Five Best Monday Columns

Bill Keller on India's protests, Hendrik Hertzberg on Occupy Wall Street, and L. Gordon Crovitz on immigration for engineers.

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Bill Keller on India's protest movement India's anti-corruption advocate Anna Hazare "has been a figure in provincial Indian affairs for decades, but he galvanized attention this year when his threat to fast to the death shamed the government into endorsing reforms," writes Bill Keller in The New York Times. That's why Keller decided to ask Hazare his opinion on Occupy Wall Street. Hazare has taken a vow of silence, but his associate Kiran Bedi says Hazare's team has been tracking the Occupy movement. Hazare, Keller says, got his start by turning his own village into "a model of rural development." Then he entered the national stage with the well-worn Indian tactic of public fasting, demanding India reform its systemic corruption that kept wealth in the hands of the few. Though it has a similar target to Occupy Wall Street, his movement differs in many ways. Occupy is leaderless while Hazare is the clear leader. Occupy is less clear about concrete objectives, whereas, Hazare "is always very explicit about his objectives: fire this corrupt minister, repeal that law bought by a special interest..." "The Occupation has at least a strong undercurrent of anticapitalism. Not in India," Keller writes. Indians believe in capitalism and oppose the corruption that subverts the system. Keller says he understands a protest's purpose isn't always to provide the specifics for reform. "But that does not mean the job of fixing what ails us is any less urgent or admirable. At some point you need the unglamorous business of government, which entails not consensus but hard choices and reasoned compromise." Bedi emphasizes that Occupy and Hazare's movement started out similarly, but it is still unclear whether America's protesters will mobilize toward anything. "So far, the main achievement of Occupy Wall Street is showing up."

Hendrik Hertzberg on Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party "[I]s Occupy Wall Street the Tea Party for liberal people?" asks Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker. Both groups agree they aren't the same, "yet there's an irresistible symmetry." They arose spontaneously "on the political fringe," in response to the economic crisis, and both lack formal leaders and hierarchy. Both are "wary, or claim to be, of established political figures and organizations." Democrats have long envied the Republicans their Tea Party, which remobilized the party for 2010 after their 2008 loss. "Now Democrats are hoping that the drug might be available as a generic," but moving the Occupy protests into electoral politics probably won't be as easy this time. "The Tea Party has never doubted the efficacy of elections; it has focussed on officeholders and would-be officeholders all along." Occupy Wall Street has been more introspective, concerned with maintaining a web presence and holding meetings at its encampments. "[T]he movement has achieved one obvious, and stunning, outward success. It has pierced the veil of silence that, for decades, has obscured the astounding growth of what can fairly be called plutocracy." But if winter and police remove the moderate protesters, anti-Capitalists from the old left could dominate the new conversation through the winter. "The pollsters tell us that Americans like O.W.S.'s essential message. They like the Occupiers, too -- not as much as they like the message, but more than they like the Tea Party," but they could mess that up. "Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics -- the politics of America's broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have. The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?"

Noah Feldman on the democratic victory in the Tunisian elections "The Islamists have won the Arab Spring. And the result was as inevitable as it is promising," writes Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View. The Ennahdha Party, Islamist democrats in Tunisia, won 41 percent of the vote in last week's elections. Initially, one might see the results as a disappointment in a region where watchers hoped secular democracy would rule in the wake of the Arab Spring. "Why didn't the Tunisian public reward the dynamic young secular activists who got rid of the dictator?" and why do we expect the same in Egypt? Partly, it is because the Islamist groups have been organizing for decades, and only a short amount of time passed between the uprising and the elections, giving organized groups a "leg up." "But the deeper explanation has to do with the difference between a popular uprising and a democratic election." The revolution reflects the voices of the disillusioned few, while elections give voice to the many. In Egypt and Tunisia, the movement was attended by the educated middle class and elites. "Unlike the young secularists, many Tunisians see Islam as a defining feature of their personal and political identities," Feldman says. "Islamists are also highly skilled at reaching across economic and social classes to build support. In poor rural areas, the mosque is sometimes the only gathering place." It isn't surprising that other revolutionary movements have put off democracy, so we should give credit to the leader of the Arab Spring. "The proof is in the willingness of the leading revolutionaries to be beaten by social forces they don’t fully trust." Credit should also be given to Islamists who have found ways to make their movement compatible with democracy. Mainstream Islam has transformed toward democracy in the same years radical jihadism threatened it. "From the standpoint of the global ideal of democracy, this is a victory of historic proportions."

L. Gordon Crovitz on green cards for foreign engineers As described in the new biography, Steve Jobs told Barack Obama that "regulations had created too many burdens on the economy," pointing him toward "a one term presidency." "Jobs was an Obama supporter, but his just-disclosed comments are typical of a new frustration with Washington among Silicon Valley executives," writes L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal. Obama had dinner with Jobs and several leading tech executives last February. Jobs told him more foreign-born engineers trained in the United States needed visas to remain stateside. Obama said this would come with broader immigration reform but that Obama couldn't take that on just yet. "The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done," Jobs said. "It infuriates me." Crovitz writes, "Jobs told Mr. Obama that Apple employs 700,000 factory workers in China because it can't find the 30,000 engineers in the U.S. that it needs on site at its plants." Jobs couldn't understand a policy that educates foreign engineers then sends them home immediately. Others at the dinner offered plans to "staple" a green card to the diploma of anyone with a degree in physical sciences or engineering. The U.S. only offers 140,000 green cards every year, and it limits each country to 7 percent of the permits. This creates huge waiting lists for largely populated countries like India and China. Still reform seems unlikely these days, Crovitz says. "The culture of Silicon Valley is defined by engineers who approach problems logically, searching for the most elegant solution. Washington is different. Members of both parties prefer scoring political points on immigration even though this delays smarter approaches."

Juliette Kayyem on military suicides The Pentagon's efforts to address military suicides have been called a success. "Outreach, prevention programs, and increased mental-health services have likely saved lives," writes The Boston Globe's Juliette Kayyem. Yet data shows that "a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes," making the news "difficult to cheer." "Tomorrow, the Center for a New American Security will issue the report 'Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide,'" Kayyem writes, "perhaps the study's longest-lasting contribution is its explanation of why we, as a nation, should care at all." We simply owe it to those who fought in our wars of course, but at stake is also the future of the military. "This simple fact - that the fight against suicide is both about the individual and the institution - means the military can't rest until its suicide rate is as low as that of the general population." The first problem is that we don't keep a systemic record of suicide among veterans. Thus we can't tell whether veterans are killing themselves because of mental-health problems developed in combat or because of problems with reintegration and adjustment. The causes would merit different solutions. The military also moves people around a lot, disrupting their healthcare, and making detection of mental health issues harder to spot. "Even the informal support networks that can develop within a cohesive unit, especially one that has seen battle, can be altered when the group takes on new assignments," which is way many are required to stay with their unit for 90 days following a return from combat. "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation," George Washington said, so we owe it to these veterans and future ones to solve the problem.

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