Five Best Tuesday Columns

On recent graduates, Sudan's civil strife, and the European Union's struggles

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Douglas Johnson on Sudan's Unsteady Partition  Douglas Johnson argues in The New York Times today that "foreign powers, especially China, [could] use their leverage to stop" the next civil war in Sudan by blocking "the North's occupation of the contested border region of Abyei."  In the past, notes Johnson, Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has been able able to ignore the commission's recommendation to give the fertile Abyei to the South because the U.S. won't force him to. In order to prevent the North from fully taking over Abyei, thus causing violence between the regions, "Washington will need to wield sticks, such as canceling debt talks or suspending normalization of diplomatic relations, if Sudan does not withdraw its forces quickly." But, he points out, it is China, not the U.S., whose economic and political relationships with the country will allow it to push Sudanese leadership. "The international community could and should oversee a future vote, but only after ensuring the return of Abyei’s original inhabitants and guaranteeing the free and fair exercise of their democratic rights."

David Brooks on a Realistic Message for College Grads  David Brooks observes in The New York Times that "college students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own." Unfortunately for them, the latest group of "monitored, tutored, coached and honed" 22-year-olds are being told at their graduations to "follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself." Yet the gospel of individualism misfires, says Brooks, because in reality, "fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can't be pursued directly." In fact, "most people don't form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling." Especially in today's job market, most careers are built out of unexpected opportunities, which is precisely how it should be: "The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It's to lose yourself."

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz on the Benefits of an Iranian-Oil-Free U.S.  If the United States declared itself "an Iranian-oil-free zone" by insisting that "any company that exports oil-based product to America--gasoline, plastics, petrochemicals, synthetic fibers--would have to certify that no Iranian oil was involved in its manufacture," it could drive down the global price of Iranian crude oil so that the world could still consume the precious resource but at the same time "hurt the mullahs' ability to translate oil wealth into nefarious actions." Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz present this idea in The Wall Street Journal today and point out that the E.U.'s import system is already designed to adapt easily to such sanctions from the U.S. While "the direct importation of Iranian crude has long been illegal," U.S. Congress can finally "close a legal loophole that allows for the importation of refined petroleum and other petroleum-based products made from Iranian oil." Unlike other sanctions, an Iranian-oil-free zone wouldn't work against our interests. "It would bring cheaper Iranian oil to those who want it, and it would punish the Iranian regime--perhaps more so than any existing sanctions effort--for its transgressions," they argue. "That's a win-win for everyone."

Richard Cohen on Crime and Recessions  Richard Cohen takes as his subject in today's Washington Post the New York Times' surprise that violent crime has not risen during the recession. This is not really news, says Cohen, though it might be to those clinging to liberal ideology. While there are types of crimes, such as "domestic abuse, even murder," [which] might be triggered by overcrowding and unemployment," someone who once held a job is not likely a criminal by nature and is not likely to be driven to robbing a bank or a person simply because he was laid off--he's more likely to try for unemployment insurance. "The expectation that bad times will produce bad people is a consequence of the belief that social welfare programs will solve social welfare problems: The more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter...[This] infantalizes the poor: without bread and circuses, they will riot." The truth is, "robbers don't rob because they're out of work; they rob because robbery is the kind of work they do."

Peter Spiegel on the Future of E.U. Integration  In today's Financial Times, Peter Spiegel ponders recent signs of European disintegration: Greece is considering bringing back its national currency, "French police and Danish customs officials are returning to their national borders to check incoming overland traffic, and Brussels is to reconsider the rules of Europe's Schengen borderless zone." Europeans' political attitudes are changing, Spiegel observes, as recent protests show a refusal to accept austerity. He points out that while the American Republican party has adapted to the demands of the Tea Party, the E.U. has resisted answering the calls of its populist faction, "yet it may be neither wise nor possible to marginalize these groups." The Netherlands "last year became the first eurozone country since the financial crisis began to rely on an openly anti-EU party--the Freedom party of anti-Muslim populist Geert Wilders--to stay in power." Other countries, like Finland and France, seem to be following suit. "We may be witnessing a generational change in European political dynamics. Traditional left-right divisions have narrowed. No mainstream social democrat now advocates centralized economic planning, just as no conservative candidate seriously questions the underpinning of the welfare state," writes Spiegel. "It may spell a new, unprecedented challenge to the European project."

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