Five Best Sunday Columns

On the Israel lobby, IMF's colonialism, and our phobia of forgetfulness

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Kaitlin Flanigan on Abuse of Domestic Workers. The domestic nature of some women's jobs make them "all the more attractive and all the more available" to male employers, writes Kaitlin Flanigan. In the case of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both of the women involved were not only domestic help, but immigrants. "Obviously, there is a world of difference between these two events—one a seemingly consensual relationship and the other an alleged assault. But the sense that both women were manageable and somewhat expendable must have emanated, on some level, from their jobs." Both Strauss-Kahn and Shwarzenegger represent ancient story lines: "When it comes to powerful men and poor women, the sorry maxim of ancient warfare still holds true: The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must."

Glenn Greenwald on the Israel Lobby. Obama's call for a peace deal between Israel and Palentine based on the 1967 lines is "not even arguably a change from past American policy," writes Glenn Greenwald, nor does it "remotely constitute a step in an anti-Israel direction." If anything, Greenwald argues, it "unduly rewards Israel for its illegal seizures of land by suggesting they should be able to permanently keep West Bank settlements." Nonetheless, it has produced "shrill and ludicrous backlash from inside-the-U.S. Israel Lobby." Greenwald credits Obama with appearing  "to recognize that tongue-wagging subservience to the Israeli Government is a counter-productive policy." While Obama's willingness to jeopardize his political interest in favor of this remains to be seen, his approach is "a prerequisite to any meaningful change in U.S./Israel policy ... and it's why it is incumbent upon anyone who desires real change in this area to defend him from those attacks."

Moises Naim on the IMF's Colonialism. "A stench of colonialism is wafting around" the IMF, writes Moises Naim, and not from the fact that a "wealthy 62-year-old Frenchman" is accused of assaulting "a young and poor African maid," but rather in the colonial legacy in the selection process for Strauss-Kahn's successor. "According to the agreement between Western Europe and the United States, the IMF’s top job always goes to a European, while the presidency of the World Bank is reserved for an American. This has been the case since these institutions were created in the mid-1940s, and while the deal might have reflected the world’s realpolitik at the time, it is now obsolete, unacceptable and counterproductive to the cause of global economic stability."

Margarette Morganroth Gullette on Memory Failure. "Misplacing car keys, once considered mere absent-mindedness, is now a clinical symptom," writes Gullette. Anxiety around memory loss has led adults to seek treatment for what was once considered normal forgetfulness. So how did this new phobia come about? Gullete sources this to the insecure economy, "in which midlife workers are regularly (and illegally) laid off on account of their age." Most forgetfulness is not Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or even necessarily a sign of cognitive impairment. However, "victims of misdiagnosis — or, just as devastating, self-diagnosis — dread being shunned, rejected by their offspring, going into debt, becoming a 'burden,' losing selfhood... It needn’t be this way," argues Gullette. "Much mental and emotional ability can survive mere memory loss, as do other qualities that make us human."

Douglas A. Ollivant on Afghanistan's Inner War. These are the three fights in Afghanistan, according to Ollivant: "First, there is the fight against al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups. Second is the war to protect and support the fledgling Afghan government against the Taliban insurgency. The third war is... the internal social and cultural battle between the urban modernizers of Afghanistan, mostly based in Kabul, and the rural, tribal, anti-modern peoples who live in the country’s inaccessible mountain regions." These wars intermingle, but the U.S. must be careful not to be drawn into different versions of the third war. Let groups stay different, he argues: "These groups are proudly unassimilated into the larger structure of Afghan civilization, such as it is." However, the "U.S. forces set out to assimilate them to the Kabul government, inadvertently aligning themselves with one side in the third war... Perversely, this may have tightened links between terrorist groups and local tribes, which united to repel U.S. forces." This particular failure "does not mean that counterinsurgency is a failed concept. But it shows that it certainly will fail — or be exponentially more difficult — when it is attempted against isolated peoples who have consciously opted out of the state system."

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