Five Best Monday Columns

Peter Beinart on Iraq and Iran, L. Gordon Crovitz on regulating the web, Bill Keller on bombing Iran, James Surowiecki on private equity, and Juliette Kayyem on Islam and Republicans. 

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Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast on GOP candidates and the Iraq War "[T]here's something amazing about the fact that Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney can breezily advocate war with Iran without ever having to explain what their support for the Iraq War says about their judgment on matters of war and peace," writes Beinart. He goes through each of their statements that keep armed intervention in Iran on the table, juxtaposing them with each of their positions on the Iraq War. He argues their support for Iraq doesn't disqualify them from office, but they should be forced to answer how the experience affects their decisions today. He says the question is important given parallels in the kinds of people advocating for war in Iran today and those who pushed for war in Iraq. "The extraordinary thing about today's Iran debate is that being wrong about Iraq has barely undermined the hawks' influence at all."

L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal on regulating the web After the Web rallied in protest against Congress's online piracy laws, SOPA and PIPA, both chambers backed off their support for them. "Those events were Silicon Valley proving that it can harness the power of the Web to protect itself against Washington—the clearest evidence yet of how technology moves so fast that regulations have no chance of keeping up," Crovitz writes. The laws particularly sought to rein in copyright infringements from foreign sites, but they included rules that would have hampered domestic sites' operations. Crovitz says content providers like Netflix are already devising business models that allow them to attract paying customers on the Web, and "egregious" violators like Megaupload are already penalized. The fight, he says, reveals different ways of thinking about the Web, as a self-regulating tool or as a business to be controlled.

Bill Keller in The New York Times on bombing Iran Keller begins by summarizing recent arguments made in favor of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear program, which laid out a best-case scenario in which we hit all Iran's targets without inciting regional war. "This scenario represents one pole in a debate that is the most abused foreign policy issue in this presidential campaign year. The opposite pole, also awful to contemplate, is the prospect of living with a nuclear Iran," writes Keller. As America navigates between the two poles, he looks to each GOP candidate's policies. He says Santorum is closest to the "bomb Iran" position, and Mitt Romney, though he criticizes Obama, seems like he'd follow a similar path of sanctions. That approach has problems, including the possibility of war even without bombing their nuclear facilities. "That short-term paradox comes wrapped up in a long-term paradox ... Bombing Iran is the best way to guarantee exactly what we are trying to prevent."

James Surowiecki in The New Yorker on private equity Critics of the private equity industry have wrongly focused on its record of job creation. "The real reason that we should be concerned about private equity's expanding power lies in the way these firms have become increasingly adept at using financial gimmicks to line their pockets, deriving enormous wealth not from management or investing skills but, rather, from the way the U.S. tax system works," writes Surowiecki. He outlines private equity's model of leveraging, which rewards a firm for encouraging companies to take on debt. Private equity firms do have a record of spurring companies to manage themselves better, but increasingly, he writes, the industry has indulged in a practice of making a company take on more debt to pay big dividends to the firms. He details several ways that tax laws put this burden on tax payers. "If private-equity firms are as good at remaking companies as they claim, they don't need tax loopholes to make money ... Private-equity firms are excellent at gaming the rules. Time to change them."

Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on Turkey, Muslims, and the GOP Some wrote off Rick Perry's debate line that Turkey is being run by "Islamic terrorists" as a sign of his stupidity. "The scarier explanation is that Perry knew exactly what he was doing," writes Kayyem. First she argues against the idea that Turkey's leaders are terrorists, an argument she thinks Perry understands. She pegs it to a greater Republican strategy of playing to the  base's fears with rhetoric on Muslims. Herman Cain said he wouldn't appoint a Muslim to his cabinet, clarifying that he only meant "bad Muslims." Newt Gingrich rails against the threat of Sharia law, and Mitt Romney takes foreign policy advice from a pundit with similar fears. All of them, she says, probably know better. "[I]t is manifestly in the American interest that democracy and Islam coexist peacefully. But that's a vision not worthy of imagining for those Republicans seeking the Oval Office. Islam is an easy target and one that still unites conservatives."

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