. The real solution, says Zakaria, might be to "strengthen the state’s capacity so that the government has greater legitimacy and the opposition gets discredited." It's a dilemma on full display as the United States struggles with how best to approach the situation in Afghanistan.
  • David Brooks: the Technocracy Boom  The New York Times opinion columnist sees the years between 2001 and 2011 as a new progressive--not liberal--era. The distinction is important because the term progressive indicates that government is not expanding to simply intervene "to seize wealth and power and distribute it to the have-nots." It is instead a period based on "faith in government experts and their ability to use social science analysis to manage complex systems." Whether it will ultimately be seen as a success is still up for debate, as there has obviously been a sustained and vigorous backlash to trusting in academic "experts."
  • Bret Stephens: Why Israel Hasn't Bombed Iran  It's a fair question to ask, especially since the two nations have been been bulking up their missile systems and saber-rattling incessantly. The Wall Street Journal columnist documents four theories on why Israel hasn't struck against Iranian nuclear facilities. 1) Israel doesn't think it could succeed. 2) Israel is biding it's time until it has better defenses against a counterattack. 3) Israeli internal politics may not allow it. 4) Israel doesn't want to lose allies in the Obama administration. Stephens concludes: "This is an unenviable position, and Israel's friends abroad would do well to spare it easy lectures. Iran is not Israel's problem alone. It should not be Israel's problem alone to solve, to its own frightful peril."
  • Natasha Simons: 'Mad Men' and the Paradox of the Past  Writing at the National Review Online, Natasha Simons previews the fourth season of "Mad Men" and considers the show's political implications going forward. "Conservatives and liberals just can’t help but see Mad Men differently: the former with apprehension, the latter with anticipation." For liberals, the show is just entering an age of enlightenment: the Sixties. For conservative viewers, it's the beginning of the end. Where you fall on the political spectrum is likely to influence how much you enjoy what creator Matt Weiner has in store for season four and beyond. It's a question of whether the "inevitability of the '60s" (to use Simons' phrase) is a triumph or a tragedy.
  • Christopher Beam: How A Republican Would Handle The Oil Spill  More specifically, the Slate contributor asks, what would a Republican politician do differently? He answers, "the biggest difference, based on their public statements, is that they would have mobilized more oil-collecting skimmers sooner." A hypothetical Republican would have visited the gulf more often and also not have delegated the lions-share of the responsibility to BP, preferring to instead be seen as a strong, quick-witted leader. "Lastly," Beam ventures, "a Republican president wouldn't leverage the spill to sell America on the importance of alternative energies and pass comprehensive energy reform. But then again, a Democrat might not either."