Five Best Friday Columns
Daniel Ellsberg at the Guardian on why Edward Snowden won't get a fair trial, Stephen L. Carter on why Obama's foreign policy mirrors the Bush Doctrine, Melissa Gira Grant on the fraud of sex slavery activist Somaly Mam, Jelani Cobb on what we talk about when we talk about reparations, Michael Gerson on Ikea conservatism.
Daniel Ellsberg at the Guardian on why Edward Snowden won’t get a fair trial. “John Kerry was in my mind Wednesday morning, and not because he had called me a patriot on NBC News. On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again – and said Edward Snowden ‘should man up and come back to the United States’ to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers,” Ellsberg writes. “As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court. Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement.”
Stephen L. Carter at Bloomberg View on why Obama’s foreign policy mirrors the Bush Doctrine. “Talk about deja vu. The doctrine laid out in President Barack Obama's commencement address Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy sounded eerily familiar. Obama insisted upon our willingness to use force to deter our adversaries, and, when necessary, to strike them before they strike us. But what is striking about Obama's speech, billed in advance by the White House as setting out his approach to foreign policy, is how tightly this president's words track those of his predecessor,” Carter writes. “To be sure, Bush and Obama differ in their implementation of the fundamental ideas. In particular, Obama wouldn't have gone to war in Iraq. That's a distinction that matters enormously, and not only because the Iraq War was over weapons of mass destruction that never turned up. It's also the case that much of America's war-weariness, which makes intervention abroad less attractive even when it may be necessary, is an exhaustion born of the effort to fight two large wars at once.”
Melissa Gira Grant at The New York Times on the fraud of sex slavery activist Somaly Mam. “With a sensational story of surviving child sex slavery in Cambodia, Somaly Mam became a worldwide icon, the best-selling author of a memoir and the head of a foundation raising millions in the name of saving girls and women from the sex trade, victims she recounted rescuing in dramatic brothel raids. But all this wasn’t true. A Newsweek cover story last week found inconsistencies and flat-out fraud in Ms. Mam’s story of being abducted and forced to work in a brothel as a child, and in the stories of women she said she had rescued by the thousands,” Grant writes. “Ms. Mam and her foundation banked on Western feel-good demands for intervention, culminating in abusive crackdowns on the people she claimed to save. Now Ms. Mam has been exposed before her donors and the Western media who anointed her and made fighting sex trafficking a kind of industry in itself, while sex workers suffered the consequences. Will Ms. Mam’s supporters consider the price of what they’ve been sold?”
Jelani Cobb at the New Yorker on what we talk about when we talk about reparations. “A century and a half ago, after the start of the Civil War, the federal government took up the question of reparations for slavery. But it is not a coincidence that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s piece has resonated at this particular point in our history. As we near the end of the Obama administration, it has become possible to estimate the yield of the first black Presidency—and the dividends are far smaller than many had hoped,” Cobb writes. “The unspoken divide between black people and white people—whether over reparations, affirmative action, or the question of paying N.C.A.A. athletes—comes down to a question of history. We are discussing reparations at this moment because in two years Barack Obama will leave the White House, having repaired the economic collapse that greeted his inauguration, but with African-Americans still unemployed at a rate twice that of whites, and struggling to see how this world differs from the status quo ante."
Michael Gerson at The Washington Post on Ikea conservatism. “Parallel to the rise of the tea party — with less attention but more potential influence — has been a gathering movement of reform conservatives whom my colleague E.J. Dionne Jr., in an essay in the journal Democracy, dubs ‘Reformicons.’ One version of the tea party’s governing vision was recently and neatly summarized by Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel: ‘I’m not going to do anything for you. I’m going to get the government off your back, and then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself’,” Gerson writes. “This might be better called Ikea conservatism. The parts and instructions are in the box. Do it for yourself. But what if some of the pieces have gone missing? What if (to badly strain the metaphor) you can’t read the instructions and doubt the possibility of finishing the project?” The Economist’s David Rennie tweets: “@MJGerson correctly scathing here about a Left out of ideas, too flattering about conservative reformers.”