Vygaudas Usackas in The Wall Street Journal on lessons from the Soviets and Afghanistan Usackas, now the EU's ambassador to Afghanistan, begins by describing his regiment's successful attempt to avoid being deployed to Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's war there. "Every conversation I have with the Afghan people is informed by the intervening years, when I was on the frontline of Lithuania's fight for independence from the Soviet Union," he writes. Usackas describes his family's roots in Lithuania and the Soviet Union's persecution of his parents in the 1940s. He writes of the inspiration he drew from American thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, and he describes Lithuania's successful effort to declare independence in 1990. He says that effort gives him hope that Afghanistan, too, will successfully resist tyranny from the Taliban in favor of their own freedom, even as American withdraws. "Only Afghans can determine the type of country they want for themselves and for their children," he says.
Joe Nocera in The New York Times on Medicare's former chief Last week, Dr. Donald Berwick left his job as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Dr. Berwick, I'm here to tell you, was the most qualified person in the country to run Medicare at this critical juncture, and the fact that he is no longer in the job is the country's loss," writes Nocera. While heading the Harvard Pilgrim health plan, Berwick studied management styles of companies like Toyota that aimed to simultaneously improve quality and reduce costs and applied the lessons to health care. At Medicare, Berwick could have brought similar transformations to a huge insurer. But Berwick has publicly supported Obama's health care overhaul, so Nocera describes Republican efforts to dig up statements he's made and refuse to confirm him. Obama gave him a recess appointment, but the temporary position didn't give him time to implement real changes. "By refusing to confirm him, Republicans won a pointless victory against the president," Nocera says.
Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View on Gingrich's Unsuitability While deciding whether to let Newt Gingrich lead his party, Republicans should look to his record from the 90s. "Although Gingrich isn't solely responsible for the Republican policy defeats of those years, his erratic behavior, lack of discipline and self-absorption had a lot to do with them," writes the National Review editor. Ponnuru lists examples of Gingrich's "erratic" behavior while serving as Speaker. Gingrich's fans say he's matured, but Ponnuru says his campaign does little to support that, as he continues to make grandiose claims and take oddly timed vacations. He's running against Romney, who also has a shaky record on conservative positions, but Gingrich would be much riskier in a general election given how little Americans liked him in the 90s. "Voters are likely to see, as he cannot, that he is temperamentally unsuited for the presidency," he writes.
Spike Dolomite Ward in the Los Angeles Times on ObamaCare Ward, a 49-year-old mother of two kids, discovered three weeks ago she has breast cancer, and she was uninsured. "Fortunately for me, I've been saved by the federal government's Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it," she writes. Ward portrays her family as hard-working and middle class, and she describes how the hardships of rising premiums and a recession convinced her and her husband to choose between mortgage payments and health insurance. She argues against the idea that she is a "deadbeat" and portrays her situation as one that could befall almost anyone. She says the pre-existing condition plan, part of Obama's new health care law, might save her life. She'd previously gotten angry at Obama, for whom she'd campaigned, believing he'd let her down. "So this is my public apology. I'm sorry I didn't do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on," she writes.
Roger Cohen in The New York Times on American Jews and Israel's campaign There's been backlash from American Jews over an Israeli advertising campaign intended to convince them to move to Israel, which Prime Minister Netanyahu quickly backtracked on. "When Israeli actions seem arrogant or insulting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is capable of rapid action to repair the damage — provided those offended are American Jews," writes Cohen. He describes the attitudes of Israeli expatriates he knows who are troubled by Israel's increased nationalism. Cohen argues that if Netanyahu proved similarly "nimble" when confronting anger from Turkey, or Egypt, or even President Obama, Israel would be in a more secure position. Lastly, Cohen describes an article he read which depicts Hebron, where Palestinians are prevented from moving or working freely in certain areas. "It is the result of an untenable status quo involving the corrosive dominion of one people over another," Cohen writes.