This week saw huge developments in what are arguably the two biggest news stories of 2009: health care reform and the war in Afghanistan. President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in a speech widely debated as articulating the Obama Doctrine. The climate change conference in Copenhagen continued warily. And a landmark financial reform bill burst onto the stage. With much to discuss, here are today's 5 best Sunday columns.
- Scott Atran on Terrorism The anthropologist Atran writes in the New York Times that we should look to Southeast Asia for how to fight terrorism. "To defeat violent extremism in Afghanistan, less may be more — just as it has been elsewhere in Asia," he writes.
Now we need to bring this perspective to Afghanistan and Pakistan — one that is smart about cultures, customs and connections. The present policy of focusing on troop strength and drones, and trying to win over people by improving their lives with Western-style aid programs, only continues a long history of foreign involvement and failure. Reading a thousand years of Arab and Muslim history would show little in the way of patterns that would have helped to predict 9/11, but our predicament in Afghanistan rhymes with the past like a limerick.
- Erick Erickson on Health Care Redstate's Erickson passionately argues that Congressional Republicans must do more to block health care reform. " If there is any bill that deserves being stopped by shutting down the Senate, it is this one. There are a whole series of parliamentary maneuvers that could be used by Republican senators to stop this bill. There is a hard backstop to the current process (Christmas). The Republicans’ goal should be to prevent Reid from passing the bill before that time. If he goes past Christmas and is forced to adjourn or recess, the momentum will shift in favor of those opposing the bill."
- Doyle McManus on the Obama Doctrine The L.A. Times's McManus thinks it's about one thing. "The Obama administration's response boils down to one word: patience," he writes. "At West Point, he explained why he was escalating the war in Afghanistan, but he called it a unique case and said the United States didn't have the resources to use military force everywhere in the world. At Oslo, he offered the rest of the world a bargain: The United States will engage diplomatically and act multilaterally, but it needs the help of others to make it work."
- Frank Rich on 'Up In The Air' The New York Times's Rich insists it's the perfect film for our era. "Here is an America whose battered inhabitants realize that the economic deck is stacked against them, gamed by distant, powerful figures they can’t see or know. 'Up in the Air' may be a glossy production sprinkled with laughter and sex, but it captures the distinctive topography of our Great Recession as vividly as a far more dour Hollywood product of 70 years ago, 'The Grapes of Wrath,' did the vastly different landscape of the Great Depression."
- David Ignatius on His Friend The Spy The Washington Post's Ignatius eulogizes the Jordian intelligence chief who was the basis of a character in Ignatius's book. "[Saad] Kheir at his best was among the greatest Arab intelligence officers of his generation. He ran a series of masterful penetration operations against Palestinian extremist groups and, later, al-Qaeda. "He set the standard for how we do it," said one former CIA officer who worked closely with him. "