Five Best Friday Columns

Andrew Exum on new technology in the battlefield, Ta-Nehisi Coates on Girls, Charles Krauthammer on the Discovery shuttle's flight, Michael Kinsley on Romney's success, and James Forman Jr. and Trevor Stutz on stop-and-frisk.

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Andrew Exum in Bloomberg View on the U.S. soldiers' photos Scandal ensued when the Los Angeles Times published photos of U.S. soldiers fooling around with the body parts of a dead Taliban fighter. "[V]eterans will also be the first to know that these kinds of incidents happen in all wars ... What’s new... is the ubiquitous presence of cameras and camera phones on the battlefield." In that sense, the real failure is on the part of the officers charged with keeping these soldiers in line, who often don't understand the perils of new technologies in the battlefield. While older soldiers are often too ignorant of the effect Twitter and Facebook can have, young soldiers are often too naive about it. "Over time, the military leadership will come to include people who have a firmer grasp of both the potential and the dangers of new technologies. As for the photos themselves, their real effect might be not in Afghanistan but in U.S. living rooms. Americans... could stand to see such horrors more often."

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic on diversity and Girls Many have crticized Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO's Girls, for the lack of diversity depicted in her show, and that debate was elevated with a tweeted response from one of her writers. Coates thinks the anger at Dunham is misplaced. "There has been a lot of talk, this week about Lena Dunham's responsibility, but significantly less about the the people who sign her checks. My question is not 'Why are their no black women on Girls," but 'How many black show-runners are employed by HBO?'" Faulting writers for not creating a certain kind of character, one with whom they might not be familiar, is unproductive, Coates says. It can lead to poorly crafted caricatures. "It is not so wrong to craft an exclusively white world--certainly a significant portion of America lives in one. What is wrong is for power-brokers to pretend that no other worlds exists."

Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on the Discovery shuttle The space shuttle Discovery, attached to the back of a 747, flew a farewell tour around Washington D.C. this week before making its way to a museum. "Is there a better symbol of willed American decline? The pity is not Discovery’s retirement — beautiful as it was, the shuttle proved too expensive and risky to operate — but that it died without a successor," writes Krauthammer. He details America's decision to stop funding projects like the Discovery while rival nations like China and Russia invest in their own space programs. He makes the case for NASA's importance, saying that the federal deficit should not excuse us from investing in it. "If we had put off space exploration until these earthbound social and economic conundrums were solved, our rocketry would be about where North Korea’s is today."

Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on Romney's success When Mitt Romney talks about his financial success as a qualification for leading the country, he tends to sound "obnoxious," Kinsley says. "Republicans seem to think that success is self-defining. Anyone who has done well or was born well deserves what he or she has got, and maybe more, because these are society's 'job creators.' Let's add up just a few of the ways in which this is not necessarily true," he writes. In Romney's case, he can credit a fortunate birth, his parents' investment in education, and his own talents for his success. But he should recognize that many of these factors boil down to luck, as do factors that lead to failure. "When a government policy rewards success in a way that actually does lift all of society, that's fine. But the policies advocated by Republicans ... would only make success more successful."

James Forman, Jr. and Trevor Stutz in The New York Times on stop-and-frisk New York's police commissioner Ray Kelly has dismissed complaints about the department's stop-and-frisk policy, saying critics should present a better alternative.  "At the Yale Law School Innovations in Policing Clinic, we have been visiting police departments around the country in search of such strategies. One increasingly popular approach, 'focused deterrence,' is among the most promising," write Forman and Stutz. They describe the strategy, which involves police joining forces with community leaders to target the most criminal people in a neighborhood, and deter the rest. The clinic has found other methods too. "[S]top-and-frisk practices are harming the community in order to protect it, and the costs of those practices can no longer be justified by the claim that nothing else will work."

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