What Were We Thinking? Selected Schar School Op-Eds (August 2021)


From the New York Times:

What the ‘Majority Minority’ Shift Really Means for America

Stoking fears of white decline reinforces the myth that this whiteness always included all who now identify with it — as if the Irish had never been demonized, as if Italians had never endured discrimination, as if Jews had never been excluded. Through a historical lens, being white in America today is like belonging to a once-exclusive social club that had to loosen its membership criteria to stay afloat.

—Justin Gest


From CNN:

The Census Shows the GOP Base is Shrinking Fast. So Why Does Its Power Seem So Secure?

The diversification of America is unquestionable. But because the US population is moving into regions where the GOP continues to hold control, Republicans will be able to delay and minimize the political representation of ethnic minorities -- at least until 2030.

—Justin Gest


From Asia Times:

Why Afghanistan’s Security Forces Collapsed So Quickly

At the pivotal turning point in 2014, U.S. experts estimated that half of the recruits to the armed forces were illiterate. The U.S. had to launch a program to teach reading and writing to the troops before it could address other essential skills for the defense of the country.

—Ellen Laipson


From the Hill:

After the Fall of Kabul, Will There Be More Islamist Revolutions?

This does not bode well. 

—Mark N. Katz


From the Washington Post:

Virginia Is the Proving Ground for the GOP’s ‘Big Lie’ and Anti-Vaccine Platforms

If Youngkin doesn’t somehow get off this Trump crazy train, he likely will be consigning the whole Virginia GOP ticket to yet another crushing defeat.

—Mark J. Rozell


From the Cipher Brief:

Remembering a True Leader Through CIA Crisis and Controversy

Were aspects of the program unpleasant? Of course, John has said so, in fact describing some of the techniques as “terrifying,” But he also has reminded us of the tenor of the times—no one in America—the President, Congress, the American people—would forgive CIA if it hadn’t done everything within the law to prevent another 9/11-style attack from happening. Period.

—Gen. Michael V. Hayden


From Inkstick Media:

The Coming Tsunami of Illicit Antiquities from Afghanistan

As Islamist extremists, they place no value on preserving their country’s long pre-Islamic past. They are all too happy to facilitate and profit from the illicit export of Afghanistan’s rich archaeological resources. Their fundamental position, demonstrated in March of 2001 when they blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas, is that the largest remains of pre-Islamic culture in Afghanistan should be destroyed in place, while smaller artifacts, such as statues, coins, jewelry, and ceramics should be sold to foreigners to raise funds.

—Louise Shelley and Ambassador Michael Gfoeller


Political Violence at a Glance:

Can the Taliban Stabilize Afghanistan?

In fact, in a forthcoming study, I find that in over half of rebel victories, new governments collapse into infighting, are overtaken by military coup d’états, or suffer major defections by ex-rebel soldiers.

—Philip A. Martin


From Bloomberg Tax:

Misperceptions About the Social Security Earnings Test Need to Be Corrected

The earnings test appears to impose a severe penalty on Social Security recipients who continue to work by adding a 50% tax to the other taxes they already face on their wages. However, the reality is quite different. 

—Sita Slavov and Alan Viard


From Defense One:

Taiwan Wants Paladins. Congress Should Say No

Paladins are a bad idea. They are outdated, based on a design that dates back to the Vietnam War. They are also expensive. Taiwan will spend $750 million on 40 howitzers. That is before training, maintenance, and ammunition costs are factored in. Worst of all, Paladins will be sitting ducks in a shooting war.

—Michael Hunzeker and PhD Student Brian Davis


From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Why the FDA Should Quickly Authorize Kids’ COVID-19 Vaccines

Raising a vaccine’s safety bar much higher for children’s vaccines doesn’t correspond to the intent of a policy based on risk-benefit analysis; the United States is missing the chance at a timely pandemic response when it comes to quickly authorizing pediatric vaccines.

—HyunJung Kim (PhD ’20)


From the Hill:

Cuomo Dynasty Ends; Search for ‘Tough Liberal’ Persists

Andrew Cuomo defied his base by defending abusive behavior that is no longer tolerated. Cuomo tried to challenge the believability of his accusers. But they turned out to be tougher than he is.

—Bill Schneider


From Lawfare:

Afghanistan, Policy Choices, and Claims of Intelligence Failure

But the reality is we lack reliable answers to many—most, in fact—of these questions. Some of them may only be known, if ever, after 40 more years—when the printed President’s Daily Briefs from this presidential term are declassified (assuming that a practice established in the Obama administration for declassifying PDBs continues). Even then, unless and until Joe Biden opens his mind and soul, we are unlikely to understand if he internalized the core judgments in any intelligence documents or briefings.

—David Priess


From Sam Magazine (Finland):

The Real News Story from America

Cont­ra­ry to what news re­ports might lead one to be­lie­ve, the gap bet­ween the po­li­ti­cal par­ties to­day is qui­te mo­dest. 

—Ed Rhodes


From American City and County:

Is It Finally Time to Acknowledge Broadband as a Utility?

This advocacy was successful in that today there are currently 18 states with restrictive legislation against municipal broadband networks in the United States. At one point there were as many as 21. What has changed however is that since 2003, the significance of broadband in everyday life has increased exponentially, and the pandemic only magnified the issue with too many Americans having been left out of the digital evolution. 

—Alan Shark


From the Taipei Times:

Comparisons to Afghanistan Fail

The Chinese side will continue its bluster and intimidation, attempting to capitalize on Afghanistan’s fall and painting the US as a declining power. Yes, the U.S. is reducing its footprint in the Middle East, but the stated purpose is specifically to focus better on new threats posed by state actors such as China and Russia.

—Gerrit van der Weiss


From the National Interest:

The Collapse of Afghanistan Could Mean Trouble for America’s Enemies

But while there will be many who engage in recriminations over what went wrong and whether a better outcome could have been achieved, Washington will have to deal with the situation that emerges no matter how undesirable it is. The likelihood that conflict will develop between the Taliban and other U.S. adversaries may present opportunities that the United States can take advantage of. But it can only do so if it recognizes both the opportunities and the dangers of navigating conflicts between U.S. adversaries.  

—Mark N. Katz


From the Washington Post:

Virginia Women May Be the Key Voters in November

Though Virginia will be a first test of how malignant Trump’s legacy remains now that he is out of the White House, it will also be a barometer of whether Cuomo’s fall, brought on by his alleged sexual harassment of female subordinates, weakens women’s support for Democrats generally.

—Mark J. Rozell