Five Best Monday Columns

Fred Hiatt on criticism of Obama's foreign policy, Charles M. Blow on why poverty is not a state of mind, Rafia Zakaria on the pitfalls of  #BringBackOurGirls, Cristina Odone on the difficulty for female bosses to stay at the top, Adam Minter on the upcoming strain for air travelers.

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Fred Hiatt at The Washington Post on criticism of Obama’s foreign policy. “Why is everyone piling on President Obama’s foreign policy — and how fair is the criticism? A friend inside the administration asked me those questions last week, knowing that I’d been a critic for some time. The notion that President Obama has been too passive, until recently a minority view, seems to be gelling into conventional wisdom,” Hiatt writes. “If the critique becomes partisan, you can bet it will go too far, so it’s a good moment to ask my friend’s second question: How fair is the piling-on? Obama has not been an isolationist president. Avoiding confrontation is generally a good thing, of course, and I don’t believe mounting political criticism will prompt Obama to alter direction. But lack of purpose and clarity in foreign policy can invite confrontation, too.”

Charles M. Blow at The New York Times on why poverty is not a state of mind. “Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush, the didactic-meets-dynastic duo, spoke last week at a Manhattan Institute gathering, providing a Mayberry-like prescription for combating poverty in this country: all it takes is more friendship and traditional marriage. Ryan said: ‘The best way to turn from a vicious cycle of despair and learned helplessness to a virtuous cycle of hope and flourishing is by embracing the attributes of friendship, accountability and love.’ For Bush’s part, he said: ‘A loving family taking care of their children in a traditional marriage will create the chance to break out of poverty far better, far better than any of the government programs that we can create’,” Blow writes. “We should extend the conversation about tackling poverty, but that conversation should not be governed by the belief that poverty in resources is synonymous with poverty of values.”

Rafia Zakaria at Al Jazeera America on the pitfalls of #BringBackOurGirls. “On April 15, Nigeria’s militant group Boko Haram loaded nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls onto trucks in the middle of the night, telling the girls they were taking them to safety. A month later, most of the girls are still missing. This is not the first time the cause of beleaguered girls in faraway lands has become the subject of inordinate media attention or a pretext for U.S. military intervention,” Zakaria writes. “This brand of intervention resurfaced recently when a young schoolgirl in Pakistan became a target of the Taliban. In October 2011 its Pakistani wing, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), shot 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai at close range on her way home from school. As with Yousafzai’s case, the decontextualized tale of the Nigerian girls is encapsulated in the sound bites that the West spares for such stories. Yousafzai’s successors, the schoolgirls of Chibok, have been anointed in their absence.”

Cristina Odone at The Telegraph on the difficulty for female bosses to stay at the top. “Women at the top of any profession are more likely to get abruptly sacked – or pushed over the glass cliff – than a man in a similar position. How unusually serendipitous that in the same week this finding was highlighted in the 2013 Chief Executive Study, Jill Abramson, redoubtable editor of the New York Times, was unceremoniously fired, while over in France, the staff at Le Monde off-loaded their editor, Natalie Nougayrède,” Odone writes. “Why is it so difficult for females at the top? The researchers of the Chief Executive Study have ventured an answer. Women are more likely to be outsiders brought in by the board rather than in-house candidates, and this outsider status counts against them once the hard graft starts. But I would argue that the female boss would feel like an outsider even if she had started out as an errand girl in the company she now leads. Familiarity does not make her one of ‘them’.”

Adam Minter at Bloomberg View on the upcoming strain for air travelers. “Airfares are rising, legroom is decreasing, and fees — from baggage to meals — are proliferating. In every way, the experience of flying is getting worse for U.S. air passengers. Yet, inexplicably, U.S. government data and surveys of U.S. air passengers suggest that Americans have never been more satisfied with their airlines. But dig a little deeper into the data, and something else becomes clear: Americans have finally begun to accept the idea that in an age of cheap, de-regulated airfares, they get what they pay for,” Minter writes. “Of course, U.S. airlines have never been in a financial position to offer mid-20th century Golden Age amenities to the post-deregulation flying masses. I suspect many of the complaints that the airlines receive are based on the fact that they can’t — and almost certainly don’t — try to meet those glamorous standards as they try to succeed in a business where 2 percent profit margins are considered stellar.”

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