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Michael Bluman Schroeder at The Christian Science Monitor:
Several Democrats and Republicans in Congress have recently found something to agree on: The UN is not worth waiting on in Syria. They rightly point out that Russian intransigence makes a Security Council resolution impossible. But the UN is more than one institution. The Security Council’s paralysis implores the US and the international community to ask more from other key UN institutions, especially the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

President Obama and Congress should wait for the secretary general’s report on its investigation of chemical weapons use in Damascus before using military force in Syria. No nation will be bound by the report, but it can confer legitimacy on those calling for a concerted response and weaken the legitimacy of those shielding perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks.

Paul Krugman at the The New York Times:
Before the financial crisis, 63 percent of adult Americans were employed; that number quickly plunged to less than 59 percent, and there it remains.

How did that happen? It wasn’t a mass outbreak of laziness, and right-wing claims that jobless Americans aren’t trying hard enough to find work because they’re living high on food stamps and unemployment benefits should be treated with the contempt they deserve. A bit of the decline in employment can be attributed to an aging population, but the rest reflects, as I said, an immense failure of economic policy.

Set aside the politics for a moment, and ask what the past five years would have looked like if the U.S. government had actually been able and willing to do what textbook macroeconomics says it should have done — namely, make a big enough push for job creation to offset the effects of the financial crunch and the housing bust, postponing fiscal austerity and tax increases until the private sector was ready to take up the slack. I’ve done a back-of-the-envelope calculation of what such a program would have entailed: It would have been about three times as big as the stimulus we actually got, and would have been much more focused on spending rather than tax cuts. Would such a policy have worked? All the evidence of the past five years says yes.

More on the day's top stories below the fold.

Rajan Menon at The Los Angeles Times:

"Credibility" has great power in national security debates. It conveys strategic sagacity by using historical analogies. (Neville Chamberlain at Munich is a staple.) It warns of consequences that transcend specific nations or issues. It points to the "big picture" and to complex interconnections. It invokes the United States' unique responsibilities for maintaining global order.

In reality, the credibility gambit often combines sleight of hand with lazy thinking (historical parallels tend to be asserted, not demonstrated) and is a variation on the discredited domino theory. This becomes apparent if one examines how it is being deployed in the debate on Syria.

Ron Waldman, M.D.:
According to the U.N., one-third of Syrian hospitals have been shuttered since the conflict began and a staggering two-thirds of medical personnel have either fled or been unable to continue working. The repercussions of this breakdown on the health of the population are impossible to overestimate, and cannot be dealt with effectively until safe access for medical and public health personnel can be assured.

During my recent visit, I observed the the thousands of people with chronic conditions stranded in the region's refugee camps. Unlike children with acute illnesses that can be treated relatively easily and inexpensively in the short term, these patients need on-going care with relatively expensive medicines or procedures. Because treatment in Syria may have been different from what is customarily done in their new host countries and because the cost of that treatment may be too much for those countries to absorb, given the large number of refugees, those who manage to survive the physical violence of the war will find themselves facing the irreversible advance of chronic illnesses without adequate medical care.

Patrick M. Regan, professor of peace studies and political science at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, writes at CNN about the historical track record of such intervening strikes:
President Barack Obama faces a terrible choice in the coming days. It is whether to kill a number of Syrians who had nothing to do with a poison-gas massacre to show President Bashar al-Assad, who presumably did have something to do with it, that using chemicals weapons violates an international norm.
Few would doubt the importance of international agreements to regulate war, particularly those that safeguard the rights of citizens, such as bans on chemical weapons and torture. If al-Assad is responsible for the use of chemical weapons, he had full knowledge of the norms he was violating. [...]

 A significant amount of research, including my own, demonstrates that military interventions from outside states lengthen and make bloodier civil wars. Much of this evidence is the result of statistical modeling of all civil wars and any associated interventions. The data include roughly 1,000 interventions into 100 civil wars over the last 60 years, with research carried out by multiple research teams.
The results point to patterns in what happens when states intervene to try to help their preferred actor, and the results are strong and consistent that interventions rarely work to promote peace or reduce violence. For example, my own research has shown that the likelihood of a civil war lasting for four years without an intervention is 37%, but if there is an intervention the likelihood that it lasts for four years is 60%. The intervention accounts for the 50% increase in the length of the war.

Stephen Stromberg at The Washington Post on lower than expected Obamacare premiums:
We won’t have a full picture for a long time. But, as the nation prepares for the phase-in of the law’s most important elements next month, we are starting to get real data back. And at least one major criticism — that the law will require people without employer-sponsored insurance to buy very expensive health-care coverage — looks increasingly weak.
The Detroit Free Press takes on Michigan Senate Republicans for their failure to expand Medicaid:
Self-satisfaction and contempt.

Those curious emotions beamed from the Michigan Legislature on Tuesday, as the Senate refused to give immediate effect to Medicaid expansion. [...]

Michigan’s current crop of state lawmakers have indulged a large passel of wrongheaded policy-making since 2010. But none could be crueler or more foolish than the refusal to expand Medicaid as soon as possible.

This isn’t legislative pablum or other triviality. It’s about people’s lives, and significant reform that will help preserve those lives.

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