Five Best Friday Columns

Michael O'Hanlon on one-war capability, Peggy Noonan on Romney's attackers, Laurence Tribe on recess appointments, Paul Krugman on Romney's job creation, and Virginia Postrel on liberal arts majors. 

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Michael O'Hanlon in The Washington Post on the one-war posture Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined Thursday a plan to reduce U.S. armed forces to a size capable of conducting one major war while "denying the objectives" of other adversaries. "Panetta and President Obama are right to reduce the requirements for a second possible war, which in this era would probably not be a ground war in any case," writes O'Hanlon. He goes through several potential war situations to argue why none of them is likely to escalate soon. But he cautions against cutting back too much, noting the U.S. should always be ready for at least one unexpected major armed conflict, and should have capabilities for a longer term but smaller scale conflict on the side. We don't, he says, want to undercut our deterrence once engaged in a conflict. "Ultimately, strategy is about minimizing, not eliminating, risk."

Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on Romney's attackers The successes of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul in Iowa reflect the Republican party's union of moderate conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians under common goals of lowering tax and defeating President Obama. "But there's no denying the Republicans are in a brawl, and it is becoming ferocious," writes Noonan. She argues that Romney is in the lead, but opponents are trying to chip away at it, and few will admit to his lead being as being comfortable as it is. She details some of the critiques, notably referring to Newt Gingrich as "angry little attack muffin." She criticizes Rick Perry for not knowing when to quit the race and wait for another run, and she credits Rick Santorum for his community values while criticizing his foreign policy hard-line. But with Romney in such a lead and undergoing such attacks, she wonders, "how much damage is going to be done on the way to the convention?"

Laurence Tribe in The New York Times on recess appointments and the Constitution President Obama made four recess appointments Wednesday, eliciting criticism from those who argue the Senate was not formally in recess. "It is this transparently obstructionist tactic to which President Obama said 'enough,' striking a badly needed blow for checks and balances with strong support both from the text and the original purpose of the recess appointment clause," writes Harvard Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe. Tribe details the history and purpose of the recess appointment, and notes examples (like weekends) where the president can't consider the Senate in recess. He calls the Senate's "pro forma" session "gimmicky," saying it's designed only to obstruct the president's right to a recess appointment, and he argues that the two agencies to which Obama made appointments are essential and needed swift action. "Preserving the authority the president needs to carry out his basic duties, rather than deferring to partisan games and gimmicks, is our Constitution's clear command." (Note: For a solid counterargument, read Edwin Meese III and Todd Gaziano's column in today's Washington Post.)

Paul Krugman in The New York Times on Obama and Romney's job-creating records Mitt Romney has repeatedly claimed that President Obama has destroyed jobs while in his time at Bain Capital he created 100,000 of them. "But his claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border," writes Krugman. Krugman argues against the figures Romney uses for Obama's job losses, saying over half of them happened in the first months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could take effect. Since then, Obama's work to add jobs has been insufficient, Krugman says, but not to the extent Romney portrays it. Meanwhile, Romney only counts jobs he added at companies like Staples without subtracting jobs added after he left Bain and without accounting for jobs lost at other companies Bain oversaw. Moreover, adding jobs to a single company's workforce does not mean one added jobs to the total American workforce. "Hey, if pluses count but minuses don't, everyone who spends a day playing the slot machines comes out way ahead," Krugman writes.

Virginia Postrel in Bloomberg View on criticizing art history majors. Pundits often argue American students need to study vocations, or science and math rather than the humanities to make the money they spend on college degrees worthwhile. "There are many problems with this simplistic prescription, but the most basic is that it ignores what American college students actually study," writes Postrel. She uses studies to show that a majority of college students actually do study the "pundit-approved" professions like business and science. And in fact, she notes that many of them also cannot find employment despite a pre-professional major. She reiterates the importance of a liberal arts education, which teaches one how to learn new skills rather than imparting skills that might be quickly outdated. Higher education's "problems won't be solved by assuming that if American students would just stop studying stupid subjects like philosophy and art history and buckle down and major in petroleum engineering (the highest-paid major), the economy would flourish."

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