Five Best Thursday Columns

The New York Times on ISIS, Philip Stephens on Scottish independence, Thomas Pierret and Emile Hokayem on Bashar al-Assad, Alexandra Petri on the NFL and William J. Bennett on Common Core.

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The New York Times on why the United States must proceed with extreme caution in its military assault on the Islamic State. The editorial board urge President Obama to seek the approval of Congress before moving forward with increased military action. "... the expansion of the American role in that regional conflict carries substantial and unpredictable risks that Americans may not be willing to bear... That’s why this open-ended operation, which Mr. Obama says will take time, demands congressional approval..." The editors continue, warning that the U.S. is expanding its military campaign in Iraq and Syria on increasingly unstable footing.  "To be effective, American airstrikes need to be followed up by ground troops who can recapture and hold territory against ISIS. Administration officials have long argued against American military action in Syria in part because so-called moderate rebel groups were divided and ineffective. Now the White House is planning to train and support these groups, but it is by no means certain that this will work."

Philip Stephens in The Financial Times on why voting for Scottish independence movement could be devastating mistake. Stephens argues against independence, writing that the movement is largely based on raw, nationalistic sentiment in an era that demands collectivism. "The truth is that it is hard to imagine a moment during the past 300 years when it would have been more foolish for the nations of Britain to separate. Prosperity and security in an age of great power competition belongs to those comfortable with multiple identities – the ones who bind themselves together in shared endeavour." Stephens warns that independence would devastate Scotland's financial sector, which would have untold effects on its economy. "The nationalists gloss over too the profound economic shock that would follow separation. The financial markets are already offering something of a preview. Scotland would lose much of its financial services industry overnight."

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