5 Best Friday Columns

The real motivation of suicide bombers, NPR's 'intolerance,' and how the Tea Party saved Republicans

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  • Robert Pape on Motivations Behind a Suicide Bomber  While it's a common refrain that religion, in particular Islam, is the primary cause of suicide bombings, The Los Angeles Times contributor argues that there's a problem with this reasoning: "it's wrong." In a research project that Pape conducted at the University of Chicago, he and his colleagues analyzed 2,200 suicide attacks that occurred throughout the world since 1980, and found that "foreign occupation" served as the primary motivator. This means that prolonged troop deployments in foreign countries only serve to increase suicide attacks against troops and civilians. Research suggests our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan aren't making us safer. Instead, Pape argues we should "revert to a policy of working with local governments and institutions and selectively using air power and special forces to accomplish important military objectives."
  • Peggy Noonan on How the Tea Party Rejuvenated Republicans  The Tea Party did not kill the Republican party--it saved it, declares The Wall Street Journal columnist. Tea Partiers shook up a literal old guard of "50- to 75-year-olds" who refused to "do what conservatives are supposed to do, which is finish their patriotic work [in D.C.] and go home." Notably, they also yanked the party out from under the legacy of George Bush by rejecting "his administration's spending, overreach and immigration proposals." They ensured a Republican triumph in November by backing GOP hopefuls rather than becoming a third-party. Noonan finds former Velvet Underground drummer turned Tea Partier Moe Tucker to be one of the best at explaining the movement, quoting her saying: "Anyone who thinks I'm crazy about Sarah Palin, Bush, etc., has made quite the presumption. I have voted Democrat all my life, until I started listening to what Obama was promising and started wondering how the hell will this utopian dream be paid for?"
  • Anne Applebaum on French Protest and British Silence  With France raising the retirement age to 62 and Britain slashing $130 billion in public spending, the Washington Post columnist ponders the disparate reactions of French and British citizens. "Faced with this challenge," writes Applebaum, "the British have stiffened their upper lips--while the French have taken to the streets." Considering that we live in an age of "supposed globalization, when we are all allegedly becoming more alike ... it is astonishing," she says, "how absolutely British the British remain and how thoroughly French are the French." Applebaum cites "historical experience" as the driving force behind France and Britain "acting like living caricatures of themselves." For the British, this experience dates back to WWII era rationing. In France, the strike has been an effective tool of political change for centuries.
  • David Brooks on Sitcoms and Friendship  In recent years, observes the New York Times columnist, the traditional television sitcom--focused on families--has given way to the "flock comedy" featuring "groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene." Brooks argues this is more than just a comedic evolution. "The change also reflects something deeper about the patterns of friendship in society," namely young people living "long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes." Whether they realize it or not, ensemble shows like 30 Rock have done and uncanny job at recreating the social shift toward friendships that are "less likely to be one on one." On the television, as in life, social interaction is now "deeply embedded in a complex web of group relationships."
  • Emilio Karim Dabul on NPR's Hypocrisy  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Dabul--who identifies himself as an "Arab-American of Muslim descent"--says NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams was "one of the worst examples of rush to judgment since 9/11." Dabul acknowledges even he feels nervous when he sees other people of Arab descent in "traditional garb" on a plane. "That may make me guilty of an overactive imagination, but perhaps not." He's proof that Williams's point--that fear makes us think things that are irrational or highly unlikely--was valid. "That's all Mr. Williams was saying," writes Dabul. "He didn't say that they should be removed from the plane, treated differently, or anything close to that. He simply said he got nervous. And for that, he was fired." Dabul finds this inexcusable. "NPR often embodies," he argues, "the very things it claims to stand against: unfairness, narrow-mindedness and reactionary policies."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.