Five Best Monday Columns

Steve Coll on Iran, Gary Greenberg on the APA, Noah Feldman on Newt Gingrich, Grace-Marie Turner on RomneyCare, and Faiza Patel and Elizabeth Goitein on the NYPD.

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Steve Coll in The New Yorker on Iran In his State of the Union, President Obama stated he would "take no options off the table" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. "There is reason to doubt, though, that an attack on Iran is imminent ... An attack now by either Israel or the United States would shatter diplomacy's achievements," writes Coll. He describes those achievements, including the apparent success of current sanctions, and notes that war might strengthen the regime. Coll details the history of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and notes that getting accurate intelligence on their progress is difficult. "The burden of proof rests, in any event, with those who would urge war." Meanwhile, the regime's stability isn't certain. Obama's strategy of "patience and persistence" "shouldn't be taken off the table," Coll says.

Gary Greenberg in The New York Times on the American Psyciatric Association's new manual The American Psychiatric Association heard criticism from experts over several changes proposed in the fifth edition of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "Someone is always mad at it for its diagnostic manual. It's not the current A.P.A.'s fault. The fault lies with its predecessors," writes Greenberg. Since the early 20th century, psychiatrists have tried to bring to mental health diagnostics a scientific standard. But mental disorders are different from pathological disease in that we often can't understand their causes and they don't always fit into the discrete categories we use. "Still, 'people take it literally,' one psychiatrist who worked on the manual told me. 'That is its strength in a political sense,'" but it can also prove a burden.

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on Gingrich the historian Newt Gingrich has constantly evoked a difference between his vision for American and "the radicalism of Saul Alinsky." "Who believes it's good campaign politics to attack a relatively unknown visionary who has been dead for 40 years? A historian, that's who. "Gingrich just can't help himself," writes Feldman. He details Gingrich's training as a historian and his slow transition to focusing on "the future," as a professor at West Georgia College, and thus his move to the geography department. His denial of tenure and subsequent winning of a House seat allowed him to depict himself as whatever kind of historian he wanted to be, except when it comes to matters of personal history "Gingrich's success in South Carolina was an indication that the American people don’t know much about history. Whether the same will be true in Florida will be seen on Tuesday."

Grace-Marie Turner in The Wall Street Journal on the GOP health care debate Last Thursday's debate saw Rick Santorum effectively attack Mitt Romney on the differences between his Massachusetts health care law and Obama's. "Mr. Romney's attempt to contrast his plan with ObamaCare wasn't convincing," writes Turner. She describes the argument over the individual mandate, emphasizing effective arguments by Santorum and Gingrich. And she takes down Romney's claims that his plan didn't raise taxes or eliminate Medicare. She argues Romney has "backed himself in a corner" for debates with Obama by continuing to endorse his own plan for the states. "He will have trouble convincing voters he is serious about repeal and will have an even harder time mapping a clear plan on health reform should he be elected president."

Faiza Patel and Elizabeth Goitein in The New York Times on the NYPD There was much controversy surrounding the NYPD's showing of a training video that outlines a supposed conspiracy of Muslim groups pretending to be mainstream while plotting the fall of American society. The A.P. also reported that the C.I.A. had helped the NYPD spy on Muslims. These revelations "set back relations with the city's Muslim community, which is estimated at around 800,000 and whose members have been vital partners in combating terrorism," write Patel and Goitein. They contrast the swift response of FBI and Justice Department officials during similar scandals to the resistance of the NYPD, which tried to deny or downplay both incidents. They describe a history of law enforcement overreach and note a lack of bureaucratic oversight of the NYPD. "History shows that any attempt to oversee the police will be met with great resistance by the department and its political allies. But no agency is immune from mistakes ... We need an independent inspector general for the Police Department."

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