Five Best Wednesday Columns

David Ignatius on Iraq, Curtis Wilkie on the Tea Party, Ron Fournier on Hillary Clinton, Yishai Schwartz on Gaza, and Russell Brand on Robin Williams. 

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David Ignatius in The Washington Post on why the Islamic State should have followed Osama Bin Laden's advice. Ignatius writes that Bin Laden warned that establishing a caliphate too early could unite the enemies of an Islamic State. "Baghdadi’s bloodbath has achieved the impossible: He has provided a common adversary for Saudis and Iranians, Turks and Kurds. He has united many of Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish politicians behind an inclusive new government. He has forced a reluctant President Obama to come halfway off the bench in authorizing airstrikes for 'limited military objectives' in Iraq." Ignatius suggests that the Islamic State could ultimately destroy itself, especially if it alienates more moderate Sunnis. "Bin Laden thought Yemen was the most likely place where his supporters might declare a caliphate, but he worried they would do it too soon. An undated letter, perhaps written by bin Landen, cautioned: 'We want . . . to establish an Islamic State, but first we want to make sure we have the capability to gain control of it. Even though we were able to militarily and economically exhaust and weaken our greatest enemy before and after [Sept. 11, 2001] the enemy continues to possess the ability to topple any state we establish'... Baghdadi couldn’t wait. His fighters ruthlessly seized the Sunni heartland of Iraq. Now we’ll see if bin Laden’s estimation of U.S. power remains correct."

Curtis Wilkie in The New York Times on how the Tea Party is starting to resemble Southern segregationists. Wilkie contends that the Tea Party's anti-government, anti-modernist, rural populism mirrors the tone of 20th century southern Democrats. "In the early 20th century, these men rose on an agrarian revolt against Big Business and government corruption. They used that energy, in turn, to disenfranchise and segregate blacks, whose loyalty to the pro-business Republican Party made them targets of these racist reformers.Wilkie notes that both the Tea Party of today and Southern Democrats of the past used a similar type of populist ire against big government to disenfranchise minorities. "A century ago, the first wave of populist demagogues withheld funds for poor, segregated schools and tried to purge college faculties of nonbelievers. The second wave, citing 'states’ rights,' threatened to shut schools rather than integrate and denounced federal aid to education as a sinister investment. In the Cochran-McDaniel race, you could hear that same strain in Tea Party criticisms of the federal government, of federal aid to education and of the 'establishment.'"

Ron Fournier in The National Journal on why distancing herself from President Obama on foreign policy may not be a smart political move for Hillary Clinton. Fournier asks why Clinton is publicly promoting her more hawkish views on foreign policy since they are less in line with the Democratic base than the President's.  "She's triangulating away from both Obama and President Bush to appeal to independents in the general election, right? I'm not so sure. Polls suggest that Obama is far more connected to public sentiment than Clinton is." The author suggests that whatever the reason for Clinton's recent outspokenness, she may not be going about it the right way. "If I'm reading the public correctly, Americans aren't clamoring for a muscular and old-fashioned hawk as much as they want a pragmatic leader, somebody they feel they can be proud of, who puts them first and keeps them safe. They want what Obama promised to be. Clinton may be aiming for that sweet spot between Bush's belligerence and Obama's neglect—what Karl Rove called the 'Goldilocks of foreign policy.' But I could think of safer, more calculated ways of going about it than stiff-arming the Democratic base and beating war drums over Syria."

Yishai Schwartz in The New Republic on why the war in Gaza won't end with a comprehensive or transformative agreement. "Given the incompatibility of the sides’ respective goals, it’s clear that negotiations are a bit of a farce." Hamas and Israel want results that are drastically opposed to one another, and "These objectives are simply not reconcilable... The question, then, is who will blink first." Schwartz contends that a more lasting peace agreement in Gaza will bring only modest gains for both sides. "Despite the asymmetry of their lethal power, neither Israel nor Hamas has the capability of imposing its desired result on the other. Hamas rockets cannot force open a blockade, nor end the Israeli state. Even a full-scale Israeli reoccupation and forced demilitarization of Gaza would be prohibitively costly, and it would bring only temporary calm, not lasting peace... Instead, both sides will likely resign themselves to some sort of renewed modus vivendi that is only slightly less terrible than the status quo."

Russell Brand in The Guardian on why the death of comedian Robin Williams reveals a darkness about the world around us. Brand, a fellow comedian, attempts to rationalize why someone who created so much laughter ultimately decided to take his own life. "Is it melancholy to think that a world that Robin Williams can’t live in must be broken? To tie this sad event to the overarching misery of our times? No academic would co-sign a theory in which the tumult of our fractured and unhappy planet is causing the inherently hilarious to end their lives, though I did read that suicide among the middle-aged increased inexplicably in 1999 and has been rising ever since. Is it a condition of our era?" Brand writes, "What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction?"

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