Five Best Tuesday Columns

The Wall Street Journal on Iraq, John R. Bolton and T. Boone Pickens on natural gas, William Pesek on Asia, William Gumede on Africa, and Dana Milbank on Bob McDonnell.

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The Wall Street Journal on why America should arm the Kurds against ISIS in northern Iraq. (subscription) The editors write that the Kurdish fighters represent the best chance to stabilize Iraq and criticizes President Obama for denying them arms. "As ISIS charged toward Baghdad, Kurdish leaders last month sent a delegation to Washington to seek military assistance. The peshmerga are known for their professionalism and courage, but they need ammunition and artillery, better rifles, tanks, transportation vehicles and body armor. Obama Administration officials brushed them off, claiming American aid was tantamount to a green light to Kurdish independence and Iraq's breakup." The editors contend that Obama must do what he can to support our allies in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. "Mr. Obama may be loath to re-enter the fray in the Iraq because it means admitting that he really didn't end the war. But abandoning the Kurds after our recent alliance would send the message to the world that this Administration lacks the fortitude to support its friends. Leaving the Kurds alone to battle our common enemy in the jihadist ISIS army would do incalculable damage to America's interests and reputation."

John R. Bolton and T. Boone Pickens in Politico on how taking advantage of U.S. natural gas advances both domestic and foreign policy. Bolton and Pickens write that exploiting U.S. natural gas will help the economy and greatly improve our leverage with the Middle East and Russia. "The entire Middle East and major parts of Africa could be descending into chaos. How can America fight back? One necessary response is to begin to break the dependence on foreign oil that has long threatened our national security and compromised our economic viability. ... We should act accordingly now, not later when inadequate supply growth drives oil prices up." Bolton and Pickens lay out the benefits of exploiting America's natural gas. "The U.S. economy will benefit through an enormous, virtually instantaneous stimulus. By significantly increasing worldwide hydrocarbon supplies, growing North American production could exert a stabilizing effect on prices despite growing global demand. At a minimum, oil and gas produced here reduces the political-risk premium now priced into Middle Eastern hydrocarbons through circumstances like Iraq’s current hostilities."

William Pesek in Bloomberg View on why Asia is facing a potential debt crisis. Although the situation is currently stable, Pesek warns of the potential consequences of many Asian country's increasing debt to GDP ratio. "All this fresh debt leaves Asia highly exposed to financial shocks and economic shifts. Any destabilizing event -- Fed Chairman Janet Yellen over-tightening, renewed turmoil in Europe, a Chinese credit crunch, surging oil prices, troubles in Japan's bond market -- could push Asia back to the brink. " He adds that the stability of Asia rests on China's economy, which took on trillions of dollars of U.S. debt after the financial collapse. "China's unprecedented stimulus binge after Wall Street's 2008 reckoning supported growth throughout Asia. Beijing's epic largess could come back to haunt the region if growth slows sharply or giant debt defaults slam world markets. The same goes for the Fed's quantitative easing program. Ultra-low U.S. rates pulled tidal waves of capital Asia's way, helping to facilitate a surge in private-debt ratios. But now Fed policies and China's growth engine risk shifting into reverse."

William Gumede in The Guardian on why President Obama has let Africa down. Gumede writes that under the Obama presidency, U.S. aid to Africa has decreased. "Many believed the continent would finally be elevated to genuine partner status alongside the US. However, under his presidency, Africa has been neglected or its views ignored, often leading to disastrous interventions which in some areas have made the continent a more dangerous place... As US trade with Africa declined under Obama, the continent has seen the longest consistent growth spurt since independence from colonial rule, fuelled mostly by trade and investments from emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and Turkey." Gumede suggests that a weakening political influence from Washington is due to its continued preoccupation with the war on terror, which has allowed authoritarian regimes to flourish at the expense of democracy. "Many African despots have used the pretext of the war on terror to crush legitimate opposition groups, and this war has also given many African extremist groups a cause to fight for. The aftermath of the US-led war in Libya brought more weapons and armed fundamentalist groups into surrounding countries such as Mali."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on why Bob McDonnell should have taken a plea bargain in his corruption trial. The former Virginia Governor is being indicted on corruption charges that contend he and his family accepted gifts from a wealthy donor in exchange for favors. Milbank sharply criticizes McDonnell for letting his family, especially his wife, take the fall for many of McDonnell's bad choices. "Had he taken the [plea] deal, McDonnell would have looked like a sleazy pol. Now, he looks like a sleazy pol and a cad. Even if the former GOP governor beats the 13 counts, the trial is showing him to be not just greedy but also ungallant, allowing his wife and children to suffer to minimize his own shame.... McDonnell’s decision not to make a plea bargain meant that one of his daughters had to testify tearfully last week about improper gifts from Williams and others that financed her wedding." 

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