Five Best Wednesday Columns
David Ignatius on Obama's war strategy, Thomas L. Friedman on ISIS, Martin Wolf on the economics of climate change, Margaret Carlson on Roger Goodell, and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on feminism.
David Ignatius in The Washington Post on how the U.S. strategy is starting to take shape in Iraq and Syria. The American strategy for defeating ISIS relies on many different components. "Obama and his advisers, led by his special envoy, Gen. John Allen, have focused on five main lines of operation against the Islamic State: direct military action, counterterrorism operations against foreign fighters, disruption of financing, humanitarian assistance, and media activities to 'delegitimize' the extremists." Ignatius warns that the U.S. strategy will take a long time to fully implement. "The United States is likely to strike field commanders whenever possible. But simply decapitating the leadership could create a chaotic battlefield that would remain unstable for years to come. Obama said Tuesday that 'the overall effort will take time' — which surely means beyond the end of his presidency."
Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times on why the Arab world must ultimately take responsibility for fighting ISIS. Friedman suggests that the American strategy in Iraq and Syria is based in large part on placing responsibility on local actors. "There is a tension at the heart of President Obama’s campaign to confront the Islamic State... Quite simply, it is the tension between two vital goals — promoting the 'soul-searching' that ISIS’s emergence has triggered in the Arab-Muslim world and 'searching and destroying' ISIS in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq." Friedman explains how a united front is the key to sustaining victory. "Nurturing this soul-searching is a vital — and smart — part of the Obama strategy. In committing America to an air-campaign-only against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, Obama has declared that the ground war will have to be fought by Arabs and Muslims, not just because this is their war and they should take the brunt of the casualties, but because the very act of their organizing themselves across Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish lines — the very act of overcoming their debilitating sectarian and political differences that would be required to defeat ISIS on the ground — is the necessary ingredient for creating any kind of decent, consensual government that could replace ISIS in any self-sustaining way."
Martin Wolf in The Financial Times on why making changes to combat climate change won't hurt as much as we think. Wolf writes that taking steps to slow carbon emissions doesn't have to be a sacrifice. "The possibility of combining the elimination of runaway climate change with rising living standards could help transform the debate." Citing a new study by the International Monetary Fund on carbon reduction, Wolf continues, "The report also makes a range of sensible proposals to secure the transition it seeks. Among these are proper carbon pricing, phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuels and incentives for urban sprawl, promoting capital markets for low-carbon investments, encouraging innovation in low-emissions technologies, halting deforestation and, not least, accelerating the shift from polluting coal-fired power generation... Yet the crucial point is that a low-carbon future need not be one of perpetual misery."
Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg View on why Roger Goodell should step down as NFL Commissioner. Carlson writes that Goodell's recent press conference demonstrates how he has failed to properly address the NFL's mounting problems. "He approached the task like a teenager promising not to ding the car fender again. He’s going 'to do better' and 'get it right.' ... Why should he keep his job, given his initial decision to give Rice a mere two-game suspension as punishment?" Carlson contends that Goodell has remained at the top of the NFL because the league prioritizes football above all else. "Goodell has gone off-sides many times before but always survived thanks to a football fan base that gets more exercised about $15 burgers than bad behavior. Then there are the team owners, who parlayed money from their more boring endeavors into exciting sports franchises, and pay Goodell a $44 million annual salary to protect their stars. In exchange, Goodell acts as judge and jury, handing out as little punishment as he can get away with."
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in CNN on why Emma Watson's recent speech on feminism should inspire us to action. Lemmon lauds Watson's widely viewed speech, but suggests that people are too often outraged at inequalities while doing little to fix them. "Indeed, Watson's star is only the latest to illuminate the rebranding of feminism... The question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into visible, on-the-ground gains in the lives of ordinary women and men. The retaking of the 'feminist' label by cultural luminaries lending their platform to the issue is laudable, but to date we have seen a lot of promise and much less progress." Lemmon suggests that while progress has been made, there is still much more to do. "On the economic front, 'after a gradual rise in the 1980s and 1990s, the women's-to-men's earnings ratio peaked at 81% in 2005 and 2006'... So, the talk about access to opportunity for everyone is terrific. But now comes the hard part: the action to make the change and in the process create a world that is fairer for everyone."