Five Best Tuesday Columns
Frank Bruni on gay marriage, James Dorsey on China's Syria veto, Dana Milbank on Jack Abramoff, Gideon Rachman on Putin, and Bret Stephens on Israel and Iran
Frank Bruni in The New York Times on gay marriage gone corporate Starbucks recently endorsed same-sex marriage legislation in its home state of Washington, and the company has endured criticism from cultural conservatives as a result. "I mention Starbucks not so much to rally to its defense as to make a point about same-sex marriage ... It's the future. And the response of corporate behemoths based in the state of Washington reflects that," Bruni writes. Companies like Microsoft and Amazon are embracing it because demographics show overwhelming support among young people, whose lifetime loyalty corporations typically target. Politicians, too, "seem to read the trend lines and tea leaves," says Bruni. He closes with the anecdote of a Washington state representative, Betty Sue Morris, who voted against gay marriage in 1996 later to discover her daughter was gay. "Morris told me: 'Whenever someone opposes this, I always counsel: you never know. You never know when it will be your child or your grandchild. And you will eat your words.'"
James Dorsey in Bloomberg View on China's Syria veto China recently joined Russia to veto a condemnation of the Syrian regime at the U.N. Security Council. "Over the past year, a series of incidents in the region have tested China's non-interference policy, but without serious damage to the country's image. With China's veto of the UN resolution on Syria, Chinese determination to cling to a principle rooted in 19th-century diplomacy seems set to backfire," argues Dorsey. China's veto doesn't allow it to stay neutral, but puts it in Syria's corner, and threatens to "roil" other Arab states on whom China depends for oil. Conflicts and interests in the Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere will eventually lead to conflict and force China to take stronger positions. "China's status as an emerging economic superpower demands that it become a more muscular global actor to pursue its interests."
Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Jack Abramoff the reformer Jack Abramoff on Monday appeared before a liberal advocacy group to answer questions, despite disdain between him and most people in the room. "But the Naderite group was smart to host Abramoff. He has the potential to blow the whistle on the real scandal: Much of what he did was, and remains, perfectly legal." Milbank recounts some of his recent activities: he's written a book and he blogs on anti-corruption, all without obvious financial incentive. And though it doesn't excuse his illegal behavior, it does make him a more interesting advocate for reform. He describes his opposition to term limits and his success in creating influence in Congressional offices with the promise of job offers. K Street lobbyists have contested his claims, but Milbank doesn't buy it. "Finally, Abramoff appears to be telling the truth."
Gideon Rachman in Financial Times on Putin's future Protests that began in response to corrupt elections have now become personal protests against Putin himself and his attempt to reclaim the presidency. "Two months ago it was assumed that the country was probably facing 12 more years of Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Now, the end of the Putin era is in sight." Rachman says Putin will almost certainly win his upcoming election, but the protests reveal a shift in culture and a feeling that long-standing taboos are breaking. He details prominent criticisms of Putin and the administration's tepid reaction to them. It reveals a contradiction between the stated goal of eliminating the state interference that hinders economic advancement and the reality that such a move would hurt the powers that be. Rachman outlines scenarios in which Putin begins to organize for a "post-Putin era" in the coming years. "These scenarios may sound far-fetched. But in Moscow at the moment, the most far-fetched idea of all is the notion that President Putin will still be running Russia in 2024."
Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal on Israel's calculations on Iran The world remains unsure if, when, and how Israel will attack Iran to stop its nuclear arms program. "Yes, these war drums have been beaten before. But this time it's different," argues Stephens. He says efforts at diplomacy through sanctions come too late to effectively prevent the nuclear weapons, and that the upcoming election puts Obama in an unusual position where he's more likely to approve an Israeli strike. Stephens argues Israel has military capabilities to execute the strike, but they would have to think strategically and realistically about the counter-strike and the casualties that would result. A strike is by no means ideal, Stephens says, but it might be better than the alternative. And if it comes, Israel should think big about its goals. "The Islamic Republic means to destroy Israel. If Israel means to survive, it should commit itself similarly."