Vinton Cerf on Keeping America Innovative  Vinton Cerf, who helped develop the Internet, comments in today's Wall Street Journal on the lack of interest in the U.S. in science and technology and our need to impart these values on today's youth in order to remain an innovative society. Cerf argues that the U.S. also needs to attract foreign talent to our schools. "There are absolutely more smart people outside the U.S. than there are living here," he writes. "Even if visitors return to their homelands after attending an American university, we will benefit from their contributions while they were here and, in all likelihood, even after they have returned home." Unlike Americans, whose heroes are sports and entertainment figures, other countries devote much attention to their scientists and engineers responsible for the latest technological innovation--appreciation, Cerf argues, Americans should adopt. "By elevating interest in math and science, we will foster the innovation and ingenuity that will move this nation forward into a better future."

Anne Applebaum on the Truth About NATO  The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum points out that the Libyan government is not the only one currently selling propoganda to its people. Contrary to what we have been told, no plan of action has been agreed upon by NATO member countries--which, technically, "only operates in the wake of an attack on a NATO member." Contrary to popular belief, NATO (and its involvement in Libya) is not a U.S.-led effort. Libya is a French and British-led project, Applebaum argues. "Yet neither Britain nor France wants responsibility for the operation--and neither feels comfortable relying on the other." If Britain and France can't handle this operation, she notes, "there is no European force that can replace it." The fight will be over and NATO "will shoulder most of the blame. The use of NATO's name, in Libya, is a fiction," she writes. "But the weakening of NATO's reputation in Libya's wake might become horribly real."

Ken Burns on Getting Civil War History Right  Documentarian Ken Burns notes, in today's New York Times, that the further America gets from the Civil War, "the more central and defining that war becomes." Our country "struggled, in our addiction to the idea of American exceptionalism, to rewrite our history to emphasize the gallantry of the war's top-down heroes," but unfortunately, "the result has been to blur the reality that slavery was at the heart of the matter, ignore the baser realities of the brutal fighting, romanticize our own home-grown terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, and distort the consequences of the Civil War that still intrude on our national life." We still have lessons to learn: "in our smug insistence that race is no longer a factor in our society, we are continually brought up short by the old code words and disguised prejudice of a tribalism beneath the thin surface of our 'civilized' selves." Furthermore, in contemporary debates about red state/blue state, gay/straight, and other issues of culture clash, "we are confronted again with more nuanced realities and the complicated leadership of that hero of all American heroes, Abraham Lincoln. He was at once an infuriatingly pragmatic politician, tardy on the issue of slavery, and at the same time a transcendent figure."
 

William Langley on Why France Is Right to Ban the Burqa  Not only is the ban "enormously popular with the public," writes The Telegraph's William Langley, but it is, he argues, a triumph for tolerance in France. Approval of the ban, Langley points out, "runs right across the spectrum," something that those in Britain who oppose it should note. The history of the Muslim population in France is indicative of why this ban is necessary. While France as a whole is a staunchly secular society, in its "unlovely satellite suburbs where many Muslim immigrants settled, or--to be more accurate--were dumped...have become hostages to virulent strains of radicalism." In these communities, writes Langley, "women who refuse to wear the hijab, and, increasingly, the burka, are intimidated and brutalized by gangs whose ideas about female emancipation are on an exact par with those of the Taliban." That is why, for women who largely don't have a say in how they dress, he argues, a ban on the traditional garment is liberating: the original wearing of it is not a matter of choice.

Jonathan Starr on a Successful Approach to Foreign Aid  Jonathan Starr, a former financial executive, observes the deficiencies of the foreign aid programs of multinational NGOs. Starr, who founded and directs his own educational non-profit organization in Somaliland, argues that foreign aid needs to be treated like a business. Most nongovernmental organizations not only pay off those they "help," but are not held accountable for whether their executives and donors provide the services promised or not. Starr discovered that not paying himself and his staff large salaries--because the validation of the work they're doing should be considered part of their payment--and that focusing on "a single geographic market with executives on the ground," rather than spreading too thin across the globe, are two keys to success. He argues, "until we take the perverse incentives out of the international NGO business, and only provide funding to those organizations whose executives are on the ground overseeing the otherwise unmanageable, the bulk of the money spent on international aid will, at best, be wasted."