Five Best Wednesday Columns

Anne-Marie Slaughter on why the U.S. can’t ignore Syria if it fights in Iraq, Sean Penn on Haiti, Lola Okolosie and Laurie Penny on the Twitter trolls provoking the digital left, Jill Lawrence on the GOP’s Goldwater moment, Leonid Bershidsky on the post-Millennial Generation Z.

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Anne-Marie Slaughter at The New York Times on why the U.S. can’t ignore Syria if it fights in Iraq. “For the last two years, many people in the foreign policy community, myself included, have argued repeatedly for the use of force in Syria — to no avail. Suddenly, however, in the space of a week, the administration has begun considering the use of force in Iraq, including drones, against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has been occupying city after city and moving ever closer to Baghdad,” Slaughter writes. “President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?” The Christian Science Monitor’s Elizabeth Dickinson tweets, “.@SlaughterAM on why humanitarian Q's are strategic Q's and the absurdity of dealing with #Iraq and forgetting #Syria.” Bloomberg’s Mark Murphy tweets, “Not sure if she has right conclusion but I admire Slaughter's candor.”

Sean Penn at The Wall Street Journal on progress and problems in Haiti. “The rains have come to the Caribbean and hurricane season is upon us. But for the first time in four years, the nearly 60,000 people who sought refuge on the Petionville Club golf course after the earthquake are now under solid roofs in safer homes. Port-au-Prince, the capital city, has made remarkable progress. Nearly all of the 10 million cubic meters of rubble that buried the city have been cleared from the streets. More than 90% of the almost two million people left homeless have moved from tent camps to more permanent housing,” Penn writes. “Headlines continue to spin Haiti as a dark, poverty-entrenched no-man's-land. Even on the left, efforts at economic development have been portrayed as colonization by corporations or occupation by a foreign force. This is tragic, because there are two urgent problems that need to be addressed: postearthquake homelessness and cholera. Death from this bacterial infection is preventable, and with soap and safe water, infection is avoidable.”

Lola Okolosie and Laurie Penny at the Guardian on the Twitter trolls provoking the digital left. “This week, sexist and racist trolls have borrowed the tactics of the CIA and Scotland Yard and sent in agents provocateurs to spread disharmony among online activists. Using stock photos and the stolen information of real activists, users of sites such as 4chan started hashtags including #Endfathersday and #whitescantberaped that are deliberately designed to provoke sections of the social justice left into internal arguments,” Okolosie and Penny write. “A network is only as good as the bonds of trust upon which it is built. That is why the agent provocateur is such an effective form of sabotage – online and offline. It's not just the false information they spread, but the atmosphere of suspicion they foster. If anybody could be a plant, nobody can truly be trusted, and friends become paranoid and turn on one another. For decades, attempts to undermine feminism, socialism and anti-racism have focused on our tendencies to find fault among ourselves. That's just one more reason to ensure that auto-critique isn't all we do.”

Jill Lawrence at Al Jazeera America on the Republican Party’s Goldwater moment. “The final months of the 2014 primary season are going to be scrutinized like an encrypted National Security Agency tweet for hints of where the Republican Party is headed. If the tea party can build on its historic defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, pulling off a few more improbable victories in the year’s remaining contests, the populist, anti-establishment movement may be well on its way to electrifying the 2016 primary electorate and perhaps even installing its own presidential nominee. But if the tea party wing of the GOP manages to nominate an ultraconservative along the lines of a Barry Goldwater, it will smack up against the reality that Americans don’t want the policies or tactics it is selling,” Lawrence writes. “Tea party politicians and activists have been claiming since 2009 that they are the change America needs and wants. If Cantor’s ouster leads to a 2016 nominee who is a tea party leader (or who has been pushed to embrace tea party views)­­, the movement will be put to the ultimate test — and will be all but certain to fail.”

Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg View explains the post-Millennial Generation Z. “If, like me, you've been looking for a primer to explain Generation Z, the one that follows the 'Y' Millennials, take a look at this 56-slide presentation by Sparks & Honey, a hard-to-pin down organization that's part marketing agency and part think tank. GenZ-ers are already the biggest generational group in the U.S., having overtaken the Millennials in what Sparks & Honey describes as a coming ‘demographic tsunami’,” Bershidsky writes. “If Y-ers were the perfectly connected generation, Z-ers are over-connected. Members of this new generation also have an 8-second attention span, down from 12 seconds in 2000, and 11 percent of them are diagnosed with attention deficiency syndrome, compared to 7.8 percent in 2003. GenZ is the most tolerant generation ever, color-blind and unconstrained by traditional gender roles. There is, however, an unexpected side effect we have to worry about: Food is the Z-er's preferred poison. These foodies are more likely than previous generations to be obese, given their sedentary lifestyle.”

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