Five Best Friday Columns

David Ignatius on Saudi Arabia, Angus Roxburgh on Russian sanctions, Marc Champion on NATO arming Ukraine, The New York Times on kids and guns, Jonathan Cohn on the Republican Party. 

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David Ignatius in The Washington Post on how Saudi Arabia can deal with the threat of ISIL. Ignatius writes that while Saudi Arabia should help contain the threat of ISIL, they are currently struggling with their own internal instability. "Complicating Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in containing regional instability is the fact that generational change is slowly coming in the kingdom.... Tensions have surfaced at several Saudi ministries over the last year, suggesting a jockeying for power." Ignatius suggests that another factor hindering Saudi involvement may be fears about possible military intervention ultimately backfiring. "It has been Saudi Arabia’s recurring nightmare to fight external enemies by encouraging Sunni movements that turn extremist and threaten the kingdom itself. This happened in the 1980s, when the Saudis joined the CIA in sponsoring the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.... The Saudis must worry that a similar process has happened again."

Angus Roxburgh in The Guardian on why sanctions against Russia aren't effective. Roxburgh contends that Western sanctions will do little to hinder Vladimir Putin. "Sanctions against Russia have proved, and will always prove, worthless. The relentless desire to continue with them is cockeyed, since they hurt western companies and economies, and are of no avail in changing Putin’s policies. They may well succeed in ruining the Russian economy, but what will that bring? More of the same – or worse. It was the humiliation of Russia and impoverishment of its citizens in the 1990s that brought Putin to power in the first place." He continues, "Since sanctions don’t work, and war is unthinkable (President Obama on Thursday explicitly ruled out military intervention), then only one viable option remains. If Ukraine is to become peaceful and whole again, and Putin prevented from carving chunks out of neighbouring countries, there needs to be political engagement with Moscow."

Marc Champion in Bloomberg View on why NATO shouldn't arm Ukraine without Western military backing. Champion writes that sending NATO troops into Ukraine would do little, given Western reluctance to get involved in the conflict militarily. "The U.S. and Europe have made it clear that they will not go to war with Russia -- a nuclear superpower -- to defend Ukraine's borders. That may not be fair, but it is rational. And no matter how many weapons the U.S. and European allies supply to Ukraine, Russia will deploy more of them, wielded by better trained troops." Champion suggests that a military solution is not the answer to the conflict.  "Absent a willingness to go to war on the part of NATO, the most potent weapons against Putin's adventurism are economic, and long-term. Genuine, sector-wide economic sanctions that tip Russia's economy into a deep recession may make him rethink how far he wants to go in Ukraine, or whether to repeat such belligerence elsewhere."

​The New York Times on why this week's shooting death at an Arizona gun range won't lead to any substantial action. The Times writes that Monday's incident, in which a 9-year-old girl accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi, reinforces the belabored point that America has a serious problem with guns. "The very name of the tour group that delivered the family to the Last Stop firing range — Bullets and Burgers — seems the stuff of Jonathan Swift’s dark ruminations about human madness." Ultimately, the papers lament that the gun lobby still has too strong a hold over American politics to see significant change. "Sadly, the public probably has low expectations in the way of greater gun safety laws after the latest outrage, however irresponsible and preventable it obviously was. After all, the gun lobby made Congress heel after 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., were murdered in a shooting spree two years ago."

Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic on how the far right now controls the Republican party's polices. Cohn writes that Senator Marco Rubio, once a leader on immigration reform, has bowed to the right. "Marco Rubio, from Florida, [once] cultivated an image as a Republican who could help the party mend its rift with Latino voters... But that was before immigration reform became the new Obamacare, and Rubio’s efforts on behalf of it became a major liability on the right. Now Rubio is telling everybody who will listen that he’s a different man." Cohn contends that while extreme Republican policies might help the Democratic party politically in 2016 and beyond, they are hurting the country. "...for now and for the foreseeable future, Republican extremists have the power to block policy changes in Washington, thanks to Republican control of the House and their strong presence in the Senate. The real-world implications of this political situation are millions of people stuck in immigration limbo and a planet cooking to the point where damage is irreversible. That is nothing to celebrate."

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