5 Best Thursday Columns

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  • Dahlia Lithwick on Torture's Slippery Slope   "In an America in which the former president can boast on television that he approved the water-boarding of U.S. prisoners," writes Slate's Lithwick, it's no surprise that no one is being held accountable for destroying evidence of CIA abuse or similar offenses. Obama wished to "turn the page" on these matters, but in doing so continues the process by which we have come to consider torture somehow acceptable. Even Ronald Reagan's former Solicitor General Charles Fried, continues Lithwick, has argued that whether torture saves American lives in a given terror scenario "is beside the point ... torture is immoral and illegal and ... for all that torture hurts our enemies, it invariable hurts us more." (Fried has no problem categorizing water-boarding as torture, Lithwick adds--"it has been a crime for decades.") Concludes Lithwick:
If people around the world didn't understand what we were doing then, they surely do now. And if Americans didn't accept what we were doing then, evidently they do now. Doing nothing about torture is, at this point, pretty much the same as voting for it.
  • Chris Phillips on Christianity's Place in the Middle East  Although attacks on Christians in the Middle East (particularly Iraq) have been escalating recently, The Guardian columnist cautions other commenters from turning the violence into a "clash-of-the-civilizations myth" that only plays into the hands of the radical attackers. "Though anti-Christian feeling may be rising on the extreme radical fringe of some Arab societies such as Iraq, this should not obscure the harmony that has long been a characteristic of other parts of the Arab world," Phillips argues. The declining number of Christians in some Middle East nations could also be due to a series demographic reasons, which may explain why "most of Iraq's displaced Christians have fled not to the west but to other Arab states, notably Syria and Jordan," he notes. While the attacks on Baghdad's Christians have been rightly condemned,"the Arab world in general remains a place where Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for centuries, and look certain to continue doing so," he writes.
  • Daniel Henninger on Anti-Business Democrats  The Wall Street Journal columnist says the Democratic Party's hostility towards big business led to last week's mid-term shellacking. It is tempting but incorrect to blame this attitude on the leadership of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Ever since the end of the Clinton administration, Democratic candidates for higher office (including Al Gore and John Kerry) have insisted on running campaigns that "convey the impression that the average company consists entirely of three guys in spats, silk vests and top hats, like the little character on the Monopoly cards, who deserve to be indicted or monitored." Considering the relentless barrage of criticism from the left, it's little wonder business leaders "send money to American Crossroads to unelect Democrats." Tell someone they're your enemy long enough and it eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. "The party's antibusiness compulsions," Henninger concludes, "have turned it to rust."
  • David Ignatius on New Rules For War  In this age of Predator drones and satellite-guided weapons, new rules for war that take these technical innovations into account are needed, writes The Washington Post columnist. The specificity of such weapons allows for "precise acts of war that, in another time, would be called 'assassination.'" Ignatius admits this is not something Americans particularly want to concern themselves with, since the use of such weapons is--right now--a one way street. But it won't be for much longer. "Other countries want to protect themselves from terrorist rebels just as much as the United States does" and the demand for (not to mention use of) Predator drone-style weaponry will only grow. To keep the "lid on Pandora's box," Ignatius says the countries currently in possession of such technology ("America and its NATO allies") must agree on clear-cut rules of engagement before selling such technology to smaller countries like Saudi Arabia.
  • Dominic Tierney on Jefferson's Army  Those pushing for a faster, nimbler military should take comfort in knowing they share the founders' vision of the American armed forces, observes the military historian in The New York Times. The Army has always been "designed for a wide variety of functions beyond combat," including farming, mail delivery, and construction projects. "The early military," Tierney notes, "performed an essential role in forging the young America." Those who object to an "army of nation builders"--at home and abroad--fail to realize that this is in keeping with the original vision of an American soldier's duties. It was the founders' belief that "the soldier's role was to build, not just to destroy." Tierney contends it still should be.

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