Five Best Tuesday Columns

Joe Nocera on banking regulation, Bret Stephens on Iran negotiations, Ramesh Ponnuru on free trade, DeWayne Wickham on Mitt Romney's education plan, and Philip Gourevitch on intervention in Syria.

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Joe Nocera in The New York Times on complex banking solutions Nocera says it's been a year since Congress passed the Dodd-Frank law and he still hasn't resolved basic questions about how well it will address the problems with banking it set out to prevent. Chief among his worries is its complexity. Meanwhile, he highlights much simpler solutions that banking experts have put forth recently. "It is good that people like Karen Petrou and Sallie Krawcheck are raising alarms about complexity — and putting forth some sensible, and simpler, solutions for making banking safer. Unfortunately, even after the JPMorgan fiasco, it is unlikely that anyone is going to act on them — at least not right now."

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal on Iranian negotiations We left recent nuclear talks with Iran without concessions from them but only the promise of more talks in a month. "thereby giving the Iranians the one thing they wanted from the negotiations, which is time. This isn't the first time the West has hopped with excitement at the promise of a diplomatic breakthrough with Tehran." Stephens compares the hopeful tone in reports this month with those from dozens of other opportunities since the Iranian Revolution. "For 33 years, Iran has dealt with us as an enemy. Until we return the favor, we will be fooled again."

Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View on Obama's free trade policy This month, John McCain made a harsh attack against President Obama's free trade record, saying that hundreds of deals were being negotiated between countries while our policies remained unchanged. "McCain’s criticism of Obama is fair. It is also a bit strange, and in a way that reflects the oddly narrow scope of the debate about trade policy in the U.S." The classic case for free trade made by economists is that we should remove barriers to imports to improve efficient distribution of resources, but the political argument usually pits us against competitor countries, making calculations about economic gains and losses.

DeWayne Wickham in USA Today on Mitt Romney's education front Mitt Romney's decision to speak about education policy in west Philadelphia was a smart way to target "the soft underbelly of President Obama's support in urban America." But he flubbed it by arguing against the need for smaller class sizes, an unpopular position among black parents concerned with their kid's educational options. "So while the frustration of many black parents with children in public schools may be the Achilles' heel of black support for Obama's re-election, Romney's education plan doesn't have the killing force of an arrow from Paris' bow."
Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker on intervention in Syria In this week's New Yorker Comment, Gourevitch writes, "The horrors in Syria are symptoms of a tangle of political crises that present no clear course of action for the United States, or its allies, or any other constellation of the international community." He argues against the hawkish suggestion for an aggressive NATO air attack saying it would lead to quagmire. And he notes the strategic difficulties in the region that prevent Syria from being addressed in isolation. "As a rule, Obama has avoided any rigid foreign-policy doctrine, preferring to indicate broad principles and then respond to crises case by case."
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