Five Best Tuesday Columns

Amy Davidson on Assad as a partner, Bloomberg View on Afghanistan vs. Iraq, USA Today on police cameras, The Financial Times on Ebola, and Michael Gerson on Obama's seeming aloofness.

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Amy Davidson at The New Yorker on partnering with Assad against ISIL. The U.S. and Bashar al-Assad suddenly find themselves with a common enemy in Syria, but does that mean they can (or should) partner with him? "Saying that Assad is 'part of the problem' more than three years into a war in which he has bombed his own country’s cities and attacked its civilians is an understatement." The problem is that loyalties and interests are not always clear cut, and determining who to support and how, is never easy. "A simple rule to start with: we need to be careful when handing out guns in Syria. There hasn’t been enough care taken so far, particularly on the part of the Gulf States, and that has been a key reason for ISIS’s rise. The group took weapons and aid directly from donors in places like Qatar and Saudi Arabia; it also scooped up the arsenals of other factions (and, in some cases, their hostages). ISIS has drawn in many of the regime’s Sunni opponents. While some of the more moderate factions that had a presence early on have been defeated, by the government or by ISIS, and some are still fighting, others have been absorbed."

Bloomberg View on how the situation in Afghanistan requires a different mission than the situation in Iraq. The editors write that the U.S. should not be afraid to pull troops out of Afghanistan as a reaction to what happened with ISIL in Iraq. "Afghanistan doesn't face the same sectarian fissure between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Instead, for centuries, power struggles have played out among seven ethnic groups; Afghanistan's Pashtuns may represent a plurality, but each of the other groups constitutes a majority in different regions. Moreover, Afghanistan's population is more dispersed, it doesn't have oil that spark its own conflicts, and its geography, history and pattern of relationships with neighbors don't look anything like those of Iraq." However, they contend the U.S. should only keep troops in Afghanistan if they are there to complete a specific military mission. "The case for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan should rest not on their dubious utility in midwifing democracy. It should be based on their effectiveness in preventing the re-emergence there of a direct threat to the U.S. and its allies."

USA Today on why all U.S. police officers should be required to wear body cameras. In the wake of Ferguson, the paper lays out the case for body cameras in policing. "Cameras that can record everything an officer sees and says have been available for years, but relatively few of the nation's 18,000 police departments use them. More should, because departments that have adopted wearable cameras find that they help everyone." The editors argue that body cameras will provide evidence, decrease police brutality rates, and keep civilians from disrespecting local police. 
"Police wearing them tend to be more restrained. Citizens who know there's video evidence of their encounters know they can't get away with bogus charges of police misconduct."

The Financial Times on why the international community cannot forget about the West African Ebola outbreak.  Fear and misunderstanding of the disease has caused many to forget about the medical crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. "There is a grim echo in this of past African tragedies when the world turned away and abandoned whole populations to a gruesome fate. There is more than an echo, too, of the Hollywood shock movies that have painted a dystopian image of what happens to societies gripped by a deadly epidemic." The panic also threatens to undo years of progress following the region's deadly wars. "This is the most severe crisis to have hit Liberia and Sierra Leone since the civil wars in both countries drew to an end just over a decade ago. The progress made since towards rebuilding these states, revamping their economies and consolidating the peace, is unravelling. The world should be standing with the people of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and helping their governments to establish the requisite controls to staunch the spread of Ebola. It is not the moment to cut and run."

Michael Gerson in The Washington Post on why President Obama must change his leadership style. Gerson writes that the same qualities that made Obama popular in the first place, are now making him unpopular late in his term. "President Obama rose to prominence, in part, because of a certain aloofness and emotional distance... In political success, Obama’s manner was reassuring. As his failures have multiplied, he seems disconnected and tone-deaf. It must be frustrating for the president to know he is actually the same leader, and tempting to display a defiant unconcern. However, Gerson contends that it is now time for the President to make a change. "For years, Obama has reacted to events in the Middle East, and lately been at their mercy. Now he must provide some assurance that he is shaping events with a strategy that culminates in the end of the Islamic State. As a matter of policy, this will require recognition that Iraq and Syria are one theater in a long-term struggle that does not fade when we ignore it. As a matter of leadership, it will require a certain trumpet, for a change."

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