Five Best Friday Columns

On stifling Jewish intellectuals, reading the Wikileaks files, and recalling the Civil War

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Larry Dever on the Necessity of S.B. 1070  The national dispute surrounding Arizona's S.B. 1070 immigration law, makes Arizona county sheriff Larry Dever "wonder if the lawyers, judges and politicians involved grasp what it is like to be a law enforcement officer on the Mexican border." Dever writes in today's New York Times that his county in particular is a "major corridor" for "illegal immigration, drug trafficking and human smuggling," which has led to the desecration of local farm land and the deaths of both locals and migrants at the hands of smugglers. Dever argues that, contrary to popular arguments, this law is not designed to allow racial profiling of legal residents, noting that he can usually identify an illegal immigrant not by what they look like but by how they act. "They generally run off into the desert when they see our officers approach," he says. "Citizens and legal residents don't normally do that." Dever admits that, "neither my fellow sheriffs nor I believe the law is a silver bullet, but we do believe it is an important tool," to help Arizona law enforcement do its job of keeping its residents safe.

Roger Cohen on Criticizing Israel  "Criticism of Israel is not betrayal of Israel," declares New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, pointing out  that Tony Kushner is not the first "brilliant Jewish writer called Tony with challenging views on Israel [to get] this great city--on all other matters the most open in the world--tied in knots over what can or cannot be said." In 2003, historian Tony Judt was harassed after he "posited the creation of a single bi-national state of Jews and Palestinians and suggested a Jewish state was anachronistic," in the New York Review of Books. Though Cohen disagrees with Judt's one-state resolution, he "found the hounding of Judt an appalling instance of the methods of the relentless Israel-right-or-wrong bullies." Tony Kushner's recent battle with CUNY is similar to Judt's, but support from influential figures such as J Street and Ed Koch reversed the school's decision to refuse his honorary degree and now Jeffrey Weisenfeld, the man behind the Kushner boycott, "is under pressure to resign." Cohen believes "he should: No university is well served by a trustee who values taboo over debate and doubts an entire people's humanity."

Ruth Marcus on Mitch Daniels for President  Ruth Marcus suggests that Mitch Daniels as the Republican presidential nominee "would improve the 2012 campaign. He'd make Barack Obama a better candidate." The Washington Post columnist thinks that, instead of settling for the "least flawed" candidate, a legitimate race should feature someone like Daniels with "a set and stable worldview," executive experience as a governor and OMB director, and a loyal, though confusing, relationship with one woman. Daniels is appealing because not only is he "serious about reducing the debt and realistic about what it will take to achieve that, as a matter of both substance and politics," but he "understands that compromise is a sign of wisdom, not weakness." Marcus clarifies that she would never want Daniels to be president, as she finds his views on abortion, Planned Parenthood, immigration and gun-control as "scary." But, "candidate Daniels would press President Obama to sharpen his focus on getting the debt under control, and to spell out more clearly how that will be accomplished. He would be an especially worthy opponent--even if I flinch at the thought that he might succeed."

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman on 'Dangerous Neutrality'  Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman spotlights one of the more dangerous instances of neutrality in history, in which the British, to President Lincoln's surprise, aided the Confederacy by declaring neutrality, wanting to maintain trade. She notes, at the New York Times Opinionator Blog, that at the time, "Britain's position was reasonable. If Lincoln treated the Confederacy like a foreign belligerent, Her Majesty's government could hardly do less. Plus, Southern victory seemed inevitable." The sheer size of the Confederacy alone--"larger than all Western Europe"-- made it seem unlikely that the North would win. In the end, "The Confederacy ultimately imported millions of pounds of saltpeter for making gunpowder and 400,000 rifles. Without England's merchant marine and humming industrial plant, the Confederates would have been firing blanks." Hoffman argues, "neutrality had hardly ever been deadlier."

Donald Rumsfeld on The Guantanamo Files  Donald Rumsfeld argues in today's Washington Post that the recent WikiLeaks revelation of Guantanamo Bay detainee files, though illegal and harmful, "may prove the strongest arguments for keeping open the invaluable asset that is Guantanamo Bay." The former secretary of defense insists that these documents prove that key intelligence on both Osama bin Laden's whereabouts and plans for future attacks by al-Qaeda on the U.S. were extracted from detainees at Guantanamo. The documents also provide evidence that counter arguments that prisoners were tortured, sometimes to death, and that their religion was disrespected. But, Rumsfeld clarifies, "the material in these files should have been the stuff of tomorrow's histories, not today's headlines." Though he believes the wrongful disclosure of this information did more to prove the Bush administration right than to embarass it, as Julian Assange may have intended, he argues that "the desire for transparency must be balanced with national security interests."

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