Five Best Thursday Columns

Dina Esfandiary on Syria's chemical weapons, David Ignatius on an economic NATO, Ezra Klein on budget bickering, Amy Davidson on Bob Costas, and Nora Caplan-Bricker on Uganda.

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Dina Esfandiary in The Diplomat on Syria's chemical weapons Embattled Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has reportedly ordered his military to start prepping nerve gas bombs, and many have been asking what Obama's "red line" has become in terms of intervention. Weighing the outcomes that could lead to a chemical weapon strike, Dina Esfandiary calls for cool heads to prevail. "Logic dictates that if Assad truly fears for his survival, then the use of his most potent weapon may not be so far-fetched," she writes. "But on the other hand, we should measure our alarm. A reckless assumption that Assad will use chemical weapons could get us in all sorts of trouble—remember what happened in Iraq?"

David Ignatius in The Washington Post on a hypothetical economic NATO What if the U.S. just made all trade with the E.U. free and unfettered? "A big idea is taking shape that could revitalize the U.S.-European partnership for the 21st century," writes David Ignatius, who heard lots of talk about a hypothetical trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement (or TAFTA) when he visited Germany a week ago. "The United States can powerfully reinforce its economic leadership by expanding trade with Europe’s battered economies—offering not financial bailout gimmicks but an initiative that opens markets and creates jobs on both continents. Misplaced ideas about austerity shattered the global economy in the 1930s; surely America and Europe don’t need to repeat that mistake."

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on budget solutions Republicans negotiating how to approach the fiscal cliff keep harping on one number: 18. That's the average percent of federal revenue compared to GDP that the U.S. has taken in over the last 50 years. Even Warren Buffett has said that taxes should be pegged to no more than 18.5 percent of GDP. "Permit me to dissent from the Oracle of Omaha," writes Ezra Klein, who argues that only in years when that number goes up have we balanced the budget. "The average of our past revenue isn’t sufficient to sustain our future. In fact, it wasn’t even enough to support our past."

Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on Bob Costas's anti-gun rant Bob Costas was very outraged at the apparent murder-suicide NFL player Jovan Belcher carried out against his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and himself. And he let everyone know during a recent halftime rant about gun control. Some have called for him to be fired from Sunday Night Football. But Amy Davidson comes to Costas's defense, writing, "The almost hysterical reaction to the intrusion, into a football game, of America’s obsession with guns, only shows that Costas performed a service by bringing the issue up. Most politicians haven’t been that brave. What is so radical, so wrong, about imagining Kasandra Perkins, safe, or at least alive, without a gun in sight?"

Nora Caplan-Bricker in The New Republic on Uganda's anti-gay legislation The Ugandan parliament has revived its Anti-Homosexuality Bill, often seen as the most harshly homophobic piece of legislation in the world. Earlier versions have stipulated that all gays should get the death penalty, and that those who fail to inform on closeted homosexuals face jail time. This latest round of voting raises more concerns for Nora Caplan-Bricker, who writes, "The issue has been in and out of the spotlight since 2009, and isn’t quite getting the media attention it has in previous years. But experts say if the bill comes up for a vote before the parliamentary session expires December 14, it will definitely pass."

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