Five Best Monday Columns

On Afghanistan's resources, an Israel counterfactual, and America's unoccupied jobs

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Patricia McArdle on Afghanistan and Sustainability  Afghanistan is "one of the most promising models for sustainable living." Patricia McArdle points out in a New York Times op-ed this morning. "A majority of its 30 million citizens still grow and process most of the food they consume. They are the ultimate locavores." But McArdle was "dismayed" to see in her work with the Sate Department "that instead of building on Afghanistan's traditional, labor-intensive agriculture and construction practices, the United States is using many of its aid dollars to transform this fragile agrarian society into a consumer-oriented, merchandized, fossil-fuel-based economy." Though a Department of Energy report in 2004 showed Afghanistan had "abundant renewable energy resources that could be used to build small-scale wind- and solar-powered systems to generate electricity and solar thermal devices for cooking and heating water," instead "the United States government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build large diesel generators and exploit the country's oil, gas and coal reserves."

Michael O'Hanlon on Understanding Karzai's Behavior  Michael O'Hanlon authors a partial defense of Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Politico, outlining a number of questions Karzai must have: "Why do so many NATO targeting mistakes still occur, leading to the deaths of many innocent Afghan civilians? Why do many of his favorite U.S. officials in Afghanistan seem to be recalled early, while Washington officials publicly chew him out over a corruption problem they did much to create? And why do Americans embarrass him about irregularities in the 2009 presidential election, when it is clear by all polls that he would have easily won even if there was no cheating?" O'Hanlon argues that to deal Karzai's perception and behavior, "we need to accept the reasons for his frustration and even his anger...remember that Karzai is doing some good things--despite his mistakes." In addition,  "we need to start finding ways to be realistic about what Karzai can deliver. While also looking beyond him--to other Afghans who are willing and able to do so much for their country and its future."
Warren Kozak on an Alternate Jewish History  In wondering what would have happened if the world's Jews had taken the Palestinian approach to displacement after World War II, Warren Kozak offers a reminder in The Wall Street Journal of the profoundly different views one can have on the Middle East conflict. Kozak suggests that in this hypothetical situation, "leadership of [Jewish] refugee camps ... would have started to employ terrorism to shake down governments. By the 1990s...a generation of younger Jews would be blowing up buses, restaurants and themselves." But none of this happened, because in reality, displaced European Jews were helped "by Jews around the world [who] did not ignore them, or demean them, or use them as pawns in their own political schemes--as the Arab nations have doen with the Palestinians." Kozak immediately rejects the argument that the Jews "did not have their land stolen from them" pointing out not only that "they did lose property all over Europe and the Mideast," but also that "there was never an independent Palestine run by Palestinian Arabs. Ever." He suggests that "Perhaps in the end, the greatest crime of the Jews was that they quietly created something from nothing. And in the process, they transformed themselves."
Robert Samuelson on the Disconnect Between Open Jobs and the Unemployed  Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson argues that while the disconnect between jobless Americans and open jobs is not particularly unusual, it "hobbles recovery and bodes ill. The harder it is for workers to find jobs, the longer they stay unemployed--and this, in turn, worsens their prospects." Employers wonder "what's wrong with this person?" the longer they go without a job. "In any dynamic economy, constant changes in technologies, products and companies naturally create gaps between skills available and skills wanted. But today's gaps seem to transcend this." One third of American companies can't fill their job openings--particularly "engineers and scientists and among aerospace, defense and biotechnology firms." Various theories on what is happening suggest both that "high schools have de-emphasized vocational training, community colleges often aren't well-connected to local job markets and union apprenticeship programs have withered, [or] Americans are less willing to move to take jobs." Moreover, company loyalty has eroded, with workers less likely to stay at companies and companies more likely to fire--training a worker seems to be a foolish investment. Samuelson acknowledges that "there is no instant cure for today's job mismatch, but it might ease if America's largest companies were a little bolder." Those that "[enjoy] strong profits ... could make a small gamble that, by providing more training for workers, they might actually do themselves and the country some good."
Waihnin Pwint Thon on Burma's Need for Outside Intervention "Aung San Suu Kyi may have been released, and is free to celebrate her birthday, but about 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail, and are treated worse than in the past," writes Waihnin Pwint Thon, the daughter of one of Burma's political prisoners, at the Guardian. As many of these prisoners are being "moved to remote prisons to make it harder for family members to visit ... being denied medical care for illnesses ... and thrown into prison cages for dogs where they are forced to act like dogs and beg for food...[Burma's dictator] Thein Sein has stepped up attacks against ethnic minorities in Burma's border areas." With "Burmese army soldiers mortar-bombing villages, gang-raping women and executing and torturing people, Thein Sein is breaking 20-year ceasefire agreements with armed ethnic groups and bringing the country to the verge of civil war." Thon notes the lack of action by the international community in response to these abuses, instead taking the "wait and see" approach she has seen her whole life growing up in Burma. "Thein Sein is no reformer, it is business as usual--and while the world says we must wait and see, my people are suffering and dying." She insists "it is time for urgent and concrete action," and urges the UN general assembly to "establish a commission of inquiry into possible war crimes against humanity."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.