Five Best Thursday Columns

On Pakistan, fighting terrorists, and the media's mishandling of student celebrations

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Michael Hirsh Explains Pakistan's Two-Sided Relationship With the U.S.  National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes that Pakistan's promise after 9/11 to stand with the U.S. "proved to be largely a lie--but not entirely untrue." He believes it is likely that the country's authorities were aware of bin Laden's hideout but "feared that backlash from the Muslim world and their own society would be too great if they were seen as playing stooges to the Americans and violating Pashtun tribal loyalties." Despite the fact that it provided a safe haven for our greatest enemy, the U.S. still sends the country with $3 billion a year, "because Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country that is still mainly secular," Hirsh explains. Yet "one big clue into understanding Pakistan's double game can be found in the scholarly work of the country's current ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani," who argues that "radical Islamists [will] always have a safe haven inside the country as long as military strongmen [run] Islamabad ... Pakistani generals have constantly used the unifying principle of Islam and the perceived threat from Hindu India to build a national identity."

Victor Davis Hanson on Inconsistency and the Rules of Fighting Rogues  "What, exactly, are the moral, legal, or practical rules in going after terrorist leaders or the savage dictators of rogue regimes?" asks Victor Davis Hanson at National Review Online today. "We went into a foreign country to kill, not capture, bin Laden. Was that killing permissible since a firefight preceded it, or because he was a terrorist rather than a head of state?" Hanson also questions how waterboarding of only three suspected terrorists at Guantanamo is any worse than "when we routinely act as judge, jury, and executioner of suspected terrorists through Predator drone attacks." And what about the attacks on the Qaddafi family that have, so far, killed one of his sons? Hanson points out that, bizarrely, killing targets rather than detaining them seems to incite less moral outrage, especially under a liberal president "who are more likely to be seen as humanitarians who only reluctantly order such killings--and that such assassinations, when considered a "success seems to end moral ambiguity in much the same way as failure invites it."

Martin Feldstein on Minimizing Tax Rates  "The need for more revenue needn't mean higher tax rates," argues Harvard economist and former Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein at The New York Times today. "Tax revenues can be increased substantially by limiting the deductions, credits and exclusions that are essentially government spending by another name." Feldstein notes that tax credits for such things as solar panels, hybrid cars, employer-provided health insurance and mortgages "collectively increase the budget deficit by more than all other non-defense spending combined, other than Social Security and Medicare." Instead of forcing people to give up their benefits, he suggests we "limit the total tax saving for any individual to a maximum percentage of his total income."

Nicholas Kristof on Honoring All Mothers  In honor of Mother's Day, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof spotlights a Somali woman, Edna, who runs "a maternity hospital [there] to make childbirth safer ... save her countrywomen's lives, get them access to family planning and end female genital mutilation." She is one of several women around the world working tirelessly to insure the safety, health and respect of their countrywomen and Kristof insists that contributing to one of these efforts is a better way to honor Mother's Day than simply buying chocolate or flowers. "In a column a year ago, I suggested that we move the apostrophe so as to celebrate not so much Mother's Day--honoring a single mother--but Mothers' Day, to help save mothers’ lives around the world as well," he writes.

Peter Maass on the Media's Hand in Creating Inflammatory Images  Peter Maass at The New Yorker writes about the photos featured on several newspaper front pages and websites this week of jubilant college students celebrating Osama bin Laden's death. These celebrations, he writes, aren't so different from the images "of young Muslims on the other side of the world burning our flag and shouting 'Death to America!'" Yet he also points out that those burning the American flag represent a minority of the world's Muslims, just as the flag-wrapped cheering kids do not represent how the majority of the U.S. reacted to Sunday's news. Maass argues that these images could be just as inflammatory as the photo of bin Laden President Obama refuses to release. "The media error of substituting a photogenic minority for a less-photogenic multitude is common ... [and] compound when the media plays an unacknowledged role in fomenting the great images it promulgates," he writes. "There wasn't a collegiate casting call at Lafayette Park, but the cheers in many of the scenes outside the White House were in response to cameras pointing at the students."

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