Five Best Thursday Columns

Charles Lane on Ferguson, Marc Champion on James Foley, Robin Wright on Iraq, Dean Starkman on Wall Street, and Deborah E. Lipstadt on anti-semitism. 

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Charles Lane in The Washington Post on why President Obama's response to Ferguson has been on point. Lane disagrees with the growing chorus of voices suggesting that Obama should be more vocal about the situation in Ferguson. "One thing that’s not in short supply in America right at the moment is emotional rhetoric. The airwaves and newspapers and Twitter feeds are thick with it, in case you haven’t noticed. Therefore, it’s not immediately clear what purpose would be served by presidential venting, especially in the midst of a bitter off-year election campaign, when his every word is bound to be politicized and polarized." Instead, Lane praises Obama's "presidential" response. "What distinguishes Obama from these critics, of course, is that he has actual responsibilities, of which the most pressing are to keep a highly dangerous situation from getting any worse and to supervise an impartial investigation of the horrific event that led up to it ... Uncharismatic though it may be, his response so far to Ferguson is perfectly presidential."

Marc Champion in Bloomberg View on what the killing of James Foley tells us about the Islamic State. Champion writes that, like al Qaeda, the Islamic State uses videos as propaganda to shock and recruit, not to deter a U.S. response. "The leaders of Islamic State aren't naïve enough to believe that Foley's death will persuade the U.S. to end its airstrikes against the group. No more did al-Qaeda's self-described Sept. 11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed expect the U.S. would meet the demand, made on the video recording in which he beheaded Pearl, to release all prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Therefore, Champion suggests that America should not step away from its current offensive, but expand it. "The question for President Barack Obama and other Western leaders isn't whether to fight Islamic State, but when... In Iraq and beyond, the nightmare prospect is of an al-Qaeda that controls petrostates and enjoys the funds, space and leisure to train jihadis from around the world."

Robin Wright in The Los Angeles Times on why President Obama should be upfront about our mission in Iraq. Wright suggests that U.S. intervention in Iraq is here to stay. "Let's be honest. The United States has crossed the threshold on Iraq. We're in it to salvage the country — again — using American military might... And it's probably only the beginning." Wright contends that defining a U.S. mission in Iraq is necessary in order to avoid a potential quagmire. "The Operation Without a Name should not be an operation without a well-defined mission — or without a 'winning' exit strategy... How long could this mission last, if the Islamic State does not crumble as quickly as the Iraqi army did? I wouldn't bet on weeks. Or even months. This is a new phase in confronting extremism... And, most of all, what are the potential unintended consequences?"

Dean Starkman in The New Republic on why Wall Street is happy to pay the government's billion dollar settlements. Wall Street banks, Starkman writes, have gotten off comparably easy for their role in causing the 2008 financial collapse. "It bears saying one more time: It’s a disgrace that the Justice Department has failed to bring a single criminal charge against any Wall Street or mortgage executive of consequence for their roles in wrecking the economy." Starkman contends that by failing to prosecute banks (or even file civil complaints), the government has allowed Wall Street to get off with a simple slap on the wrist. "A complaint is the cornerstone of civil litigation, the foundation for even routine lawsuits. One of its primary benefitsand of adversarial legal proceedings generallyis that a complaint can bring huge amounts of previously undisclosed information into the public record... Instead, by imposing a fine without documenting the underlying abuses, the Justice Department has permitted the banks, for a price, to bury their sins."

Deborah E. Lipstadt in The New York Times on how anti-semitism is rising in Europe. Lipstadt writes that examples of this growing trends should alarm us. "It would be simple to link all this outrage to events in Gaza. But this trend has been evident for a while... I am unpersuaded by those who try to dismiss what is happening as 'just rhetoric.' It is language, after all, that’s at the heart of the ubiquitous slippage from anger at Israeli military action to hatred of Jews." She continues, "Seventy years after the Holocaust, many Jews in Europe no longer feel safe. Hiring an armed guard to protect people coming for weekly prayer is not the action of a secure people. In too many cities worldwide, directions to the local synagogue conclude with, 'You will recognize it by the police car in front of the building.'"

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